(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Trip to US

A quick rant
I'm on an airplane as I type. The drink cart just came by and I ordered drinks for my 4-year-old seat mate and me. While attending to some important matter regarding the location of a particular colored crayon, the drinks were set before us full of ice. Americans have an obsession with ice in drinks (this was an American airline). I’m not sure where it comes from. I know of no country on earth that loads drinks with more ice, whatever the time of year, however hot the country. While I like a cold drink, why should one assume I need ice? I do like a cold drink cold but given that most cold drinks are stored in refrigeration (including fountain drinks), it seems like the server should at least ask the question. People would be surprised how cold they are served without those little taste-diluting chunks of frozen water. People know enough not to put ice in beer or white wine (thankfully) so why should other drinks be any different? Foreigners are always caught off guard coming to the US, beginning of course on US airlines, when servers dump tons of ice in drinks without informing them or asking them if they would like it. Used to drive my ex crazy. I suppose it would drive me crazy too except now I have the habit of declining it if given the chance. End rant.

So yes, speaking of ice, we have been to America. The trip is now over, or mostly over, but it was another good one. And we certainly needed a break. 

The departure
The drama began as it often does, before we even left the Bujumbura airport. We've experienced all sorts of excitement at this stage of travel in the past and we sort of brace ourselves each time. One time there was (surprise) no airplane and we had to go home. Another was a seriously delayed flight that kept us (including two small children) penned up in the waiting area being devoured for hours by mosquitoes. Missing or incorrect reservations. Etc. This time is was an impeccably timed tempest that happened to hit as we were checking in. Given that the airport is partially open-air, the horizontal flow of the rain directed it inside. It kept getting worse. Computers were getting soaked as well as staff and passengers. Eventually we were directed into back rooms to wait it out. I was one of the first to come out and took a quick shot of the empty terminal with one or two inches of water on the floor.

We eventually checked in and after a delay, caught our flight to Nairobi. The drama continued, however, because we would end up missing our connection from there to Amsterdam. This has almost become normal. It amounts to a chaotic transition from airport to hotel for about two or three hours and then back for an early morning flight. It would be a pain even in an efficient airport but in Nairobi it's hellish. 

unfazed by the airport drama and providing free entertainment
St. Paul
Eventually we carried on and made it to Minnesota. It’s become sort of a tradition to stop and stay a couple nights with our friend Kathy. It was not as cold as it normally is this time of year and in fact they didn’t even have any snow. Nonetheless, it was still a warm-up for the colder weather to come.While we were there we fit in some fun at a children's science museum and some wonderful time just hanging out.

From there we headed south to Louisville. Priya’s family was there to meet us. At some point that was a tradition in my own family but it has since faded. Occasionally we have someone pick us up and/or meet us but nowadays, particularly since we’re renting our own car, we just show up and start our visit on our own.

We quickly settled into Priya’s parent’s place. It’s a very comforting and relaxing place to hang out. We would spend the next couple of weeks doing a bit of shopping, entertaining the girls, eating and just enjoying the time with family. The weather was particularly mild and that enabled us to spend a bit more time outside than we normally do. 
Charlestown Christmas lights - just before dropping my camera
One bonus was seeing our friend Stefan and his family. I met them in India several years ago and it was nice to see them again. Though they live in India, he’s in the US attending some sort of school.
We usually stay through Christmas and then soon after make our way out West. This time was no different. It was sad to leave but other obligations awaited us.
a new-ish pedestrian bridge across the Ohio River

angel decorating

We arrived in Idaho on the 27th. The plan was for a brief stay in Boise, head to our storage, grab winter/ski gear and then head up to McCall the following day. It is sort of Idaho’s second ski resort behind Sun Valley. Both are great destinations though quite different. I relish opportunities to hang out at either.

sledding in McCall
Day one was particularly cold and we spent time sledding, adjusting to the temperature and testing out our gear. In the afternoon I went up on the mountain to downhill ski with my sister Cheryl and brother-in-law Pat. By day two we were on the mountain as a family. It was Kiran’s first day skiing and she did quite well. The day didn’t start off well, however. She had a complete meltdown, adamant that she did not want to ski. We almost wavered but we were banking on the assumption that it was more the fear of the unknown. We were glad we stayed the course. Cheryl and Pat did a brilliant job with her and I think we broke the ice, so to speak and she’ll hopefully be amenable to going again. Priya was even able to get in a few short runs.

Kiran's first day on skis - going up is almost as much fun as going down
After McCall we headed to Boise for our family party. It was great as usual. We even hosted a larger gathering of extended family and friends. Good to see people I hadn’t seen for a while. After all the festivities in Boise we drove south to stay with my parents for a few days. Like Priya’s parents, it was particularly relaxing and good to get some down time before heading back to Burundi. 
auntie and uncle
the big dinner

the top of Brundage

Uncle Curtis - a bit scratchy

all smiles as CJ takes over chauffeuring duties
Homeward bound
All the while we’d been tracking the situation back home. We knew that if the situation deteriorated there was a chance that Priya and the girls would possibly return to southern Indiana and I would go to Bujumbura by myself. As of this morning, there was nothing to lead us to change our plans of returning. So we are on our way. As I mentioned before, no one knows how this is going to pan out but we are well prepared. It’s not the Bujumbura we once knew but it’s still quite a wonderful place.
As I look out the airplane window our eastward flight makes the sun set rapidly. There is a pink glow illuminating the cirrus clouds and there is snow on the ground as far as the eye can see. Before too long we’ll be back in the tropics. Which reminds me that my ginger ale is still cold – in spite of the lack of ice.

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