Monday, August 28, 2017

Trip Snippets

Tyler and I have officially moved to Korea! He had to leave about 3 weeks after our daughter was born because of the start of our new contract, but I stayed in Australia for almost a month after he left to finish closing up shop and get the baby her first round of vaccinations before we got on a plane.

Nine months ago, flying to a new continent with a new baby sounded like a challenge, but I didn't think it was impossible. Thankfully, because our baby is so wonderful and calm (I realize we hit the lottery with her), it wasn't impossible and the biggest challenge was wrangling all our luggage and carry-ons while also holding on to an almost two-month-old. But I did it! I am woman, hear me roar.

I have no war story to share here, and there is no shortage of other blogs with tips and tricks for travelling with a baby, but there were funny little snippets of our trip that I want to remember and they're too good not to share.

1. So we get to Sydney for our layover and I have to check in with Asiana Airlines because they are handling the rest of our trip. (Side note: they have a "Happy Mom" check in line so that you don't have to wait in the long line with a kid. Uhh, yes. I was a very happy mom thanks to that!) I hand over our passports and the attendant starts typing away to check us in. After a few minutes she hands me off to her supervisor, who also starts typing away.

After a couple of minutes the supervisor points to the baby and says, "How much is the baby?" She was Korean and clearly didn't have a complete grasp on the English language. It took me a beat to figure out that she was asking how old my daughter was.

"Seven weeks," I say for approximately the fifth time that day. People love babies. I had gotten stopped a lot so strangers could coo at my sweet daughter. I'm not complaining, she's cute as all get out and everyone should bask in her cuteness.

Anyway, the supervisor goes back to typing and eventually looks up and goes, "How did she come to Australia?"

So many responses popped in my head:

"Via the Birth Canal?
"I smuggled her in in my uterus?"
"Well, you see, when two people love each other very much..."

Instead of just said, "She was born here."

Turns out I was supposed to have registered her with immigration so they could grant her a visa, and the supervisor couldn't find record of Bubs in the government system, so she couldn't clear her for legal departure from the country. Oops!

2. Eventually we clear immigration with a warning and a promise on behalf of my daughter to enter the country legally next time and I make my way to security. Let me paint the picture for you:

I'm wearing a 10 pound infant in an ergobaby on the front. I've got a VERY overstuffed backpack on my back. I've got a VERY overstuffed diaper bag, weighted down with my breast pump and all its accouterments, hanging off my right shoulder. I'm carrying her folded up travel bassinet in my left hand, and I stuck a few diapers and a travel changing pad in there before I folded it up.

So with all that, I get to the security line and see there is a 15 minute wait in line and I steel myself for the mommy version of Ninja Warrior when I hear, "With the baby? This way, please," and see a woman indicating I should go in the opposite direction to the Land of No Waiting. I'm pretty sure I heard angels singing.

There's something to this travelling with a baby!

I get to the front of the line and the lady who indicates which counter to approach looks at me and goes, "Are you travelling together?"

...I look down at my chest at my sleeping baby and back and the lady. I point to my daughter and go, "...Me and her?"

The lady kind of laughed and waved me through and that's when I notice that two women had tagged along behind me and the lady thought we were all together.

3. Fast forward to the end of the long haul flight from Sydney to Seoul. Almost 10 hours and Bubs was a DREAM!! She slept most of the time and when she was awake she was living for all the cooing passers-by and just smiling at all the new sights and sounds.

Anyway, I'm loaded back down with all the previously mentioned stuff and squinting at the sign at the end of the jetway to see which direction I should go when an Asiana Airlines worker pops into my field of vision and stops me.

"Do you car?" she said, still searching her brain for the correct English word for "stroller."

It made me chuckle.

Vicariously yours,

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Expat friends have a new baby? Here's how to show your love

Tyler and I are from the American South. When a life event happens, Southerners bring food.

Death in the family? Here's a casserole.

Just moved into a new house? Here's a casserole.

New baby? Here's a casserole.

We like casseroles.

The point is that by bringing food, you're inevitably invited in and can get the low down on a new neighbor, cuddle a cute baby, or hug a grieving friend. It allows us to speak our love language (which is food. We like food in the South) and leave behind a night's meal to take some of the stress of life away.

The tricky part is that Tyler and I moved away right at the beginning of the phase of our life when our friends started busting out kids. Hard to send a casserole when you're on another continent. We missed out on baby showers, so often registries were picked dry by the time we'd finally worked out where folks were registered. We didn't know how to show our friends our love from so far away, so often times we just didn't do anything.

With that predicament in mind, and now that we've joined the New Parents Club (oh yeah, we had the baby. More on that later), we thought we'd compile a short list of ways that friends who were left behind by expats can show their support when a new baby is born thousands of miles away and the cost of a flight prohibitively expensive. I've listed them in order of cheapest and least effort/preparation to most expensive and complicated.

1. Condition-less text messages. We have friends here in Australia that did the typical stop-by-and-coo-at-the-baby visits, but our friends back home couldn't pop in to check on how we were doing or just to say they were thinking of us. A few of our friends, however, sent messages to say hello but also to tell us about their lives. I'm not sure if every new mom feels this way, but I found myself in the middle of the night with a baby on my boob looking for news of what was going on in the world that wasn't related to Donald Trump. I so appreciated the text messages I got from friends with funny memes, quick stories about their day, or a link to an article about that moms panel that Disney is putting together to help families plan the perfect vacation.

BUT, being a new mom, I was (was? I still am and feel like I will always be) sleep deprived, emotionally overwhelmed, and for a few weeks, in a lot of pain. Sometimes I would go to type up a response to a text message, but then the baby would wake up or drop a massive deuce and I would get distracted and the response would never get sent. I appreciated that my friends knew that the conversation would be one sided, hopefully just for a little while, and that was ok. It helped me feel like I won't be lost completely to momhood, and that my friends knew that I would probably need a laugh at some point in the day with no strings attached.

2. Amazon gift cards. If you're like me, you feel kind of icky just sending a gift card. I always feel like a gift card says, "I couldn't think of anything else to get you." And in many cases, that's true. However, a couple friends sent us an Amazon gift card around the time our daughter was born and oh my gosh they were life savers!

First of all, about 60% of what you can buy on Amazon can be sent to just about anywhere in the world, so the new parents can get what they need, which is often not what typical new parents need when you're living in a foreign country. In our case, we are trying to be as minimal as possible with this kid because we're moving to a new country before she hits two months old, and eventually we're going to move to another new country and won't want to unload a bunch of baby stuff that wasn't absolutely crucial to our parental success. So by giving an Amazon gift card, you're saying, "Go crazy, y'all. Get what you really need because I have no idea what that is right now." It relieved so much stress for me because I also had no idea what I really needed until I actually needed it. I was able to get some stuff that we needed for the move, but also some of the cute little baby things that I'd had my eye on.

3. Paypal a meal or Uber fare. Please understand that as a Southerner I would probably never accept this kind of gift (also because I'm the worst receiver of gifts), but Tyler and I found ourselves going back and forth to the hospital several times a day because our daughter was kept in the special care nursery for a week (more on that later) and racking up a LOT of bills for Uber fares, parking garage fees, or on one unfortunate day a $78 parking fine because we didn't notice the two hour parking limit. We knew parenthood would be expensive and had meticulously squirreled away money for every expense we could have predicted, but we weren't expecting to have to visit our daughter in the hospital after I was sent home. We had a ton of support from friends near and far, and we made it just fine financially, but I made a mental note that if we have friends in the future who find themselves in our same situation, even just $10 snuck into an email inbox via paypal would help to relieve some of the pressure.

If your friends are like us and would never dream of accepting money as a gift, but they find themselves with a sick baby staying in the hospital right after birth, make a donation to the Ronald McDonald house or the March of Dimes in their name instead. Our little girl only had to stay 5 days in the hospital, and it was only a precaution; she wasn't really sick, but those 5 days were so stressful. Tyler was running ragged between the hospital and our apartment because I was staying at the nursery to feed our baby every 3 hours. We both knew the Ronald McDonald house did great stuff, but we now truly understand how valuable it is to have a bed you can crash in just steps away from the hospital so you can sneak a nap or being able to cook a meal rather than having another cold sandwich from the hospital cafe.

4. A small care package of stuff from home. Shipping goodies to another continent is often really expensive, so no expat expects to get a lot of packages after leaving home, but I felt a little homesick after coming back from the hospital with our new little bundle. When I say small package, I don't even mean a box, it can be one of those heavy-duty plastic envelope things that the post office has, and its contents can be as simple as a baby onesie from home, some snacks that can only be found in America (or where ever is home for the new parents), or a Christmas ornament from a local shop...something small that is easy to pack (because expats are always on the move) and that will show your friends that you are thinking of them back home.

The care package thing can be tricky depending on the country your expat friends live in. For example, we are still waiting on the Christmas presents our family sent us in Kuwait in 2012. The postal service in our homes in the Middle East was about as dependable as the Bermuda Triangle because of customs officials with sticky fingers or maybe just employees who couldn't be bothered to work efficiently. So make sure you check with your friends before you put something irreplaceable in the mail.

I know 3 of these 4 things involve money and two of them might require you to do some sleuth work to make them happen, but I promise that any of the gifts on this list will be so meaningful to your friends overseas. It is easy to feel forgotten after you've left home, so any small token from friends from a previous life can make a wanderer feel loved. Don't be shy.

Vicariously yours,