New Year, New Blog…Sorta

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January is the month that signals a time where everyone wants a do-over. “New year, new me” they exclaim. Well, I am not an exception.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about this blog. If some of you haven’t noticed, I’ve been really scarce with my blog posting. While I honestly suck at blogging and documenting my life for the masses, I think I started to shy away from sharing so much of myself on this platform. Putting myself out there created a lot of negative comments from people who don’t know me and I didn’t know how to process all of that. Feeling judged and misunderstood became the driving force to my reclusiveness and I stopped writing so much about my travels and life. And a lot of that came shortly after my move to Japan.

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The Drama of Last-Minute Planning

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The boy and I recently went to Egypt and we had an AMAZING TIME! (more on that later) But what some people don’t realize is that this trip was incredibly last-minute. I wasn’t going to go anywhere for October break. I originally planned on heading to Morocco to scout for the Raising Vagabonds trip there in March, but ended up sending someone else for me.

Then I was going to buy a car here in Addis, so I felt like I needed to stay in town to monitor that process. I didn’t want to be out of town when everything went through, so I made plans to just hang out locally.

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The Terrible Twos Are a LIE!

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I love my child. He is literally my favorite person on this planet. But when he is sleepy or hungry or hasn’t pooped in a couple of days he is not someone I want to share space with. I love him, but nah.

We were in Egypt recently and a few days into our trip, we were exploring the Sahara desert on ATVs. It was the most fun we’ve had in a while. He rode on the back and screamed with glee while I embraced my inner Ryde or Die Chick. We saw a Bedouin village and watched the millions of stars as we ate BBQ and other traditional foods.

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Then and now: Things I’ve learned in moving to another country

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It’s May. Damn.

It’s actually the end of May and I’m realizing that I haven’t posted on here in some time.

The last time you heard from me, I was talking something bout buying gifts for your travel-minded family member or distant friend. Wowzers!

Anyway…In case you’ve been wondering, I’ve been busy getting my life together and preparing to move to another country. Yes, you read right! We’re moving away from Japan to Ethiopia! (No worries, I’ll probably back date a post or two about that dark and desolate time in my life later on)

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I want to be soft again.

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Being a single mother is hard.

Not because single parenting is challenging, I mean it is. But because I used to be the soft one. I used to be the one who kissed the boo boos and who he ran to when he was hurt or upset. I wasn’t the primary disciplinarian and there was balance in the house. I could focus on him because other things were being taken care of by someone else.

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Sleep and the art of getting your kid to stop talking to you.

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Once upon a time, there was a child whom we adoringly refer to as “the boy”. He was a quiet fellow who would stare at you and silently judge you while eating his saltines and “nanners”. Because…well that’s what you do when you’re two: develop hyper-focused eating habits and judge everyone you meet.

Anyway, this kid was perfect. He played by himself and was able to use his imagination to play boxing or wrestling for hours with his stuffed toys. He allowed his mother to get work done or cook or clean when she was ever inclined to do so. Their relationship was awesome and often the envy of everyone in their immediate circle.

One day, the boy’s mother enrolled him in a school that encouraged his social and emotional development, because she realized that if this area of his personality wasn’t properly developed she might be raising the next Unabomber so she might want to do something about that soon.[1] Things went well at this school and the once reserved child who presented with behaviors that made his mother think he had Autism Spectrum Disorder[2] soon blossomed into a social butterfly.

The boy would come home and discuss all the wonderful things he learned at school and discussed with his friends and thought about telling her while he was at school but couldn’t because, well, he was at school. So the boy filled her in on all those thoughts she missed and talked and talked and talked until finally his mother threw herself out the basement window to end her misery. [3]

The end. 

The boy has grown into this wonderful and amazing extrovert who is able to socialize with anyone and discuss an array of topics even with strangers while standing in the immigration line at the airport. He has planned play dates with kids at the park and given them my number so that they can give it to their mother to plan.[4] He’s amazing and the school did exactly what I needed it to do during our time there. I couldn’t be more proud.

There’s only one problem. This boy’s mother is an introvert who doesn’t like people and values quiet and misses that silent, judgey child she once had. 

Emphasis on silent. 

So, as a defense mechanism I have developed strategies to get my child to stop talking to me and help take care of that ringing in my ears[5]. Now, these may or may not work for you, and I can’t really guarantee their efficacy with your own child, but they are definitely worth a try.

1. Pretending you’re asleep. I’ve done this on planes, trains, busses, hotel rooms, long Uber rides. It works 85% of the time. Hell, I did it last night. We were on the bus riding home from a friend’s sayonara party and he’s gabbing and sharing with me about how he didn’t know that Honda made motorbikes and he thinks it would be cool if you could modify motorbikes to have seat belts and he wonders how safe it would bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I slowly “dozed” off on him until he turned from looking out the window and noticed I was gone and directed his conversation back to the window and his reflection.

Alternatively, I’ve pulled the covers over my head and played with my phone under. You have to be careful though. Your child will remove the covers and ask you to unlock the iPad or for food or something so you have to make sure they are set up before hand, otherwise they will just wake you up.

2. Electronics. Shameless, I know. I typically limit the use of electronics but when I need sleep or just some time alone, I unlock the iPad and send him to his room. I am not ashamed to say I have used this often and judge me if you want to. I couldn’t care less.

3. Just leave. Take the trash out. Walk the dog. Go stand in the backyard and pretend to count the blades of grass. Just sometimes the act of leaving the room helps. I don’t recommend this for toddlers and younger children. Aside from the fact that you can’t really leave them in rooms alone for the fear (or ever present danger) that they will injure themselves and/or set something on fire, they also tend to follow you.[6]

4. Going to the bathroom. Much like the MTV series The Real World, the bathroom is off limits to voyeurs in our house. Which makes this the perfect place get some peace and quiet. If you have two bathrooms in your house, even better! This reduces the risk that your child will ask to use the toilet while you’re in there. Some children try to talk to you through the door, but I have trained him early to not do that. That rules sticks about 50% of the time.

You can also turn on the shower. That sometimes signals that I’m actually in the shower and therefore can’t hear him when he’s trying to talk to me. I’ve often just sat in there and read a book wasting precious hot water and getting a glorious steam bath. I’ve often resorted to actually taking a shower as well because he tried to come in and say he had to “use it”.

Much like the previous suggestion. This one doesn’t really work for toddlers and younger children, as they don’t really care about your privacy and the bathroom is fair game for them.

5. Melatonin. This one works wonders. It’s a natural hormone in your body that allows you to gently fall asleep at your request. You can slip it in their juice or tea and they are off to la la land in a few minutes. Increasing the temperature in your house and playing calming music will often speed up the effects of this one as well. It’s an amazing option.[7]

Again, I can’t really say if any of these will work for you. But they have helped me salvage some of my sanity dealing with this crazy child on a daily basis. I love him to pieces, but I do often long for the days when I wished he would talk so I could take it all back. I’m kidding. I love him. He’s amazing. But I need sleep.

Footnotes for entertaining commentary:

[1] The boy’s mother is a psychologist and often worried about the psychosocial effect anything will have on him. This hyperbole was perfectly normal for her.

[2] This part is true. When he was younger, the boy was not very verbal, would be hyperfixed on certain toys and foods, and rarely socialized with anyone outside of me and my partner. He would flip out if anything changed in the schedule without notice and would become fixated on why it changed. I was legit worried for a while.

[3] You can’t actually throw yourself out the basement window. It was a joke. She did not commit suicide.

[4] Still working on social norms and stranger danger with this kid.

[5] You know the one. That high pitched ringing sound you get when you come home from a concert or a really loud bar. That one.

[6] Also, some county and state statues kinda talk about how you’re supposed to supervise your kids and can’t really leave them alone for periods of time otherwise it could result in investigations and whatnot. You might wanna research the laws in your respective states before trying this one.

[7] I’m kidding. Don’t give your kid melatonin, please. Or if you do, carefully read the label.

24 hours in Abu Dhabi: Pt. 1

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This is a rant. I’m just gonna put that out there first. The TripAdvisor review will come later. I’m hot and stinky and really really tired, so this is what you get right now.

We begin our journey landing in Abu Dhabi Airport at 2:30AM. We left Narita Airport at 9PM, so I really don’t know what time my body thought it was by the time we landed. I didn’t sleep well, but the boy remarked that he “slept like a baby”. So I was already irked.

We landed 2 hours ahead of schedule, therefore we had to wait for the Good Samaritan we solicited to wake up and come get us. No biggie. We just enjoyed the wonderful sights and smells of the airport arrivals area until our electronics died. 

Oh, the smells…they were a-plenty!

I have to also mention that we are in the UAE during Ramadan. For those of you who don’t know, Ramadan is the month in which Muslims around the world fast from dawn until sunset, which can be up to 15 hours. This observance is in accordance to the five pillars of Islam and it is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement, and increased devotion and worship. Muslims are required to refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids (including WATER), and having sexual relations.  Most begin fasting as soon as they reach puberty, so long as they are healthy, without disabilities, and aren’t pregnant or in old age.

Breaking fast, which occurs around 7PM, is Iftar and all who care to can join in and break bread in a communal way that encourages connection and celebration. All over the city there were tents set up, providing a free meal for all those who wanted to take part. We were told that tens of thousands come to take part in Iftar in each of the many tents the government sets up.

For those of you who don’t know, we are not Muslim. But we are in a Muslim country that requires not only it’s citizens to observe Ramadan, but it is also law that any visiting non-muslim has to observe as well. This means, no eating, drinking, smoking, or whatever in public. Seriously, I saw someone get chased down for walking down the street with a bottle of water. They don’t play.

But I knew this ahead of time so to prepare I checked out websites and blogs that offered suggestions to get through the holy month as a tourist. You can eat at the airport, they said. Everything is okay as long as you don’t exit the building, they said. But they didn’t know that my flight would get in before anything really opened. Whatever. We waited.

We’re picked up and headed to a friend’s house. She was amazing and picked up some water and fruit to get us through the day. I ate that and the boy had waffles. This was around 6am. We relax in her house until it’s time for us to get dropped off for our first tour at 8:30. We have about an hour before we are picked up, so we check out the Starbucks she told us was open to serve us. At this point in the morning, the heat was already coming in at about 38 degrees (100.4 F) and we walked as fast as we could to get to the Starbucks.

We arrive and set to order our drinks and the boy’s donut. We’re all happy to be in the air conditioning and the guy making the drinks says something to me in Arabic. I look confused like “What did he just say?” The cashier goes “Oh, you can’t sit down”. 

Come again?

He goes on to explain that we can order, but we have to leave to eat it. So I ask, “How am I supposed to eat it outside of here without getting arrested?” He says “Oh.” Really. He just says “oh.” like he didn’t think about that part of the equation. He eventually says that we can hide in a corner of the place and eat and drink quickly so they don’t get in trouble. So I change my order to cold drinks for quicker consumption and we hide in our corner and scarf down everything. Even hide the evidence, making sure we aren’t still chewing when we leave.

Back to the heat.

We are picked up for our tour and see the amazing Grand Mosque and date market and heritage market where we saw how Emirates lived back in the day and all that. In the heat. At this point it was up to 45 (114 F). 114 fuckin degrees!!! 

For real. 

I’m not sure at what point things spontaneously combust, but I’m sure we almost got to that point. For the second half of the tour, the boy elected to stay in the van. He was like “I’m seriously over this shit”. He didn’t say shit, people. But his body language did. I was pissed because I brought an outfit to change into to be more modest and get into the Mosque, and was told that I was still showing too much clavicle and had to wear an abaya on top of the long dress and long sleeved shirt I was wearing. I was sweating in ways I could have never imagined.

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Anyway, after all that we are dropped off at 2pm to find food. We were hot, sweaty and irritable at this point. Mind you, we hadn’t eaten ANYTHING since 6am. Both of us were so over this day and regretting any life decisions that had brought us to the UAE in the middle of all this heat and fasting.

Walking to find the mall (that we were told we could find lunch) the boy is complaining and I told him that we might need to get the Subway that someone told us was open. He breaks into a tantrum about how he doesn’t want Subway and that he wants pizza or something.

I honestly don’t really remember what he said because once the tantrum started and I heard “I don’t want…” I snapped. Like seriously was about to grip him up and all I remember was shouting “LISTEN! I had to sneak and drink water in a bathroom stall, you really think we have options on where to eat right now?!?”

No, seriously. I had to sneak and drink water in the bathroom stall. Not the open bathroom, but in the stall. Same place where I, and many other folk, pee and other things. Among bacteria and other thoughts I don’t even want to entertain. I was NOT about to woof down a chicken leg standing over a toilet. 

I’m not above doing a lot of things, but that was one of them.

That was one of many arguments we had that day. We generally have a good relationship, but heat that intense makes it hard for anyone to be a reasonable human being.

Needless to say, we were not able to get food at that mall. So we ended up meeting up with another helpful friend who lived in a more “western” part of town and he took us to a restaurant that allowed us to sit and eat like the civilized people we are. However, we had to be sneaky. This place was covered in drapes and dining areas were behind the partitions. This place looked like you needed to knock three times with a password like it was Hernando’s Hideaway.

But. That burger was everything. Literally gave us life and the boy and I emerged better people after that meal.

Beyond that, everything was great. I bought some clothes to change into because I was sweating in places I shouldn’t have been. We were picked up again for our next tour and went on a dune safari and rode a camel. The boy attempted to dune surf and I laughed at him.

We ate BBQ and I smoked shisha for the first time. I’m still trying to figure out what it really is. The boy thought I was getting high. Look at his judgmental face:

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Overall, the day was amazing. There were some frustrating points and we were exhausted at the end of it all. Without thinking about it, we were up for 24+ hours from the time we arrived at the airport to the time we left at 2:45. We fell asleep as soon as we got on the plane and even slept through the food service. Insane!

This small stint in Abu Dhabi taught us a lot about ourselves and our relationship. We have bonded over the fact that we both hate summer officially now. 

We also have redefined what hangry means, have a new respect for anyone enduring this fasting month in or outside of the UAE, and an increased appreciation for the Muslim faith.