YEAH—I’m finally in a house with internet! Just for tonight though. We came up to the Tacoma area for a family reunion with both my brothers and their families. (One lives there; the other lives very far away in a place where much corn is grown. Why? I have asked myself that often, especially as we hardly ever get to see them anymore) We had a great time. The kids went horseback riding and swimming and had epic light-saber duels, in many cases to the death—or at least to the pain. The grown-ups ate too much food and lounged around in some sinfully comfortable furniture. It was a great time—and the first time we’d all been together in years and years. (I tried to remember the last time but I couldn’t. Years, anyway. Long time)

I feel we are truly over jetlag, although my little gift-that-keeps-on-giving is still with me. Our trip was long. We left for the Nouakchott airport at about 1:00 a.m., loading 8 suitcases and 5 large carry-ons into the back of a friend’s pick-up and setting off into the night. It was again unusually cool for Nouakchott in July, although since being here in the NW I’ve been reminded of the true meaning of cool summer nights.

We landed in Casablanca about 6 a.m. and had 4 hours to sit in their transit lounge, where we had coffee and talked to friends who were going as far as New York with us before our ways parted. The kids slept, sprawled in what would seem to be the most uncomfortable and impossible positions. We woke them up to board our plane.

Going through security was a shock—the man confiscated 2 of Abel’s Lego Knight’s Kingdom swords. For those of you familiar with these toys, you already realize that these are inch-and-a-half-long, dull plastic, TOYS. Oh sure, Jason Bourne could use them as a weapon, but they’re not confiscating ballpoint pens yet so why take these? Abel burst into tears but the guy was adamant. Ironically, once on the plane they served us a lunch with a plastic knife that was three times the length and ten times the sharpness of the confiscated toys. Doesn’t that seem a little out of control? Yep.

Also, since I wrote about how wonderful Royal Air Maroc’s attendants were, it was a given that we’d get some sour ones. We did. They weren’t horrible, just sort of rolling-eyes and sighing. Not at us—our kids slept all the way to New York—just at people in general.

JFK was another treat. They “randomly” tagged our family for a full search. That meant that we went through a special line and they wiped every possession down with those little scraps of material that show any lingering explosive or plastic or whatever it is. (I’m tired; bear with me) Also, Ilsa was wearing her very precious new-to-her beloved black boots. The zip stuck, and we had to break it to get it off, because of course a 10-year-old girl with long blonde hair and a carry-on full of Little House books is probably carrying something dangerous in that Mary-Kate-and-Ashley brand boot! Well you never know! She was in tears as she hobbled off. We assume we were tagged because we’ve been living in a Muslim country, although possibly my hennaed hands (next post!) triggered someone’s suspicions. I will say that the people themselves were very nice, and also that going through something like this really eats up your layover time.

Then it was on to United, for our 5 ½ hour cross-country flight. We weren’t seated next to each other, but that was ok because the kids are all older now. Ilsa had an aisle seat, but the guy at the window kindly offered to change with her. We asked the attendant if people complained about not being fed on this long flight and then being charged $5 each for a little box entitled ‘mini-meal’ full of cute little snack-sized food items. She opened blue eyes wide, shocked at the very idea. “Why no!” she exclaimed. “People are really happy about it.” We looked skeptical. “Other airlines don’t have real food in their mini-meals,” she went on, “just junk food. They love our options.”

O-o-o-kay. I would just like to state, for the record, that I do NOT love paying an extra $5 cash, when I have just arrived in the country and have been traveling all night with my family, for a ‘mini-meal’ full of tiny food options that will not satisfy any one individual in my family. I think (and I hope you’re listening, airlines) that you could just charge $5 more for the flight, if you’re really that broke, and give everyone on board a nice little box of snacks and get a lot more good will. Just my thought. Do you agree, readers?
But the airline attendant was really nice, and later in the flight, we had a long discussion about my henna. (I’m waiting to post pictures about it)

We had a lovely time in the San Francisco airport, where we were surprised to find no real decent coffee options available to us. We had coffee, but it was a little weak. The kids played on the moving sidewalk and we sat, smudged and bleary with tiredness, and watched them. We shared a large blueberry muffin, since by now it was the next morning according to our body clocks. We arrived in Portland at 11:59, as planned, although it was about 1:30 a.m. by the time we actually went to bed. All of our suitcases arrived with us, which is always nice. The outer pockets were all open, but we don’t seem to be missing anything. It’s very nice to be here, and our culture shock hasn’t been too extreme. We’re enjoying large trees and berries and, as mentioned at the beginning, time with family and friends.

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