Surprise! My sneaky trip home

My eyes are bloodshot. I feel dried out. I’m confused about what day of the week it is. My handle on the time is not much better. I’m putting up with a ridiculously long line to get to the coffee I so desperately need.

It’s not what it sounds like: I am not hung over. 🙂 What I am is majorly jet lagged.

I got to my Bangkok hotel some time during the early hours of this day after another long-haul flight, my second in three weeks. If you’re guessing that these mystery flights have something to do with my lack of posts, you’re right. My hands have been too full to be able type – I’ve been home to Connecticut on a surprise trip for my father’s 60th birthday and between the party, catching up with friends, lots of time with family, getting really sick and, most and best of all, finally meeting my amazing nephew Martin, I haven’t been on the computer too much.

Birthday treat

I was home for nearly three weeks. Only my mom, sister and brother-in-law were in the know prior to big day. We were determined to keep things tightly under wraps, and it was so worth it. The expression on my father’s face when I surprised him at his birthday party (he can correct me if I’m wrong, but I interpreted it as total shock, big happiness and maybe a pinch of momentary terror when I burst upon the scene) was priceless – one I’ll never forget. Also the massive, heart-warming hug I got from my grandmother when she first discovered I was home.

Becoming an aunt

Meeting my nephew for the first time was intense too. For some reason I was incredibly nervous! Would I pass muster with this new (and rather critical! 😉 ) member of our family? What if we didn’t connect? Would I figure out how to be an aunty?

Some of these fears were stemming from difficulties I’ve been having during our travels with being present, staying emotionally connected, feeling disconnected from myself and others. All of this melted away effortlessly as I got to know Martin.

After the initial period of just being in awe of the little person my sister and James managed to make (incredible in and of itself), spending time discovering the elements of both of them and of other family members in his features and expressions (also fascinating) and getting familiar with his current routine and habits, I started to get to know him and promptly fell in love.

At 7 months of age it’s of course still too early to have any idea what sort of a person he is going to be, but I do already know that there is a wisdom and intelligence in his eyes that is undeniable. I know that he makes me laugh in a whole new way, and that managing to get him to laugh is one of the best feelings. I know that he is nothing like I could ever have anticipated when my sister told me she was expecting a baby – he is so much more and so much more interesting than all of my imaginings of what Alli and James’ child could be. I know that holding him and feeling his little heart beating within my arms makes my heart expand and fill up. I know that I love him completely, just the way he is, and always will.

Feeding the heart

My heart also got filled up with time and talks with some of my favorite people (from the States and Switzerland – lucky me!). I’ve written about my need for community. I think I do pretty well and actually really enjoy my own company (big caveat: when I’m not being too hard on myself, which has been known to happen from time to time 😉 ), but boy do I just love my friends and family and it was so totally nurturing, wonderful, comforting and satisfying to have time with them.

Zürich on my mind

Suffice to say, I am SO glad that I went home and had time with friends and family.

Leaving was tougher than ever. On top of the heart wrenching that goes along with saying goodbye to my family, I’m so used to doing the trip from New York back to my dear Zürich. Going to JFK without the comfort and excitement of going back “home” to Roman, to our cozy Zürich apartment brought up some mixed feelings and I found myself filled with longing for Europe, savoring every scrap of the Spanish, German, French and Russian conversations that my ears caught in the airport.

I have a feeling the Swiss “homesickness” was also exacerbated by the fact I am traveling alone. Roman didn’t join me in the States (we figured, correctly, that I might get a bit preoccupied with family and that it made more sense for me to come alone) and it’ll be a few days until we meet up in Laos, where he is right now. Having him by my side on the plane is always such a big comfort (regardless of where we’re coming from or going to – all this travel and still I always hate to leave a place (until I get to the next destination of course. 😉 ).

Now what?

All of this might make it sound like I’m losing steam on the travel front. I don’t want to be hasty in either direction thinking about our next steps. Right now I’m full of my experiences at home and I know I won’t miss my people any less as time passes. But I do still feel really excited about the other countries we want to see, and having some time for reflection back home has made me all the more appreciative for the absolutely incredible places and experiences we’ve had thus far on the trip and enthusiastic for more. Certainly there’s a lot of food for thought floating around in my head and heart, at any rate.

On the plus side, it’s easy coming back to Bangkok. It’s a city I really like and one I’m pretty familiar with by now. It’s fun to be here once more after having had a bit of time in Manhattan. After everything we’d seen in India and Myanmar, Bangkok felt like a world away from the rest of Asia. With Starbucks, McDonalds, 7-11s and Boots pharmacies on every other block and all sorts of other modern, urban conveniences, it seemed like a slice of the west in Thailand. Now coming from the States, I still find it urban, modern and international but I can better savor the things about it that are distinctly non-western; how it smells different from any western city to the fantastic humidity that hits me when I step outside the hotel to the barefoot street vendors camped out underneath the BTS stations to the occasional Leelawadee tree that stakes its claim between all the concrete. I am missing Western plumbing a bit though!

So the short-term plan is to book a flight and hotel for Laos for this weekend, enjoy a bit more of Bangkok and hopefully get over my jet lag and catch up on sleep and maybe this blog (for starters, there’s a ton to write about Thailand). As for the long-term plan, well, I suppose that’s on the to-do list too. 🙂

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