by Kerry Nappi
This month’s high points in travel were highs for very different reasons: Our 3-day trip to Iguaçu Falls was on our must-do list, and it didn’t disappoint. Our first home leave since moving overseas (last July) started June 22nd, and we are still experiencing it!
Iguaçu Falls is partly in Brazil and partly in Argentina. We opted to see both sides, and we had a travel agent organize it all so we wouldn’t have to figure out the logistics; it was a good decision. The Argentinian side of the Falls provided better views overall, but the Brazilian side was better set up for fun hikes to the Falls. We were able to check off one bucket list item when we rode in a helicopter to view the Falls from above, but the ground level views were even more spectacular. The Falls are widespread, thunderously loud, and surrounded by plush greenery. We even had a chance to take a boat to the bottom of one of the smaller Falls ~ and now knowing how hard that water dumps on you, I can understand why we weren’t taken to the bigger Falls! Also, the Itaipu Dam is between Brazil and Paraguay, so while there, we were able to go to one extra country just by crossing a bridge. Who knew you can cross that Brazilian/Paraguaian border without a single checkpoint or document?
After 11 months and 2 weeks in Brazil, we arrived back in Michigan for the first of four weeks in the States. It was, and still is, such a pleasure to drive in calm orderly lanes, without fear of vehicles moving into us or carjackers surrounding us. It’s a simple but satisfying pleasure to flush toilet paper. And best of all, it is wonderful to see family and friends. I am sitting now in my mother’s house in Massachusetts, still anticipating 18 more days in the US, and happy to be here!
The older I get, the harder the long trips become: flights that last for nine hours overnight, then long layovers and second, shorter flights, 12-hour drives from the midwest to the northeast, even the 2-4 hour drives to see more people than we can see in one single place. Not only do I dread them beforehand, but I worry then about the longer ones to come when we move to China in the fall. This international living has its benefits, but it has its drawbacks, too.
Glitter: Friends & Family, and Family with Friends
Seeing my friends and family was definitely a high during this home leave, but the sweetest glitter was seeing my 15-year-old smile and laugh with her friends for the first time in a year. I would do anything to be able to transplant this group of girls and boys with us wherever we go, just so I could watch this joy more often. Thank goodness for social media; they have not missed a beat in their friendships.
Kerry Nappi was born, raised, and attended Smith College in Massachusetts. In fact, she had rarely left Massachusetts by the age of 22 when she decided she could both expand her horizons and help others by joining the Peace Corps. Thus, she landed in Tunisia for an amazing two year stint that, still, might have proven to be the end of her travel. At 24, she was back in Massachusetts, teaching at a laboratory school at Smith College, and starting to forget her Tunisian Arabic skills already. When she married a New Yorker at 28, it seemed New York would be her only culture shock. Her new husband, Steve, had spent 6 years in a Navy nuclear sub and wanted nothing more than to settle down on Long Island, where he had been raised.
As often happens when you make plans, though, life changes them without much notice.
Between forced job changes and new desires to see other parts of the world, Kerry and Steve moved across the country to Arizona with their 2-year-old for grad school, spent a semester in Tokyo while pregnant with their second child, and then started a new life in Michigan. Since 2000, their family of four has lived in Michigan, Hiroshima, Bangkok, back in Michigan, and are now beginning their newest assignment with Ford Motor in Bahia, Brazil. The kids, now 14 and 18, are considered Third Culture Kids, and Kerry is a Trailing Spouse. For the most part, it doesn’t seem like “trailing” as she is the one who has to forge forward in each new host country, learning the language and making new connections, from friends to doctors to schools, while Steve goes to work and the kids to school.
The life of an expatriate cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs. Volumes have been written about the experience. Perhaps a blog that allows her to focus on a High, a Low, and a Glitter each month is one way to steady that rollercoaster ride that is her current life.