When a trip home isn’t everything you dreamed

As an expat, I can honestly say that I look forward to trips home with the kind of joy I reserved for Santa as a small child.  The return to the familiar is seductive as is the idea that you’re returning somewhere you feel like you fit in as opposed to where you are the square peg in the proverbial round hole.

So what happens when that romantic idea of the trip home collides with reality?  When a trip home isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but full of challenges and stumbling blocks?  When you find yourself longing not for your home country, but your new country?

For me, it’s been a very confusing and challenging nine days.

I hate to say it, but this trip home has been fairly full of FAIL.

Part of this is my own fault.  I didn’t really think through the ramnifications of traveling home to the US at what has historically been the height of my allergy season after a year of zero exposure to those particular plants and trees.  Breathing is not quite as highly overrated as I might have written it off to be a few weeks ago.  Nor did my memories of the joys of pregnancy combined with all the good drugs being off limits resemble anything like reality (although yes, three years ago I lived through this equally inadequately medicated…I’m guessing I was just walking around in such a fog that I can’t remember it all that well?).

Part of it has just been a bad run of luck/health.  I became ill last week, and was diagnosed with an infection.  I was given the most popular antibiotic based on preliminary results as it was a Friday and everyone was closing before the full results were in.  I took that antibiotic for three days…only to learn yesterday that it wasn’t the right drug for my particular strain of bacterial infection.  Not harmful to the baby, just not helpful either.  I was prescribed the correct medication.  I learned the hard way that I am apparently allergic to sulfa drugs…you never want to hear your partner gasp and go “What’s wrong with your back?!” in the tone that Ravi used last night.  I took Benadryl on doctor’s orders.  I’m awaiting my doctor’s decision as to a new course of action that is pregnancy safe.  I was so looking forward to American food…only to have no appetite, and the joys of tasting things more than once when I do actually eat.

While it hasn’t been all bad–there has been some very successful shopping and some visits mixed in with all the being ill and drug reactions, it hasn’t been what I was hoping for.  I find myself contemplating Americans as if I’m not one as well.  At several points in this medical drama, I longed for the ease of procuring an ultrasound in Singapore (my OB in SG is perfectly happy to give me an ultrasound at the drop of a hat as I’m paying for it out of pocket).

Until this trip, I would have argued that while I like Singapore well enough and am content there, I’d always love my time in the US more.  That trips home were the highlights of the year.  But I also wonder if this is an inevitable rite of passage for an expat…the trip home that just isn’t great.  Sure, you get to load up on stuff and seeing friends is never bad…but when it just stops being so super special.  I turned to Ravi on this trip and actually said “you know, maybe there should be a point when the majority of our vacation time isn’t spent in Boston?”  I’m conflicted as to what, if any, significance this has.

The one thing that has remained a positive throughout, and the redeeming value of the trip home…is being near old friends.  I love my friends in Singapore, but none of them can boast 5-10+ years of friendship, the way many (most?) of my friends here can with Ravi and/or I.  Just being in the same time zone is awesome because I can (for once) pick up the phone and just call without calculating time differences.  When calling more than once a day isn’t a big deal.  Where getting together spontaneously can just happen.  For all that I talk a good game about Target and Gymboree, they are my real reason for coming back home time and time again.

Fellow Expats—want to share about a trip home that wasn’t everything you’d hoped for?

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13 Responses to When a trip home isn’t everything you dreamed

  1. Dee says:

    I missed you this weekend. I know you weren’t feeling good and I got in very late, but I keep feeling like I hurt your feelings by not calling at 3am. 😦 I wanted to see you both so much! 😦 😦

    • Crystal says:

      Not at all. We were totally asleep by then. We’re sad to have missed you, but we’re more sad that we were both in such lousy shape that the conference was a no-go for us. Honestly, it’s just been a rough few weeks.

  2. musns says:

    I believe that for the population to keep growing, our minds block out the downsides of pregnancy so that we will continue to have children.

    As for trips home not meeting expectations, I believe that “home” changes. You’ve been in Singapore a year or so – that is now your home, and I truly think that our mind (in order to adjust to new lifestyles, new cultures, etc) changes the concept of home in order for us to adapt, to assimilate the new location and truly consider it home. Coming back to the US is a visit, it is no longer home.

    There is a reason we call it culture shock. I spent 7 years in Thailand as a child, we had mandatory home leave every two years, so we wouldn’t become “too foreign”.” Despite these two month long home leaves, as a 12 year old returning to the US, the culture shock was significant. Preparing for it was not possible as a child, because of being raised in an Asian culture. Yes, I had American parents, but the impact of being raised in that culture and then returning to the US, was a huge change – nothing is the same, not the schools, not the stores, the other children, the mentality. I was very sheltered and coming back was eye opening.

    Sorry it hasn’t lived up to your expectations. Well wishes sent to you during your pregnancy and the remainder of your visit!

    • Crystal says:

      Now that I’ve found the right medicine, things are looking up. Baby looked healthy today, too.

      I honestly expect that Elanor will have the roughest time when we finally leave Singapore for just the reasons you mention.

  3. Dawn says:

    I hope you feel better really soon! For the record, I’ve been feeling lousy for months now…and it didn’t help when for a whole month our backup childcare was missing and for another couple of weeks I was struggling with the “gifts” of bronchitis from my husband and strep from my daughter. (Luckily those are both easily treated with amoxicillin, so once I actually got *diagnosed*, I was better fairly quickly.) If you guys are up to it next week, we’d love to see you.

    • Dawn says:

      By the way, I should mention that I’ve been relying on phenergan (promethazine) taken nightly. Since it’s primarily an antihistamine, it helps with the allergies too. I still end up supplementing with zofran (usually when exposed to chicken smells) occasionally (like once or twice a week) but it really keeps my anxiety and nausea in check, especially since it helps me sleep at night. Zofran is problematic because it causes constipation and does not help at all with anxiety (and therefore doesn’t even work for anxiety-related nausea).

      • Crystal says:

        Reglan and Zofran are my stand-bys. I’ll have to check into the phenergan–that sounds like it could be helpful for me.

    • Crystal says:

      How rough! Looking forward to seeing you.

  4. Flora says:

    I haven’t really had any bad trips home, but that’s because I don’t really consider it “home” in a way anymore and because I arrive with no expectations.

    San Jose will always be our hometown, but at this moment in our lives it’s no longer “home.” For us, our home is less an actual set of coordinates on a map and more of a vibe or sentiment. Right now, Singapore is home.

    Jeff and I have an idea of what we want out of our trips back, but we leave a lot up to the universe. Besides planning a few dinners with friends we roll with it.

    Hope you feel better chica!

    • Crystal says:

      I think the low expectations is key (and where I made an error). This was a fairly high-stakes visit home for me (there was some background medical stuff going on with me and I’ve been kind of blue lately) and I came in with far too many expectations.

      I really like the idea of home being more of a vibe or a sentiment. It’s a really healthy way to approach it. Boston has been home for so long that it’s hard to re-adjust my outlook on life, but I’m surprised to find it adjusted without my realizing it.

      Feeling much better now, thank you!

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