The content of each post is solely written by that contributor and only expresses the contributor's personal views. Each post does not represent the views of all the contributors or Women of Color Living Abroad as an organization. Each contributor is speaking from their own person experiences and/or perspective.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Long Flights with Little Ones: A Survival Strategy

By:  eternitysojourner

International flights are a long haul for everyone involved!  From ticket to taxi, travel can exhaust you and drain your battery dry.  Add a toddler to the mix and travel becomes a tell-tale adventure!  I’m no expert on traveling with children- I only have one and I’m always accompanied with my husband (thank God!).  However, after receiving advice from others and watching the way other parents travel, here are a few points I wanted to share from our experiences.   

Think through your itinerary.
Before booking, take a good look at your schedule options and consider how your little one can handle it.  Most parents advise "red-eye" flights that will allow children to sleep through a good portion of the flight.  As a second option, try to select a late morning flight that will allow your child to wake up according to their normal routine and slowly ease into the long day of travel.

Boost your immunity.
In the days leading up to travel, be sure to eat wholesome, nutritious foods, paying special attention to immunity-building foods like honey, garlic, fresh fruits, colorful vegetables, etc.  Take supplements like Echinacea, Vitamin C, Elderberry, or Zinc to give you an added boost.  Staying up late the night before travel can render any system vulnerable, so try packing in advance to make sure all parents and children involved have a fighting chance at arriving to your destination without a single sniffle or sneeze.

Nurture yourself.
Traveling with young children requires care and creativity.  Doing whatever it takes for you to be centered and whole--so you can give extra attention to your child’s needs--should be high on your priority list.  Deep breathing, meditation, prayer, avoiding sugar or caffeine, long walks, and the like can help you keep your cool and exude the calm that your child needs from you amidst any storm of affairs.  Young children have the natural tendency to absorb your emotions, no matter how well you think you mask them.  Breathe through your stress and anxiety to emerge on the landing side unscathed. 

Pack wholesome foods.
Some parents like to pack a favorite candy or chocolate bar to appease a cranky child in the air.  While this may help some, do consider the potential blood sugar peak and plummet that may follow.  Instead, opt for nourishing snacks free of white sugar, processed or refined carbohydrates, and corn syrup.  Whether you bring food from home or splurge at your nearby health food store, a tasty snack that supplements what a flight meal may lack (if your child eats from it at all), without putting your little one into a pixie stick high, will have lasting effects. 

Be like MacGyver.
Remember MacGyver?  You know- the television hero who could make just about anything from a shoelace, a paper clip, and a stale piece of chewing gum?  Use him as your inspiration to tap into your creativity and exhaust the resources your environment has to offer.  Lugging around a mobile toy box on the plane can be cumbersome, so come up with some of your own “in-flight” entertainment.  Use your airsickness bag to make a puppet; identify animals, letters, or numbers in your in-flight magazine; assign names and make up stories for the characters in your safety manual.  A little creativity can go a long way!

Pack wisely.
Choose the most essential items for your child’s travel bag.  A small shoulder bag (within your larger bag) for just a few diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, a small tube of diaper cream, and a foldable changing mat is great for travel with babies and toddlers.  There’s not enough room in those airplane bathrooms to think, let alone carry a full-sized baby bag.  Stick to the favorites- a few books, a blanket, a stuffed animal, and a quiet activity your child enjoys like coloring, stickers, etc.  Don’t be too proud to sing to your child if nothing else will do.

Monitor mobility and media.
Young children need to move.  Bulkhead seats on a plane allow for bassinets or cots for small babies and lots of legroom for older babies and toddlers to stand or sit when a seatbelt is not necessary.  Short strolls down the aisles or around the rear of the plane can help a toddler do just that…toddle!  If things get desperate, a young child will be instantly and hypnotically drawn to a TV screen, so use media with caution.  I recently saw a five-year-old child so entranced by the children’s program on his screen that his father had to feed him.  Young children deserve more engagement than that; so if you must go that route, try watching the children’s programs with your child to make sure that they’re appropriate by your standards and try engaging them with new vocabulary and concepts in the process. 

Any other travel tips from the more seasoned jetsetting parents?  Feel free to contribute in the comments.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Legends of the Hidden Temple

By: Brittany S

Even though the temple I visited didn’t have any Mayan Temple Guards or Blue Barracudas (man, wouldn’t that be cool?), it did have its own legendary features.  I recently visited Haein Temple (해인사) near Daegu, S. Korea.  Here is general temple information:

NO—you will not be converted or encouraged to convert (or do anything else you are against)
YES—you will learn a little bit about the teachings of Buddha
NO—you don’t have to be Buddhist to participate
YES—you will be expected to follow the temple rules

Picking Your Temple
We chose Haien Temple because it is one of the top 3 temples in Korea.  It also is a World Heritage site (designated by UNESCO), as it houses the Tripitaka Koreana in its original building.  Not only was it an important within Korean culture and Buddhism abroad, but worldwide, as the particular technique for preserving such works is notable as well.

And, they spoke English.

My suggestion would be to pick a “foreigner friendly” temple if you are not fluent in that country’s native tongue.  There are a lot of deep, philosophical talks that take place and your tourist-level language fluency may cause you to miss out on a lot.  As an added bonus, look to see if the temple is renowned (like the one I visited).   It is also wise to map out the travel time and methods to and from the temple.  To get to Haien Temple from where I live (north of Seoul), it took about 5-6 hours by taxi, bus, subway, local bus, and foot.  Imagine doing all of this with a heavy bag on your back on a hot summer day; not ideal.  It isn’t as if you get to go to the temple and rest.  You will take on tasks that are both mentally and physically challenging.  So please consider how much energy you will need to travel to certain distances.

Typical Schedule
All temple stays are not exactly the same, but they are usually variations of one another.  My temple stay schedule was as follows:

View from the top that I took AFTER I caught my breath.
First Day
15:00~16:00 : Registration & Orientation
17:00~18:10 : Learning Temple manner
18:10~18:40 : Temple Dinner
18:40~19:10 : Evening ceremonial service
19:10~20:30 : Tea time
20:30~21:00 : Lights out

Second Day
03:00~03:15 : Getting up & Wash (in silence)
03:15~03:30 : Dawn Service(in Silence)
04:00~05:00 : 108 bows
05:00~06:00 : Seon Mediation (in Silence)
06:00~07:30 : Temple Breakfast
07:30~08:30 : Temple tour of Haeinsa
08:30~09:30 : Hermitage Tour
09:30~10:40 : Cleaning & Closing

When we first arrived (after the grueling hike up the mountain to the temple), we were pumped.  This’ll be fun!  We had no idea how much WORK it would be!  When we discussed temple manners, we were informed that we should:
·         walk in a straight line with one hand in the other.  There’s no rush to get there before the next person.  We are all in this together.
·         neatly arrange our shoes when we take them off to enter the building.  Be considerate; if your shoes are all over the place, someone could trip.
·         walk, clean, meditate, and eat in SILENCE (I seriously feel like this was the hardest part for some of the foreigners.  We did a lot of talking with our eyes because we needed to share SOMETHING).  If we are always communicating externally, we don’t give our internal voice a chance to speak.
·         eat ALL the food we put on our plate (even if we don’t like it).  We must be thankful for the food we have been given and not be wasteful.
·         use our “mind” at all times (they say the mind is in the heart, not the brain).  If you’re always “mindful,” then you will realize we are interconnected and our actions impact everything around us.
·         bow when entering and leaving the temple as well as when we see a monk.  It is a sign of respect at the very least.
My friends and I in our temple clothes. Comfy!

Meal Times
I sat there trying to scarf down my food and gagged most of the time.  Basically you can avoid this by not getting as much food as I did (I thought they wouldn’t be filling so I got a lot so I wouldn’t be hungry later) and then you can eat slowly.  Also, if there is something on your plate that you don’t like, you won’t have that much of it to eat.  The funny thing is, I did the SAME THING at both meals!  *sigh*

Both ceremonies were great.  Four monks took turns rotating out on the Beopgo (Large Drum).  We stood in silence and watched them play.  This drum is supposed to be like the heartbeat of the temple in a sense.  It is supposed to energize us all.  The thrill was wasted on me, as we were not allowed to take pictures/videos (whoever took this video was sneaky haha. I found this on Youtube).  When we attended the morning ceremony (at 3:15 no less), I felt it.  I no longer felt sleepy and was awestruck at the vitality of these monks at such an early hour.  I stood with one hand in the other, silently appreciating this moment. 

Meditation and 108 Prostrations

Prostrate:  1—to bow or cast (oneself) down, as in submission or adoration  2—exhausted physically or emotionally

When they told me I was gonna have to do 108 Buddhist “up-downs” literally at the crack of dawn before eating, I thought I was gonna fall out (or hide in the back and sneak away).  However, it wasn’t that bad.  We were instructed on how to prostrate (stand with hands together, kneel, hands on ground above your head, forehead to ground, palms up and raised to ear, palms down and back to ground, hands together, kneel, stand up…yep, a lot of steps and I left two out) so I went for it.  I had a little trouble keeping a straight face when the lady next to me kept diving like an ostrich with her head in the earth, but other than that, it was relaxing and a wonderful reflecting time.  I found a blog that lists the English translation of all 108 prostrations.  We did these to humble ourselves.  We emptied ourselves physically so we could pour into our minds.

They told us that meditating would be harder than the prostrations and all I heard was “hmm, sitting will be harder than up-downs…yea ok.”  They were right.  Sitting a particular way for an extended period of time and trying to concentrate on NOT thinking about things is a bit challenging.  However, the worries that did bounce around in my mind during this time were put to rest.  I felt rejuvenated after we finished.  I can’t think of the last time I was in that silent of a place.
Keep your tongue pressed to roof of your mouth, too.

Temple Tour
I’ll just say this: the temple was on a mountain and where we were staying was the LOW part of it.  Let’s just say when I finally got to the top, I was waiting on someone to cue the Rocky music.  The most shameful part is that our guide did this effortlessly.
Somehow, I think using this booth will be much cooler than a regular one.

I loved the temple stay and plan to visit another famous temple in Korea.  If you have the time and willpower, sign up for a temple stay!

Just in case you are interested in staying in Haien Temple, you can make a reservation here

I still think the temple was missing something...I'm just sayin'.