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June 19, 2002
Eleven months: homeward bound (Gail)

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Accustomed to life on the road:
Cameron uses the PC on a high bureau
Joss watches a 7" screen stacked on boxes

We have left Europe. As I write this we are somewhere over the Atlantic about five hours away from reaching US soil once again. For the first time in eleven months we will be back in our own country. I'm very torn about this; happy to go home but aware that there is so much we didn't see or do. I realize we never could have done it all and we set out with the commitment that we wouldn't try. Still flying back over the ocean means we are effectively done with our adventure. We will someday go back but it will never be the first time ever again. Once we reach the USA we are really just working our way across country.

Through the trip we have tried to keep hold of the memories by writing to our Website. Still there is so much that was never written down. Luckily our photos help bring back those forgotten bits and all our journals combined cover things fairly well. As we head home we leave behind all the people we have met and places we have seen. We leave behind the good, the bad, the exciting and the ordinary.

We leave the world of tiny cars and station wagons, scarcely a minivan or SUV to be seen. No height signs on overpasses, narrow streets, well-marked roads (we couldn't always read them but you can't argue with the fact that signs were everywhere), autoroute tolls, sheep on the roads, roundabouts, zebra markings and multilevel stoplights. We marveled at how the Europeans use the train system and the number of trucks on the roadways. You could drive the roads and see (and will be behind forever if you're not willing or able to pass) trucks from every country in Europe, Hungary passing Spain next to Italy and Denmark. Amazing.

We leave behind walking paths and walking sticks (though some have been sent home ahead of us), sheep, cows, and hills, beautiful rural land surrounding the cities and small towns following the rivers and wonderful beaches in so many different countries. We have visited Tidy Towns, market towns and historic towns, country churches, massive cathedrals. Some towns are more beautiful than others. Entering Hungary the towns look tired and worn down, in Ireland they are bright and colorful. Tanzania and China both have a look of digging out from under.

We leave behind tabacs, newsagents and grocery stores in malls with their wobbly wheeled carts with minds of their own. We also leave behind new foods, some we bravely tried and some we nibbled cautiously. Dik dik, black and white pudding, rillette, sea snails, wild boar, petit fromage, haggis and cornetto and magnum (ice cream that the boys love) just to name a few. The wonderful breads of France and Ireland and the very foreign to Americans unwrapped bread in the markets. The differences between a Chinese, French, German, English and Irish breakfast are no longer a mystery to us. Not that they were always eaten by us, but at least we know what to expect.

We have met wonderful people. Chris, Jen, Laurie and Alex in New Zealand, May in China, Tom and Sandi in Tanzania, Pascal and his students in France, Jarmilla in Prague, Tina and her little daughter in Vienna, Mary and Patsy in Ireland. They are just a few who stand out for me. We have listened to (and sometimes tried to imitate) so many accents. We tried to pick up a bit of the language in each country we visited (some with more success than others), some we can even remember months later but mostly forgotten by now. Bits, boot, football, WC and Iberia (Spain to you and me) have sneaked into our vocabulary.

We have seen people going about their everyday lives. Trash men and street sweepers, the kind who really do sweep the street with a broom and a dustbin on wheels. We now believe that the grocery clerks in our country should be allowed to sit as the clerks in the rest of the world do, it just makes sense. We now know that the Germans really will stand at a "no walking" sign and wait but the Italians won't even know there is one.

And everywhere there has been history. Everywhere there are monuments, museums and ruins. As tourists we visited them (and the boys climbed all over most of them) but people live with them everyday, sometimes right in their back yards or incorporated into their own homes. It is amazing to visit places that are older than your entire country by centuries. It's humbling.

I know we are in for many culture shocks and changes. But the biggest one will be not seeing each other 24 hours 7 days a week. I know we still have three weeks left and we will enjoy every moment. We will show the boys their country and discuss how it is different here from everywhere we have been. Last night we heard Joss crying, he realized he and Cameron will be apart once we get home and he is devastated by this. We all reassured him that we will still be together evenings and weekends. Somehow, after this time of constant togetherness that does not seem like very much.

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Passing the time:
Russell updates the Web site at the BMI Business Lounge
Gail works on her embroidery, surrounded by our carry-on bags


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