Monday, July 22, 2013

Iftars, Goodbyes, Anniversary, Packing, Shopping, Madness

Just when I thought that our lives cannot be anymore frenetic and exhausting, it happened. This is what is happening in our lives right about now:

  1. Ramadan is back! I cannot believe that we managed to be here through another Ramadan – typically it is in August and since we already have been here for 2 years, it only makes sense to see it twice. Just for us, the special of the decade, Ramadan this year fell in July. And you should know by now, fasting during Ramadan ends every night with an Iftar, a typical meal of water, dates and sweets, followed by massive quantities of food in the houses of those blessed to be able to afford that. You’d think that fasting during Ramadan is a great opportunity for the pious rotund revelers to shed a pound or ten since they do not eat or drink a thing until sunset. Apparently, however, people struggle not to GAIN weight during this time of fast. As an obsessive dieter, I am painfully aware that any period of starvation will lead to a counterproductive stuffing of my face later on. Imagine then the hapless Western diplomat or guest, who has been eating pretty finely all day and then has to face the cornucopia of an Iftar dinner. If fasting people gain weight then, what’s left to us gluttons who do not fast? So, yes, my waistline shudders at the thought of Ramadan given the crazy amount of Iftar invitations we receive.
  2. Add to this the many lovely goodbye parties, receptions and dinners our friends are hosting for us lately. Saying “no” is not an option as we want to see everyone before we leave. But after the 10th party, especially if you keep seeing some of the same guests, it is starting to get a little awkward as we keep saying goodbye to them over and over again. I feel like people are secretly thinking, “Leave already, damn it!”
  3. Then add to that our packing this past week. Even though the good people from the State Department pay for packers and movers who come and pack everything for you, including the Embassy furniture (yup, it happened, even though I had been warned about it and told the movers many times what NOT to pack – there was some unpacking today before they took all 128 boxes away), it is still exhausting as you prance about the house and realize that there are clothes/thing that you/your husband have not worn/used/remembered since your wedding and they probably need to go NOW. Naturally, it is a good question why they got packed to Bangladesh in the first time, but suffice it to say that I was not the one supervising our prior packout, so…At any rate, I got rid of a heap of old clothes this week, which makes me so darn happy. I am even giving up 4 pairs of shoes!!! Which, in truth, had to happen – you’d be curious to know that out of our 6 traveling suitcases, one is completely and solely filled with high heeled shoes. Yup, 20 kg of shoes. I am not saying that is ALL of my shoes. I am just saying that is all the shoes I am taking with me to Washington. The rest will travel directly to Rio de Janeiro to await me anxiously in the spring. I simply ran out of space.
  4. I am also trying to complete all of the clothes that I am having tailored here. As you can imagine, tailors here are obscenely cheap and have helped me augment my already massive closet considerably. So, I am frantically trying to complete everything to be able to stuff it in my boxes as the suitcases are already full. Same goes for framing pictures, buying gifts, selecting mementos and the like. Naturally, it does not help when all the boxes are packed and sealed to receive a decorative anvil as a goodbye gift, which inevitably happens. So, a piece of advice for all my fellow Foreign Service packers out there – if you are packing a few days before you leave post, ask the movers to leave you a box for collateral damage. That would include the above-mentioned anvil, dresses late from the tailor, two precious wooden kitchen spoons which Son apparently has been playing with somewhat unusually quietly in the most remote room of the house while the movers were around, a favorite glass Tupperware, which has been lying around the back of the fridge with something unidentifiable in it for what appears to be several months, and other similar domestic treasures. Then ask the moving company to pick the box up the day before you leave.
  5. And amidst the madness, the Diplomat and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. Yup, it has been a while that have been doing this marriage thing. And it has been eventful, folks. We definitely were not bored all those years. Whether it was looking for jobs, scraping through law school, suffering through business school, facing layoffs, having a baby, traveling like mad people, buying or selling apartments, moving overseas and then some more, life together has been entertaining and never, ever boring. It does help that the Diplomat is rather easy on the eyes.

We have about 10 days left in this lovely land of Bangladesh, which translates itself into 24 more iftars, and 21 more goodbye dinners. It also means that I will definitely need an aisle seat on my way out of here as my behind will have expanded by probably 30 solid pounds by then. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to Fly with Babies

The Diplomat and I recently traveled with Son on a little vacation to Hua Hin in Thailand in search of calm waters, clean air and good food. On the way, in the same plane there happened to be a family with a new baby, and, since we are such lucky bastards, there was one more on the way back. Both yelled their heads off and the parents were making it even worse by trying to entertain them. Now, in general, I do not mind babies on a plane – I have had one and I know what it is like. In reality, most of baby crying actually isn’t as loud as the poor parents think – I think the frustration and embarrassment of your screaming progeny augments your perception of the noise and you are convinced that even the pilot is ready to flush your dear child out of the toilet. Since I was sitting right behind them, however, the babies were practically splitting my ears.   
There are a couple of pieces of advice I would like to offer to those parents who are about to embark on a plane journey with a small child in an effort to make their and our journey more tolerable. Son has been on planes since he was 2 months old, and I think I have sufficient wisdom to share. Just like us, babies’ tiny ears get plugged during the ascension of the plane after takeoff. For them, that is distressing and often painful. That is why most babies who are awake during that time scream their tiny butts off. In those cases, PLEASE, do not try to bounce the unfortunate child up and down like a basketball, do not shove pens or expensive jewelry in its hands to distract him, or try to interest him in the emergency procedures cards. That will only make the child even more awake and irritated. Ears would either pop open or never even get plugged in the first place if your baby is swallowing something during takeoff. If you are breastfeeding, takeoff is your golden opportunity to nurse to achieve 2 major objectives:
1.       Help its ears stay unplugged as it swallows milk
2.       Puts him or her to sleep (especially if this is an evening flight) so that by the time the plane evens out and the pretty ladies with the food and drinks come around, your tiny cargo is ready to be put in the bassinet (if you are flying international and there is such thing), or would simply snooze the rest of the trip snuggled nicely in your arms (preferably in your husband’s arms, actually, so that you can ingest some much needed libation).
If you don’t breastfeed, simply have a bottle ready with nice, warm milk or whatever it is that you are feeding it. I have never had a problem asking the airhostesses to give me some warm water to mix with the prepared formula.
Do NOT do any of these:
1.       Give your baby a 5 hour nap before you get on the plane – that would only guarantee much bouncing in your or your neighbors laps, delighted (or not so much) yelps and generally the need to entertain the little beast while you are trying to maintain a low profile and eat your tiny airplane dinner.
2.       Try to distract and bounce the child, toss him around and give him noisy entertainment. Rather, try your best to make them sleep. The hum of the plane is magical – if you calm your hyper child sufficiently, it would actually doze off quite fast. Everyone will love you.
3.       Give the kid candy or anything with a lot of carbs – the resulting energy rush will cause your baby to be twice as vocal and bouncy, and your seat neighbors twice as murderous.

In all honestly, I find flying with babies a much easier task than, say, flying with toddlers. Son has been trained to sleep on the plane the moment we takeoff or right after the food has been eaten (he delights in eating airplane food, apparently he thinks it is some kind of a special treat bestowed upon him). But as he grows older, there are more demands to go pee, have some more water, draw for 5 more minutes, see a movie, walk down the aisle to see the pretty ladies in the service area, ask to scratch his back, tell him a story, drink milk, pee again, hug and ask for a blanket, complain that the seat is not comfy, then drink some more water and finally settle down to sleep. A baby can make no such demands – it drinks milk and conks out. Beautiful.