Monday, March 24, 2014

To the Middle East and back

We have been gone the past couple of weeks on a trip to two countries in the Middle East - a mix of giving work-related lectures and attending meetings with some time for holiday thrown in the mix. Magpie handled the long plane rides and time change(s) well. She also ate like a champ, which made me a happy mama.

I was anxious about the long plane rides with my very active girl, especially so because I knew that Will and I had to get off of the plane and be ready to work the next day. Magpie, though, exceeded my expectations and did really well. I will write another post on what worked for us to make the plane rides and time change adaptations a success (two keys are that we broke a lot of our own rules to make things as easy, entertaining, and stimulating for her in the confined space as possible, and we tried to start the time change adjustment in advance of our trip).

Because we had a work component to some days on our trip, we had to use local babysitters for the times when both Will and I needed to be off-site at the same time. I was very nervous to leave Magpie with someone I hadn't put through my usual vetting process (typically for a new sitter, I check references, work from home the first day or two, observe via nanny cam, etc.). I was afraid that Magpie would be very anxious to be left with someone she didn't know and that she and I would find the entire situation rough. But again, she did fantastically. Both actual hotels we stayed in had a kid's play area with toys that I was able to take her to ahead of babysitting time and get her acclimated to. We purposely brought a few of her favorite books and stuffed animals along from home, which I think also helped. Those few times I had to use a sitter, I had them "get to know" her with me for twenty minutes or so (all I could do, typically) and then have them take her to the play area, which made me feel like there would be more oversight of her care and also more for her to do than being holed up in our hotel room(s).

On the vacation part of our trip, we went more off of the grid and spent time in a Bedouin camp in the desert, drove up into a mountain region, and also traveled to a coastal area. Will and I are pretty adventurous travelers and have been to numerous developing and developed countries together, but this was the most "off-the-beaten track" trip we've taken with Magpie in tow. Costa Rica is the only other trip that comes close (we took Magpie there when she was 3 months old), but as a country it seemed much more developed than some of the areas we were in on this trip. One of the big take home realizations for me this time was that my tolerance for risk has vastly changed now that Magpie is with us. I feel so keenly our responsibility to her to keep both her and ourselves safe. So I spent a lot more time white-knuckling various situations (e.g., driving in general, self-driving off-road into the desert, handling numerous non-childproofed stairs, ledges, cliffs, etc.) that I previously would have taken more in stride. Will, meanwhile, seemed unperturbed by everything, and we were therefore sometimes not on the same page about certain decisions, like his penchant for handing Magpie raw veggies to nibble when we were in places with substandard water and hygiene availability. I'll probably do an entire post on this in the future, but my elevated cautiousness was a notable change for someone who has been to Africa several times and enjoyed various other adventure-type trips.

As you'll see below in the pictures, Magpie was a hit with the locals. Her name is very similar to a Muslim name, which made her even more popular, and meant that people would ask for her by name constantly at our various destinations. So she was our little ambassador. Customs seemed to be different in the two countries we traveled in than in the U.S., in that strangers would continually walk up to us and start touching Magpie and often try to take her from me and hold her (see pics below). It was shocking at first, but I think over time she and I warmed up to it fairly well. Needless to say, no stranger has ever tried to take Magpie from my arms in NYC!

We are home as of this weekend and working to help Magpie adjust back to Eastern Standard Time from a 9 hour time change...It's a process...

It was a lovely and fascinating trip. And it is so, so nice to be home as well.

More soon.


Magpie at Bedouin encampment

Magpie with local girls in rural mountain region

Magpie called all the camels "Doggie!", and yes, this picture was taken while riding on a camel

Sand dune

Magpie pets a "doggie!"
Hanging out with a local man

Mountain goat

Magpie sitting on steps; mama hoping she won't fall off of them
goods at one of several souks we visited

Magpie in the arms of another local man during the work portion of our trip


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  1. This goes to show kids are more resilient than we give then credit for. She seemed so at home, especially in the picture with the local man!

  2. wow! what an adventure- a true adventure of a lifetime! so happy you made it there & home safe!

    magpie looks like such a sweetie pie! so content and curious!

    YOU look fantastic, mo!

    thanks for updating!

  3. What a fantastic experience for all of you! I want to hear all about it & see the rest of your photos! I hope there are hundreds more! Hope to see you soon!

  4. Magpie is so precious. That first pic is just perfect.

  5. Mo, I LOVE the photos - so glad Magpie is a good traveller. I'll be looking forward to tips for our two.

    I thought they'd be fine but they're now in the "not listening" stage at 4.5 and I can't imagine that X 10 in an enclosed space.................


    ps when are you coming to SA?

  6. So all those folks can know her name but we can't? Waah! She sure took all the new people and places well. That's pretty amazing and she's a doll.

  7. Susan, let us know when you'll next be in NYC. Would love to see you and tell you a bit about our journey! : )

    Marcia, will try to post those tips soon - and definitely will let you know when we are next in SA. Except for the super lengthy flight, SA seems like such an "easy" destination compared to where we've just been!

  8. How fun! Thanks for sharing the pictures.

    How amazing is Magpie for being such a trouper?! (which also means she has amazing parents!)

  9. He idea of random locals grabbing my kid for a photo would freak me out too haha! That's said the photo of magpie & the man with the purple turban is absolutely beautiful

  10. Awesome!! Love the photos. What an amazing experience.

    I hope you'll hurry and post your tips within the next week and half. We're flying from NYC to LA next week, and it will be my youngest's first time on a plane (he'll be 2 in May). I'm eager to hear what worked for you!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful photos and a bit about your journey; it sounds like a wonderful trip and I applaud you and Magpie for adjusting well to a different culture.

  12. Gah! Could she be any cuter?!?!? I am so glad that you all had a wonderful trip!

  13. Amazing pictures!! I love it!! And I absolutely love that you have already taken her overseas, Dan and I are hoping we can continue traveling after the twins are born... hope we are as lucky as you are!

  14. She is just adorable, and what an incredible experience to have!

  15. You have made me homesick (in a good way). Husband and I lived for two years in Syria and traveled a lot in neighboring Jordan and Egypt. I can almost smell the souk (the good parts :-) ) with your photo.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I hope the work part was as successful as it looks like the fun part was.

  16. What an awesome experience for your daughter. In awe at your sense of adventure.


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