Stephen and I have been in the states for two weeks now. We have left one continent and moved back to
another one. And the transition has been strange. Even though we only spent 5 months living in South Africa (it seemed so long while we were there but now that we are back it seems short) we nevertheless kind of got used to a few things. Amsterdam was our reentry point to the first world and after living in the African bush for several months, the advanced technology almost felt space age. Our hotel was really a trip. Check-in was computerized and we could pay with our credit card. We even programmed our own room key cards! In South Africa we stayed in many different Bed and Breakfasts, nearly always paid cash and received hand written receipts. In Amsterdam, our hotel room at Citizen M was a Jetson's room! The first thing we noticed were the cylindrical doors for the shower and toilet (oh by the way we have to get used to asking for "the restrooms" again instead of "the toilets") and the overhead lights that changed to all the colors of the spectrum. The water for the shower turned on and off with the closing and opening of the shower doors. And the alarm we set not only had elephant trumpets but turned on all the lights in the room when it went off. Speaking of the alarm, it actually didn't wake me up for 10 minutes because I was sleeping so soundly. For most people that might not be that uncommon but for me it's almost a small miracle. And which made Amsterdam my new favorite city!
We had two 10+ hour flights to travel from Johannesburg to Portland, fortunately broken up by an overnight layover in Amsterdam. The flight out of Johannesburg took off after midnight. Both Stephen and I were tired from the long day but even more than that tired from 5 months of learning and negotiating a new culture. Once on the plane, Stephen relaxed from his hyper-vigilant state and promptly became sick. What we both needed was sleep so instead of touring a museum in Amsterdam, during our layover, we rested at our hotel.
Remarkably, all our luggage and the piano arrived safely in Portland. (Though we nearly didn't even get the piano on the plane out of Johannesburg. Stephen had to do some smooth talking to get them to allow the over-sized and way overweight digital piano.) The taxi ride from the Portland airport felt extremely slow and law-abiding. And when we took a walk later in the day, it was almost a shock how cars waited for us to cross the street and at quite a distance back from us too.
Of course with the time change we were exhausted by 6:30 in the evening and wide awake at 4:30am for a few days. Sunrise is so late! In Tugela Ferry sunrise was about 4:30-5:00 so at 7am when the sun STILL wasn't up in Portland, it just felt so dark and odd. The angle of the sun is very different too. In Tugela Ferry the sun was so intense. And here in Portland even in full sun, the air can be cool. In Tugela Ferry I could already be sweating at 9am.
Stephen started his new job today. He feels hopeful about the organization and the work he will do. Medical Teams International works in 30 countries around the world, 10 of which are in Africa. So it may not be too long before Stephen is back on the African continent. And I'll have more stories to tell about his adventures. :)