Woo hoo!! I really don’t need to say any more, but I will. 🙂 We have officially been on home leave for a little over a week. We managed to turn two short flights from Belize to Miami to Orlando into a 12-hour travel day with two adults, one toddler, one cat, one stroller, four checked bags, three carry-ons, one backpack and one purse. And we made it in one piece, so to speak, and with our sanity fairly intact. Bring on the vacation!!
Next step: rental car. Check. I kind of remembered my way around from a decade ago, but not really. So I’d studied the map before leaving Belize and managed to get us from the airport to the vacation rental without having to pull it out again, which made me happy. Always good to be back in somewhat familiar territory.
Speaking of familiar, we have, since our arrival, met up with two great girlfriends that I used to work with, driven past the restaurant we used to work at that had apparently closed years before and been bought out and renamed, AND drove by one of my old apartment complexes that I used to live in back in 1995 that had been repainted and now looked awful. They’d also built two massive towers of condos behind it where there used to be a lovely view of the lake. Glad I moved when I did.
On the other hand, the vacation rental is fantastic. This is my first time going through a website to rent a random house from a total stranger. But so far it’s worked out really well. It has three bedrooms and two baths, it’s clean, the AC works, and it’s full of anything you could need…plates, wine glasses, towels, corkscrew (sensing a theme?), even those cute little corn-on-the-cob picks. There’s a private, screened-in pool attached to the house, and a brightly-colored children’s playground about 50 feet away in the middle of the subdivision. Granted, it cost about twice the amount that we were originally looking to pay, but this is our first official home leave in the Foreign Service, and I wanted it to be a good one!
So far we haven’t made it to any of the parks. We’ve been doing lots of eating and napping and swimming and generally getting caught up on rest before taking on the glory that is the American amusement park. But we have made it to a couple shopping malls…and they’ve both been relatively rushed and unpleasant experiences with an over-stimulated toddler. I don’t think he’s seen that many people in one place in his life. I’m sure it would be a downright blast if all we wanted to do was sit and feed quarters into the mechanical rides that are strategically placed every 30 feet. But I actually need a new work wardrobe since we’re changing climates and “business casual” is getting a little less casual than it has been for the last two years.
The other big work thing that we were waiting on was our UK visas. You have to send them to the British Consulate in New York for processing. Apparently even if you drop it at the British Embassy in DC, they will just send it to NY from there. And they take three to six weeks to process. After home leave, we will only be in DC for four and a half weeks. So I filled out the online applications the day before we left Belize and dropped the printed applications and required documentation into the hands of the nearest FedEx shipper when we arrived in Florida. Two days later, they confirmed via email that they’d received the items we’d sent and then asked for a bunch of other stuff that I’d never heard of. So now we’re trying to chase that down. Good thing we’ve got a bit of lead time! Ideally, we would’ve sent them out from Belize, but you can’t apply any earlier than three months before you’re intended arrival date, and we kind of needed our passports to be able to leave the country. So that’s where we are on that.
The other exciting thing that’s happened is that my mom arrived from Alaska yesterday! She’s going to be here for 10 days and is staying in the extra bedroom. She hadn’t seen her grandson in almost two years, so she was pretty excited to see how much he’d grown. And I think she was having a fairly pleasant visit with him until his multiple-tantrum meltdown on the way back from the mall today. Ah, vacation. Sometimes relaxing takes a little effort. Now where’s that corkscrew…