Home for the Holidays

Although Richie’s returned to the U.S. twice for work (once to Texas, so he was able to squeeze in a side trip to visit family, and once to D.C.), I wasn’t able to tag along for either trip, so the Christmas holidays marked my first time to the U.S. in almost exactly nine months.  To be perfectly honest, I was dreading it a little bit.  Of course I wanted to come home and see my family and friends… but I was a little worried that I wouldn’t want to come back to Budapest at the end of it.  I love Budapest and my life here, but would it stand up to the ease of my life in the U.S., where people all speak my language and I can get through the grocery store without using Google Translate on a regular basis?

We didn’t want to subject our dogs to plane travel any more than strictly necessary, so our puppies were sent off to the Hungarian countryside with the family that usually keeps the dogs while we travel.  Laci (pronounced Lah-tsee), who is perhaps the biggest KISS fan in all of Eastern Europe, loves our dogs almost as much as we do.  So while I was nervous about leaving them for two weeks (the longest time we’d been away from them), we knew they were in good hands.

We flew through Frankfurt to Houston, where we breezed through customs (joining Global Entry was perhaps the best $100 we’ve spent) and met my parents at the exit.  My first mission upon re-entry: Chick-fil-a.  I don’t think any of my friends in Budapest understand my attachment to it (perhaps explaining it as “McDonalds, but better, only with chicken” was not helpful), but I missed those waffle fries like crazy.  And the sauces.  And the lemonade.  Mmmmmmm.

The next few days were a whirlwind, where we checked off many items on our to-do lists.  Mine included shoes, purses, and eating Mexican food as much as possible, as well as renewing my license at the DMV (as, for some reason that the DPS could not explain, I was not eligible for online renewal). Unfortunately, this involved me driving a car for the first time in 9 months (because who wants to wait at the DMV when they don’t have to?).  Richie has been “lucky” in that he occasionally has to rent a car and drive to the countryside for work, so he’s practiced driving recently.  I, however, had not driven since about March 9th.  I am pretty sure that my parents regretted allowing me to borrow their car when I begged Richie to pull it out of the garage for me, and I certainly regretted it after about 5 minutes on Houston’s roadways.  Houston drivers, you are crazy.  Do you realize that you have a few tons of metal in your hands that could destroy just about anything?   Based on the way you drive, I don’t think you do.

Despite the insanity of Houstonian motorists, I (and my mother’s car) remained completely unscathed.

After our first few days in Houston, we rented a car and trekked up to Dallas to visit our friends and check on our (rented) house.  We arrived just in time for rush-hour traffic, reminding both Richie and I why we love public transportation and living a carless lifestyle. Points in the Budapest column.  On our first night, we held a dinner at Mi Cocina with some friends.  Have I mentioned I really miss Mexican food?  Points in the Texas column.  It was so nice to catch up with everyone.

The next day, both Richie and I went to our former workplaces to visit coworkers for lunch.  This definitely reminded me that while I don’t necessarily miss going to work everyday, I do really miss my coworkers and having those daily interactions with the English-speaking world 🙂  Luckily, most of the people I wanted to see hadn’t yet left for Christmas vacation, so I got to catch up with almost everyone!  It was a little sad to see a new person in my office, and to hear about the things that changed since I’ve been gone.

My favorite part about the trip to Dallas was getting to spend time with Kimberly and Jared and their son Cohen.  Cohen was only about 6 months old when I left the US, and since Kimmy mentioned he’d been a bit scared of strangers lately, I worried that he wouldn’t be happy to see me.  However, with Richie the baby whisperer alongside me (seriously, babies everywhere ADORE him), plus a present in hand, we got a pretty warm reception 🙂  It was so much fun to watch him try to figure out his new toy and to try to decipher his 15-month-old babblings.

After lots of visiting with friends, eating at our favorite restaurants, and drinking wine from our favorite Texas winery, we headed to Belton to spend Christmas.  Luckily, the schedules aligned so that Richie’s parents, his brother and his wife, and his aunt, uncle and cousin were all able to spend Christmas Eve at Richie’s grandfather’s house.  We had a wonderful evening of food, fellowship, and fun, culminating in Richie’s grandfather’s traditional reading of the Christmas story (and, of course, present time!).

Since our return flight was from Houston, we drove back there a few days before our flight to Budapest, stopping in College Station on the way for a quick visit with our friend Garrett and his family.  I haven’t really driven through College Station in awhile (when going to a game, we usually head straight to Kyle Field and straight home), so it was really surprising to see some of the changes that have taken place since I was last there for recruiting!

Back in Houston, we arrived just in time to attend my friend Kenny’s birthday shindig.  This party is always a fabulous time – lots of friends from high school that I don’t get to see often are all home for the holidays – and this year was no exception.  We started to recruit people to join us for Oktoberfest 2013, and I think we were pretty successful 🙂

People asked me a lot if I had any trouble adjusting back to the U.S., and overall, I really didn’t.  The strangest thing for me was being surrounded by people I could understand.  I had to keep reminding myself to stop listening to other people’s conversations in public places, like the DPS and in restaurants.  In Budapest, I can’t understand 95% of the conversations around me, and so I don’t bother trying to tune them out… it’s just background noise.

At the end of our two weeks, I was ready to get back on the plane to Budapest and to see my puppies!  I loved my time there, and I will be happy to return at the end of our two-to-three year stint overseas, but right now, Budapest is home.  It feels really good to be back in our flat, listening to the sound of the 4-6 tram out the window and doing ordinary household stuff.

Next up: NYE in Budapest!

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