Joburg Expat: Family Travels

July 12, 2011

Family Travels

I’ve often told Noisette that my ultimate dream vacation would be the one where he tells me the two of us are leaving for the airport in one hour, that babysitting is all arranged, and to bring absolutely nothing as we will just buy whatever we need when we get there, wherever it is.

Alas, we live in the real world, where our vacations look more like this: About a week before we leave, Noisette asks me if I have packed yet. No kidding! About two days before departure, I print my color-coded 367-item packing list, just to appease him and be able to say “I’ve started packing” without lying. When I do start packing the day before we leave, I’m always determined to work extra hard to show that it can be done. But yikes! I now find myself with about seventeen additional crucial projects that absolutely have to be finished before I go, or the world will come to a standstill. They usually involve having to print something on our inkjet, which will usually go into those funky spooling modes where the job won’t print but can’t be deleted either, or at the least a cartridge will have to be replaced. In addition, the kids will have seventeen projects each that also have to be finished. Which is usually the point where Noisette casually remarks that this is precisely why I should start packing earlier.

Leaving the house is a race against the clock, every time. If Noisette wants to go at 8:30, he will want to leave on the spot, even though he has already built in extra time. Trust me, you don’t want to be the last one in the garage! In the kids’ frenzy to oblige, we’ve had the occasional unflushed toilet greeting us after a week’s vacation – not so very pleasant. Amazingly, we usually succeed in pulling it off and get to the airport on time (not without lots of griping, mind you), where the check-in procedure beckons. Noisette invariably tenses up as soon as we approach the counter. This is typically the moment our kids choose to tell me their life stories, all four at the same time, and I get so busy answering them all that the bags don’t get hustled onto the belt quickly enough, winding Noisette up even tighter.

Thank goodness there is the security check to look forward to. All the way there, I’m bombarded with things like “when will we get there” and “are we flying business class” and “why do we have to take our shoes off?” and “I can’t wait for the pins in my arm to set off the alarm.” All this wondering, but no one ever really ponders the important questions, like what to put in their backpacks, or, more precisely, what NOT to put there. Let’s just say we’ve left so many scissors at airport security that they could outfit an entire elementary school class. And even odder items have attracted attention, like the light-up bouncy ball Sunshine had stuffed in her backpack after a birthday party. The electronics in it aroused suspicion and the thing had to undergo an explosives test before we could move on.

On to the gate, and almost there. Except, we always fail to foresee the inevitable squabble over who gets to sit where. There are six people with very specific requirements: One absolutely needs an aisle seat, one must sit next to mom, a third one must NOT sit next to her brother, a fourth hasn’t gotten the window seat three times in a row. It’s pretty much a logistical impossibility to accommodate everyone, which means we usually have to trade concessions now against future promises, which basically just perpetuates the problem.

Needless to say, once we finally sit in our seats, I go straight for the Chardonnay, and then a refill. After the second glass I close my eyes and imagine, in vivid colors, that dream vacation of mine. If I’m not distracted by the apple juice that just got spilled over my lap, that is…

8 comments :

Bing said...

LOL! I feel for you. Our family is not as big as yours, but it can get very chaotic when we travel too. Aww..why wasn't Sunshine smiling in the picture? She's always smiling! =)

Sine said...

Yes, that is her angry look, can't remember what she was upset about, probably Noisette yelling at her for goofing around :-)

- Suzie - said...

ha ha ! so funny ! well written Sine !

Sine said...

Thanks Suzie, I had fun writing it. I've been trying to be so informative on expat issues, I've lately forgotten a bit about writing funny stuff. Or maybe I don't find things so funny anymore after living here over a year!

linda@adventuresinexpatland.com said...

LOVE this post, for oh so many reasons! I'm with you on the entire process, except I have only 2 kids which should make it much easier. They are savvy travelers, yet as teens they are not quite as compliant as one would like in this situation...sigh

W. A. Jeffrey said...

If you are ever wealthy enough you could one day make your dream vacation a reality.

Myself, I always make my list at least a week in advance and make sure I am completely packed at least two days before leaving.

As of yet, I have never flown in an airplane as I don't like the idea of flying commercial. I have made a promise to myself that I will never fly until I can afford to charter.

Sine said...

Gaaa - how will you get to South AFrica?

W. A. Jeffrey said...

Easy. I will fly private international charter. It can run up to $200,000 or so but there is no way I am sharing a toilet with 200 people.