Thursday, May 13, 2010

40 Days: Here and Gone

40 days have come and gone. We’ve seen much and learned more. We are busy packing and it’s always hard to say goodbye to a place, even that you’ve only known for six weeks, that you’ve begun to call home. We’ve enjoyed the friendships we’ve made and the memorable moments we’ve lived. I’ll miss the walks along the dirt path to the dental clinic to peek in and say hello to Kai everyday. I’ll miss the beautiful, rich smiles of the local people and shouting out, “Mahna Ohna Tup Ko!” every time we meet. I’ll miss chatting with the other missionary couples that have become good friends in our brief stay here. The city noises and smells that once were not so familiar will even be missed.
As all things, this chapter must close for us to move on to the next one: graduation and life after. But we will not forget our time here or the experiences lived. I know once we get back to our “regular” home, we’ll look back at pictures and miss it, remembering the great times in Madagascar. But for now we’re torn between the excitement of getting back home again and the sadness of leaving. I still have a few more posts that I didn’t manage to get up before we left, so the travel side of the blog is not quite over yet.
I wrote this yesterday, but didn’t have time (or a good internet connection to post it) so I am posting this from the Paris airport. We have a 6 hour layover here because our original flight was from Madagascar to Paris, Paris to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to London. Because of the lovely volcano that has been sharing it’s ash with most of Europe, our flight from Amsterdam to London was cancelled. They re-booked us from Paris directly to London. We weren’t too sad about that. It ended up taking off an hour of travel time and a lot less headache from all the connections. As I write, we’re in the Sky Lounge enjoying cushy seats, great food, free internet, and a little sleep. Kai and Kasen are out! Leaving at 1 a.m. and flying 11 hours can do that to you. So for the moment, I have a few cherished quiet moments. These are rare, so I’m seizing the moment and I’ll write more later :-)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

London--The Forgotten Pictures

On the way to Madagascar, we had to stop in London. No, really. Tickets were $700 cheaper per ticket to stopover in London. So you do the math. We could spend an extra $1400 and see nothing but the inside of an airport, or we could take the extra cash and spend a little time in London seeing what makes this great city so special. Hmmmm, tough decision!
Favorite thing about London: Everyone speaks English! Getting around is sooo easy!
Next favorite thing: The subway or “Underground.” I really miss having public transit so readily accessible. When we lived in South Korea, that was one of the things that spoiled us. It makes everything so convenient, encourages walking, and it’s just fun! And for the record, movies make subways seem to be much more of a dangerous place than they really are.
Least favorite thing about London: It’s really expensive and the exchange rate is not in our favor. Being in Madagascar just after London was almost culture shock because of the massive disparity between the 2 places!
Favorite tourist attraction: So far, it was probably The London Tower (sooo much awesome history there), but the London Eye was pretty fun too. We will be spending a few more days on the way back and seeing a few remaining things we missed the first time, so I’ll have to let you know.
Favorite meal: Burgers at this place:

While we were there, we were so busy and didn’t have access to a good internet, so I failed to upload very many pictures of our adventures there, but we really had a fantastic time. London is now one our new favorite cities in the world and if you haven’t been there yet, in my opinion, it should go on the top of your list!

This guard was so awesome!! He let Kasen touch his sword and even looked at Kasen and smiled (which they never do). I think he did that because we were waiting forever to get our picture taken with him (it seems that a woman with a baby is an easy target to cut in front of--grrrr...).

In front of parliment

On the Millennium Bridge over the River Thames

Yes, please do! Oh, and here's my husband's card for when that floss produces cavities!

Fish and chips! The local flavor!

A waffle for dessert

Hey, this armor is just my size!!!

This cute grin is because he's scheming to run off with the crown jewels ;-)

The Eye

Family shot! Kasen wants to get down and explore!

On top of The Eye

The London Bridge

The London Tower

By the "Underground" (subway)

Westminster Abbey. BTW, Kai and I disagreed about buying this rain cover for the stroller. I insisted (and won out) because I had heard that London weather is not it's main attraction. SO thankful we had it! Used it everyday!

Big Ben

Feeding the pigeons healthy organic puffs to make them grow big and buff (in front of Buckingham Palace).

He later chased them and watched them take flight!

The daffodils in front of Buckingham Palace. (In my sleepless state, I first wrote tulips. In a way they might look like yellow tulips, right?) Thanks Jessica! ;-)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Traveling With a Baby Internationally?

Would I travel with a 13 month old to the other side of the world and live in an underdeveloped country for 6 weeks again? Yes. But let me share a few things I’ve learned. I'm writing this to have all the details saved in one place if we ever consider doing this again and thought I'd share since it may help you if you're considering traveling internationally with your baby/kids.

Here are some things that have been invaluable to us while we’ve been here:

  • Portable high chair—It compacts, is easy to wash, and fits on most tables. Also holds children up to 37 pounds.
  • Stroller
  • Pack n play—Most airlines let you take a stroller and a pack n play for free with a lap baby (children under 2 that sit on your lap). These 2 things are a must have if you’re traveling internationally!
  • Baby wrap (I had a friend make mine for me and it’s perfect for those times when a stroller is too big to maneuver through the small crowded spaces)
  • Baby snacks/food from home Great for the plane rides, but also those times when you’re not sure about the sanitation of the local food.
  • Skype It’s great to be able to talk to family and friends 10,000 miles from home.
  • Sanitizing wipes For the airplane, etc. (not the same as baby wipes—these kill 99% of germs). This is one of the first set of flights where none of us got sick afterward. BTW, have you ever wiped down the airplane seats before you sit in them?? They are disgusting!! Think: several white wipes made dark, dark brown from all the grunge. We brought along an entire box. Also, they’re good if you get a cut/scrape and don’t have any alcohol on hand.
  • Books for Kasen He loves to read along with age appropriate books for him and they are hard to find in another country.
  • A few games/toys Make sure they pack well (small). These are great entertainment for the plane ride and once you're there. Also, the in flight magazines and sick bags are great to let your little one play with/rip up (the magazines say you can take them with you, so don't worry about ruining them). You can make a game of putting things in and taking them out of the bag. And be prepared to walk the aisles to get the wiggles out in between meal times. Most people are really friendly on the flights and will smile and wave, etc. as you pass.
  • A few favorite movies to watch when you get a little homesick.
  • Several sippy cups Should you ever leave home without one? We brought 5 and have had 3 break, so we’re happy we brought more than we thought we needed.
  • Nursing. I’m nursing beyond when most mother’s quit, but if you read up on the benefits, they are vast! Also, if you’re traveling close to the time you’re thinking of weaning consider a few things:

  1. It’s a big comfort for your baby when you’re traveling across the world and just about everything is new to them.
  2. If they get sick, babies that refuse to take food usually will still b/f, so you know they are still getting nourished and hydrated. This happened with Kasen while we’ve been here. He ran a high fever for 3 days straight and refused food. When I called the doctor in the U.S., she was relieved to find out he was still b/f because dehydration is a huge concern for babies.
  3. They can get your antibodies while b/f which helps prevent them from getting sick and helps them get over it more quickly if they do get sick.
  4. These are just the benefits I’ve found for traveling. There are many more overall for b/f, but that’s a whole different topic…

Before you leave:

  • Call your airline and request the baby bassinet if you’re traveling with a lap baby. There are only certain seats that have this option, so call as soon as you book your ticket because they’re on a first come, first served basis, but they free you up during sleep time which is a HUGE relief on long flights. Kasen was over the height and weight limit, but it just meant that he was very snug while sleeping.
  • Make sure immunizations are up to date for you and your kids.
  • Put together a travel kit with medicines for you and your baby/kids just in case. Talk with your doctor about potential illnesses and get a few prescription medications you can pack to treat a broad spectrum of sicknesses. Also include a good supply of ibuprofen and Tylenol for your child. Kasen has run a fever several times while here and he also cut 4 new teeth, so we used our entire supply already.
  • Pedialyte packets. You can reconstitute them with bottled water, but it’s perfect if your little one gets diarrhea or is vomiting. Thankfully Kasen avoided both of these, but we packed a hefty supply just in case.
  • Passports for your kids.

What we wish we had done differently:

  • Packed a few more books for Kasen’s age. I packed a few board books, but have them completely memorized now and am looking forward to getting back to our small home library for a little more variety.
  • Packed more ibuprofen and Tylenol for Kasen.
  • Packed everything we needed for 3 days in our carry-on. Since our luggage was delayed by up to 8 days for some pieces, I wish we had packed more essentials. Usually we do, but with all of Kasen's stuff, we decided to try and pack lighter. That was a big mistake!
  • Realize that things wear very quickly, so only pack those things that you don’t mind getting a little extra wear and tear. Some of our whites are blue, some of our colors have been bleached, and many things have permanent stains. (This is true for our particular kind of trip, but if you’ll be staying in nice hotels, etc. this may not apply to you.)
  • Packed an extra bottle of shampoo and conditioner. Paying $7 per bottle is a little hard to swallow when I could have packed the same bottle for $2.
  • Packed a “leash” for Kasen. I don’t care what your line of thinking is on this one—when you’re traveling in another country, it’s nice to know they are close and attached.

FYI: I had a friend who lives in another part of Africa tell us that for babies/kids it generally takes about 1 day per hour you change in time. After having experienced crossing time zones with a baby for myself, I have to agree with her. Being 10 hours off from Pacific time, it took us about 10 days from the time we left for Kasen to get adjusted to the time here. Kai and I have always been able to adjust within a day or two if we stayed awake until the evening of the local time (no napping!), but with a baby it’s a whole different challenge.

Yes, he really did fall asleep standing up due to jet lag.

Note: Do your research and find out what's available before you travel. Madagascar, though very underdeveloped, still has basic necessities available for purchase.

The Things That Live in Madagascar

Disclaimer: The creatures pictured are not necessarily only found here. They are just the ones we’ve encountered in our time here.
The lemur pictures are from this past weekend.

Lemurs are the most famous animals Madagascar is known for. If you remember the movie, you might break out singing, "I like to move it, move it!"

We could get really close to them and Kasen was amazed by these unique animals.

Yes, we live in Madagascar too (at least for the next few days).

Nocturnal lemurs

Another nocturnal lemur

An Iguana

A chameleon

Another one that's well hidden in the grass

Preying Mantis


You know what this is. It might be a hissing cockroach that is known here in Madagascar. It was soon a dead one after this picture! The total count right now is 37...

Spider web on the ground