We have been in Kansas City for two weeks already - and we are loving it.
Life here took off much more quickly than I expected - thus, the lack of blogging. Which I actually consider a good sign - we are soaking up time with family and friends, settling into our temporary home with Andrew's grandmother, and eating as much American food as she can make for us.
The past month has been crazy. I just realized that exactly a month ago, on September 13, we were driving in a bus to Bangkok to spend the night and fly out to Vietnam the next day.
After a week in Hanoi, we spent some time in Bangkok saying good bye to friends and Thai food, then a few more days packing up and having a final farewell party with our Poipet pals.
I plan on getting photos up of our Vietnam trip soon, because it was wild - I didn't realize how different it is than Cambodia. But we loved the food and the people and the twisty narrow streets of Hanoi - and getting to hang out with some of our friends one last time.
Then, the 30 hour trip to America happened. Oh my word, the drama. It was probably the most stressful trans-Pacific flight I've ever had.
My stress level was amazingly low the entire weekend prior to our Sunday night departure. I felt relaxed and ready to get on the plane. Our bags were packed and organized. I knew how much we'd have to pay for the excess bags. Our organization told us to pay with credit card, and they'd reimburse us later, which was what we'd done before.
After spending the evening with a friend in Siem Reap and getting a nap and shower in, we rolled into the airport two hours before our flight with our 12 bags. We pushed our luggage trolleys and the stroller up to the check-in counter at the Siem Reap airport. The check-in guy's eyes widened and he leaned over the desk, informing me that I'd have to pay for all the extra bags.
"Yes, I know," I said smiling, pulling out my trusty Master Card.
"And - we don't take credit cards."
I looked at him, mouth gaping. "You don't take credit cards."
"No - cash only."
Queue adrenaline rush and nausea. I turned around to see Andrew making final adjustments to our 600 pounds of luggage. "Honey?!!"
What followed was over an hour of frantic phone calls to find anyone with enough cash to pay for the extra bags. We could only pull out enough cash from the ATMs to pay for three extra bags. No one had enough cash lying around to lend us for the entire amount. It was nine o'clock on a Sunday night, which meant all the banks were closed. And the cash advance machine at the currency exchange counter was broken.
We finally realized we would not be taking all our belongings back with us to America at that time, and decided to leave four bags at the airport for the SP staff to collect tomorrow and send to us later. We literally opened the bags, tried to remember what was packed inside, and selected the bags with (what we hoped were) the most valuable items.
What made the cut: the Pack 'N Play, cloth diapers, health records, and coffee pour-over filter. What didn't: books, kitchen utensils, and (apparently) all my shoes.
We finished checking in our luggage literally about 5 minutes before the counter closed, and rushed through immigration to our gate. Through it all, Declan sat in his stroller, babbling to himself, looking at the bright lights and Korean tourists, happy until the very end when he decided he'd had enough and started howling.
I have never started a trip more exhausted or stressed out.
We flew five hours to Seoul, South Korea. Then after a four-hour layover (during which I indulged in a $5 cup of tea - I figured I'd earned it), we boarded a 12.5-hour flight to Chicago.
For the first time on a long-haul flight, I didn't watch the movies. I didn't read a book or listen to music. Whenever I could, I pulled on my eye mask and put in my ear plugs, and tried to sleep. Andrew and I took turns with the baby, trying to get him comfortable. We had a bassinet, but he had to be zipped into it, which he hated. And if there was turbulence, we had to take him out, even if he'd just fallen asleep after thirty minutes of crying. We finally decided to just hold him in our arms most of the trip.
I am not a fan of the airplane bassinet. But at least it was a good place to put all our junk.
Getting off the plane in Chicago was like emerging from the Valley of the Shadow of Death. And I'm pretty sure we looked like zombies, too. American immigration was efficient and fast - thank God the customs official decided he didn't want to mess with our 8 suitcases.
Of course, once we were in O'Hare Airport, I realized that in the scramble to get cash out at the airport in Cambodia, I somehow lost my ATM/debit card. And found another $200 in my "secret" zipper pouch - which would have paid for one more extra bag. Oh, the irony.
Declan failed to sleep all Monday morning while we were in Chicago, so by the time we boarded our flight to Kansas City at 1 pm, he was fried. Screaming ensued while we sat on the tarmac for thirty minutes, unable to stand up and rock him to sleep. As soon as the seat belt sign went off, I bolted for the bathroom and closed his screaming off from the rest of the plane. Playing with the water in the sink calmed him down, and he went limp as a rag as he finally slept. (don't judge me for letting my baby play in a dirty airplane bathroom sink til you've had a baby in Cambodia and realize nothing could be dirtier than your own house.)
And then - Kansas City. Home sweet home.
The other passengers let me off the plane first with Declan, and we stood at the end of the jetway, waiting for our stroller. A few passengers said some really nice things to me as they left, making me feel a little less like the Worst Passenger Ever for having a crying baby (I did try to tell the flight attendant that we'd been traveling a day and a half, so everyone would have some sympathy for us).
Seeing our families at the airport was the biggest relief in the world. Declan was still so overstimulated and exhausted, he just looked around with huge eyes, thinking, "What have you done to me?!?" And I swore to never travel like that with him again. At least not for a while.
Of course, there was some more drama at the airport, including a missing bag, a dead car battery, and an airport policewoman threatening to ticket my father-in-law for loitering in a no-parking zone. But soon we made it home, and it was all over.
So that's the story of our trip to America. The past few weeks, we've (sort of?) gotten over jet lag, started renovating our house, received two bags from Cambodia via mail (but learned the other two might not come til December...), and started applying for a job (what? sorry, you have to wait to see how that one turns out...).
I'm hoping to get caught up with blogging soon. But if you want to follow my day-by-day process of adjusting to America, I'm doing a series on Instagram called #31DaysofAmericanCultureShock - you can see my account here.
We're so glad to be back in America!