Thursday, June 2, 2011

Back in the USA!

I've been back in the U.S. for almost 25 hours, and it's already been wonderful.

The journey home was long but relatively painless.  Almost as soon as I finished my airport blog post, I ran into one of my contacts - a supervisor for Saudia Airlines.  He chastised me for not calling to let him know I was traveling and then ushered me into the business lounge.  I only had another hour before boarding my flight, but getting to relax on a comfy couch, use a clean bathroom, and have fresh juices and pastries was a nice treat. 

The flight to Paris was on time and relatively empty; I had a window seat and an empty seat next to me.  I managed to get some sleep, including some horrific dreams about plane crashes, and woke up as we were landing in Paris.  I checked in for my next flight and managed to swing an aisle seat - much better than the middle seat on my original reservation.  I indulged in an expensive but blissful manicure in the terminal at 7am and then proceeded to drool over gorgeous but expensive Jacquard Fran├žais table linens and decided it would be worth having to declare at customs in order to bring in camembert.  At my gate, I managed to get a window seat after all and snagged a modernist recumbent chair for a quick nap before boarding.  This flight was full but not oppressive - the 2-3-2 seat arrangement is much better than the dreaded 3-4-3.  Again I was able to sleep for a few hours (thankfully with no more plane crash dreams) and listened to Tina Fey's new memoir on my iPod.  It's quite funny if you haven't had the chance to read/listen yet.

We landed in Boston on time, and both my suitcases made the flight.  My cheese barely registered a second glance at customs, and I had time to switch terminals to make sure I was among the first on the bus to NH.  (I live about 2.5 hours from Boston, but there's a great charter bus line that provides direct service multiple times each day to and from the airport and a town near to where I live.  It's relatively cheap and always quite comfortable.  The buses run on time and are clean, the drivers are great, complimentary water and pretzels are available, they play a movie, and there's wi-fi and charging terminals.) 

As I waited for the bus, I marveled at the Americana.  The drivers weren't crazy and cutting one another off.  Women were wearing normal clothes in public.  There wasn't a thobe or abaya in sight.  The Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals was a hot topic.  And the weather was tolerable!  I teared up just a little bit...

The bus was on time and pretty empty.  I managed to check email and Facebook with the spotty connection and finished up my book.  I had forgotten how green New England was!  Not a palm tree or sand pile in sight.  And it rained a bit on the drive north!

Mom picked me up at the bus station, and I teared up a little again.  I shivered in the relative cold of 85 degrees.  I almost broke the car door by slamming it with significant force.  I guess I'm too accustomed to armored vehicles...

We surprised my dad by dropping in to say hi at the restaurant where he was having his regular weekly discussion night with friends.  (I think it's code for happy hour.)  I gave him the Al Saudia ball cap complete with a shemagh-decorated camel I found at the airport in Jeddah.  He had very nicely gone home after work to drop off the fixings for reubens before going back into town for the discussion group, so when we got home Mom and I had a great dinner. 

Louie Dog seemed glad to see me and eagerly showed me his new trick - shaking hands.  Mind you this dog is gigantic and his paws are almost bigger than my hands.  But as soon as he got food in his dish, he turned around and growled at me.  This is a weird complex he has - he's convinced I'm going to steal his food.  I never have.  I've never even tried.  But this doesn't stop him from growling at me whenever there's dog food around.  He doesn't do this to anyone else, I'm told, and hadn't done it in the seven months since I'd last seen him.  But he didn't miss a beat. 

I watched some mindless television and marveled at the non-AFN commercials.  How ever will I live without being constantly reminded about the perils of domestic violence, suicide prevention, alcoholism, putting important documents in my household effects, and how I can contact the military chaplains!?  A tornado whisked through Massachusetts last night, touching down in Springfield and sadly killing several people.  There were tornado warnings throughout MA and parts of NH, but luckily not near us. 

I got super sleepy about 9pm while watching an episode of my parent's new favorite show - Treme - about post-Katrina New Orleans.  I fell asleep only a few pages into my book.  Wide awake at 4am but managed to go back to sleep until 8.  Tried to nap around noon but couldn't.  Now I've showered, partly unpacked, gotten presents ready for distribution (I always come home with tons of souvenirs), and am wavering between awake and sleepy. 

The two things I've most looked forward to - driving and Poland Spring's sparkling water - will have to wait another couple hours until one of my parents gets home from work with a vehicle. 

I've already scheduled a haircut and pedicure for tomorrow and my annual well checkup and dental cleaning for next week and called in prescription refills.  I am feeling productive!

And now to settle in and wait until I can drive to the store and get some seltzer :-). 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

It's finally here.  After many months of thinking it would never come, I am officially on vacation.  Not for a long weekend, but for three long weeks.  I'm sitting in the Jeddah airport now, checked in and waiting for boarding.  I am told my flight to Paris is not very full, and I've snagged a window seat.  I am glad, because I know my flight to Boston is pretty full, and I'm (for now) stuck in a middle seat.  Hopefully I can get a bit of sleep so I am not a zombie for my several hours in CDG.  I haven't been to CDG since I was 13, so this brings back memories.  That was actually the first time I ever flew, for an exchange program in France with several classmates and teachers.  I've been to Paris since then, but overland. 

Amazingly, I think I got everything done on my to-do list and was able to walk out of the office calmly this afternoon.  There are of course projects I didn't get to, but all the major items got taken care of.  So now, even as I check my Blackberry for those last few messages trickling in from Washington, I am working on mentally checking out.  I have 26 long hours to work on that before arriving home tomorrow. 

I haven't had a vacation this long in a few years, but I know it'll go quickly.  Trips up and down the East Coast for family weddings, reuniting with childhood friends I haven't seen in years, lots of sleeping in, spoiling my niece and nephew, and getting my fill of driving and all those little freedoms I miss here will surely make time fly.  But, regardless, it will be my own little Operation Sanity Retrieval.

Of course the down side to leaving is having to say goodbye to the cats.  Even though they'll be in good hands with my doting housekeeper, I hate leaving them.  I've already been working so much lately that they're starved for attention, and now they'll be on their own for entertainment except for a couple hours each day.  I gave poor Griffin a summer haircut this week, refusing to take him back to the groomer for fear of another lion cut, and he looks adorable.  It's a terrible haircut, but it's still kind of cute. 

Anyway, enough rambling.  Time to crack a good book on the Kindle and settle in for the hour before boarding.  More soon from the land of fast, functional internet!