This past week, I did quite an abundance of spring cleaning and came across an old travel journal from college. As I sifted through the different entries, I felt as though I was immediately transported back to my travels through Greece. All of the sights, sounds, emotions and experiences of that time seemed to surround me. It got me thinking that perhaps I should continue to journal during my travels even when it isn’t required for a class. Not only do my entries take me back to my own experience, but they help me to share my experience with others. Let me share an experience with you:
June 2, 2001
We have been traveling most of the day. We left Tolo early this morning to visit a few sites. Soon we will come to Mycenae. We arrive. I step off the bus and a cold chill runs down my spine. We walk up the palace steps, the very same steps that Agamemnon walked to his death. We pass through the lion’s gate, shaft graves on our right with more steps to the left. We climb. I wander off on my own, passing through chambers where some say the murders of the House of Atreus took place. I climb further to where there are no walls, no ceilings; only dark blue mountains and damp air surround me. It is quite hot out, but I feel a coldness in the air. What sights those towering mountains must have seen. Our professor once told us that we can have ‘conversations’ with rocks, trees, wind and water. I wonder what those frigid mountains could tell us.
Some say a picture is worth a thousand words, but words, unlike photographs are subjective to our emotions and experiences at the moment. Be sure to not only record the images of your trip, but also the emotions and ideas that you explore along the way. Your family could even swap journals at the end of a trip to view another person’s perspective of the journey. This could be a resourceful activity for a long plane or car ride. Reflecting in this way enriches the total experience for you and your family for years to come.
This week of Spring break in France has been very wet! I found myself becoming extra creative with the boys with the wet weather. At first this meant staying inside and watching movies. Very creative, I know. Once that wore thin, exposure to other children and intellectual stimulation for their young minds was at the top of my list. Not ripping our lovely flat into pieces was also a motivation. So, we became tourists and visited the wonderful Natural History Museum in Toulouse!
What a beautiful building! It was filled with gorgeous plants and wonderful animals. We walked and played. After thirty minutes though boredom sank in and I was exhausted. My two year old was crying to come back home and play with his Lego’s. The weather was only getting worse. I was at a loss.. how could I make this rainy week in France memorable without going crazy in the process?
One day during the week I noticed how lovely my two year old and nine month old were playing together. They were both crawling around on the floor and laughing with each other. This was the image I had in my mind when I had children- that they would grow together and these experiences in their younger years
would make them close. Here it was, happening! After we had lunch they went to sleep for four hours. I could not believe it. Not even my “park playing” could produced those type of results.
As the days living in France pass they keep finding comfort in each others company. My two year old is even trying to teach the baby a bit of French now. Maybe if the weather had been nice I would have ran them all over town. Maybe not, who’s to say? This week I fell in love with “rainy days” in France. The love that it produced in my household is priceless.
I’ve posted several times on this blog about teaching my 18-month-old daughter Zoe about other cultures through travel, cultural events, art, food and even Tea clothing! But I’ve never written about teaching Zoe about our own culture. Last night we celebrated the Jewish holiday of Passover at our home with 10 other family members.
Zoe loves to be the center of attention and had the time of her life with 4 admiring grandparents, 1 great-grandmother, 4 aunts and one uncle to entertain. Everyone was eager to teach her about the various customs and traditions of Passover. Last year we also celebrated Passover with Zoe but she was too young to partake in any of the customs.
My mother-in-law gave Zoe a children’s book on Passover with pictures of the different customs. Zoe loved flipping through the book and identifying each item on the table which matched the pictures -the wine cups, the parsley, bowls of salt water and others.
One of Zoe’s favorite parts of the night was searching for the afikomen which is a piece of matza (unleavened bread) wrapped in a cloth. It is traditional for an adult to hide the afikomen and for the kids to look for it. Zoe loves hiding games and we often hide and search for things for fun so this was right up her ally. Because she is so young the hiding spot was pretty basic -under the glass coffee table. Zoe was very proud of herself when she found it and everyone cheered. She was given money for it (as is the tradition) but wasn’t very interested in the money and handed it over to her dad.
Zoe also loved the blessings over the wine because she knows that her tiny silver kiddush cup (which is a traditional religious cup) is always filled with pure (meaning undiluted) white grape juice. Holidays are the only time she gets pure juice so this is always a treat for her.
The realization that Zoe has finally reached an age where she can partake in various rituals and customs and begin to form a sense of her own cultural heritage is exciting! I look forward to years of celebrating holidays and events from our own culture as well as from other cultures.
As the sun comes out more, I find myself graviting to a very special old friend; “The Park”. Since I was going to be alone with my two youngest boys, while my husband and older son went to California for two weeks, getting out of the house was the top priority for me. Two hours after we said our farewells, I found myself full of energy preparing for the day ahead at the park.
I have to admit that it was hard making my way to the park. I contemplated stopping at a cafe or taking the boys out for pizza but I kept my goal in mind. Fifteen minutes later we arrived a the very beautiful Jardin des Plantes in Toulouse! I felt like I was in a French film. Families were out on the grass having picnics, little children were playing soccer on the grass and vendors were selling every sweet treat your heart could desire. It was like a carnival for the young at heart! The boys dove right into the fun by heading to the play structure. They seemed quite caught up in the whimsical nature of it all.
As I was sitting nursing my youngest son, I noticed my two year old had made friends with a little girl. They had decided going down the slide backwards was a wonderful idea. They gave it a go about ten more times! When I looked up again he was having a cracker with the girl and her family. They were sitting on a bench not to far away from mine. I thought: that is strange normally he is so shy with strangers mainly due to the language barriers he faces in France.
As I approached the bench to make sure he was not “wearing out his welcome”, I noticed the couple was speaking English to him. As it turned out, the mother is from Seattle and her husband is French. They will be staying in Toulouse for awhile! She was just as happy as I was to meet another family from the States. We quickly exchanged number with promises to have a string of play dates during the spring and summer. I was so happy for myself and my children that we were able to make this great connection at the park. We spent two more hours there hanging out with the our new friends and having a good time. Before leaving I bought the boys a soccer ball made in Italy for 2 euros 50. It has earned the role as the sixth member of the family. What a bargain!
Our day at the park helped me discover that no matter what continent you are living on, “The Park” is a glorious refuge for families!
Kai’s favorite book right now is a wonderful story written by Karen Katz, Can You Say Peace? Even at 9 months, the colorful characters in the book resonate with him. Kai’s face lights up when I pull this book off the shelf and he laughs with excitement. Without leaving Kai’s room, we travel to 11 different countries and catch a glimpse of each child’s life with their own families. His favorite children in the book are Sadiki from Ghana who says “goom jigi” and Kenji from Japan who says “heiwa”. We have such a good time reading and learning to say peace in multiple languages. It’s never to early to teach our children to wish for non-violence around the world.
Of course, Katz isn’t able to cover evey single country. Here are some other ways to say peace:
Hoa Binh- Vietnamese
How do you say peace in your language?
Do you love cooking with your little citizen? If the economy has you eating in more, we’ve found these Destination Dinners– the perfect way to bring food from other cultures home. Each Destination Dinner kit includes spices, a shopping list, cooking instructions and fun information about the source of the meal. Bon appetit!
This Saturday my husband and my seven year old son are heading to California for my son’s spring time visit with his father. Although I know these trips are needed for a flourishing relationship, I still can’t help but be teary eyed as the moment of truth approaches.
We have really made a life for ourselves here in Toulouse! Going to the “marche” on the weekends,taking our nightly walks and having our French neighbors over for dinner. I sometimes forget that there are other people waiting and longing for our return to America. It is so easy for me to become caught up in the reality that my oldest son is now a bi-lingual boy of the world! To see him get up every morning with a smile on his face to tackle a new way of learning and communicating is truly inspiring for me. I am in awe of him when we
take our evening walks and he can read the notices in the local bakeries or when he is able to give the hour of day to someone who requests it in French. I start to daydream about what would happen if we want to India, Africa or Asia together. How long would it be before he could master three languages and find “ZEN” at the young age of twelve?
Then I remember that he has a whole other family waiting breathlessly in California. His father, grandmother, uncles and cousins. How would they feel about him traveling the globe with me and only being able to see him on holidays or vacations? What if I wanted to travel to a so called “unsafe” region? Would he “fight” for him to come back to “safe” California? I am starting to realize that when my son and I hold hands on our Sunday walk or have our lunch together on Wednesdays that he is just on loan to me for a short spell. Then I have to give him up. France is AMAZING and it is easy to become smitten with this dreamy life. Being a blended family though has made me up wake up from my dream a little sooner then I would like.
As the tears flow on Saturday,I will be thinking to myself; is it really worth it?