Las Quatro Harwoods

My first expat summer

That was a pretty intense set of emotions across the last ten minutes. I just watched Josie giggle and squeal as she looked out the window of our airplane as it took off. “We’re blasting off! We’re blasting off!” The sun on her little face pressed against the window was an absolutely beautiful moment.

Two minutes later and Maddox is sobbing uncontrollably because he doesn’t want to leave his extended family behind. Perfect timing as I was having the usual mixed emotions myself as we leave behind the easy life and head back to Accra. Stuck in the seats behind them with the seatbelt sign on, I rubbed his head while Robyn held his hand between the seats and we just let him cry. He needed to.

But that’s what it’s all about right? The challenge is the adventure. It’s not supposed to be easy. It isn’t for me. I might have cried once or twice this year too. Might have. I mean, well, let’s just move on. I hadn’t even been on a plane when I was six and both my kids have crossed the Atlantic three times now (that’s assuming we make it across this time, so if you’re reading this that’s a good thing) and visited almost as many foreign countries as I have.

Man, I wish that drink cart would get here a little quicker. I could use a drink about now. American Airlines is booty by the way. As spoiled international travelers it’s the bottom of the list so far. The nineteen seventies tube televisions strategically placed every ten rows and each with their own individual tint from high contrast and saturated to what appears to be a retro sepia screen are now showing some kind of Shakespearean drama flick that of course is just perfect for the kids in the house. But that’s alright because it wasn’t hot in the cabin when we boarded fifteen minutes late because the they were cooling it. Apparently it took them that long to realize they had to turn the engines on to make that happen. #really? Ok. I’ll let that go. Such is the life of the international playboy.

I just realized I haven’t even gotten to what I wanted to write about. Go get yourself another beer, glass of wine or an ice cold Milo. This might take a bit. In fact, go ahead and get me one too. (i know you’ll drink it in the end, but it’s the sentiment that makes me feel special).

So expat summer vacation. It goes a little something like this. You expect everyone to want to sit and listen to your incredible stories you’ve accumulated from your year of adventure but in the end all they really want to know is how long the flight was and what kind of stuff they have in the stores over there. (please don’t take offense if you asked those questions. it’s ok. and it depends on the route you take but about ten hours direct to nyc or a six and eight hour flight through europe). You get excited for a bit to go into stores where most items you are looking for are actually there and you can use a credit card and not worry too much about fraud or having to leave and come back later with cash. You enjoy driving on roads that are mostly smooth, have lines and street signs. There’s a certain joy found by standing in the shower with your mouth open drinking the water.

Then you get to a point where you are glad that you actually live in a place where the stores don’t have so much crap that you think you need because they look so pretty and it’s endorsed by that famous girl from that show but you don’t really want and it just ends up in a drawer somewhere or in the goodwill pile in six months. (i apologize to all my former english teachers for that sentence). You realize that half those things people complain about in the developing country where you live are happening just the same in the States. Customer service isn’t drastically better. In fact sometimes it’s worse. They just put your money in a cash register instead of a bubble gum bucket or a plastic bag. They still aren’t happy to be helping you. Ok. Unless you’re at Chic Fila and then it’s their “pleasure”. Well as long as you like their music anyway. There’s still corruption it’s just at a higher level and called the good ol’ boy system and not the police guys on the street asking you for “coffee” money.

And then you get those few moments in there with friends or family where everything is just like it used to be, nothing has changed, and that’s a good thing. You remember why you call those people friends and you enjoy that little snip of time with them while looking forward to seeing the ones you just spent the last year stumbling through a new life with and wondering what new friends have been recruited for the coming year. Your kids’ eyes light up as they tell a story about some random adventure that you’ve had that doesn’t even seem real as you sit with your cup of tasty name brand coffee or fancy microbrew craft beer that’s absolutely delicious and you wish you could have it all year (I just shed a little tear and drooled a bit there) but it reminds you how cool this life you’ve chosen really is. A smile breaks out a cross your face and as you listen to their version of life you realize it’s all good and yeh, you actually are looking forward to going back to the land of intermittent electricity. The place where everybody honks their car horns and it isn’t rude it’s just life. Where you literally cross your fingers as you walk into the store hoping that this week they’ll have those cookies and they won’t tell you they are “finished”.

So is it hard? Yes. Could you do it? Yes. Even though people act like it’s some amazing accomplishment, it really isn’t. Our school is full of seven hundred and fifty some kids and their families from sixty five countries who have all done it. Oh, and there are countless schools around the world just like it. You just have to take that first step. It’s the hardest, and honestly, right now, it seems like it might come once a year at the end of every summer. But is it worth it? Absolutely. I wouldn’t trade the last year for anything, not even Lebron.

So at the end of my rookie year, that’s my outlook on summer vacation and the return to the states. I’m thankful for sure and feel pretty lucky to be on this adventure with an awesome lady by my side and two kids who, so far, roll with the punches and enjoy what LCS is giving them.

Post script. Three hours into the flight and Josie has her headphones on watching a movie on the iPad. They aren’t plugged in. Maddox has finished his movie and he’s watching some lame TV game show. Robyn is up and down checking on them and reading her book as fast as she can before the charge on her iPad runs out. I just reached into my bag for some socks that I thought were mine. Apparently the frayed tops of my soccer socks were actually ruffles of Robyn’s boot socks. I’m rocking them though. They make me feel pretty. I might even deplane with them on.


One love.









This entry was published on July 27, 2014 at 1:29 pm. It’s filed under family and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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