Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Beam Me Home...

We really need to work on advancements in "beaming" technology.  It just seems ridiculous to be at the airport 2 hours before a flight and then for it to take sooooo long to get to your destination.  Wouldn't it be easier to just beam us to our location of choice?  Thursday morning 4am came too early. I didn't go to bed til 12 and in typical Julie fashion when I have to get up at a different time than the usual, I'm eyeing the clock every 20 mins. So I was actually up before the alarm and in the shower before 4 and out the door by 4:30 for my long journey back to the US for Jay's wedding. 
It took a bit to find a cab that early but I was off and running to the airport quick enough.  The airport was pretty uneventful and I was happy that our flight departed for Paris early with maybe 30 people on the entire flight - no wonder all these airlines are going broke!!  I've never been on a plane that empty before!
I tried to sleep on the first leg and at least was able to close my eyes and rest but all I could think about was the end game - being back in the US and being with my family that I haven't seen in 11 months. For all my complaints about life at home - it's rapid paced lifestyle, unhealthy food, lack of what I perceive as tolerance, etc, it's still home and always will be.

We landed early in Paris as well.  And when heading to the gate to my flight to Minnesota, I was thrilled to hear all this English all around me!!  One of the things that I always find interesting and almost difficult in a way is getting used to speaking in English all the time. Now of course all my friends in BCN speak English but I still have to function in Spanish - shops, doctors, taxis, and more recently movers, realtors, and so many more. Think about all of your interactions on a daily basis, no matter how small or inconsequential they may seem. Now do it in a foreign language. It's not as easy as you think. Especially the small talk.

So to be back home and speaking English almost feels weird to me. To go into a restaurant and place and order in English and even ask for substitutions is a special treat. To go into a store and not have to look up a translation of what it is I'm hunting for so I can ask the shop keeper if they carry an item. To be walking in a mall, a store, a hotel and hear English all around me. It's just surreal.

It also makes me think about what will happen when we move back home in 3 years. Will we just default back to English for everything?  Will 5 1/2 years of Spanish go down the drain in a matter of months?  How will we keep the kids from losing their linguistic skills?  All things to think about for the future. But for now I'm just happy to be able to say what I'm thinking rather than having to translate before I speak.

So anyways, in Paris airport could barely contain my excitement over all the Americans going to Minneapolis. At the same time there were stereotypical tacky tourists that give Americans a bad name and they stood out like a sore thumb. I try to stay away from them. Heck I tried to stay away from them even before I moved to Europe. Regardless though, it still made me feel that much closer to home and the excitement was overwhelming.
But I needed that excitement to get me through the next 9 hours on the long haul flight from Paris to Minneapolis.  Thankfully the headwinds weren't bad and our 9 hours turned into 8 1/2 - hey I'll take what I can get.  And the bonus was that on a full flight I ended up with an empty row so I got to at least stretch out.  I still had enough time for 2 movies, some book reading and the new Cosmo (which happens to be the sex issue... at least it was educational and entertaining!) as well as a little nap in there.  The flight, like the first leg, was easy peasy - no turbulance thank goodness!!!

The lack of turbulance was important to me for another reason though.  My mom was flying in at the same time as me and has had a huge fear of flying.  She has not been on a plane since I was 12 (do the math, it's a long time) and I knew that this flight was an integral part of getting her (and my dad) one step closer to coming to visit us in Barcelona.  If this flight could be just the most perfect flight, I might be able to get her to fly again.  So I couldn't have been happier that the majority of the flight (descent was a little shaky) was perfect.

I flew through customs and baggage claim to head out to the domestic baggage claim to meet my family.  I haven't seen my parents or brother since last June so I knew it would be emotional.  But my exhaustion suddenly took over my adreneline and even though it's not their fault that their flight got stuck waiting for a gate, I was definitely tapping my foot impatiently waiting waiting waiting.  That would be when jetlag/not enough sleep/feed me moodiness that struck.  I was able to keep it in check for the most part though, or at least I tried... if I didn't, I apologize.  Regardless, it was soooo good to see everyone and it was emotional teary hugs all around by the time they finally got to me.  Everyone looked fantastic, especially my mom who's lost some significant weight - she was as skinny as me!!!  My time away in Europe has definitely taught me to appreciate the time that I do have with my family since I don't get much of it any more.

We went to the car rental place and this is where the differences in Europe versus America started to show.  The car we had rented was too small for our baggage.  So the rental agency tried to upgrade us to a Suburban... you know, one of the biggest cars on the road...for a family of 4 with 4 suitcases total.  My dad was very close to going with it when Jay and I told him there was no need.  In the end we got the Explorer which was roomy and super nice...and still bigger than anything I've driven in the last few years even as a family of four. 
Our Ford Explorer...huge, typically American but comfy

As a comparison, this is what we drove in Switzerland/France/Germany this past December, still fit a family of 4 comfortably with luggage incuded.  Big difference!!

After finding our hotel we all had the hungry grumpies and so we went to grab lunch at Napa Valley Grille, also the home to the rehearsal dinner for the next night.  I immediately ordered an espresso martini both because it had been a long day and I felt the need for some caffine.  But really, I just wanted a drink.  I'm pretty much the only one in my family that drinks and somehow I feel that I need to defend that, not sure why, but I do. I'm by no means a heavy drinker and rarely drink at home with the exception of when we have company over or the occassional glass of wine when Josh makes us dinner.  Otherwise it's only when we go out and I do absolutely have a drink or two when we go out. 

It felt good to order from an American menu and it was even better since it was more of an upscale restaurant.  My crab cake, caesar salad and soup were fantastic and it felt so good to have some simple American goodness again :)  And yet keeping in check with myself to not overdo it given that it had been so long since I'd had food from home.  I'm pleased to say the whole time I was in MN, I was really good about my portion size (as we know, the US is famous for it's huge portions) and the types of food I was eating.  If anything, living in Europe has taught me healthier eating habits - I can still enjoy food but it doesn't have to be in huge portions. 

The restaurant was situated in the Mall of America.  Yup, pretty much the biggest mall in the world with over 400 stores.  After dinner we schmoozed around a little bit taking it all in.  The most impressive?  The amusement park situated right smack in the middle of the mall.  We're talking rollercoasters in the middle of the mall!  Also impressive?  The Lego store which I made sure to stop at for the boys - Liam is now the proud owner of a Ninjago alarm clock for his new room and a Ninjago costume while Aidan now has a new Lego Moleskine journal for all his stories and drawings.  And I think Aidan's future career has been set - I think he should be a designer/builder of these huge lego statues - amazing!!!

Me, mom and dad outside the Mall of America.  I think Jay was slightly mortified that I made him take this uber touristy picture of us :)

Ferris Wheel inside the Mall...

One of the rollercoasters in the mall

Some of the huge lego displays on top of the Lego store.  The transformer on the left is about 25 feet tall to give you some perspective.  The pictures don't do these justice.

Shopping day one - only 3 bags... but it's just the beginning :)

My family has never been known for being night owls.  So it was no surprise after a day of travel (I did want to slightly hurt them when they complained about the long day, but I let it go) that they were ready to head to their rooms at 6.  What?????  Who's going to entertain me?  And by entertain, I mean keep me company so that I don't fall asleep at 6:05?  Apparently no one.  And the jetlag claimed it's victim by 8PM no matter how much resistance I put up. 

Tomorrow, more shopping with mom and the rehearsal dinner... can't wait!!


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