As some of you already know, I (Bethany) flew back to Vienna at the beginning of January to renew Ellie's visa. It seems a bit silly and extravagant to fly back for only 3 days just to file paperwork, but we saw no way around it. And in fact, I was pretty excited about the whole thing. I enjoy flying and the thought of travelling on my own without a toddler to entertain sounded very relaxing! I was also excited to spend time with our dog and see some friends. Sounded like a good plan.
Little did I know the trip would be one of the most physically grueling things I've done in a long time. I came down with some sort of weird virus the last day of our Florida trip. It started out as a 5-day low grade fever and then morphed into bad cold symptoms, a headache and general achiness. By the time I boarded the plan to Amsterdam, I was not feeling any better and this did not change throughout my time in Vienna. Jet lag plus sickness made for an exhausting 5 days. It was a big disappointment to me after anticipating this trip for months.
I knew going into the trip that my time there would be emotional. We miss Vienna and our home a lot. We miss our dog, our friends, our church, our routine and speaking German. We are thankful for the opportunity to be back in the States, but it no longer quite feels like home to us and it's difficult to be on the road so much. So it was difficult and emotional to go back to Vienna and get a short taste of home without being able to stay. It was hard to say goodbye to the dog again, knowing he doesn't understand why we've left him for so long. (I know he's less broken up about this than I am, but still...) It was difficult to see friends, only to say goodbye all over again.
In some ways, walking down Vienna's streets also felt oddly normal. Nothing has changed; life still goes on there as it always had. It was home, not some magical place I was visiting. The normalcy was kind of refreshing. But the whole visit also felt like some sort of other-worldly experience that wasn't actually happening.
I filed Ellie's visa paperwork, thankfully still competent enough in German to understand the office personnel. I had an appointment at her pre-school, where she starts in September, did some shopping, met up with friends, and then got back on a plane to head home. By the time I landed in Minneapolis, my head was pounding, I couldn't stop coughing and I couldn't hear out of my left ear. (The customs agent made fun of this, because I had to keep asking him to repeat himself. He thought it was funny...I didn't laugh.) Add that to having just said goodbye to my home again and I was emotional wreck. It was not a fun day.
Things have leveled out now, with the help of antibiotics, sleep and some time to process. I am very thankful, despite the difficulties, for the chance to go back and reconnect with our home city. I'm thankful Ellie got to spend extra quality time with Papa and her grandparents while I was away. I'm thankful we have a home and a dog to go back to in June, a country we've grown to love and a culture and language we've slowly begun to understand. I'm also thankful, though, that this emotional roller coaster of a trip is over and behind me. Just like the rides we rode at Disney World last week, these twists and turns left me feeling a bit jostled and thrown around. Time for a few days of normalcy before the next change happens...