Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Our Journey & Transition Home

So I've been putting off writing this because I sense that when I start reminiscing it will give me joke. The week leading up to our flight home (as if that's not enough to send you into a tizzy) was a little hectic. Of course, you all know that we were "moving" home, so that meant that on Saturday before our flight home, the movers arrived. Eh. 

I don't know how most companies do a move here in the States, but in China, they come and come quick. I mean, I'm talking 5 guys in the house, tape ripping, boxes here and there and men running here, there and everywhere. I mean, they are fantastic, but it's an ordeal. AND, if you don't have your stuff set aside, before you know it it's all packed up. (Our move to Sydney taught me that- Henry's whole dresser was packed with all of his clothes in 5 minutes. Then they had to unpack because the poor child wouldn't have had any clothes!). 

Our saving grace during this was our helper, my excellent baby Phillip and friends that took the boys. The boys had a playdate or activity everyday to keep them occupied and out of the house. It was wonderful. So that left me there to organize and get everything sorted as it was packed away. We also had fabulous friends that invited us over for dinner to get out of the house and away from the chaos. Cannot tell you how wonderful that was...just to relax and unwind. 

Now, the day of our flight home. Eh. Different story. We actually started having trouble with our landlord on Sunday night (our flight was Tuesday morning). We obviously had informed them that we were moving out, but she wanted extra "compensation" even though she was keeping our 2 months deposit. (Apparently that's something the mainland Chinese like to do- be naughty and try and cheat you out of more money). We almost had to call the cops to sort the "dispute", even though it would have obviously been in our favor. 

So on the morning of our flight, Jason had to go outside (in the hot humid garage port) and sort all of this out with our compound management- because the landlord didn't want ANY of our stuff being loaded into the moving truck. As if we needed to deal with that! 

We finally got the approval to get the movers loading the trucks, and got in the taxi on our way. This was after a tearful goodbye to some of our good friends from Shanghai and our helper Tina. The boys and I were nestled in the back seat of the taxi crying- yet another home and yet more friends we were leaving behind. But as a friend said, "never goodbye to friends, just 'fare thee well' until we meet again". 

So off we go to the Kowloon Station, where we were told (by Jason's secretary) that we could check in (then take the train). Nope. American Airlines doesn't check in there...FYI. So after unloading our taxi and lorry van (yes, that's called car seat, stroller, packnplay, and 8 bags) we had to load back up again to two more taxis and head to the airport. And did I mention we were already running late for our flight- this is 11:30 at this time and our INTERNATIONAL flight leaves at 1. So I'm in a bit of a panic.

We arrive at the airport right at noon. Quickly unload, again, and get to the check in counter. Well, you want to know who we got. Miss Trainee Candy. Yep. This is all I needed. I think my blood was already boiling at this point. We only have an hour to check in and get through all checks and grab the boys some snacks and Miss Candy acted like we had all the time in the world. 

OH- and how American Airlines LOVES to get my blood boiling. I'm sure most of you remember my many hours previously spent on the phone with them trying to sort out our flight home. So we check in and they tell me they can't find the infant ticket- luckily Jason had our printout of the confirmation email. Okay, fine. Then they tell me the "premium" seats that I had purchased are unavailable now. Really? These are the bulkhead seats that allow you to use the infant bassinet. Do you think I let this rest easily. Wooo. Lil' Miss Candy didn't know what to do with me then. Poor thing. The wrath of a hormonal mama moving home was not what she envisioned for her Tuesday afternoon. 

FINALLY after a whole bunch of nonsense, we got it all sorted, but only had 15 minutes to make it to our flight. Quick stop at McDonalds (priorities people!) and off to our gate. Do you know that we were the last ones on the flight? Not to mention Jason had to stop and make Bosco's payment through one of the ATM's, so he was much later than us. I actually thought the plane was going to take off without him, then I thought how I would have to be upset with him the entire 16 hours because he hadn't taken care of that earlier. Wooo. 

Do you know the deep breaths and sighs that Jason and I let out when we sat down in those seats on the plane? It was so funny and just terrible all at the same time, that we just looked at each other and started laughing. 

Thankfully, the flight was wonderful. I mean, it sounds a little odd but that 16 hour flight was one of the easiest ones I've ever taken. Did I mention I have an angel baby? He slept over 8 straight hours in the little bassinet and didn't cry at all? He ate, had his long sleep and napped a little on Jason. Then we were in Dallas! 

Ah, back in the good ole' US of A! Such a wonderful feeling each time we land and get off in the airport, but this one was a bit different. We are home for good. No more (at least for awhile) of traveling internationally back and forth, no more missing family, no more dredding the packing of items to take back, no more. 

We've been here now for a little over 2 weeks and while it's great to be back, it still doesn't feel like "home". It just still feels like we are on a visit. I don't think reality has set in that this is "home". We have been busy searching for cars and a house, and getting the boys enrolled in activities so that is different. I'm thinking it's like all of our other moves- you have the "honeymoon" period where everything is great, and then after about a month of so, reality sets in. And you think, "what have we done", "was this the right move for us?", and it goes on and on, until you settle in. 

Jason is back in Hong Kong (he left on Saturday) so it's going to be a bit tough for us now. He doesn't get back until mid August so I know it's going to be tough on the boys (and me) not having him here. But when he comes back, we are together again. 

Our transition home is still happening and I'm really just trying to take it one step at a time- or one day at a time- 

We really are incredibly grateful to our friends and family that continually offer support. And a shout out to my Mandarin Girls- they've already put up a "WhatsApp" group so that I can chat if I'm feeling frustrated or wanting to talk about the move. I know they (as expats do) understand how overwhelming these new moves can be. I'm so fortunate that God has put such wonderful women in my life- He knows I need it. :) 

More later on our new life here in Tulsa.... ending here with just a few pics of our travels home...
Jack at the beach with his friends- great playdate to distract from all the nonsense! 

Funny but I left Phillip at home and ending up with 4 extra kids- but all fun hanging out at the country club! 

Look at this mess- and lil' Phillip sleeps through it all! 

Saying goodbye to friends! 

On our first taxi ride to the station- you can tell I had been crying! Lil' Phillip is crying too! 

Oh- and off we go! 

But nothing like these beautiful Oklahoma skies to welcome us home! 

Dallas to Tulsa flight- hanging out! 

And this was us checking in at Hong Kong- you can tell Jack is thrilled! 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bucket List: High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel!

So one downside to leaving a place rather quickly is that your time (and I barely have any) is extremely limited! I had a whole list of things that I wanted to do before I left Hong Kong- and you know what- most of them won't happen. BUT, I did get to go to High Tea yesterday at the Peninsula Hotel and it was just as fabulous as I imagined it would be!

I've been wanting to do it since we arrived but some certain husband didn't fancy such an outing- I suppose it's not really his "cup of tea". But last week when I was at a farewell lunch for my friend Sandra (she's moving to Korea!), I broke the news to my Mandarin group that I was leaving as well. So one of them suggested we do the outing at the Peninsula! Eeek! I quickly told Jason when I left and I'm not sure who was more excited- me because I was finally getting to go, or him because he didn't have to go!

Before I get into our fabulous afternoon, I think I should give some information as to exactly what "High Tea" or "Afternoon" Tea is because I know some of my American friends are not knowledgable on this subject. (I mean I will definitely admit- I had no clue until we moved to Sydney). I mean, there in good ole' Oklahoma I can't say that many restaurants or cafes (that I know of) offer an afternoon tea set. (Hmmmm...maybe I should start that?).

HERE is a great article explaining the origin of the activity. There are quite a few out there and I"m sure there are many different versions and variations. Here is also a link to my Afternoon Tea Ideas board on Pinterest- I've pinned a few appropriate recipes as also some links that give proper etiquette and ideas for how to throw your own afternoon tea. I'm just waiting to throw a "Afternoon Tea" party or shower! :)

However, I would say that you have to experience it at the Peninsula Hotel. So decadent and extravagant- a must do for an elegant experience in Hong Kong. It's served every afternoon starting at 2 p.m.- but mind you, they do not take reservations- you have to wait in line. For more information see this article from CNN.

So we had a great afternoon yesterday and was the perfect way for me to say goodbye to my Mandarin ladies. Full of fantastic nibbles, drinks, good conversation and laughter (just like our weekly classes). It was also on everyone else's bucket list!

Let me just clarify too- my Mandarin ladies are all Australia gals- but I have been taking Mandarin with them for about a year now. We met once a week with a tutor (there started out with 10 of us, now there are 7) and tried our very best to focus and stay on subject, though wasn't always the easiest ( I mean, come on, that many ladies staying on focus with a tutor that is so nice she doesn't even want to interrupt our conversations). And every week at our tutor sessions we all brought in snacks/food and this last term we even had our Friday sessions with "bubbles".

Thus, yesterday was an "extravagant" form of our weekly sessions- minus the tutoring! Jason did ask why we needed "bubbles" if it was high tea- and I don't really have an appropriate answer for that, but that we wanted to! :) I had caramel tea and it was delicious! Yummy scones, macaroons (my new favorite) and other delicious savouries and sweets were served, all whilst listening to their soothing string quartet.

Will be missing my Mandarin ladies and all the fun we had during our lessons- I promise to keep up my tutoring!

The oldest hotel in Hong Kong! :) 

My gals! :) 

You know you want to partake?!?! 

Well not the best picture, but it works! In the lobby of the Peninsula!