Saturday, February 10, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Coming home was surprisingly surreal and slightly disorienting. I think it was mostly the result of essentially going backwards in time, crossing several time zones in a relatively short time, and experiencing an unnaturally long day of sunlight in the plane.

The flights were not as bad as I expected, and the overnight leg up the length of Africa was actually fine. Swee'pea slept for the first seven hours or so, and with my best, most focussed efforts to sleep, I only slept for about three or four of those. Interestingly, we got seated next to a couple from Manchester with a boy exactly the same age as Swee'pea; they even had the same birthday. Also, the boy's mother grew up in SA, and stayed in Granny's neighbourhood. From Amsterdam, we sat next to a man who had been in east Africa: Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar. He had even hiked up Kilimanjaro, although the last day of hiking he was too sick (suffering severe vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration) from the altitude to keep up with his group. He kept going though, and eventually reached the top. He doesn't really remember how he got there. I asked him if it was worth it, and he said definitely. He'd seen ultra fit people unable to make it to the top, so I guess it gave him a real sense of accomplishment. It certainly doesn't sound like it was an enjoyable activity just in itself. On this flight, Swee'pea slept for the first two or three hours and I even got to watch Step Up, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I have quite a taste for bad dance movies.

By the time we landed in starkly sunny and cold Toronto, our minds were hazy with fatigue and it took a long time to get through various customs and passport checks, and find our enormous amount of checked luggage: three bags stuffed to bursting, Swee'pea's carseat, and a box full of bubble-wrapped pottery, which I am pleased made it through the trip in all its appropriate pieces. Uncle J is such a good wrapper, we should call him MC J. A car service drove us home through slow rush hour traffic and all three of us fell asleep to the rhythm of the stop and go. We woke up in near darkness, pretty much outside our house.

Some things have been really disorienting. I felt really weird getting into the passenger seat on the other side of the car, and I couldn't remember the state we'd left the house in. I find when I make a cup of tea for myself, I can't figure out how much 2 per cent milk to put in after the full cream milk we used in SA. 2 per cent makes it look distinctly grey in comparison, no matter how strong the tea is. I've driven for a couple of errands, and as long as I don't think about it, I drive on the right side of the street no problem. But every once in a while I have a momentary panic behind the wheel, and can't figure out which side I should be on. Once I stop worrying, it's fine again.

Despite those odd moments, it feels SO good to be home. I can't even describe the heaven of collapsing into our very own, very familiar and just right bed at 8:30 last night. Although it was a great trip, great to introduce Ezra and enjoy the ease of summer days, I'm glad it's over. Already my memory is undergoing some kind of distillation process, evaporating the worries and challenges and discomforts of the trip, and condensing the warm happy good bits into a clear elixir. Certainly, travelling with Swee'pea was mostly easier than I expected. The flight was for sure; it didn't seem like he even noticed the ascents and descents at all, despite my white knuckles and accelerated heartbeat. That said, I think Em was right when she said that between 10 months and 2 years is the hardest time to travel with a child (or something like that; I can't be arsed to actually look up the advice she wrote at my request way back when we first booked our flights)... he's totally mobile but doesn't really understand or obey verbal directions. Also, the time change really seems to bother him, probably because he has no understanding of why, but he just feels wrong internally. I really look forward to travelling with him when he's of an age to retain his own memories, and talk about the places and we're seeing and experiencing.

Since we've been home it hasn't been all sweetness and light. We came home to several messages about some family drama, and even worse, the cds I burnt in SA have been corrupted somehow. I've been able to recover most, but not all, my photos, except for two cds, which seem to be unreadable. I've dropped them off at a computer shop to try to recover the images, which I think are of Kirstenbosch and the art gallery. Random photos have just disappeared on the cds we've been able to recover, and a couple of them were really great shots from the Bo Kaap. This bit makes me really sad. Luckily, however, I still have a few good ones left from the Bo Kaap, and my favourites from the township tour made it through unscathed.

Mostly, it's amazing how quickly we can just slip into our usual Canadian winter lives, walking to the market this morning to buy produce, eggs, cheese and bread, and not bothering to lock the front door because the key was upstairs, washing laundry, grumbling about the chaotic and overflowing clutter and vowing to do something about it, then settling down to a cup of tea and the computer, the tide of clutter still rising unchecked. When we first walked in, I turned up the heat right away, and Swee'pea just looked around with VERY wide eyes for about twenty minutes. Then he got down and crawled around in circles, as if unbelieving that we were home. Apart from the challenges of the time change (we all woke up at like 4 in the morning), he seems happy to be home.

I've been lurking around some of my old blogger haunts, a bit too overwhelmed and late to bother commenting, but enjoying your posts immensely. This travel writing has been so monologuish I think it will take a day or two for me to get back into the blogging swing of things.

Last time we got back from South Africa, Amazing Race (7 I think -- the one with Rob and Amber) was on episode three a few days after our return. That episode was the one when they went to Joburg, and it was so amazing watching them go to places that were so recently familiar to me. It was actually kind of funny, because I totally felt like we were on Amazing Race when we were travelling this time. This time, I most definitely did not feel like I was on the show since no one's ever played with a baby in arms. But I am returning to very happy news that an All Stars season will be starting very soon. Apart from Ian and Terri, and Uchenna and Joyce, I highly approve of the maker's decisions. Oh -- and I wish Colin and Christie were back but what can you do? Also, apparently they go to Mozambique, which I've been reading about and am interested in exploring one day, along with Zanzibar, Namibia, Ethiopia and the rest of South Africa, etc. etc. etc.

Anyhow, you can expect


Oh, The Joys said...

Welcome home - I can't wait until you've had time to upload photos!

Beck said...

Welcome home! It's always so odd to be home after having been away - that feeling of familiarity and passed time.
Mountain climbing has never sounded like fun to ME, but I'm the least adventurous person in the world. It's true!

Mad Hatter said...

Welcome home. There's nothing like the sweet feel of your own matress and own bed after such a long time away. Sleep well and enjoy these last few mat leave days? weeks?

Anonymous said...

Welcome home.

NotSoSage said...

Welcome home! And what a better way to celebrate than a trip to the Guelph Market!

I'm sorry to hear about the photos. I still mourn for the photo of Joe and I on the Spanish Steps in Rome more than I mourn for the camera that was stolen with the photo in it.

Aliki2006 said...

Welcome back! I'm glad you're safely home--now you can get some rest and post some more pics hopefully!

Em said...

Welcome home ... wow it seems like you just left ;) I look forward to seeing all the pictures!

PS Thanks for the link :)

penelopeto said...

welcome home lady! hope the pictures are ok.

so, not to make you think that the rest of your post wasn't engaging (cuz it was), but um, bad dance films! my specialty - you MUST go see stomp the yard. sooooo good.

ok, i guess we can get back to the international travel adventures now. wink.

Mimi said...

Welcome back! Your journey sounds really exhausting and a little disorienting--funny how we expect to get discombobulated on the way *there* but imagine we'll be ok on the way *back*. I'm always surprised that I get the time change mixup on my return trip too ... but why shouldn't I?

Nice to have you back! :-)

Mimi said...

sorry! sidebar about a question CG asked at my place! nothing to see here!

[[ and about the reality tv? you might've seen it on rogers cable access - it was the 'precision fitness challenge' where 10 people spend 12 weeks on a special diet and with a personal trainer to lose weight. me and miss baby were in it too ... ]]