S has visited the Netherlands several times: first on a full day layover on her way back from study abroad in Ghana; then again for a two-week research project for her college thesis; and finally with her parents for a week-long vacation when she was pregnant with Munchkin. Over the course of our six-and-a-half years in the Foreign Service, Amsterdam has become our transit hub of choice, especially considering the dearth of flight options into East Africa. Instead of simply flying through on her way to and from Tuscany, S decided to tack on a one-day layover in Amsterdam to see a close friend and explore a bit deeper one of her favorite European capitals.
Posts tagged ‘friends’
Coming home from the airport, the kids in their car seats and the trunk stuffed to capacity with bags and travel car seats, it would not be immediately clear to the casual observer which one of us had just returned from a two-week vacation. S, coming off an all-day flight alone with two kids, did not project the picture-perfect image of relaxation. D, meanwhile, looked liked he had gotten some sun and leisure during his family’s absence.
Cambridge is where D began his brief visit to England and also where his trip ended. Because his friend is a postdoc at one of the thirty-one distinct colleges that comprise Cambridge University, D had a chance to peek behind the curtain and experience this venerable institution of higher learning as both a tourist and an insider.
Perhaps because England always seemed both familiar and easily accessible, D never really troubled to explore it. He had flown through Heathrow multiple times but only left the airport once – a short visit when S was pregnant with Munchkin and had to go to London for an antenatal screening. His visit this month was equally brief, but covered quite a bit more ground.
Our first Thanksgiving together very nearly caused some family strife. S’s parents had invited us to spend the extended weekend with them shortly after we had started dating – many months before the actual holiday – and when D’s mom got wind of the plan, she laid on a massive guilt trip, accusing D of sabotaging her favorite family holiday over “some girl he barely knew.” We wound up doing two Thanksgivings to mollify her, flying from Chicago to Connecticut and then driving to Maine, making sure to spend equal amounts of time with both families.
No matter how many trips one has taken or how long one has lived abroad, there is still something slightly surreal about stepping off an airplane in a country that feels completely different from the place one had departed earlier that same day. Sometimes it’s a foreign language, unfamiliar food, or a difference in culture that strikes one viscerally. At other times it’s something as simple as the weather. There was no surer sign than watching the frigid wind whisk away plumes of the passersby’s hot breath to confirm for D that he had left Rwanda’s placid clime far behind.
Serving in Kenya, shortly after we got married and before we even thought about having children, we tried to take advantage of every extended holiday weekend to get out of Nairobi and explore the country. We continued to travel a lot after Munchkin was born, using our posting in Moldova as a springboard to explore Eastern and Central Europe, but we also came to appreciate the value of spending long weekends at home to soak in the wonderment of new parenthood.