All four of us, John, JieJie, MeiMei and I, are looking forward to three weeks away.
John is looking forward to walking around Antwerp, seeing things we walked past so many times in 2007 but never actually went into, like the giant guild halls on the Grote Markt. He reminded me also that we'll be in town the last week of the month of June, and museums are free the last Wednesday or Friday of the month (I can't remember which).
JieJie is excited about flying on a plane again. She seems to have caught the travel bug, and no doubt will be disappointed that our trip to Germany will be by car, not by train, because she loves trains (truth be told, she loves the snack cart best, and it is pretty cool). I asked her what she is looking forward to tasting again, and she said "dark chocolate!"
MeiMei is looking forward to her 5th birthday. She couldn't decide whether she wanted a cat party or a K3 party. It just so happens that K3's latest movie is "K3 en de Kattenprins" (K3 and the prince of cats) so perhaps we can combine the two. We wonder how much she will remember about Antwerp, since she was only 3 when she was there last. We have no doubt that her older sister will fill her in...JieJie no doubt remembers exactly how to get to Bart Smit, the big toy store!
And me? I'm looking forward to the way a trip unfolds, moment by moment. Seeing friends. Tasting delicious food. Taking ourselves out of context and remembering what is essential about ourselves, as individuals and in relationship with one another. A break from work, a chance to see the election news from a different perspective, cooler weather (70's/50's instead of 90's/70's), good coffee, great chocolate, inspiring surroundings. Taking walks. Going to parks with the girls. Seeing Bruce Springsteen live for the first time...wow! Seeing the Rhine and Mosel River valleys for the first time...whoa.
We will arrive the morning of our wedding anniversary. I think of our marriage, in many ways, as a series of memorable trips, of sightseeing together, of getting away together and coming back enriched. We went to Europe for the first time (individually and as a couple) before we even got married. We celebrated our engagement with a spontaneous trip, a long weekend in Chicago. We took a 3-week honeymoon in Mackinac Island, Michigan and northern Minnesota. We spent our first anniversary in Florence, Italy escorting a study abroad group from JMU. We became parents by traveling, twice, to Chongqing, China. We commemorate those adoptions by traveling with the H family. When we are home, our conversation often drifts to memories of past trips--Banff; Quebec City; Carmel/Monterey; Montana; Florida; Alabama; Accra, Ghana; St. Louis; Hannibal; Charleston Lake Ontario; Maine--and dreams of trips yet to be taken.
As for the girls, there is a sense in which "teaching them to travel" (a concept I learned from my Dutch friend M, who really made me see that we do indeed learn to travel) is very intentional. It's not just that WE want to go, though of course we do, it's that we know our daughters may someday want to go to China, to Chongqing, to see, hear, feel, touch and taste the culture they were born into. How sad it would be for them to be afraid of the traveling itself, and have that be an obstacle to such an important journey. When we think back on our first trip overseas, it was so overwhelming just to encounter the new languages, food, ways of doing things, the jet lag...I remember feeling one step removed from where we actually were, and I committed some faux pas that I regret. Still, the more we've traveled, the more we look forward to the slight jarring at the beginning of a trip, the signal that this is a time apart.
We saw parents on both of our adoption trips who seemed to think of China as though it were the moon. They had mental spacesuits on, trying to keep their American-ness wrapped around themselves for protection. They barely strayed outside the hotel. They ran to the bus, peered out the windows at China. They said things like "I just want to go home...I wish we could go right now" with a week to go. Yes, I understand, of course I understand...it's precisely why I don't think China should be the girls' first trip overseas. They need a chance to separate the shock of travel from the inevitable oddness of encountering Fuling or Liangping for the first time.