We just made our first trip back to the US since moving to France. Right, it was all of seven weeks ago that we moved. But Uncle Oil was getting married, so off to Chicago we went. The experience of being in the US as an expat was a little strange. I certainly took advantage of the fact that everyone speaks English to strike up as many conversations with complete strangers as possible.
For instance, on our first afternoon in Chicago, I went for an iced latte at the coffee shop near my sister's place. I explained to the girl at the counter that I just gotten off an international flight, and had flown by myself with the baby, and was desperately in need of caffeine. She said, "Welcome home!" And in a moment of inexplicably excessive patriotism, I replied, "Go America!" She gave me a funny look and then said, "Yeah! Go America!" And gave me a free cookie.
We also spent an afternoon shopping, since that is a more affordable activity in the US. The shop workers would all ask where we were visiting from, and it was pretty cool to say, "Paris." I also discovered that Baby Oil has about the same celebrity status in the US as he does in Paris - lots of ooh-ing and ahh-ing, and I really loved the girls at Nordstrom who said he should be a Marc Jacobs baby model.
On the other hand, spending a weekend with family also made us realize that we live far away. It's a struggle to figure out how to really live in Paris while trying to stay connected with family events - we already have one Bat Mitzvah (not attending), another wedding (attending), a new baby (plans tbd), and a Bar Mitzvah (attending) in the next 12 months. And those are just family events. Of course we don't want to miss family occasions, but on the other hand it is both expensive and exhausting to fly in from Paris. And we want to travel in France and Europe too. And Mr. Oil has this pesky thing called work.
The conclusion for me right now is that I don't feel like we really quite belong anywhere. We are a bit out of the US loop, and not quite settled in France, which isn't permanent anyway. I guess the lesson is we should just go with the flow, be prepared for multiple poopy diapers on trans-atlantic flights (thank you Baby Oil), and trust that our family & friends understand the hard choices we have to make.