Vacations will do that to you...

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Traveling is exhausting, partly because (as you already know) I am unskilled in the art of packing light and so - much like an Asian Weaver Ant - I inevitably end up hauling 100 times my body weight.

Only instead of dead flies, I carry luggage. Most of the time.

Also, keeping a 747 in the air by using sheer mind power alone is exceptionally draining for me, especially around hour seven. As is watching each and every passenger. Did that guy ever come back from the restroom? Why is that woman pacing back and forth? Is that the pilot? Why is he back here? Where did Geoff get that croquette? Is that a child drinking whisky or is that just a remarkably petite man? Why does that flight attendant look worried? Is that man watching porn on his iPad? Did he just notice me staring at his lap?


Still, the holiday happened without a hitch (except for the obvious) and so we topped off our 4 weeks overseas with an additional multi day jetlag-fueled family visit in a neighbouring province before driving back to our house, via the northeastern US states.

Getting back home was to involve a stopover at a hotel in Massachusetts, which is where - at 6pm on a Wednesday (8 hours into our trip) - we giddily pulled in, unloaded the car and stood bleary-eyed at the check in counter with thoughts of freshly baked cookies and spa water floating through our brains, only to be told that our reservation was actually for the following evening and the hotel was fully booked so maybe try the motel with the burned out “L” and enthusiastic bedbugs down the hill and around the corner.

Instead, we crammed ourselves back into the car and pressed on to the Boston by-pass. Just in time for evening rush hour.

When we finally reached New Hampshire, a second wind of sorts kicked in, right after the strangest rest stop in history. Truckers were snoring. Angels were singing. A cat opened the door for us. The man behind the map counter was singing showtunes. I may have been hallucinating.

Further north - in Maine - we lurched into an Applebees and ate something that may or may not have been fish. Magic fish, as it turns out, because after consuming it, we convinced ourselves that we should forgo a hotel altogether and drive straight home through the Downeast Steven King darkness.

Six hours later, in spite of (or more likely, because of) the foul chaos inside our vehicle, we passed the Welcome to Canada border test even though we were unable to answer any of the guard’s questions in a coherent manner. Well sir, we were away for 5 weeks but not in the US. We were in Ontario but only for a week, but not including the two days we were there in October before we flew to Holland and no we have nothing to declare, well except for the ten pairs of shoes we bought overseas and that lion’s tail in the back which looks real but we're pretty sure is fake.

The arrival home was delicious, as were the 2 hours of sleep we had before an emotionally damaged crow hurled himself repeatedly against our basement window in a heroic attempt to welcome us back to reality.

I got up, had a shower, put some clothes on and spent the rest of the day in a drowsy stupor. Which, as it turns out, might be the perfect state for me to be in, because - in spite of my confusion - I was able to clean my closet, bathroom and bedroom to a sparkling shine. Of course, at some point during the day, I also baked ginger-free gingerbread cookies, watered the plants with coffee and washed all of our white bath towels with a red sock.

I may have inadvertently discovered the secret of simulated productivity.

By late afternoon, I was ready to sleep for 8 or 18 hours and so I began the search for my pajamas. They weren’t under the pillow, they weren’t still packed, they weren’t in the cupboard and they weren’t in the laundry room. As I was tearing apart the closet, Geoff appeared before me with a confused look on his face. I explained that I always leave my pjs on the hook in the closet and was completely baffled as to where they might have gone. I described how I had searched every cranny. And nook.

Geoff’s expression was one I had seen many MANY times before.

That’s when I looked down.

The shame. A reenactment.
I’m not proud of my green plaid size large men’s fleece nightclothes. And although I have been known to wear them until noon or 1pm, under normal circumstances, I don’t put them on again after taking them off and showering in the morning.

However in this house, exhaustion equals absurdity. Oh hell, everything equals absurdity in this house.

I’m wondering how long I can blame my behavior on jet lag. I’m counting on at least two more weeks.

No, really.

Under thug, see me

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

We were visiting Volendam - a town of around 23,000 - where wooden shoe makers and cheese factories abound.

It’s pretty touristy with a good amount of shops selling typical cookie-cutter Dutch knick-knacks like miniature wooden shoes, tiny windmills, carved tulips and ceramic cows that spit koffie melk through their open mouths.

As we sat in the back of an open-air café/bar, eating kibbling and drinking koffie, we watched as several tour boats emptied out on the waterfront, delivering eager bodies into the tiny maze-like streets.

Later on, our food finished, Geoff wandered and Jan shopped while I stood with the 4 year old admiring the big brown boats. That’s when I noticed a Japanese couple taking turns snapping photographs of one another standing in front of the picturesque harbour.

Because I’m a nice girl with poor instincts, I offered to take a picture of the two of them together, using their camera.

They looked at me, confused. If not slightly irritated. It didn’t occur to me that they might not speak English.

Not willing to give up easily (remember, I grew up rurally), I broke into a terrific game of charades right there on the street. Those tourists needed my help and I was going to give it to them. Dammit.

I pointed at myself, made a camera shape with my hand, gestured at the harbour and pointed at the two perplexed faces standing before me. All the while holding my daughter’s hand.

Just then, one of the couple’s tour mates noticed the performance and began shouting and flailing her arms wildly. Whatever the helpful friend was ranting about was serious because the look of confusion on my audience’s faces quickly turned to panic.

Judging from the horror in their eyes, I’m guessing it was something along the lines of, “She’s a bloody thief! Get away from her! The travel agent warned us about people like that! She wants to steal your camera! Hide your valuables!”

The woman quickly shoved her purse under her coat while her husband squirreled away his camera. They didn’t take their eyes off of me as they ran - backwards - down the cobblestone, leaving the 4yr old and I standing in the middle of a sizable and highly judgmental crowd.

Not long after, as I explained the ordeal to Geoff and Jan, we passed by several tourist groups. I knew we had encountered the crowd containing my fearful friends when - all at once - fingers started pointing and cameras started flashing… in my direction.

Which is why it's a good thing our Netherlands vacation is coming to an end.

No, really.