April 20, 2009

delhi bound

I’ve always been a “why not” kind of girl. One who accepts challenges without having to sit down first and one who says a crazy “YES!” to any new opportunity and I’ve always longed for a chance to expand my global horizons.

My husband and I talk often about traveling more … and we already do our fair share of it. We are that family that might scrimp on certain things, but thoroughly enjoy our vacations … and schedule them whenever we possibly can.

I’ve been saving for a trip to Italy for quite awhile now, and was getting *this* close to surprising my husband with the news that finally, we could go take the trip of a lifetime. Explore new things and see new places. Italy was the place in my mind that took me away from the reality that I live in a snowglobe.

Italy provided a perfect daydream scenario to forget that it feels that it snows every day where I live – between October and April, and that the sun gives up on trying to peek out of the clouds for what seems like seven months out of the year.

Italy became, for me, a sanity saver and a wild dream that one day … we would visit. We would take our babysitter and sip espresso and limoncello, see the sights, and bask in everything that Italy has to offer.

Little did I know that my dream of a romantic vacation to Italy was going to replaced by a relocation. A MOVE – to the very same continent where you find Italy, but a different country that starts with an “I” and not just for a couple of weeks vacation.

Join me if you will as I bring you an up close, personal and very honest look at the road of taking a family of five across the ocean, to Delhi India.

स्वागत

(welcome, in Hindi)

This journey is cross posted at Delhi Bound.

finding home, wherever you are

This post is a guest post written by Allison Fawkes who just finished her internship at Tea.

I’ve moved around a lot for my age, having already experienced the ancient pyramids of Egypt, walked through the fields of tulips in Holland, and enjoyed gelato while walking along the canals of Venice, all by the age of 13.  I am a seasoned traveler by any definition, and can remove and replace belts, shoes, and accessories like a pro at the airport security line.
The only thing I have ever really known is change, and yet I find myself constantly amazed and envious of other’s bravery in going great lengths to change their lives.  I was having dinner at one of my favorite neighborhood Italian restaurants the other night.  It’s an intimate setting where everyone working there speaks Italian and people have to hold their breath to walk through the tables.  There’s even an Italian man in a very tailored shirt who would pace around and every once in a while pour champagne for couples waiting for their tables.  Our waitress was from Milan, and politely laughed when we butchered the names of dishes we were ordering.  She assured us that it was ok, and that she was in just as much need of practicing her English as we were of our Italian.
Our meal that night made me think about my own travels and all of the places that I’ve lived.  At the young age of 22, I can already count Sacramento, San Diego, Puerto Rico, Spain, Colorado, England, and San Francisco as home.  I have always had my parents with me during those big moves outside of the U.S., and even for my transition from college in the Midwest to San Francisco.  I did a summer internship in London, but even then I was among other students living abroad. Just as is the case in London, San Francisco is full of foreign accents and neighborhoods filled with people who share similar cultures.  I found comfort in having other American college students in London who I could share experiences with, and I must think that our waitress must find the same comfort in the people that she works with, and the network of people that she can build from that.
After I have fully exhausted all of the tangents that my mind takes me on during this conversation I am having with myself, I realize that I am more similar to our waitress from Milan than our accents might reveal.  Even though I have lived abroad and done things I probably never could have imagined for my age, I have always managed to find some form of familiarity in everything that I do.  America has been known for being the “melting pot” of cultures and people, and our founding fathers came here with the idea that they would create familiarity in a strange land.  As our world’s countries and economies become more interconnected, it has become more reality than possibility that other countries will take on those same melting pot characteristics, and our lives will take us outside of our ideas of what is normal.  Whether you find people who speak your language, carry the same religious practices, or enjoy the same hobbies, it is possible to find commonalities wherever you are.
Like the old adage says, “Home is where you make it”.

my shade of green

I would call myself a ‘light’ shade of green. I am the kind of mom who wants life made easier for herself and her family. At times being ‘green’ requires work that I simply don’t have time for, but since April is earth month, I thought I would attempt to make a few small steps to be more aware of my environment. My first step was a trip to the book store; every good ‘greenie’ needs to do their research.

The book that I choose was Green goes with Everything, by Sloan Barnett. It was an easy read and well organized. After reading the book, I must admit that I was a bit disturbed by all of the chemicals I was using inside my own home. I was making my home a toxic landfill of sorts. Geez, no wonder my asthma was getting worse with all of my spring cleaning. So, I decided to do a little test. I clipped coupons online, went to the store and bought all organic cleaners with ingredients I could actually pronounce. After a week of using these products, I can truly breathe easier. My little one can even help me as I clean, whereas before I was so worried about her inhaling fumes. My husband even noticed and mentioned that he felt as though his asthma subsided. Instead of using sprays to freshen the room, I open the windows to let the real ‘fresh air’ in. If I desire a scent within the room, I’ll simply light a soy scented candle.

This month I learned that regardless what shade of green we are, we can all do something for the environment. Quite often, what we decide to do improves our well being just as much as it helps the environment. I am even teaching my little one about cleaning, and we can actually breathe while we clean! I can teach my little one that the way we clean impacts everyone on the planet; we are truly learning about being little citizens of the world.

Below are two green recipes that my friend Amy gave me. I hope they assist you on your venture towards becoming a ‘greenie’ regardless what shade you intend to be!

The Green Germ Killer

2 cups rubbing alcohol

12 drops of a scented oil of your choice (I prefer ylang ylang oil)

Wood Floor Cleaner

(And it leaves no sticky residue!)

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup hot water

10 drops sweet orange oil (or essential oil of your choice)

journaling on your journey

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.

April 18, 2009

rainy days

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.

Bises

April 10, 2009

celebrating our own culture

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.

le parc

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!

Bises

a worldly bedtime story

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:

Shalom-Hebrew

Salam-Arabic

Amani-Swahili

Hoa Binh- Vietnamese

Kapayapaan- Tagalog

Pyong’hwa- Korean

Shite- Tibetan

How do you say peace in your language?

April 2, 2009

destination dinners

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!

family “blending” abroad

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?

Bises