This blog has, somewhat predictably, turned into a quarterly newsletter, which at least ensures that there is always something to write about. This time it is that we have just returned from a three-week holiday in the US. We spent most of the time in Madison, Wisconsin, hanging out with Ane’s family, although for the first time since Tristan was born, Ane and I also had a private mini-break.
We drove up to the Door Peninsula by Lake Michigan, while Tristan was keeping his grandma on her toes in Madison. Door County is one of the top US holiday destinations, celebrated for its lake scenery, cherry orchards and nature reserves. Visiting it in April ensured that we avoided the tourists (who in the summer can totally clog up the whole place), resulting in lower prices and plenty of accommodation to choose from, but it also meant that the weather was still quite cold and nature showed hardly any sign of the approaching spring. (After all, there is a reason why no one goes there this time of the year.)
Just before we left, we woke up to two inches of snow, which is by no means unusual around there. Luckily, we also had a fantastic five-day trip to Texas, together with the whole family, with plenty of sunshine and warm weather. We were mostly in Houston, with trips to the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston and to La Grange in south central Texas. Another highlight was Brazos Bend State Park with its many wild alligators. Pictures from that trip here.
Caught by the volcano
The holiday was extended by a three-day involuntary stay in Amsterdam, due to the havoc caused by the Icelandic volcano. We happened to be on one of the last planes from the US to Northern Europe that still got permission to land on Thursday morning, but our connecting flight to Denmark was already canceled.
Unlike many fellow travelers, we spent our exile in relative comfort. We were wise enough to book a hotel room early on (when they still talked about the possibility of flying home the same day) and spent two days sightseeing in Amsterdam (which is by no means the worst place to be stranded in).
The negative consequences were mostly psychological: in situations like this it is the insecurity that really gets you. Not knowing when we can return home, not being able to assert control over our own life or even to make the most basic plans is a truly frightening experience. It reminded me of how it must feel to be a refugee. (With the considerable difference that refugees often don’t speak languages, have neither money nor travel insurance, or a realistic hope of ever getting home again). Luckily Tristan coped extremely well with the whole thing, in spite of some slight initial confusion (he was convinced that we were in Chicago). Early on he decided that this all was just an integral part of the holiday, inflected upon him by his parents, and was as cheerful and well-tempered as ever.
Then on Saturday morning, just when the true scope of the whole misery started to sink in and it became clear that no happy ending was in sight, we met a Danish man who was looking for people to share a rental car with. We were very easy to convince and a few hours later were on the way home. As it turned out, we got one of the last rental cars that had the permission to be taken to Denmark... I don’t think I ever was so happy to see the ‘Welcome to Denmark’ sign as on Saturday night. On the way home we talked about how interesting it will be to follow the crises on TV from a new perspective, but it turned out that our interest quickly diminished. Now , two days later, it only very occasionally strikes me that we could still sitting somewhere in Holland in total insecurity, growing more and more frustrated, angry and desperate, and not smelling all that great any more.
But the experience has taught us some valuable lessons about what to pack in the hand luggage (mostly in my case, as Ane packed extra clothes for Tristan and herself, having learned from a previous flight cancellation experience). It also made me think of another thing. Ane and I have so far been to the USA five times together, and only once did the trip go smoothly, without cancellations, rebooking, serious delays or volcanic eruption. I can’t help thinking that this might all have a deeper meaning.
News from the baby front
I have left the most important news till last: we are expecting our second child! Ane is due on 24 September, and just like last time, we decided not to find out the gender. Tristan is getting more and more interested and talks about the baby in Ane’s belly. He thinks it is going to be a girl, and I have the same feeling. Last time I was quite sure that we were getting a son, but I’m not sure that alone makes me an expert.
So far all has gone really well, although it is still hard for us to comprehend that soon we will be a family of four. The next imminent challenge is to come up with a suitable name, which was a very difficult process the first time around. Now it feels like we have already used up the only name we both liked, but there must be more. Otherwise we will have to learn to like some of the other millions of names.