R-N-R – Really Not Relaxing

When I was telling someone of our recent “R&R” vacation I could tell by the gasps, laughs and bouts of silence that maybe our’s wasn’t the most typical. Now granted, we haven’t been at this expat life very long, but am I to learn that most R&Rs are not filled with shredding 14-years of bank statements, or performing simple yard work that results in poison ivy, or threats of “Bill the Hurricane” heading for your rented beach house, or an infestation of bed bugs from same rented beach house, or repeated discussions with all parental parties about where the “will” drawer was, or five-hour flight delays that result in lost luggage? Did we not do this correctly?

I had been duly forewarned about the craziness of trying to squeeze in visits to all the parents, siblings, friends and old Aunt Lizzy, so without following the (ultra-smart) rent-a-house-come-to-us plan, we thought we had it all mapped out fairly sanely. Of course, when you hear out loud, “Six states in 26 days,” it can lose its efficiency sheen regardless of how pretty the color-coded calendar looks. But without the glare of reality clouding our view, we were certain it would all work out perfectly.

We started out visiting my mother and high school friends in Ohio, which despite the mere few days, included some fun times and delightful shopping opportunities. These latter resulted in the need to ship four boxes home of can't-live-without books, CDs and a socket wrench set my husband felt inexorably drawn to. From there our plan was to spend a quiet week with my husband’s father and help him sort out some things in his house. This turned out to be slightly more stressful, for all parties involved, than any of us expected. But we did get through it without any major brawls, managed to amass several ginormous bags of shredding, acquired just enough poison ivy to be uncomfortable, were dutifully instructed where the “will” drawer was and uncovered some delightful photos of my husband looking bewildered throughout his childhood. The bowl haircut just seems to get better with age.

Itchy as we were, we confirmed we were not contagious and headed toward our one week at the beach house on the New Jersey shore with great anticipation (we had heard they did not have a shredder). We met up with my husband’s family, including father, siblings, siblings’ spouses, and siblings’ offspring. All in all, there were nine of us, ranging in ages from three to eighty-three, under one roof. As an only child, with relatives I can count on two hands, this was definitely the most people I’d been with under one roof that didn’t involve a keg. I took to it as any good spouse-of-the-baby would, with keen observation, a camera and a notebook (see documented Uncle-pummeling by the nephews).

The week was definitely relaxing for us. We swam in the ocean every day, we rented bikes, we read voraciously, we bemoaned the humidity and felt ourselves longing for the straightforward heat of Cairo. And in the end, for all our enjoyment, we paid the price. As the itchy random bumps started to emerge on our last day we had that horrible feeling that we were in a “60 Minutes” special on the horrors of communal houses and bed bug infestations.

After two days of itching and trying to flay our arms, we spent several hours at the Walk-In Clinic in my father’s small Virginia town (the next stop on our whirlwind “resting and relaxing” trip), where we were promptly diagnosed with bed bugs, given a shot for the residual poison ivy and given a prescription for a creme that would help the itching. As we departed, with the washing machine diligently cleaning everything we’d touched in super hot water, my father verified that I knew where the “will” drawer was. I did.

Our last few days were spent seeing friends in DC and Maryland at various lunches and dinners, grabbing a few more shopping chances, and me fighting a horrendous head cold that left me wanting to sleep more than seeing any beloved friends.

But our day of departure was finally here. We could put closure to this “R&R” and, once the itching fully subsided, laugh about all we went through and promise to never do that again! Surprisingly our departure day did not play out as planned, starting with a five-hour delay before we even left the airport, resulting in missed transfers in Europe, with a potential eleven-hour layover that we managed to knock down to a mere three-hours by visiting every possible Lufthansa service desk in all of the Frankfurt airport, making it home to Cairo only three hours late. Alas, our luggage was not so lucky, so after an additional two-hour delay in confirming the non-arrival of said luggage, and filling out the requisite forms (which really involved Ron and some Germans trying to fight the stampede of we-don't-believe-in-lines Egyptians), we were finally on our way home.

So it's been five days and the itching is subsiding, the jetlag is diminishing and we're resuming normalcy of life in Cairo. Oh wait, there was the 1:00am wake-up call of the screaming Egyptians our first night back where we awoke to find that the building two doors down from us was on fire. After verifying that we didn't need to pack the cats in the car and drive away, we took the opportunity to watch the fire engines try to maneuver through the tight back alleys, where one fireman had to ride on top to lift up all the low-hanging wires. By 2:30am the screaming had stopped and by the morning we were able to assess the damage (it seems that an air vent or something reaching up the side of the building, had caught on fire). So yes, everything is back to normal -- at least Cairo-normal.