Relocating from one country to another is a bit of a challenge. The good news is that I traveled light. After 2 1/2 years in Myanmar I was able to bring home all my belongings in 2 suitcases. That was the easy part.
Stepping back into my old life in Florida involved a bit more. The first thing I wanted and needed to do was to buy a new car. I'd sold my old one when I moved to Myanmar and needed to get a new one. As someone raised in the suburbs and used to having a car, I'd become obsessed with transportation over the past five years without one.
In Samoa, I walked in the village and took the bus to get to the market. It was cheap and convenient, in the sense that the bus would stop wherever I happened to be standing by the road. Of course the buses didn't really run on a schedule which meant that I could spend all day standing by the road, waiting. One thing that could be depended on was that they operated based on the driver's needs. If he didn't feel like driving, no bus. If he had a chance to make extra money by taking a busload of family members to a funeral, no bus.
When the bus did pick me up I never knew what to expect. Sometimes it would be almost empty and I could lean back against the wood seat, let the breeze blow the sweat off and enjoy the views of the lagoon. More frequently, the bus was already packed before I got on. Usually, as a nod to my age and status as a foreign teacher, someone near the front got up so I could have their seat. I also inherited whoever was sitting on their lap. I was always grateful when it was just a few young children. It was less fun when it was a 200 lb. woman. In any case, the bus got me where I was going.
In Mandalay my transportation was either the school bus or a taxi. The school bus was free. It also got me a lot of attention when the giant bus rolled up on the narrow street in front of my doctor's office. I never had to sign in for treatment since the bus announced that there was a sick foreign teacher coming in. Usually, I took a taxi. I'll save the many stories of my adventures with Myanmar taxi drivers for another post but usually they were reliable, although expensive, by Myanmar standards.
The one consistent thing about my transportation over the last five years was that I was at the mercy of someone else. When they wanted to go and sometimes where they wanted to go. I was very excited about regaining the freedom that comes with having my own car.
Before flying back to Orlando I did a lot of research on which car to buy. I might as well admit that while most tourists return from two months of traveling around Thailand and Vietnam with stories about temples, festivals and beaches, I can regale you with stories of iced coffee and hour upon hour perusing carmax.com.
The obsession I seemed to have developed about which car to buy (or lease? Perhaps I should research that!) made me realize that decision-making doesn't get faster or easier as I age. Hmm, perhaps I should do some research on that.
As I flew to Orlando from Bangkok, I spent much of the 33 hours thinking of what awaited me. Including a car. I planned to rent a car at the airport and then start car shopping in earnest the next day. There was a slight glitch in that plan, though. When I arrived at the off-site car rental location where I'd reserved a reasonably priced rental, I learned that things had changed a bit in my absence. I knew I had to have a credit card. No problem, I had two! Unfortunately, neither was acceptable because they had "debit" on them. After taking a deep breath, I hauled my luggage (I was feeling like I hadn't really packed that lightly by this point) back on the shuttle van and headed back to the airport.
An hour later I drove off in a shiny new, tiny rental car, which I'd rented for an exorbitant amount. At that point I was physically exhausted but on an adrenaline high. It was only 1:00 p.m. and I was going to pass a car dealer on my way home so why not check out a car on my way home? I'd done my research, been in touch with the dealer via internet and I'd only been awake for 40 hours or so. Really, what could go wrong?
I discovered another change since I'd last lived in the U.S. and bought a car. It is not a fast process. Even though I'd talked to the dealer about the specific vehicle I wanted to buy, it took six hours to seal the deal. By then my adrenaline had worn off and I just wanted a shower and sleep. You'd think my smell along would have encouraged them to speed up the process.
I drove my new car home in the dark, having never seen it in sunlight. By the time I signed the deal I wasn't even sure anymore what features I was getting or what color it was. I didn't care at that point.
After a good night's sleep, I raced to the garage. There was a car! My car! Full of gas and ready to take me on adventures! I'll miss the company I always had when I traveled in Samoa and Myanmar but I'll get by.