Friday, February 29, 2008

48 hours and then some

So, jet lag isn't just that you are tired. It's that you wake up at 2 am and can't get back to sleep because your body thinks it is 2pm and wants some good noodles for lunch. Which of course would be impossible to get, even if the restaurants were open, which they are not, because food in the United States just isn't as good.

It is a simple fact that everything we have eaten since coming back has more or less been a disappointment. Even our own home made breakfast today, with eggs which were likely laid a month ago, was terrible.

We got back very late on Wednesday night, exactly 27 hours after we were supposed to, because our 747 jumbo jet to Hong Kong had some unexplained mechanical problem and they ended up canceling our flight on Tuesday morning. United Airlines seemed like they had no clue how to handle the situation. (400 frustrated passengers!) But they eventually sent us off to the swankiest hotel in Sai Gon with meal vouchers and taxi fare and promised to get in touch with us with further instructions.

The New World Hotel is the very one that Bill Clinton stayed in when he visited Viet Nam a few years ago, and happens to be right across the street from the very modest place we stayed for our first two nights in Sai Gon. So it literally felt like the chickens had come home to roost. (And yes, there ARE chickens in downtown Sai Gon, LOL.)

The New World has the most beautiful swimming pool I have ever seen. It is designed so the water is at the exact same level as the tile patio surrounding it. The whole area was filled with tropical plants and chaise lounges, big white umbrellas and beautiful fluffy blue towels. The water was about 85 degrees, which is to say hot as a tub, but since the air on Tuesday was in the high 90s, it was actually refreshing.

The boys wanted to use our 'lost day' for hanging at the pool. Nguyen was on a quest for his last street vendor meals. He had visited the Banh Xiao stall the day before and wanted another go at it. This one, he said, had curry in it, which made the rice flour pancake yellow. It was the size of a dinner plate and stuffed with bean sprouts and shrimp, pork and squid. He took off for the afternoon while the kids and I took naps.

Which is a darn good thing, because United left us a message that we were to get up a 3am and take a cab to the airport for a 5am check in.

So, for the second day in a row we were up WAY before dawn. We got to the airport and all 400 displaced passengers, with our mountains of luggage, were in line trying to find out if we were going to get home today.

United got us seats on Cathay Pacific for the long leg from Hong Kong to San Fransisco. And United could take care of us for the rest of the flights. (4 altogether!)

From the time we got up to the time we got to our front door, we had been traveling for 33 hours. Yesterday I slept until 2:30 pm.

We are home. But oddly, we don't feel like we are home. Our house seems strange to us. Overstuffed with stuff we don't really need. Big. (Which is funny because it has always seemed too small.) It is strangely silent here. The hum of the highway, which used to irritate me no end, is nothing compared to the constant honking of traffic in Viet Nam. At 11pm last night I stepped out of the house and was stunned at how quiet it was.

And the world here, even with it's billboards and signs and cars and traffic and mini malls and STUFF seems, strangely, bare. Where are the street vendors on all the sidewalks? In this neighborhood, where, even, ARE the sidewalks?

The whole time I was in Viet Nam, I felt unable to really say much about it. The experience was so huge in the experiencing of it, it seemed impossible to distance myself enough to really look at it and take it in. I wonder if that will change now that we are back.

Last night we looked at some of the photos and I am very glad we took so many, because truly, I had already forgotten so much.

We are home. Sort of.

Thanks to all for your comments along the way. I finally got a chance to read them this morning and it moves me to know that you all were with me on this amazing journey. I am sure that I will be writing about it more, as I process it.


The Swandive said...

welcome back, home, transformed.

Rachel said...

Yes, indeed, Rachel. Transformed. Thanks for sharing the trip!

Mary Beth said...

Reverse culture shock is the pits.

I recommend the return module of this resource:

and that you stay gentle with yourselves.

love! glad to have you home!

Rachel said...

Mary Beth,

This is really helpful, thanks!

I never really thought of it as culture shock, but of course, that is really what it is.

I am pouring over photos today. It helps.