Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Children and airports? How to survive

Waiting in an airport is never fun. And it is even less funny if you are traveling with children. I am traveling with Paul and Anna since they were five weeks old; so we are sort of familiar with the whole procedure by now. Paul even removes his shoes immediately and he puts them on the X-ray machine without being asked to do so.

So, which tips can I share with you?

- Have always with you something to drink. If your baby is drinking powder milk, put some powder in a baby bottle, and ask for warm water in any bar after the x-ray control. I never had problems getting warm water in the plane either. Just take into account that it will most likely be boiling water, so you will need to wait a bit until it colds down. So get your bottle ready on time if you suspect you will have a crying hungry baby. When they are a bit older, buy some juice or water in a bottle that can be closed after being opened, so no cans or such a thing. This way you can close it and keep some liquid for later, if your child is thirsty later on.

- Have always with you something to eat. Something suggestions: bread sticks, bananas, small sandwiches, biscuits. Avoid food with chocolate (kids can get incredibly dirty) or too salty (they get thirsty).

- Have always with you some toys or books. Crayons and a notebook are always a success with my children, they get entertained for quite a while. Also bring along a couple of books they love or just a new one they might be interested in; I suggest "Where is Wally?" or "Where is Waldo?" (US version) for a bit older children. Small puzzles and Duplo blocks also work well.

- Children get dirty. A fact of live. So be ready and bring extra clothes. I always take a complete change of clothes for each of them; usually something that can be easily layered. So I can add a sweater or leggings if it is cold, or let them with a T-shirt and no socks if it is warm. Also take a towel or an absorbing cloth, that is useful in case you have to dry some unexpected mess inside the plane.

- Take enough diapers and wet towels. Imagine you loose your connecting flight or your suitcase does not arrive with you (and you are arriving in the middle of the night in an unknown destination). Think about those scenarios and take enough diapers!

- This sounds contradictory, but keep your hand baggage to a minimum. I always check in my winter coat (if I am taking one). And I assume that my children are enough "entertainment" for me, so I do not take any book, magazine or whatsoever for myself.

- Use a small backpack as hand baggage. I take one that I carry myself to put all the clothes for the children, food, etc. Since I carry t on my bag, I still have both hands free for the children. It is much better than the typical "diaper-carrying baby" bag that you carry on one shoulder. It does not work with two children. Now also Paul carries his backpack with his toys, and Anna also has one (she really wants one like Paul) where she carries one diaper and her wet towels.

- If you are breastfeeding, take a light shawl / scarf. It helps to have some privacy, in case you have to breastfeed in the place and you are sitting next to a stranger. You can also use it  to wrap the baby and make a small tent so the baby can easily sleep.

Hope it all helps, and I welcome your tips as well!

Friday, 24 February 2012

In the market in Zanzibar

Our last holidays took place in the beautiful island of Zanzibar. One thing I did not want to miss was a visit to Stone Town, Zanzibar's cultural and historical heart. It is said to resemble the medinas in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, but to me it seemed particularly easy and quiet. Maybe because my point of reference would be the old part of Jerusalem, which is incredibly busy and crowd with people.

Being with the children was quite a challenge, since a walking tour is not really their favorite thing to do. We chose, though, not to go in a group, so we had more time to stop, drink water, etc. Quite interesting for them was the visit to the Central Market, also called Darajani Market. There is a section for meat and fish, no ice or cooling visible, and another one in the outside for vegetables and fruits.

In the vegetables section, it is also possible to buy spices, already pre-packed, and easy to bring home as a gift. Paul and Anna enjoyed sitting on top of some boxes, not sure that the seller was so happy to have them "helping him" around.

If you travel with young children, I do not recommend this trip for more than half a day. It gets very hot at noon, and it is difficult to enjoy the strolling. We finished the visit having lunch at Monsoon Restaurant in the Forodhani Gardens. We chose to be inside to have more shadow; there you have to take out your shoes and you sit on cushions on the floor; great for children! And luckily there were no other guests, so no worries about annoying other people!

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Thursday, 23 February 2012

Lupingu Lua Luimpe: what is that?

Recently I received a gift that intrigued me. It is a wooden figure of a mother with a baby in her arms. Not totally my taste, and not quite sure what to do with it. But still, it seems to be a fine piece of congolese art, and I wanted to know some more about it.

I found a picture on the internet that looks a lot the one I have, in the site of the Brooklyn museum. Quoting from the site: "Lupingu lua luimpe figures such as this were used by a cult among the Lulua, called Bwanga bwa Cibola, which aimed to cure infertility. Women who were having trouble conceiving could be initiated into the cult, after which they would receive a lupingu lua luimpe figure, which was designed to ward off any ill intentions that might be directed her way." Those figures seem to share also some features, such as scarifications in the face, almond eyes, and long straight noses.

Ok, so far, and considering I am pregnant for the third time without making much efforts, I guess I do not need anything to solve my infertility. But it is never bad to have something against any "ill intentions my way!".

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Birthday invitations

Paul is 4 years old! Yesterday it was his birthday, and for the first time, I organized a real party for him. First thing to do, of course, was to write the invitation letters for the children in his class.

Since I do not know where to find nice cards and envelops in Rwanda, I decided to make my own. I simply used an orange A4 folded as a square. In the outside part I wrote " Paul will be 4 years old on Wednesday!", and in the inside part I gave further information on the party and my contact details. I closed the "envelop" with a flower sticker from Hema.

All in all, I think they look quite cute!


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