Tuesday, July 16, 2013

American Life: The Condensed Version

In the fantasies of my visit home, I spend all my time reconnecting with friends and family, gorging on Mexican food and Texas Barbecue, and miraculously not gain a single pound or kilo. It hasn't turned out exactly as planned, especially that not gaining weight part. Instead of being 100% Fun, Fun, Fun, I've had a dose of reality kick in, too. It's as if I took a year or two of normal American life with both its fantastic and mundane parts and condensed it down to a month.

So many family celebrations have occurred around this table.

Thinking that we'd only be living in Malaysia for two years, we kept both our home and cars. While we've had wonderful, responsible people caring for them, this visit was clearly time for me to step in and take care of maintenance.

The squeaky belt noise I kept hearing when we picked up our van stopped only to be replaced with a burning rubber smell and the sudden cessation of air-conditioning. The service man was amazed I made it all the way to the shop without an alternator belt. As I paid him, all I could think of was how much air travel that money could have bought.

I planned a fun "Shop-with-Mama" week for my girl while her brothers were at camp. Instead of the clothes and makeup I had envisioned, we ended up shopping for less than exciting things like garage doors and a clothes dryer. More of the travel fund drifts away. 

That montage in the movie Up where the couple keeps breaking into their travel savings for unexpected expenditures started playing in my mind.

While I usually enjoy gardening, living in a Malaysian high rise condo made me forget the blah parts of yard maintenance. Hello to tree branches scraping against my roof shingles and a lawn that's turning increasingly brown due to years of drought. If only I could shift some of Penang's tropical rains over to Central Texas.

Our bodies needed a tune-up, too. Dentists, opthalmalogists, specialists and a trip to the Travel Clinic were all on my To See list. Boring but necessary and way too many pokey things.

Whenever people in Malaysia ask me how I'm handling the heat, I tell them what a Texas summer is like. Some days, it gets up to 107F (40F). At least it's a dry heat... much in the way that a blowtorch is a dry heat. Thank goodness for central air-conditioning in my house. I hardly ever break a sweat.

Did I mention that I haven't seen my husband in three weeks? He muttered something about a job and flew back to Penang.

But there have been moments of joy as well.

We landed in Houston on Father's Day and enjoyed a meal with both sets of parents, mine and hubby's, before driving to Austin. My teen went off to Boy Scout camp with his old troop while my other son got to spend the whole week playing with LEGOs at camp. There was time with friends at a Ladies Night Out, pool party, birthday party, and playdates. We crammed a whole school vacation's worth of excitement into a few, short weeks.

Old timey Texan lodging at the campgrounds

We visited with our extended family who my children sorely missed visiting with at Christmas time when we went to Australia instead. For my kids, wild kangaroos don't hold a candle to hugs from grandparents. The Fourth of July (America's Independence Day) was spent exactly where we love to be -- on the pier at the family's house on Galveston Bay watching fireworks up, down, and around the coast.

A long awaited first trip to an American Girl Doll store is still ahead of us.

And Target! How I've missed you. I'm sure you've missed all the money you've drained from me as well. Two shopping trips later, you've made a significant dent in my wallet.

In seven days, the kids and I will fly back to Malaysia. In six days, I'll have all our purchases spread out on the floor trying to figure out how to balance out the luggage so that none of them go over the weight limit. I certainly don't want a repeat of last year when our baggage weighing 39, 38, 38, and 45 pounds resulted in me unzipping them on the airport floor trying to redistribute things. It turns out you can't wear multiple layers of shoes on board.

I'll be glad to finally wrap my arms around my hubby again. He'll be sad to see that things no longer remain where he leaves them, but the joy he gets from our presence will hopefully offset that. Then, it's full steam ahead for our last year in Penang.


  1. hahah, like a blowtorch is a dry heat! very funny!!

  2. Hi Michelle, sorry to hear things didn't turn our as all fun, fun, fun as you fantasized. But I guess it's the reality of having a home to maintain. There's always something whether you've been away from it or not. But it's great you that you also get to catch up with your family and friends, and that the boys got to go to camps. I'm excited for your daughter's trip to American Girl House! I hope you enjoy your last few days in TX. Good luck balancing the luggage weight. Really enjoyed reading the condensed version of your American life. Thanks for sharing.


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