Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
When we arrived in Karachi, we went straight to M's family's house. Because we were three people and five bags, we had to take a couple of cars, but luckily we'd been met at the airport by a lot of different family members, so we just shoved a suitcase in each of their cars and were able to ride home together.
M's mom was the only one who had ever met the baby. She had been in America when he was born and stayed for the first seven weeks of his life. She held him in her lap on the drive home and he was so tired from all the travel and interrupted sleep, that he just laid there quietly and looked at all the interesting things outside the window.
Which brings us to our first craziness of taking a baby to Pakistan - no car seats. My son had never in his life been in a moving automobile without being fully, properly strapped into a car seat. I tried my best before leaving to figure out some sort of solution to this. We couldn't take a car seat with us because he was traveling on our lap. I could not find any car seat for sale on any website that would ship to Pakistan, nor could I find any Pakistani company selling car seats. In facts, while we were there both times, I NEVER once saw a car seat for sale OR IN USE.
Another problem with the idea of a car seat is that not all cars in Pakistan even have seat belts. M's family's old car - a Volkswagen bug that they had all M's life until just recently - didn't have any seatbelts at all. Their new car only has seatbelts in the front seats, and none in the backseat. But all the information about car seats says NOT to put a car seat in the front seat. Some stuff I read online talked about people taking a car seat, but then resting it in the footwell in the backseat behind the driver. But who knows if this kind of thing is safer or ever MORE dangerous? I can imagine that footwell completely crumpling in an accident, and god forbid if there were an infant seat sideways there, because that's just the kind of impact the seat was designed to withstand.
The only solution I ever figured out was that we could pay for an extra piece of luggage to take our car seat with us, and then attach it somehow to the back seat using some kind of tie-downs. If it couldn't be secured to the backseat, we'd make sure there were no airbags in the car (unlikely what with the missing seatbelts and all) and secure it to the front seat.
This created a lot of problems. Everyone was against us, and ridiculed us and told us it was useless. That it would not be needed; driving in Pakistan was different, there were no real accidents like you see in America; that lots of people pile into the car and devoting the entire front seat to a baby when two full size adults could share it was foolish; that it would make our car a magnet for thieves. I wish I could say I didn't let all their protests bother me and that I was able to stick to my convictions...
A recurring theme of problems we faced was the lack of baby products. We'd been told that we didn't need to bring ANY food or diapers, as everything was available in Pakistan. That was not the case for us. The baby was eating exclusively jarred food, mostly from this line which has all kinds of variety of dishes; fruits, veggies, grains, casseroles and SOUPS, even! I was expecting that there would at least be a good variety of Gerber stuff - but all we could ever find even in the big American- and European-style supermarkets was a few differ jars of some Heinz baby food. No casseroles, no veggies at all, no grains. I could only find a few fruits, mostly in "pudding" combinations like Mango pudding, and dessert-y things like vanilla custard and stuff like that.
We had serious issues finding food for the baby to eat. I took a very hard line stance that he was not allowed to eat ANY uncooked fruits and vegetables, with tiny exceptions only for VERY thick skinned fruits like oranges and bananas that whose outsides were washed with soap before peeling and feeding. (That and only bottled water and oft-washed hands = a baby who never got travel-sick, thank God!)
Very quickly, my small reserves of travel jars of food ran out, and I didn't want the remaining three weeks of the trip to be a mango pudding and vanilla custard only diet, so I started making food for him. I boiled rice until it was almost disintegrated and then added diced bananas and other fruits and cooked for awhile until it was all mushy and bacteria free.
(Although I want to make clear that I don't think that food in Pakistan is disease-ridden; I just personally no-science-to-back-it-up think that people's digestive systems adapt to their environment. I always stay away from fruits & vegetables unless they're cooked, and I always drink bottled water from a reliable source where I open the cap myself. An incriminating example: M and I often leave food out overnight because we forget to put it in the fridge, and then we just cook it again the next day and eat it anyway. Maybe this would cause other people some digestive issues, but because we do it pretty often, we're just used to it. And we've been lucky, too, not to have cultivated anything major in our neglected leftovers overnight.)
Anyway, we made that rice pudding-ish thing for breakfast in bulk and he ate it most mornings. Other times I was able to spoon-feed him some imported breakfast cereals, but only when I found them in those big-box stores and the boxes looked like they were definitely from somewhere more American-baby-stomach friendly like Europe. Toward the end of the trip I also found some Gerber rice cereal.
For dinners, I usually made vegetable bhaji (mixed vegetable curry and daal (lentils) or just cut up whatever well-cooked dinner we were eating. The baby was really interested in finger foods then, and he'd anything in chunk form basically. We've always exposed him to fairly spicy foods, so the spice level wasn't a problem for him, either. (Besides, most people seem to lower the heat level when they're cooking for me anyway, even though I tell them time and again that I can take the heat!)
If I had to do it again, though, I think I'd just take enough food for the whole trip. Seriously - assuming I had an under 18-month or maybr 2-year old who's fairly inflexible in what they eat, I'd just take enough jars or powdered rice cereal for the whole trip. If I couldn't fit enough of everything, I'd definitely pack enough fruits & veggies for the entire trip so that the kid gets as many servings of those as he would have at home. Stave off the rickets, y'know...
Diapers were another thing that everyone said would be available the same as in America, and this was less of a problem, but there still was a bit of difference. Pampers were available in lots of places, even some of the smaller, local stores, but they were expensive! Even more expensive that in America, sometimes. Also, there have been SO MANY innovations in diapers. You would not believe what these things are capable of these day! The Pampers we found were good and had all the basics, but some of the better features were still missing (stretchy tabs, repostionable velcro-y fasteners rather than one-use tape-y ones, the softness of the material, etc.) BUT - when we were stuck in the house for 4 days, my father-in-law eventually had to venture out to get more diapers (there were two toddlers at the home at that time) and he couldn't go very far, so we were stuff with a Pakistani brand of disposable diaper. It was terrible. It was like a 1980s diaper that actually smelled BAD! So keep some reserves of the good kind of diapers.
Baby wipes were available, too, but they were a lot less nice than what you can buy in America. Seriously, have you smelled these Pampers Swipe & Go wipes? I'd wear that scent as a PERFUME!
And speaking about how the baby smells; our kid got DIRTY while we were there. Some homes in Pakistan and just like western homes, with interior kitchens and stairwells and full bathrooms - M's house is not like that. The kitchen is still detached from the house and there is not a full bathroom, just a small showerhead and a bucket for bathing. The dining table is outdoors, many of the rooms are open to the outdoors, and they live in a part of the city that's very dusty & dirty. Even though a maid comes every day to sweep, the bottoms of your feet will always be dirty if you walk barefoot. The kid needed a lot of baths! And baby soap & lotion was also hard to find (we'd forgotten the no-tears baby soap!) We borrowed some of his cousin's soap until we were able to track down some from another family member. No idea where they'd gotten it or if it's available widely.
As for sleeping, M's house is small, and our entire family was given a 8x6 room called Chota Kamra (or, the small room) to sleep in as a family. Believe me, this was a lot! Everyone else was sleeping in various combinations in the 2 common rooms! Our son, however, has his own bedroom at home and sleeps alone in a dark room in a crib. We needed a crib! Same thing with the car seat; no way to take a crib with us unless we wanted to pay almost $100 for an extra piece of luggage, no idea if a pack n' play was going to be available to buy for a reasonable price. Eventually, we found a close family friend who had a pack n' play whose kid "wouldn't sleep in it at all" and they lent it to us for the full month. We actually travel a lot and after returning from out trip I found two very lightweight travel crib options, so I'd probably go that route if you have a little bit of money to plink down, if you travel a lot, and if your kid is particularly attached to sleeping in a crib.
So to recap; bring some fruits & veggies (dehydrated, jarred, greens powder; whatever) and bring some wipes if you are partial to a nice-smelling, thicker baby wipe. Bring things like baby wash and lotion if you have a specific brand. Find a friend or family member with a travel crib - someone's bound to have one.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009