Monday, June 18, 2012

Home Leave: The Asia Vu Whistlestop Tour of Summer 2012



I don't know that we'll have photographers waiting for us, but the stops will  certainly be nearly as frequent. Image via

It's that time again.  The time that most expats yearn for all year long:  Home Leave.

Ahead of most of us are weeks back home, where we'll soak up our native language, drive through old neighborhoods, visit family and friends, and wander excitedly through grocery stores (if you have not lived abroad, it's hard to appreciate just how exciting a grocery store back home can be,especially if you live in a city where women pass around information on how to find black market Crisco with the same level of intensity and passion used by women back home to share news of an engagement or a pregnancy).  We'll revel in the most mundane activities of daily life, marveling at how easy it is to ask a question, order a meal, get directions, or find just the right type of moisturizing shampoo. We won't nervously scan signs, hoping to recognize a few familiar words in a strange language that will let us know where to get in line for tickets or where to pay for merchandise.  We will not look desperately out the taxi windows for familiar landmarks, hoping that we accurately conveyed the subtle difference between 'Ichon' and "Incheon" (one is the neighborhood where we live:  the other is a city approximately an hour away. The spoken Korean words are frighteningly similar.  Do not ask me how I know this.)

Don't get me wrong:  I love Korea, and I am enjoying every single minute of living here (OK, maybe not the really cold parts) but even the most enthusiastic expatriate has her moments of longing to be back where everything is familiar and understood; somewhere where you feel completely at home.


Of course, for a family like ours, the concept of home is a bit broader.  Oh, we'll be comfortable, and in some familiar places, and surrounded by people we love, but it won't quite be the "Now we're home, let's unpack and stay put for 6 weeks" scenario that many of our fellow expats experience on their home leaves.

 Remembering that MsCaroline and MrLogical grew up as expats, the scenario necessarily has to look somewhat different.  There's no cozy hometown for us to return to, no nostalgic stroll around the old high school football field, no visit to the kindly neighbor who's known us since we were born and always baked the best chocolate chip cookies.  MrL finished his school years in the Philippines, MsCaroline did so in Germany (not including our other 14 or so schools in 5 countries over 12 years) - so there's no strolling around the old football field for us - well, not just one, at least - when we're back in the U.S.  Our parents have all settled down - more or less - in homes and states (3 different ones, by the way) where they are happy and comfortable, but they're not exactly places we grew up.  Add to that, a marriage in which we are on our fourth 'home' (3 in the US, in distinctly different parts of the country at least 1-2 days' drive apart and in each place we or the children have significant ties) and relatives who come from two different ends of the country and you have a recipe for a Home Leave which is not so much relaxing-on-the-porch-swing-with-a-glass-of-lemonade, but more along the lines of one of those whistle stop tours beloved of American political candidates.

The good thing is that we'll get to see our families and friends - the people we love and who love us.  The challenging ('challenging' is the politically correct way to say 'bad') thing is that the four of us will spend some time together on the East Coast (at the BEACH, people! The BEACH!), but eventually split up to go our separate ways.  MrL will return to Seoul first, heading back to work. The boys will head to the West, and I will head to the Midwest, eventually reconnecting with Son#2 in Boston (Son#1 will be back in Texas, taking a summer course) before heading back the the Land of the Morning Calm a few weeks before the start of the new school year.

If the logistics of these four distinctly different itineraries strike you as potentially complex and confusing, I can only say that the folks who make the travel arrangements at MrL's company are powerful magicians extremely talented at what they do.  The tactical and strategic maneuvering involved in designing our four diverse itineraries were of a complexity and level of detail worthy of The Battle of Guadalcanal.  Or at least it felt that way when we were planning them.

Some of the stops on the Asia Vu Summer 2012 Whistlestop Tour
Between the four of us, we will be either flying or driving to:

Washington, DC
North Carolina
Texas *
Virginia*
Ohio*
Kentucky*
Massachusetts**
Maine
New Jersey
*multiple cities

(For those of you not conversant with the size of the US and/or the distance between some of the cities and states, let's just say that the longer distances are between 1000km(650miles) and 2000km(1200 miles) - but we'll only be driving some of it.)


Oh, we're all excited and looking forward to seeing those familiar, beloved faces; swapping stories, seeing how much kids have grown, and soaking up every detail to store up for the next 10 or so months ahead of us. We actually probably will end up on a few front porches, drinking lemonade.

Or maybe after all that traveling, something a bit stronger.


















9 comments:

Trish @ Mums Gone To... said...

It sounds exhausting but exciting. Hope you keep the blogging up so we can read how it's going. But I'll catch snippets on Facebook!

nappy valley girl said...

Wow. I feel exhausted just reading about it. We've just been to Virginia for the weekend and I feel like it's going to take me all week to recover from the drive.

It sounds fun though.....

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

Hope you enjoy it, mad travelling and all!

MsCaroline said...

Trish - I am really hoping to keep up with my blogging - will probably work on it during those 3am jetlag wake-ups!

NVG - I've done the drive from Boston to Virginia more times than I care to count - I know it's shorter to NYC, but that's still a LONG drive! Thank goodness we'll be making stops along the way - one of the advantages of having so many relatives scattered across the Eastern Seaboard!

Elizabeth - I'm sure I will, once it gets started - when we're still in the planning stages, though, it can get truly overwhelming!

linda@adventuresinexpatland.com said...

I look at your itinerary and think 'she's crisscrossing Europe' - and people think Americans don't travel, ha! I leave in 2 days for a similar 5 week sojourn involving FL, VA, NC, GA and back to FL (2 visits with parents as my father is ill, uni visits, beach with brother's family, etc.). And no, I haven't packed. Aaackk! Travel safely :)

MsCaroline said...

Linda - Aaaack! is right. Just think, we'll probably walk right past each other in some airport or rest area in VA or NC and never even know it! And yes, it does feel a little like I'm crisscrossing Europe - hard to explain to people who live in countries you can traverse in a day!

dkuroiwa said...

oh, how lucky you are to be able to escape the rain and then the OMG heat and humidity that comes right after (at least, that's what happens here in japan..i can' imagine it being much different in korea!). your trip 'home' sounds wonderful and yes, busy....but for us, if a trip to the states is NOT busy, then, it's not really a trip back!! (personally...i'd just like to be able to sit either on a patio and have a drink or a meal or...sit in central air that isn't in a shopping center!!)

thanks for stopping by my blog....we expats gotta stick together!! (^-^)

MsCaroline said...

Dkuriowa- Oh, yes, the heat and humidity are brutal - while it's raining as well as afterwards. Which is exactly why we planned to be gone for as much of the rainy season as possible!

broken biro said...

Sounds like a great trip - if you had about 3 months to do it in. I've got an atlas app that tests you on country knowledge and I always struggle with the US states - your trip may help!