As we bid farewell to summer 2021, two WBGFN members share with us their personal stories of meeting families after the confinement. The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines in early 2021 and the slowdown of infections in some parts of the world encouraged many of us to travel and meet our loved ones after long months of imposed separation.
As globally mobile families, we are getting “used to” being away from our families for extended periods of time. But the recent pandemic brought another dimension that we had to accept and live with, lack of control.
Visiting home country by Aycan Oguz
Agreeing to visit my home country in summer during the pandemic was a hard decision — one we didn’t take lightly. The previous summer, we didn’t travel considering the early pandemic news. My husband and I agreed early on to get vaccinated if we wanted to travel. Therefore, we waited to have our shots. After we decided that we wanted to risk traveling, we started planning every detail of the journey so we could stay safe. We arranged and planned all the transfers to and from the airports, scheduled the PCR tests, arranged all hygiene items to carry with us like masks, sanitizing wipes, travel pillows, headphones, etc.
It was a long but uneventful flight. We were tired but extremely happy that we would finally see our families in person after seeing them on screens for two years. After getting over the first shock of traveling after a long time, being jet-lagged and tired, and after making sure we were healthy, the feeling of happiness and gratitude was overwhelming. We cried, we talked and talked about all the things we were missing. Then we ate, drank, and joked like we used to. It was surprising to realize how I felt at home with the familiar home country smells, the ones I grew up smelling. For me, it was the cool breeze smelling of Tilden flower in the late June afternoon, the meal that my mom had been cooking on the stovetop, the smell of dirt after the summer rain, the Turkish coffee aroma that we shared after supper and the sour smell of the city that made me feel at home.
We will be packing and leaving for our “now” home in a few weeks, but we have recently gained memories to carry back that will help us through the rest of the year. I hope everyone had a chance to enjoy being with their loved ones this summer.
Two families by Ewelina Mstowska
Summer 2021 will always occupy a special place in our hearts as it was the first time, we met our families after the longest break of more than 18 months. Having aging parents living in Europe, it was our top priority to visit them every year. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic sabotaged our usual plans in 2020.
Despite being fully vaccinated this spring, we were still apprehensive of the long flight overseas. Our 7-year-old son was still not vaccinated due to his age, and many family members back home remained fragile with underlying conditions.
But in the end, we were very glad to take this calculated risk. Seeing the joy in my parents’ eyes as they met their grandson after almost a 2-year break was priceless! It was one of the most moving moments we lived in the last months, if not years. Walking again in the animated streets of my hometown, tasting familiar foods gave me the recomforting feeling that certain things remained unchanged in the not so certain times that we live in right now.
I can recall the immense feeling of gratitude that accompanied me during our stay in Poland. Firstly, I was very grateful for a good situation at home, as all my family members managed to keep safe until now and haven’t experienced any major health issues due to the pandemic.
Another reason for being grateful was the second family that grew silently around us in the last 18 months in DC. This wonderful community of support: friends, colleagues, and many WBGFN members with whom we shared the joys and challenges of 2020 and with whom we made it through the most difficult times. Like the closest family members, they were always there for us and knew exactly when to step in.
Summer 2021 has been a beautiful gift to us, a sunny break much awaited after a long and challenging year. No matter what the upcoming months may bring, we are serene. We have all our families with us!