By Kate Romero
Well, I can say with absolute honesty that I’m happy to be back in good old BSB. My own sheets! My own knives! Forgetting how sharp I keep my knives………..my own bandaids! As Brasilia is our first overseas post, I was unprepared for the strange sensation of feeling like a foreigner in my own country. Yes, we’ve been back to the States before this, but we’ve been living overseas for two years now, and I guess that’s enough time to fully acclimate to a new place, because I felt like a fish out of water the moment I set foot on home
shopping mall soil. Sure, I admired how Americans actually stop at stop signs, not to mention their dedication to Starbucks. On the other hand, I was thinking, is it really necessary to come to a complete stop, when no other cars are in sight? Also, WHY THE HUGE CUPS, Starbucks? I tried to order a just a shot of espresso and three employees had to confer about what I was talking about, then they served me a lukewarm shot in a giant (Venti? Grande?) cup. Full disclosure: I avoid going there whenever possible, as Starbucks is to espresso joints as, say, the Olive Garden is to fine Italian dining.
You know what else, America? A vodka gimlet is no caipirinha, and what’s with the air conditioning turning every restaurant and shop into a meat locker? My girls took to carrying blankets with them whenever we went anywhere. However, it wasn’t long before America pulled me back into her loving embrace, with her giant supermarkets filled with hundreds of varieties of cheese and produce, the Nordstrom shoe department, and the gorgeous chop salads.
I arrived in Spokane, in the beautiful state of Washington, with my three youngest children while my husband and teenager hit up a few California college tours (I wasn’t invited because of the crying situation). Spokane is where my husband and I both grew up, and my family still lives there. A few years ago we bought 20 acres in the area with the intent to build our dream retirement home, but after careful consideration (and getting to know the neighbors a bit) on this trip, we have decided to maybe sell it. The fact that it isn’t a condo in Seattle has nothing to do with it. Much. That’s what happens when a country boy marries a city girl. Anyway, my sister and I spent about a week fantasizing about buying a winery together when we retire.
“We would have the cutest tasting room! “
“I know! It would be so fun. We could invite all our friends.”
“Let’s think of cool names for our wines!”
Just about the time our husbands were ready to get on board with the idea of owning a vineyard and began researching possibilities, my sister and I had another conversation.
“Owning a vineyard would be a lot of work.”
“I know, and I hate work. Also, we’d have to be nice to strangers all day in the tasting room, and I’m barely nice to people I actually like.”
“This idea sucks. Let’s just buy some property together and have our own private tasting room with only us allowed.”
“Or, we could just drink wine in the kitchen and save ourselves the trouble.”
“Best. Idea. Ever.”
The problem with Home Leave/R &R is that you are at the mercy of staying with relatives or friends, or the expensive option of hotels or vacation rentals. Add car rentals, too many restaurant meals, and trips to Target, and you are looking at hemorrhaging big bucks. Last year we rented a house on a lake for a month. It sounded like a great idea at the time, and it was, for about four days. We invited friends and family to visit, and that part was good, but it really didn’t seem like a good fit for us. The kids were bored (it turned out to be somewhat of a ‘retirement’ lake), it was outrageously expensive, and we kept coming up with excuses to drive to the city. Also, I had to clean and do laundry and cook, and what kind of vacation is that?
This R & R was better. We divided our time between bunking with relatives, going to the lake, and staying in hotels. We made sure to do fun stuff in addition to just going to dentist appointments, getting haircuts, and shopping for school supplies. Although, my 12 year-old managed to make getting a haircut pretty fun. I drove him to a place recommended by my nephew where they gave head massages and some kind of hot towel thingie for your face. I had planned on staying, but the shop was next door to Designer Shoe Warehouse, and well, you know the rest. My Precious Angel walked into DSW looking for me after his haircut about 20 minutes later with a spiked Mohawk, fully shaved on the sides.
“Um. Wow, Henry.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool, isn’t it?”
“It sure is. Did the hairdresser think you looked wicked?”
“No. She said I was adorable.” [hangs head]
We spent a perfect week in Seattle, where I pretended that the Embassy Suites was my personal Seattle condo. I tried my best to make back those hotel fees with their nightly ‘Manager’s Reception’ which included free booze and snacks. We did a lot of touristy Seattle things with the kids:
We took a ride on the new Seattle Great Wheel, which cost about $85 USD for five minutes. I always calculate things like that in how many pairs of shoes I could have bought with that money, so I spent the whole ride imagining the Franco Sarto flats I hadn’t bought the day before. Note the shivering, jacket-wearing family. I had to endure glares from my husband, along with comments like, “and you want to retire here….why?”
I gained about four pounds that week eating seafood. Okay, it probably wasn’t the seafood. It was because mini bacon maple donuts happened:
Just about the time I was feeling the pull to trade my colorful outfits and bright platform wedge sandals for gray and black clothes and sensible shoes, it was time to leave Seattle. After another few days in Eastern Washington, we headed to Salt Lake City, Utah, to attend a Mormon/Jewish/mixed-political-party fusion wedding. Now that was an entertaining and fun event.
Alas, now I’m happily home, listening to the not-so-sweet sounds of my children playing the drums and muddling limes for a caipirinha before I glance at the bills from the trip. And despite our hot water heater being broken this entire week, it’s a good thing we came back when we did, because the mosquitoes in our house were starving.