MsCaroline has never pretended to have a good grasp of many situations, and, now that she is looking down the barrel of a multi-week, multi-state vacation, it is clear to her that she doesn't have a good grasp on this one, either.
While other expat wives seem to look forward to their jaunts back in the mother/fatherland with enthusiasm and excitement, MsCaroline has not noticed any of them displaying the overt panic that she is feeling about now, with just days to go before we head to Incheon and our flight back home.
Make no mistake - it's not that I'm not delighted to get home. In fact, it's all I can think about these days. It's just what has to be done before I get there that has reduced me to state of gibbering idiocy.
I should note here that, as an educator, a huge part of my job is planning. I sit down in August and plan out what I'll be doing all the way through June. I think about where I want to be and how to get there, what I'll need to do, and how to do it. It does not frighten or overwhelm me. In fact, you would be astonished at how calmly and efficiently I can plan for 9 or 10 months of daily instruction without breaking a sweat or dropping small objects.
It stands to reason, then, that planning and packing for a little 6-week trip covering 7 U.S. states and 3 time zones should be a piece of cake for me.
But no. For some reason, the planning part of my brain that so adeptly anticipates what we'll need to do in September in order to be ready for exams in May, cannot adapt its skills and accurately predict what it will need in Boston for two people 4 weeks from now.
What my brain does actually do (besides requesting carbohydrates) is become an energetic, talkative 6-year-old that will.not.shut.up. It keeps me up at night, and distracts me constantly during the work day.
Like a 6-year-old, it doesn't give a damn about my lists. In fact, it could care less. Even as I elbow my way through the crowded market alleyways at Namdemun, grimly determined to follow the list and and the list only (am I the only expat who rushes around at the last minute looking for exotic local swag to take home for gifts?), my brain is chattering away like a monkey, pulling on my hand with both of its own and dragging me off in directions where I wasn't planning to go: "Ooooh, look! You really do need a new purse! Yours is too small, and think how much stuff you'll need to take along on that loooooong flight! What about that one?..... Hey! That's a really cute t-shirt! Who could you get that for? Why not pick it up just in case?....It says online that there's another tropical depression forming in the Gulf of Mexico... will that affect our flight?....what about the weather at the beach?.....Why did in God's name did you agree to work the day before you fly out?Will there be time to work in a pedicure?.....Do not forget to pack Immodium and Pepto-Bismol in your purse. Remember what happened last time you flew to the US.....what if it happens again?....No....Just.... No... I cannot even ... Let's see...if I stop eating or drinking at midnight the night before, that should be safe......Wait - where's Son#2's passport?Did I put it back in the folder as soon as he got back from London?...Oh, yes...wait..No!..Where could it be? What if we can't find it?Is the Embassy open on Saturdays?.....What are you doing? Why did you buy that? Is this really the best hostess gift for Son#2's friend's mother? She probably already has a dozen serving trays!
And on it goes, ad nauseum, my brain. It runs - nonstop - on the train, on the bus, at work, in the shower, in bed, etc. The closer the flight gets - the louder and more insistent its voice.
But I'm finally starting to make some progress. Yesterday I finally made my last trip to the market, wrapped all the birthday/wedding/anniversary/hostess/graduation gifts (note to self: mail them next year, you have no room for shoes), found the passports (thank God), left instructions with the housekeeper, and planned my next 4 days down to the last minute, resolutely ignoring the chattering of my brain all the while.
By the time I crawled into bed, I was was exhausted. Ready to close my eyes and picture myself 5 days from now, lying on the beach, margarita in hand, listening to the rush of the waves and enjoying the fruits of my labor and discipline.
It was just about then that I remembered one item I'd left off the list.
A bathing suit.