I had the Neil Diamond song rattling around my head most of the plane ride to JFK airport, and it seemed an appropriate title for this blog.
America – USA – Home – I had not been there for 15 months. What would it be like? What about all of those things that I missed – how great would it be to have them again? And, - then – what about returning to Bulgaria – would I miss all of them all over again? Like most things in life, the expectations were very different from the reality. Following are some of the impressions and feelings I had during the trip. It was a “fast-paced” hectic trip. I have tried to make this blog “cryptic” with quick – choppy thoughts – kind of like the entire trip.
1. Tuesday Aug 24 - English – spoken everywhere! We flew British Air. From the Sofia airport ticket desk everything was in English. I had forgotten how much energy it takes to be trying to constantly translate what you think you are hearing.
2. We had a great flight from Sofia to London mostly because of wonderful Bulgarian young lady who sat with us. She studied in Cambridge England, and has a law degree and a finance degree. She is currently working for the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance. She symbolized all that is hopeful about the future of Bulgaria.
3. Heathrow airport – terminal 5. WOW! Signs everywhere! Efficient people transportation! People explaining expectations – in English (and other languages). Lots of stores to window shop in, and places to eat!
4. Bathrooms without wet floors from plumbing leaks
5. Finally into JFK, and seeing Shawn and Chrissy. A fire in the Long Island Railway computer center has stopped many trains – almost like Bulgaria – but the cabs work fine.
6. At Shawn and Chrissy's place – time for a beer. What – a 12 ounce bottle! That is about the same size as a “juice glass” in Bulgaria.
7. Sticker Shock – How much did that puny bottle of beer cost? $3.50 – Yikes!!!! Take me back to BG where I can get 2 liters (almost 64 ounces) for about $1.95. One bottle is enough for two nights!
8. Wednesday - Sticker Shock Again - $50 to hem Lynn's gown. One week earlier in BG we shortened and took in three pair of pants for 16 Leva (about $11). My wallet will be cleaned out in just one week!!!!
9. Taking the Shore Line North train to New Haven to pick up a car and see Pat and Molly. We rush thru Grand Central terminal to catch the train – but walk back to just look at the beauty of the station. The Sofia and Plovdiv train stations are “out houses” compared to it.
10. On the train. We have not eaten all day. Lynn still has some BG peaches that survived the plane ride. One bite, and I'm longing to be back. It is hard to get fruit and vegies in the US like we get everyday here in BG.
11. We get to Pat's. Molly, Colman and the boys are there for dinner also. They start asking about life in BG, and we keep talking – and talking - - for almost two hours!!!! We got “talking about Bulgaria” out of our systems, and apologized. However, no “eyes glazed over”, and everyone said they were interested. (We hope that is the truth.)
13. We get to Cape Cod late in the day, but we were still able to spend a couple of hours on the beach with Meg, Bob, and the kids. Then off to diner at a restaurant on the water. American food portions are HUGE. We had forgotten that!
14. Friday – Spent the entire day with Dad on the Cape. Although we did lots of things to help him, it was a slower day. But, at 87 years old, Dad is very active. Went out to diner – but this night, we split one meal between Lynn and I.
16. Had a late lunch (about two hours after the very large portions of Kimball’s ice cream) with Bill and Janet at the Bedford Inn.
17. After a long lunch, it was a 10 minute drive to visit and spend the night with Deb and Randy. It is so wonderful to see friends and have time to talk and visit with all of them!
18. Sunday - Randy has an extra bike and helmet, so we take off for an early morning bike ride. I am amazed at how good I feel doing it. But more importantly, I remember how much I enjoy biking around the New England (or Wisconsin) back roads. It was great - - but I wish I could do it every day.
21. Monday – Left early for Ken and Paula's in Mass. But they live near Kimball’s (Yup – we had more ice cream!). We also met with Kristen and Ben, and played mini-golf. It was fun! Surf and turf for dinner at Ken's. Food overload is setting in - (well actually, it is strongly in place)!!!
22. Tuesday - Ken showed me an overnight mail package I had gotten from my bank about refinancing our home. I had not really considered doing this. However, a couple of long phone calls, and some quick research convinced me I should try to do it. The rest of the day is getting paperwork, and going to the bank to apply. It is really hard to explain to a banker how a Peace Corps volunteer gets paid because we don't have a salary – just a living allowance! I'm not sure we will ever get the loan, but we are still working on it.
23. During this entire trip, Lynn and I were constantly shopping. We had a long list of things we wanted to purchase and take back with us. But that meant that every spare moment we had (and there were few of them), we were checking the “shopping list”, and off to try to find things. In the middle of this, we accidentally found a perfect backpack for Lynn. It was a women' extra small, and it fit like no other we have ever seen. But backpacks were not on our shopping list, and demanded we make logistical decisions about our travel plans (which don't exist) for the end of our service trip. The pack was back in NH, and on Tuesday Lynn and Paula made a three hour round trip drive to purchase it.
24. Late in the day, we head back to Connecticut to spend the night with Pat. We also visit with Richard and Yvette, and have a quiet dinner with Pat.
27. We cook dinner for them at their place. There ARE LOTS of things we can do to help, and we are very thankful to be there and able to help. We head back to our hotel (where we will stay in one bed for four nights) at midnight.
28. Friday - Did I mention that were lots of things we could do to help for the wedding? We worked till about 7PM, and left the kids to themselves. We met with Ken, Paula, Roy and Betty at the hotel later that evening.
Saturday thru Monday – Shawn and Chrissy's wedding. IT WAS AWESOME!!!! The kids planned everything – even down to every song played during the reception. But this is where I stop this blog. The wedding (with pictures) deserves it's own blog entry.
Our trip back to Bulgaria was uneventful, which is what you want. As I walked home the first day back, I remembered the familiar smell of grilled food as I walked by a restaurant. A few blocks later, as I walked past an old communist “bloc” apartment building, I could smell the sweet septic aroma rising from a leak some place. When I got home to the apartment, the dogs were constantly barking across the street, the old Russian cars without mufflers were slowly bouncing up our cobblestone street, and there was the constant noise of people walking and talking in the street under us. But Lynn was there. I had bought a bottle (big) of beer. There was fruit in the house, and a shopka salad to be made by me. It was good to be home!!