Monday, January 19, 2009

Confessions from a Weary Traveller

We did it. We not only survived our last minute flight over a 10 days ago, had the busiest social calendar for a week, and shopped til we dropped; but for the past 24 hours Miss Lillian Grace Sherman and myself flew by ourselves back to New Zealand by ourselves. (Jon went back a few days earlier; and can I mention he debated me for a split second for who had it harder today?!)

But the week was filled with all kinds of revelations, big and small, and the fact that Lilly has made it back to New Zealand (and to school today, 3 hours after arriving, no less!) in one piece (although thank goodness 2 year olds don't remember their life experiences - this one was a doozy!) is considered quite the miracle. Here are just a few things we discovered this week...

  • 10 days ago while we backtracked the same flights that we had taken 7 months ago, we discovered for a fact that the baby we came to New Zealand with, is no more. She is actually a beautiful young lady, a little girl, and has grown up in every way comparable. From the physical - her hair is so long now, and she's gotten about 5 pounds heavier and 5 inches taller (this was especially apparent as she struggled to push Jon and I out of our seats as she slept long-ways between us on the flight) - to all the new skills she's picked up since moving here. She can now walk and run (which is actually a bad thing in airports!), open any door (including locked ones), uses more words and signs to express herself, is "going" on the potty regularly (and loves to tell us she has to "go" when the seatbelt sign is "on" and we're not allowed to get up), and can wash her hands independently. On the way over 7 months ago, she watched Elmo; now, although she still loves him, she prefers High School Musical and knows the buttons on the portable DVD player. She also LOVED her personal TV on the flight, and discovered that Hannah Montana can make her spontaneously laugh harder than anything else! She has gotten over her picky eating, and tried a little of everything we ate. At one point during the week, I was eating a huge piece of chocolate cake, and Miss Lilly Lou was eating my salad - with ranch dressing - using her own fork. She is truly her own little person now, and while we've definitely appreciated each new skill along the way, it really did hit us comparing the "before" and "after" on the two flights 7 months apart.

  • Our intentions of seeing everyone we wanted to in Atlanta in just 1 week was completely an out of reach goal. We saw only our immediate family and best friends, and even that was completely exhausting. We had plans every single daytime, afternoon, nighttime, and often met up with people after dinner as well. Lilly was in the car more than she was in a house. She napped on the run, we ate the majority of meals in restaurants, and rediscovered what traffic *really* means.

  • Our other goals for the week were also unattainable. Such as, eating restaurant Mexican food (STILL can't believe I'm going a full year without an authentic tortilla chip or real salsa!!!). And buying things in my favorite stores - don't get me wrong, I shopped here and there, but the High School Musical barbie dolls that were on clearance at Target were never purchased because I was going to go back "later" and get them - and later never came. I never bought the shampoo I wanted to buy (but oddly enough ended up with the conditioner), never got my nails done (on the last day it was a choice between nails and sanity; I made the smart decision), and never ate Spinach Artichoke Dip.

  • I DID manage to eat at most other restaurants that I wanted to - twice at J Alexander's, twice at Brookwood (although once was take-out so I don't think it counts), and I had NY style pizza at Rays, ate at Atlanta Bread Company, ate French Onion soup twice throughout the week, twice had Zaxby's (mmmm love those grilled cheese sandwiches!), once at Cheesecake Factory, and twice at Cafe Intermezzo. I ate my weight in salads - and wasn't fooled that they were healthy in any way, but there is just nothing like an American salad - I've truly missed iceburg lettuce.

  • While I was hesitant about the little lady and I travelling by ourselves, Lilly was the BEST traveller in the world yesterday. And what I mean by that is, Lilly didn't just hold her own in the 3 airports, checking in twice, changing flights, going through security twice (although there was the one breakdown during the second security that she and I BOTH had), customs, immigration, picking up luggage by ourselves, and arriving to Jon safely and happy. But moreso, in our traveling yesterday, we could not have encountered ruder, more unhelpful people. Seriously. As we were putting our things through security in both the Atlanta and San Francisco airports, people were not only NOT helping the single mom with the toddler (us), but they were cutting ahead of us, moving our stuff to the side to get themselves through quicker, and the employees were at the same time *not* helping us and also "helping" by moving half our stuff far away from where we were on a bench down the hall (how was I supposed to collect everything that way?) and rushing us to re-pack everything. It was truly an experience. And every other line we were in throughout the day, anyone who *could* have cut, did; every person who could make a rude remark did; every person who could have let us go ahead of them or opened a door didn't. It was quite the experience. Oh, and let me also mention that there was not a chicken finger kids meal (or ANY kids meal) to be found in any of the airports we were at. Lilly ate Starbucks fruit at the Atlanta airport (the other option was a hot dog stand, not acceptable for a 2 year old!); and in San Francisco, there was Japanese and Mexican (neither which had a kids menu or anything Lilly would eat), so I ended up finding a bagel for her. And all the "family lines" that Jon and I have encountered over the past few months of travelling, did not exist this time around. Even with NZ customs, when we were put to the front just 2 months ago when returning from Fiji, did not exist today when I was by myself with Lilly - we were at the end of a long line (with our two heavy carry ons and without the stroller, which is not allowed to be picked up until baggage in NZ) about to pass out, with Lilly more than restless waiting on line, while again, people cut in front of us. Oh, and the puppy dog backpack with a leash (so that she could walk independently when she wanted without running into the men's bathroom or away from mommy) was a great idea, except for the multiple people we walked by who made rude comments about my restraining my child (and I doubt if these people had made a 24 hour international flying adventure by themselves with a two year old). But as always, I would much rather Lilly be the amazing one and have the rest of the world frustrate me. Because she was amazing - she even pooped in the public toilets, ate well, slept decently when possible, watched Hannah Montana, and amused herself for hours with the latest gossip magazines.

  • Lilly is the Princess and the Pea. She could NOT get comfortable sleeping on the plane - even though she had her seat and half of mine to stretch out across. She wasn't happy unless she was pushing me completely into the aisle, and tickling the guy next to her in her sleep. Seriously, the guy next to her was minimum 300 pounds, and Lilly managed to poke him constantly throughout the flight, while both awake or asleep - after awhile I stopped trying to intervene. But as I was saying, Lilly could not get comfortable, but still managed to sleep 2 hours on the 5 hour flight and about 8 total on the 13 hour flight (although a few of those were restless tossing and turning).

  • We were completely overstimulated in Atlanta - from the huge restaurants and stores, to all the options everywhere we went. My Target experience was completely overwhelming (yet exciting), and while perusing Ingles, I couldn't believe all the choices in every single category. We were also slightly confused the entire time, because at this point we've gotten used to Blue Top Milk in a rectangle container, not the traditional whole or 2% gallon of milk. But nothing was taken for granted - my excitement over croissants with honey butter or ketchup or salads did not diminish throughout the week. And I totally enjoyed my Sam Adams Lights more than I can explain.

  • While I haven't really watched TV since I've been in NZ, and barely watched it in the week back (aside from catching up on the latest season of Rock of Love: Tour Bus), I did realize that when bored I can get into any show. On the international flights, which come with your own TV and hundreds of options, I discovered Samantha Who, the new 90210, and Brothers and Sisters - none of which I would watch on regular TV even if I was back home, but watched a minimum of 4 episodes of each. And a note on Brothers and Sisters - it was the most depressing show I've ever seen in my life, but somehow drew me in to keep watching more. It was actually a little stressful watching their lives!

  • I did miss New Zealand a little bit while being back in the US, and really did need this week away from it to develop an appreciation for all that is here. Actually to be honest, I was starting to hate everything Kiwi, and the week away made me realize the US is not all that far after all, and the next 5 months will be much more bearable with this one week break. It was actually nice getting stressed about seeing everyone in Atlanta, and knowing that we'd be back to our simple NZ lives for a few more months.

  • I can't say it enough how nice it was being around our family and friends! Especially since it had been a year and a half since our last visit to Atlanta. The fact that I got to see Lindsay and Deborah and Melanie on numerous occasions; that I got to relax in my parents house without it being a major holiday weekend; that we got to hang out with Jon's family for multiple get-togethers... Thank you to everyone we saw for making us feel so at home!!!

1 comment:

Robyn said...

Well I for one was thrilled to see my EFF! Sorry the trip back was a nightmare, but I guess life can be tough sometimes - even for a princess. Glad you made it safe and sound come back soon!