Europe by Rail with Kids: Moments of Bickering and Panic

So we hadn’t even made it to the check-in counter in Nashville, as far from Europe as you can be, and the kids were already fighting about who would lift which suitcase onto what train in Europe. “Because you never were much help last time” was one’s admonishment. Never mind that last time was, oh, seven years ago and the kid in question probably weighed less than 30 pounds, much less than her suitcase.
We will be hoisting a whole lot of suitcases onto a whole lot of trains the next three weeks.
To be precise, a total of 22 trains, times 4 bags and 5 backpacks. Assuming we catch all the
right trains the first time, the likelihood of which is rather low I think.

Just a few moments later, that same kid asks me, predictably: “do we have to go through security?”  She asks this Every. Single. Time. “Honey, where have you been the last 13 years” is what I want to ask, but I bite my tongue, lest there be further eruptions of temper. Instead, ...  Continue Reading

Europe by Rail with Four Kids

I must be insane.

At least that’s what everyone tells me. But it was either flying through creation just to see the grandparents, or flying through creation to see the grandparents and a bunch of really cool cities.

Who doesn’t want to see some cool European cities?

Our family, that’s who.

Or I should ...  Continue Reading

Traveling Premier Classe

The following is a guest post by Natalie Irwin about traveling from Johannesburg to Cape Town on the Premier Classe Train. One of the few regrets I have about our time in South Africa is that we never managed to do just that, and I was very happy to get at small glimpse of it through her story.

Even though we’ve lived in Johannesburg, South Africa, for two and a half years, we had never managed to visit Cape Town. I guess we were waiting for the right time but finally realized that if we didn’t want to miss out on Cape Town altogether, we had to just go.

So, ...  Continue Reading

No Regrets

Not only is the year 2012 coming to an end today. Today also marks the end of our family’s life in South Africa. As you’re reading this, we are somewhere en route between Joburg and Tennessee, making a last splash in an undisclosed Middle Eastern location – okay, Dubai, if you must know – before reality sets in again.
Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, August 2012
So forgive me if I feel the need to make some sweeping observations not only about this past year but our entire African adventure. I have no regrets. When we came to Johannesburg in early 2010, we had the benefit of having a prior expat assignment under our belts. That made a huge difference – not so much in terms of navigating a new country but in terms of our attitude towards it and life in general. What I mean is we knew to leave out nothing from the start. I was greatly helped in this by my farsighted husband Noisette, I admit, because I am by nature a couch potato. If there is a computer on my lap, that is. I remember that as an expat novice in Singapore some fifteen years ago I focused all my energies on forging a routine and willing my surroundings to function as I wished. Because that’s what new mothers do. Routine is king and you enslave yourself to it. But the truth is that afterwards you don’t remember the routine. You remember the time you sped over Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river in a water taxi, even though you threw up afterwards from breathing all the diesel fumes. Or you might have thrown up because you were pregnant. You remember the giant waves lapping into your undersized motorboat taking you to some godforsaken island off the Malaysia coast. You remember the time you stood on the highest mountain in New Zealand clutching your two-year old on skis, afraid that he’d be blown right out to sea by that howling wind. You remember feeling transported back in time when touring Pulau Ubin off the shores of Singapore, pedaling your bike with a napping toddler behind you through sleepy Kampongs. Those are the things your remember, and you regret not having done more of them. Because what else will you have one day to look back on than a bunch of memories? So here in South Africa we dove right in from Day One. We went on our first safari with the house still a mess of boxes fresh from the container. We rode in a hot air balloon, in a helicopter, on elephants, on dune buggies, and on camels. Put endless hours in noisy and bouncy safari vehicles under our belts for the privilege to watch lions, giraffes, buffalos, elephants, impala, waterbuck, rhinos, hippos, zebras, wildebeests, and even a leopard. Toured Soweto. Went into the notorious no-go zone of Alexandra, many times. Drove women and their firewood through Diepsloot. Visited Cape Town. And Durban. And Umhlanga Rocks. Had the most glorious food and wine in Franschhoek. Explored Mozambique, Mauritius,Zanzibar, Victoria Falls, Botswana. Watched our eldest fling himself from the Bloukrans bridge on a bungy cord and from an airplane with a parachute. Saw African penguins in the wild. Swam in the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Okavango. Paddled down the Zambezi. Went into a cage in the freezing Atlantic to come face to face with Great White Sharks. Were kissed by elephants. Dangled from ziplines over the Tsitsikamma forest.

 ...  Continue Reading

The Birds and the Bees and the Lions Too

[Alert: Graphic images and explicit language]. Good. I can see I have your full attention.

So how many safaris have we been on with our kids here in Africa? Three? Four? Now we go on the first one WITHOUT kids, and what should we get to see the very first afternoon at Banoka Bush Camp?

Mating lions. In fact, it’s the first time we’ve seen anything mate in the wild. If you don’t count the odd dragon flies over our pool.

How cool would that have been for the kids, I ask you? And, more importantly,
 ...  Continue Reading

Road Trip

As you are reading this we are well into our road trip across Namibia, another glorious country of Southern Africa we were determined to see while we live here.

We might have already seen gigantic red sand dunes.
We might have surfed down one of those dunes.
We might have seen lions.
 ...  Continue Reading

Diving in the Red Sea

This will be the final part of my Traveling to Egypt with Kids series.

But never fear, it won’t involve nearly as much reading as the previous ones. The reason being that it didn’t involve nearly as much whining by the kids. Because this is the story about what we mainly came to do in Egypt, which is diving in the Red Sea.

And what can’t you do while ...  Continue Reading

Snorkeling with Kids and Ready to Trade them at the Next Bazaar

There are certain things in life that you should not attempt to teach your children.

Like riding a bike. Invariably, you will work your heart out, huffing and puffing beside that bike, hovering so as to catch it should it lean too much to one side, and when things go wrong, as of course they will, who is the person getting yelled at? You, of course.

Skiing also belongs in that category. ...  Continue Reading

Yallah, Yallah!

I know you’ve been feverishly awaiting the camel story promised in Part 1 of our Egypt story, so here it goes:

Our next stop after the “First Egyptian Papyrus Museum” was actually in Giza, as promised. Though not exactly next to the pyramids. Rather, we found ourselves in a dodgy-looking back alley where Hassan, our driver, parked the car right next to the tethered camel.

Some guys, who I’m ...  Continue Reading