At the beginning of August, my family loaded itself onto a Qatar Airways 777 and flew across the Atlantic. We spent a lot of our summer vacation in transit – it's a long flight between HCMC and Doha, and an even longer flight from Doha to Washington DC.
The DC-area is where we experienced the first awesome things about our summer vacation. Starbucks! Iced chai lattes are one of my favourite things in the world, and I have to travel to other countries to find them, so yes, that was a big deal. I had my first iced chai latte of the trip the day that we landed. Another awesome thing: TLC – a channel we don't get here! I totally indulged in garbage tv on our holiday. Whenever we were staying in hotels, I watched a lot of Say Yes to the Dress and Toddlers & Tiaras. I threw in a little HGTV on the side when I was feeling more adventurous. Another awesome thing: I went to an actual Athleta store (yay Tyson's Corner!) and tried on the Nectar dress that I've been admiring for about two years. Turns out it looks absolutely horrible on me, so it's a good thing that I waited and didn't spend a crazy amount of money shipping one to Vietnam. I bought a pair of Dipper shorts instead, and they are pretty terrific. Tyson's Corner also had a store where my children spent their birthday money buying their un-Canadian dolls outfits that cost more than the ones that they were wearing on their very own bodies. But that's what birthday money is for, right?
Part of the attraction of heading back to North America over the summer is the opportunity to fill up on some of things that we miss while we're living overseas, like family and wide open spaces. We stayed with Chris's sister in Maryland for a few days, and it was just lovely to watch my kids play in a fenced backyard, take them to a playground, and even just eat a picnic lunch outside on benches. (The part of this visit where Madeline conspired to play with her five year-old cousin to the near-exclusion of the other three kids was unplanned, though).
Wegmans! We stepped into a Wegmans somewhere in Maryland and Virginia, and it was crazy to be in a regular grocery store again! Gosh, it was spacious and well-stocked in comparison to the types of places that I get to buy groceries here in Saigon. Despite accusing me of going overboard in Target (where I re-stocked our medicine cabinet for the next year), he went a little crazy in the snack-and-drink aisle at Wegmans. The drink where pellets dropped down into the bottle for mixing was kind of neat, but I passed on his super-sized bag of crystallized ginger.
Part of heading back to an English-speaking county during the summer is about shopping, but the longer that we live overseas, the more content I am to live without a lot of the consumer items that I used to haul back to SE Asia in my suitcase. This trip, we mainly brought home pharmaceuticals, birthday/Christmas gifts for the kids, and a few odd things that I can't locate in Saigon, like duct tape, cork sealer for my Birkenstocks, and sport laundry detergent because my regular clothes were beginning to smell too much like my gym clothes.
On this vacation, I learned that my kids are generally cooperative enough that I can take them swimming by myself without being way out of my supervisory-and-water-skill league. The first time I took them solo was in Pinehurst, NC when Chris was off golfing. I did get a little nervous when the water they were playing in got deeper than I was comfortable in. This was an awesome development, especially since the alternative would have been hanging out in the hotel room for the entire day instead. This also paid off again when I hung out with my kids at the beach and hotel pool when we were in Hilton Head Island and Chris was off elsewhere in South Carolina watching a professional golf event of some sort. No one drowned, my kids monopolized the water slide at our resort as much as they could, and we came home with new pool noodles and sea shells.
I also have to mention here that the cleanliness of the public HHI beach was awesome. I certainly wasn't imagining that we'd find an un-ending stretch of sandy shore with no litter or rocks or general ocean sludge. I'm not making this up – it honestly looked like this:
My eleven year-old self (who used to watch Space Camp on a near-daily basis) would have thought that our vacation was totally awesome because we visited the National Air & Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center and saw this:
Awesome is the only appropriate word.
One aspect of this holiday that I was day-dreaming about before we even left Vietnam was the food. There is a distinct lack of southern BBQ here. However, it wasn't hard to find in the Carolinas. Our first stop after crossing into North Carolina was at some dive in Raleigh where we enjoyed chopped BBQ pork sandwiches and collard greens and stuff. In Charleston, we polished off a helping of boiled peanuts:
And learned exactly why peanuts are a legume instead of a nut.
The final awesome thing to say about our road-trip holiday is that Madeline and Sadie were good little passengers. They didn't complain much at all about how we strapped them into the back of our rental vehicle for some very long hauls. Madeline usually read or was content to stare out of the window, and Sadie napped or watched Doc McStuffins over and over again on Chris's iPad. I remembered how I felt about road trips when I was a little kid, and was expecting a lot more tears and tirades. But they didn't happen, so … Awesome.