Tag Archives: Foreign Correspondents

September 3, 2012

10 Things the Kids Love about Kenya

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Caren and her family traveled to Kenya this summer for a service trip. Caren is the President and Co-founder of The Kilgoris Project, a non-profit that runs schools, medical programs and economic development efforts in rural Kenya. We outfitted Caren’s family with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part two of their adventure.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

While we involve our kids in service travel for the noblest of reasons—developing empathy and discovering the joy of helping others—I love how their experience remains uniquely childlike.

From the mouths of the four cousins, ages six through ten, their favorite things about Kenya:

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

1.  Squealing at baboons on the side of the road- Driving from Nairobi to the rural Transmara area often brings flashes of a safari, including sightings of baboons, gazelles, giraffes and zebras.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Mike Knowles

2.  Stopping for Kenyan fast food- Roadside vendors sell fire-roasted ears of maize from a coarse, starchy type of corn. It tastes like popcorn on a stick.

3.  Saying good morning to the happy sisters- We stay at a convent-turned-guesthouse run by a lovely group nuns from the Little Sisters of Saint Joseph order. Their smiles and morning singing are a joy.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jon McCormack

4. Sleeping in our “cousins room”- At the guesthouse, we turn a conference room into a dorm, with a bed for each girl. It has the feeling of a month-long sleepover.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

5.  Playing with the neighborhood kids in the afternoons- The guesthouse lawn makes a natural playground. Neighborhood kids drift in after school for pickup games of Frisbee and soccer, twirling hula hoops and chasing bubbles.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

6. Picking passion fruit straight from the tree- The kids love the sour pucker and the availability of quick snacks.

7. Brushing our teeth with sticks- Fibers from branches of salvadora persica, known as the Toothbrush Tree, form bristles when chewed. The sticks have a spicy taste and contain a natural antiseptic.

8.  Drinking soda- Some of our usual healthy habits get relaxed for travel. Rural Kenyans often serve soda, a store-bought treat, as an honor to guests. The kids know it’s polite to indulge.

9. Seeing weird, creepy things- A tourist jaunt to the Karen Blixen home, a Nairobi Museum, showed the fruits of old-style safari hunts. The décor included mounted horns, tiger- and cheetah-skin rugs and an elephant’s foot stool. Parts of the classic movie “Out of Africa” were filmed there.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jon McCormack

10. Being silly with the little kids- Our kids often help the preschoolers when the service team is leading stories and crafts. Drawing and gluing often lead to making goofy faces and tickling.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jon McCormack

September 1, 2012

The Unexpected Benefits of World Travel with Kids

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Caren and her family traveled to Kenya this summer for a service trip. Caren is the President and Co-founder of The Kilgoris Project, a non-profit that runs schools, medical programs and economic development efforts in rural Kenya. We outfitted Caren’s family with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part one of their adventure.

Travel with Kids

Non-profit work in Kenya makes world travel a regular part of my life. The office is in California; the groundwork happens half a world away.

Unlike some working moms, I often get to take my children with me on business trips. Since my work is service, there are great lessons for them to learn from my efforts.

Yes, I want my daughters to know about a big world beyond suburbia. And I want them to care about the less fortunate in it. But there are some unexpected perks that delight me every time we haul ourselves around the globe.

Here a few benefits I noticed on this trip:

Free play—There’s a freedom to rural childhood that my kids get to taste for a few weeks at a time. Maasai kids don’t have playdates; they just play.

Travel with Kids

They wander in fields with cows and sheep. They build houses for stick dolls under palm trees. They play catch outside after dark. My kids easily fall into this rhythm, and I love the creative play that ensues.

Family bonding—My two sisters-in-law also happen to be colleagues. They bring their children on our longer business trips, too. So the cousins, who live across the U.S. from each other, get more time together abroad than at home.

Travel with Kids

The younger girls all sleep in the same room. The older ones give piggyback rides and help tuck in mosquito nets at night. They giggle and fight, sing and annoy each other, tell inside jokes and make rabbit ears above each other’s heads. I’d like to think these growing bonds will keep them well connected when they’re older.

Cultural comfort—The more we travel, the more I see my kids at home anywhere. They’re learning to take language barriers and different customs in stride. They played peek-a-boo with a Pakistani toddler on the plane. They remembered to cover their arms in Dubai. They offered their heads for Kenyan elders to pat.

Travel with Kids

In years past, not understanding a local language or being presented with unfamiliar food would have thrown them more. But now they’re rising to new occasions.

On this trip, we visited a possible new school site, so remote that many local children had never seen Caucasians.  They took the curious touching of their skin and hair in stride. Soon they were jumping rope with new friends. I love when my kids inspire me like this.

Travel with Kids

World travel with children can be stressful, but I’m blessed to be able to do it. The great surprises outweigh any obstacles.

 

 

August 19, 2012

Parenting, Danish Style

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Lency and her family traveled to Denmark this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part four of their adventure.

Travel with Kids

Different parenting styles have been big news in the past couple years, or maybe I’ve just started noticing since I’ve entered that chapter of my life. A couple years ago it was the Tiger Mom, this year it was French parenting. I thought it would be fun to reflect on some of the differences I’ve seen in how the Danes parent compared to American parenting, as viewed through my personal lens.

Travel with Kids
Danish kids nap outside. Rain, shine, sleet or hail, all Danish kids I have ever met nap outside in their giant, beautiful prams. When they start attending nursery school at around a year of age, the prams go with them and all the babies nap outside in a covered area with sound monitors. It is believed that napping outdoors strengthens the babies’ lungs and gives them better health. While I have my personal doubts about whether that claim would bear out scientifically, I do like the idea of outdoor napping and have given it a half-hearted try with my two daughters (without much success, unfortunately). You can always find a parking lot of prams parked outside a restaurant or any public space.

Travel wit Kids
The Danes are famous for their biking, and cargo bikes are an especially popular way to transport the groceries and kids in Copenhagen. Cars are subject to a 100% car tax in Denmark and gas is at least twice as expensive as it is in the U.S., so many Danes choose to get around by bike instead. Cyclists enjoy extremely safe and convenient biking conditions in Copenhagen, including bike paths that are separated from the cars and special traffic lights for bikes. On any given day of the week, you will see hoards of cyclists: men in suits, women in high heels, students going to school, adults with kid seats on the back, big and little, male and female, young and old. I should mention that my my mother-in-law, who raised three kids and lives in the countryside, has never had a driver’s license and biked the 6 miles to and from work almost every day of the year until she retired last year. It’s quite inspiring!

Travel with Kids
Our annual trip to Denmark to visit half our family and friends is always a reminder of a different pace of life. We observe and reflect on the more relaxed daily living and high quality of life. People work fewer hours, commute less, have at least six weeks of holiday a year. These are just a few of the many reasons they have claimed the top spot in United Nations’ 2012 World Happiness Report. We find that our friends have an excellent balance between work and home life and while there are arguments against the system, Danes overall seem quite content.

Travel with Kids
We love being outside in the Danish summertime, even if the weather is not always summery. Our friends were eager to show us their sprouting gardens and walk along the newly minted bike path that replaced the old abandoned railroad. The kids were excited to jump on their ubiquitous trampolines and make use of the many play structures. Due to the intense weather during much of the rest of the year, Danes appreciate their summers with enthusiastic gusto. As soon as a ray of sunshine appears, the Danes immediately run outside to soak up the rays, even if it means being wrapped up in a blanket because it’s still cold.


August 18, 2012

These are a Few of Our Favorite Things

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Lency and her family traveled to Denmark this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part three of their adventure.

Travel with Kids

We’ve been going on trips to Denmark every summer for the past nine years, but the last four visits have taken on a new meaning: we’ve had our kids with us. We travel differently now, and enjoy Denmark in a new way.

Travel with Kids
When you live across the world from Farmor (father’s mother), time together takes on a new meaning. We spend a lot of our trip making sure our kids get to be with their farmor. The sight of Farmor’s yellow brick country house nestled amongst the fields of wheat and barley is always an exciting one, but it’s extra special now that we are reuniting our daughters with their Danish grandma.

Travel with Kids

We love visiting the cows that live near Farmor’s house and feeding them grass. They come running over, as the hares and birds scatter out of their way. It’s fun to see that a farm with around forty cows can exist.

Travel with Kids
Shockingly, we go to children’s parks now. The playground equipment is different from what we have at home, so it’s a novelty for our girls. On one of our park trips the skies suddenly clouded over and the rain poured down. Everyone gathered under a covered area, but I didn’t last long there because of all the smoking. There are some cultural differences that are hard to get used to.

Travel with Kids
Reuniting with our friends and all their children is so much fun every year. Our older daughter does well with the Danish, but really kids can make do without a common language. Most of the kids we know have  summer birthdays (you would want a summer birthday, too, if you lived in Scandinavia), so our older daughter has become very fond of the Danish birthday cake: a layer cake with jam and vanilla cream filling  covered with whipped cream.

Family, animals, playgrounds, friends and birthday cake: these are a few of our favorite things.

August 17, 2012

Danish Hygge

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Lency and her family traveled to Denmark this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part two of their adventure.

Travel with kids

Hygge is a very uniquely Danish word that has no English translation.

The closest approximation is “coziness.” It’s what happens when it gets dark at 3:00pm in the wintertime, when it’s too windy and cold to enjoy the outdoors, when everyone is forced to be close together inside. Out come the candles, the music, the food and drink, the stories and jokes and laughter. That’s hygge, or at least how I’ve come to know it. To tell someone that your visit was very “hyggelig” (full of hygge) is the highest compliment. Luckily for us, hygge exists throughout the year so we get to soak it up in the summertime during our visits.

Travel with Kids

Danes love their open-faced sandwiches and it’s what we ate for lunch every day. The dark, heavy rye bread comes out first, and then all the toppings: butter, cheese, liver pate, eggs, cucumber, tomato, herring. There are many variations, but certain combinations are acceptable and others shocking. Who knew that liver pate and cheese was such an outlandish mix?

Travel with Kids

Perhaps because of all the time spent indoors enjoying hygge during certain times of the year, Danes care about how the interior of their homes look. Danish design is known around the world as simple, sleek, and light. Our Danish friends furnish their homes with a great deal of thought and intention- always hardwood floors, usually white or off-white walls and furnishings, lots of soft lighting, carefully chosen artwork.

Travel with Kids

It took me a while to get used to the length of the Danish meal. I remember my very first meal on my very first trip to Denmark many years ago; everyone was so lovely and eager to show me their beautiful country, but I was seriously jet-lagged and unprepared for the stamina the Danes have for sitting down and talking. A summer dinner date with friends can easily last seven hours, so it’s a good thing we like our friends.

Travel with Kids

I really love how the Danes make a point to sit down together for a meal. It’s how I was raised and it’s how I try to raise my family.

Perhaps it’s a bit easier for the Danes because they are usually able to get home earlier than the average American, at least in my experience. Nevertheless, the family meal is something I think is incredibly valuable and seems to be at the core of Danish hygge.

 

August 16, 2012

Danes on the Go

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Lency and her family traveled to Denmark this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part one of their adventure.

Travel with Kids
Our annual trip to Denmark to visit half our family and friends is always a reminder of a different pace of life. We observe and reflect on the more relaxed daily living and high quality of life. People work fewer hours, commute less, have six weeks of holiday. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, there are many reasons they have claimed the top spot in United Nations’ 2012 World Happiness Report.

One of our favorite things about Denmark is the many alternate modes of travel. This is our friends’ Christiania-style bike, where the kids and cargo can all be loaded in the front.
travel with kids
This is how many kids in Copenhagen are transported to school, on errands, or around town, and it’s one way people can manage without a car. Most of our friends went for years without cars, only purchasing them once they had multiple kids and moved out of Copenhagen to the more distant suburbs. Back during the late-1970′s oil crisis, Denmark instituted “car-free Sundays” and there were songs romanticizing biking. Fast forward 25 years and the Danes continue to invest in their bike paths. Along any given road, you are likely to see a parallel bike path, with lots of people using it.

Travel with Kids

We love the Danish rail system! There is an extensive network of speedy, quiet, and frequent trains that is used by many Danes to get to and from work, home, and errands. It’s an easy, although not cheap, way to get around Copenhagen specifically, Denmark in general, and all of Scandinavia. We are inspired to support our own rail systems at home in hopes that they, too, will someday be as efficient, as clean, as quiet, and as used as the Danish trains.

It’s not just the Danish trains that are so worthy of envy- the Norwegian trains are just as beautiful. This is the train from the Oslo airport into town. Our older daughter loves all forms of public transit (thanks to Papa), so she is very excited each summer to go on as many trains and buses as possible.

Travel with Kids
Instead of worrying about car parking, apartment buildings in Denmark have to make sure there is enough space for all the bikes! Cyclists enjoy extremely safe and convenient biking conditions in Copenhagen, including bike paths that are separated from the cars and special traffic lights for bikes. On any given day of the week, you will see hoards of cyclists: men in suits, women in high heels, students going to school, adults with kid seats on the back, big and little, male and female, young and old. The mercurial weather doesn’t even stop them- they just tuck their heads down and pedal into the rain, the wind, the sleet, and the snow of short, dark, winter days. I should mention that my my mother-in-law, who raised three kids and lives in the countryside, has never had a driver’s license and biked the 6 miles to and from work almost every day of the year until she retired last year. It truly is the way the Danes get around.

It helps that it’s a very flat country.

Travel with Kids

 

February 25, 2012

Souvenir Shopping in Mexico

Our third Foreign Correspondent has returned from her travels! Mary, her husband, and her two children traveled to Mexico this winter. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part four of their adventure. To learn more about her family’s adventures, check out her The World is a Book blog.

Mexico Souvenir Shop

While souvenirs are mostly associated with trinkets, I’d rather like to think of its other Spanish meaning of “recuerdo” – a memory.  This is how we want to look at souvenirs – tangible memories of a wonderful family vacation. It was quite appropriate since our family visited predominantly Spanish speaking countries of Mexico, Belize and Honduras. My 9-year old daughter says a souvenir is special because “it helps me remember where I’ve been”.

Mexico was a treasure trove of souvenirs for all of us. We were a little bit more restrained in Belize and Honduras as our time was limited and shopping wasn’t as abundant compared to Mexico. Imagine the excitement with the variety of maracas they could play with and the number of sombreros they could try on.

Maracas in Mexico

So, what were the most popular souvenirs for kids when we visited Mexico? The typical maracas, small guitars, marionettes and sombreros were everywhere. But, the one with the most appeal to children, especially boys, were the Lucha Libre masks. These were the colorful masks of animals, heroes or pop culture items that Mexican wrestlers wore.

Luche Libre masks

Souvenirs are not only about the shopping experience but also the cultural association with a place. Over the years, we’ve bought dolls and beanie babies representing each country or city visited. We’ve probably collected enough to assemble our own United Nations parade. My daughter found more dolls from three new countries during this trip, each wearing their traditional native costumes to add to her collection.  I’m glad she’s still young enough to enjoy them. It’s a simple connection she has to a country and a culture.

Guitars in Mexico

Interacting with the vendors and practicing friendly phrases in the local language is among the joys of shopping in a foreign country for us. Our kids loved saying ‘Hola’, ‘Gracias’ and ‘Adios’.  They enjoyed saying the minimal Spanish they knew and the vendors were more than happy responding with big smiles on their faces for attempting to talk in the native tongue. We’ve found through the years that a simple hello and thank you to vendors in their local language goes a long way while traveling.

Talavera Shop

When the vacation is over and as they go on their daily lives, souvenirs can transport the kids back to that special time and place.  Souvenirs can represent the local people they met, the areas they explored and their experiences during the visit.