Traveling With Your Young Child to Middle-of-Nowhere Latin America

baby-coconut

Okay, “middle-of-nowhere” is an exaggeration, but that’s what it feels like when you’re so far away from everything that represents normalcy to you – And if you have a baby with you, multiply that times a hundred.

A friend of mine will soon experience this first hand as she’s traveling to a small pueblo in Mexico, so this post is for her. Although my experience traveling with babies is limited, I did learn a few things the hard way. Those hard learned lessons will have to suffice as advice – or as the Catherine Aird quote goes, “If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.”

So, here we go. Ten pieces of advice for anyone traveling with a baby and staying at a location which may not have the modern amenities you’re accustomed to.

Disclaimer: This advice may or may not apply to you depending on where exactly you’re coming from and where exactly you’re going, but this is the advice I’m giving based on my own experiences. Just because this post focuses on the difficulties and less desirable circumstances I encountered does not mean one should assume all of Latin America is represented. Latin America is extremely diverse and just like the United States and anywhere else in the world, there are areas of great wealth, areas of great poverty and everything in between. This advice is meant for individuals coming from a lifestyle of modern conveniences who are visiting and staying in a place that does not have those same modern conveniences.

Traveling With Your Young Child to Middle-of-Nowhere Latin America

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#1. Get yourself and your baby up to date on any necessary shots. Besides getting your passport and traveling documents in order, you should go to the doctor and pediatrician, tell them where you’re going and when, and ask their advice about any recommended vaccinations as they may advise you to get shots that aren’t on the regular schedule. Do your own research ahead of time too on the CDC website so you can ask your doctor any questions you might have. (Also make use of the advice on the State Department website regarding your passport, closest U.S. consulate and embassy locations to where you’ll be staying, and how to handle emergencies while abroad.)

By the way, it’s somewhat controversial but some doctors will recommend “sedating” your baby or young child for a long flight using a medicine such as Benadryl. If you decide to go this route, make sure you get the proper dosing for your child’s weight and give it a trial run before the flight as some children actually become hyper on the medicine instead of sleepy, which is obviously the exact opposite of what you want when you’re 30,000 feet in the air in a cramped space with a hundred irritable strangers.

#2. Don’t let the doctor freak you out. I almost starved in El Salvador the first time we went because my doctor told me about all the diseases I would get if I ate unwashed fruit or vegetables, or if I drank the water. And I was constantly stressed and vigilant in preventing well-meaning relatives from slipping my baby a bite of food from their plates. I’m not saying it isn’t possible to get sick from contaminated food, but don’t let this be something you’re constantly paranoid about to the point that it ruins your trip. On our second trip to El Salvador I ate with reckless abandon. I ate a torta from a market stall that didn’t even have a proper sink for the owner to wash their hands. I survived.

cocina

Instead of worrying about food poisoning and other food borne illnesses, focus on trying to prevent more likely and dangerous possibilities – such as your child wandering off. This may be overboard, but I had dog tags made with our local address in El Salvador in case they became lost. If your child doesn’t know the language well or the address of where you’re staying, knowing they have the address on them at all times will ease some of your anxiety.

dogtags

#3. Packaged foods are a lifesaver. Even if you and your child happily eat from vendors, markets, and the kitchens of your in-laws, it’s possible that at some point your child is going to want the comfort that only familiar packaged food can provide. If you can find the room in your luggage, pack a few favorites – a jar of peanut butter, a box of Cheerios, granola bars, etc. For a baby, consider packing baby food (avoid glass jars) and their formula in case you can’t find them at your destination.

Local authentically prepared meals are sure to be delicious, but don’t be ashamed if you feel the need to visit a local fast food place once in awhile. (Thank you Pollo Campero and Biggest for keeping me sane.)

pollo-campero-hat

#4. It’s okay to be over-prepared. It’s better to be a little over-prepared than under-prepared. Think of all the things you use at home for your baby throughout the day, realize that some of them may not be easy to find at your destination, and pack accordingly. (Bottles, extra nipples, bottle liners, a specific brand of lotion or baby shampoo, diaper or wipe that you prefer, etc.) … If your child has a favorite blanket or toy, see if you can buy a duplicate to keep stowed away in case one gets lost during your travels.

Keep a sufficient amount of these items in your carry-on luggage in case of unexpected delays. (Wipes are especially useful for all kinds of messes so keep tons on you at all times.)

Don’t forget any prescriptions and all your preferred medicines for everything from pain/headaches, cramps, stomachache, itchiness, diarrhea, and allergies to motion sickness, (for yourself and for your child.)

If there’s any possibility of menstruating on your trip, bring your preferred feminine products as well.

Oh, and sunscreen. Bring the sunscreen and use it. If you think you stick out like a sore thumb, you’ll stick out even more if your skin is lobster red.

#5. Prepare for takeoff. For babies and young children, the worst part of the flight is takeoff and landing because of the pressure changes in their little ears. If your child is old enough, give them gum to chew. If the child is too young for gum, have them suck on a pacifier or bottle.

There’s no shame in using electronics to keep little ones quiet and occupied at the airport and on the airplane. Let them play apps on your smartphone the entire flight if it helps.

If you have an older child who has been wanting a specific toy for awhile, buy it and let him know he’s going to receive it on the flight. (Don’t let him play with it before then or it will lose its charm.) Keep a “fun bag” of random things to entertain your child – preferably new things they’ve never played with before. Cracker Barrel’s store is a great place to buy things like that. Some suggestions: Sticker books, coloring and activity books with crayons, a mini Etch-a-sketch, Rubick’s cube, Wooly Willy, slide puzzles – (The classics work best!)

#6. Mosquitoes are nothing to play with. Depending on where exactly you’re going and the time of year, chances are you and your baby or small child will come into contact with more mosquitoes than you knew ever existed on this planet. Not only will they make you itch, but some transmit diseases such as Chikungunya in El Salvador. Before you travel, ask your relatives if they have mosquito netting to cover the area you’ll be sleeping – if not, bring some. Also bring along mosquito repellent to put on your bodies as well. If your hosts offer to burn a mosquito coil (it looks like a green spiral), ask them not to. These coils are popular in some parts of Latin America but research has shown that they’re extremely toxic to breathe.

mosquito-bites

(By the way, I’m convinced mosquitoes prefer gringa blood because no one was ever getting bit up as much as I was.)

#7. The hammock is your friend. Most babies love to be rocked but you most likely won’t have access to any fancy contraptions like you have back home. Make use of any available hammocks to rock babies to sleep, (but don’t leave them unattended.)

hammock-baby

#8. Stay hydrated. This seems like a no-brainer but when you’re busy, overwhelmed, stressed, in hot weather, and have to seek out bottled water since the tap water is off limits (or turned off completely), you’d be surprised how quickly you and your child could become dehydrated. Avoid caffeine the day you travel and drink water on your flight and at the airport as soon as you get off the plane. Grab some bottles to take with you to your destination and find out as soon as possible where you’ll be able to buy more when needed.

latinaish-waterbag

(You can tell by his eyes, my younger son was getting a little dehydrated on an outing during our most recent trip to El Salvador so we stopped at the first place we found selling water.)

#9. Expect the unexpected no matter how much you prepare. Ask others who have visited the area what it’s like and have them tell you in as much detail as possible. Even after the most thorough research though, you may find that you were woefully unprepared to face such a different lifestyle even for a short period of time. Take some deep breaths (Inhala…Exhala…), and try to go with the flow.

bath-tub

#10. Take plenty of photos. This is an incredibly special moment in your child’s life, and if they’re very young, they may not remember it well or at all. Take photos of your child with all their relatives and keep a little journal of what you do each day while there. These will make a cherished keepsake for your child later. Before you know it your return flight will be departing to take you home, and while half of you will be relieved that you can come back to familiar food, hot showers, drinkable tap water, modern appliances, child-safe locks, and air conditioning – the other half of you is going to wish you could have stayed a little longer now that you were finally getting the hang of things.

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10 Gifs For Parents Raising Bilingual Kids

Parenting is one of the biggest challenges there is, and bilingual parenting can be twice as hard. Here are 10 animated gifs only parents raising bilingual kids will understand. Laugh, cry, be entertained – I know you feel me.

#1. When your bilingual child is just a baby everything is new and awesome. Mixing the languages together is totally normal and totally adorable. So your reaction when your baby speaks Spanglish is something like:

so-cute

#2. Fast forward 10 years though and your child is still not fluent. Your child’s Spanglish at this stage of the game may have become somewhat less enchanting.

weep-die

#3. But then one day your child says their first curse word in Spanish, (and you know they learned it from you.)

amazing

Hey, at least they’re speaking Spanish.

#4. And then comes that magical age when they get to pick a foreign language at school. The child you’re raising English/Spanish bilingual tells you they want to take… French.

wait-what

#5. Okay, okay. We must embrace all language learning. It’s fine, they can learn French. Maybe they’ll be trilingual you say to yourself. But then they ask for help with their French homework and you discover your mouth will only pronounce French words following Spanish-language rules so you’re completely unhelpful.

blooblah

#6. At some point you realize hey, we’re not speaking enough Spanish at home, so you try the famous “I won’t acknowledge you unless you speak Spanish” tactic.

wont-hear-it

#7. However your child’s reaction to the “I won’t acknowledge you unless you speak Spanish” tactic is:

ok

#8. Time to get stealthy. You decide you’ll try to sneak Spanish into your child’s life by listening to Spanish-language music in the car.

botas-picudas

#9. However, this is your child’s reaction when you listen to Spanish-language music in the car right before they put their earbuds in.

dont-want-to-hear

#10. You’ve all but given up until one day your teenager develops a crush on a native Spanish speaker at school and suddenly takes a renewed interest in learning the language.

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La alegría y la angustia del cambio

hojas

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Me di cuenta de algo. Me di cuenta que cuando veo las hojas de colores en otoño siento dos cosas. Primero me siento llena de felicidad porque es una de las cosas más bellísimas en este mundo y soy bendecida por verlo suceder. Todo el año espero este momento breve por ver el cambio en los árboles. Pero bajo de la alegría es una fuerte tristeza saber que los días son cortos y pronto se caerán las hojas, desapareciendo en el viento. Me siento feliz por el momento que está frente de mi, pero angustia porque yo sé que no puede durar para siempre.

Y igual me siento al ver a mis hijos creciendo a hombres.

carlos-boys-pumpkin-patch-collage

No importa lo fuerte que te aferras a esas hermosas hojas o esos hermosos hijos. Ellos cambian. Las hojas se secan y pierden su color. Tus hijos crecen. Es natural que esa realidad debe hacerte sentir triste, pero también recuerdate hay que disfrutar el momento. Tal vez sea un cliché, pero a veces existen los clichés porque no hay verdad más grande. La vida es efímera. Ama lo que tú amas con todo tu corazón.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

Title: The Happiness and Anguish of Change

I realized something. I realized when I see the colored leaves of autumn I feel two things. First I feel full of happiness because it’s one of the most beautiful things in the world and I feel blessed to see it happen. All year I await this brief moment to see the change in the trees. But beneath that happiness is a strong sadness to know that the days are short and soon the leaves will fall, disappearing in the wind. I feel happy for the moment in front of me, but anguish because I know it won’t last forever.

And I feel the same to see my sons growing into men.

It doesn’t matter how tightly you hold onto those beautiful leaves or those beautiful children. They change. The leaves dry out and lose their color. Your children grow up. It’s natural that this realization should make one feel sadness, but let it also remind you to enjoy the moment. Maybe it’s cliche, but sometimes cliches exist because there is no greater truth. Life is fleeting. Love what you love with all your heart.

Más y Menos – Guatemalan Cartoon Characters!

masymenos

Last night my 12 year old begged me to watch a cartoon called Teen Titans Go! with him. Honestly, I’m not at all into super hero stuff so this show didn’t appeal to me at all, but he promised me this particular episode had two characters who only speak Spanish. (He knows how to get my attention!)

I ended up really enjoying the episode and the characters named Más y Menos. The episode had an impressive amount of Spanish in it and some good lessons for kids built in. Here’s a clip of the twins Más y Menos making and serving tamales to their friends.

I later looked up more information online, and as suggested by the mention of “tamales de Guatemala” in the episode, the twins are in fact supposed to be Guatemalan. (Although they’re voiced by Chicago-born Freddy Rodriguez whose parents are Puerto Rican.)

Anyway, I thought it was really awesome to have some Central American representation in a popular cartoon and I hope the creators make Más y Menos regular characters.

My only suggestion to the creators: When the characters say “¡Los Tamales de Guatemala!” you see and hear mariachi. While mariachi can be found in Guatemala, that’s obviously more of a Mexican thing. It would have been awesome if instead you had used some traditional Guatemalan marimba music like this:

The use of Mexican culture subbed in for other Latin American culture is something you see often in television and movies. Mexican culture is more familiar to audiences in the United States so I think that is part of why it happens, but when characters are not Mexican then you’re doing a disservice to both the Mexican culture and the true culture of the character. I’d like to see Hollywood break away from that so audiences can have a more diverse experience and expand their knowledge of cultures throughout the world. Subbing in Mexican culture for every Latin American culture only feeds into the wrong belief that “All Latinos are the same.”

As Más y Menos say, “Para crecer como una persona, necesitas que abrirte a nuevas experiencias.”

You can watch the full episode of Teen Titans Go! featuring the characters Más y Menos here and on Cartoon Network.

Bilingual Brain Freeze

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Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Anteayer mi hijo menor me dijo que hay una nueva estudiante en su escuela que sólo habla español y está en un programa especial para los niños que no hablan inglés. En el pasillo entre clases una compañera bilingüe le presentó mi hijo a la nueva chica y le dijo a la chica, “Si necesitas ayuda, también puedes hablar con él porque habla español.” Bueno, mi hijo estaba feliz de ayudar pero me dijo que desafortunadamente su cerebro se congeló y le costaba recordar palabras que quiso decir, aunque entendió todo lo que estaban diciendo. La nueva chica estaba buscando la clase de un maestro que se llama Mr. Cooper.

En vez de decir, “La clase del Sr. Cooper no está en la planta baja. Tienes que ir arriba” – mi hijo tuvo que decir, “La clase de Mr. Cooper no aquí. Mr. Cooper allá,” y señaló con el dedo.

Cuando mi hijo me contó lo que pasó, me sentí como un fracaso. Hablamos demasiado inglés en casa. Es mi culpa su español no es mejor, y es culpa de Carlos también.

Por otra parte, estoy orgullosa de él porque encontró una manera de comunicarse aunque no era perfecta, y más orgullosa porque me dijo que “Fue un poco vergonzoso pero yo quería ayudar.” Cuando uno no habla un idioma con fluidez, es mucho más fácil sucumbir al miedo y no decir nada que buscar el coraje de hablar.

Lo que le falta en la fluidez, lo compensa con una buena actitud y corazón.

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

The day before yesterday my younger son told me that there was a new student in his school who only speaks Spanish and is in a special program at school for kids who don’t speak English. In the hallway a bilingual classmate introduced my son to the new girl and said to the girl, “If you need help, you can also talk to him because he speaks Spanish.” Well, my son was happy to help but he told me unfortunately his brain froze up and it was really difficult for him to remember the words he wanted to say, even though he understood everything they were saying. The new girl was looking for the classroom of a teacher named Mr. Cooper.

Instead of saying, “Mr. Cooper’s class isn’t on the ground floor. You have to go upstairs” – my son had to say, “Mr. Cooper’s class no here. Mr. Cooper there,” and pointed his finger.

When my son told me what happened, I felt like a failure. We speak too much English at home. It’s my fault his Spanish isn’t better, and it’s Carlos’s fault too.

On the other hand, I’m proud of him because he found a way to communicate even though it wasn’t perfect, and I’m even prouder because he told me “It was a little embarrassing but I wanted to help.” When one doesn’t speak a language fluently, it’s much easier to succumb to fear and say nothing rather than find the courage to speak.

What he lacks in fluency, he more than makes up for in a good attitude and heart.

Tienes un hijo salvadoreño si…

abuela-cookies-pupusas

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

Hay muchas señales que uno está criando un hijo salvadoreño en los Estados Unidos, (aquí hay 15!) pero el fin de semana pasado, mi hijo menor me hizo reír mucho con un comentario que reveló cómo muy salvadoreño que es.

Mi hijo mayor trabaja en un museo para niños y él trajo a casa un papel con actividades para niños por su hermanito, (aunque su hermanito ya es demasiado mayor para este tipo de actividades.) En el papel hay fáciles crucigramas y cosas así. En una parte del papel hay un dibujo de una abuela con un plato de galletas, y el niño debe completar un laberinto para que la abuela puede traer las galletas a sus nietos, (o algo así.)

Sin leerlo, mi hijo menor me mostró el dibujo y me dijo, “Mira, qué gran plato de pupusas tiene la abuela.”

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

There are a lot of signs that you’re raising a Salvadoran child in the United States, (here are 15!) but this past weekend, my younger son made me laugh a lot with a comment he made which revealed how very Salvadoran he is.

My older son works at a children’s museum and he brought home an activity sheet for kids to give to his little brother, (even though his little brother is already too old for these types of activities.) On the activity sheet there are easy crossword puzzles and things like that. On one part of the paper, there’s a drawing of a grandmother holding a plate of cookies, and the child is supposed to complete a maze so the grandmother can bring the cookies to her grandchildren, (or something like that.)

Without reading it, my younger son showed me the drawing and said, “Look, what a big plate of pupusas the grandmother has.”

De Tin Marín de do pingüé

Image source: Flickr user trpnblies7

Image source: Flickr user trpnblies7

Today is Spanish Friday so this post is in Spanish. If you participated in Spanish Friday on your own blog, leave your link in comments. Scroll down for English translation!

En inglés tenemos dos canciones infantiles muy populares entre niños para elegir algo/alguien. La primera es así:

One potato, two potato, three potato, four,
five potato, six potato, seven potato, more.

Y la otra es así:

Eenie meenie, miney mo,
Catch a tiger by its toe,
If he hollers, let him go,
eenie meenie, miney mo.

(Verso opcional:) My mom said to pick the very best one and you are not it.

Cuando canté “eenie meenie” el otro día para elegir un cereal para el desayuno, (a veces soy muy indecisa y eso me ayuda), Carlos me cantó la versión de “eenie menie” que cantan los niños en El Salvador, (y muchos otros paises.)

De tin marín de dó pingüé,
cuca la mácara títere fue,
yo no fui, fue teté,
pégale, pégale que ella fue.

Puedes oír una versión de “tin marín” en esta canción de Los Tucanes de Tijuana. (El cantante está cantando sobre sus cinco novias y su método de elegir una por salir a comer, bailar, etc.)

Y aprendí esta versión que cantan en España (Fuente: WordReference):

Pito, pito, gorgorito
donde vas tú tan bonito
a la acera verdadera
pim, pom, fuera.

También aprendí esta versión de Argentina:

Ta, te, ti,
suerte para tí,
virgencita de Itatí,
chocolate con maní,
afuera saliste tú.

Conoces otra canción en inglés o español que utilizan los niños para elegir?

[ENGLISH TRANSLATION]

In English we have two popular childhood songs that are used by children to choose something/someone. The first goes like this:

One potato, two potato, three potato, four,
five potato, six potato, seven potato, more.

The other goes like this:

Eenie meenie, miney mo,
Catch a tiger by its toe,
If he hollers, let him go,
eenie meenie, miney mo.

(Optional verse:) My mom said to pick the very best one and you are not it.

When I sang “eenie meenie” the other day while trying to choose a breakfast cereal, (sometimes I’m indecisive and this helps me), Carlos sang me the Salvadoran version of “eenie menie”, (which is used in many other countries, too.)

De tin marín de dó pingüé,
cuca la mácara títere fue,
yo no fui, fue teté,
pégale, pégale que ella fue.

You can hear a version of “tin marín” in this song by Los Tucanes de Tijuana. (The singer is singing about his five girlfriends and his method for choosing which one to take out to dinner, dancing, etc.)

And I learned this version they sing in Spain (Source: WordReference):

Pito, pito, gorgorito
donde vas tú tan bonito
a la acera verdadera
pim, pom, fuera.

I also learned this version from Argentina:

Ta, te, ti,
suerte para tí,
virgencita de Itatí,
chocolate con maní,
afuera saliste tú.

Do you know another song in English or Spanish that children use for choosing?