travel


I love travelling with my kids on long flights. Seriously. No joke. But it’s only because we’re THAT family. You know, the family who opts to take the red eye and drags crying and screaming children onto an 11pm flight.

I can’t tell you how much eye rolling I’ve seen as we’ve come aboard with Eryn freaking out that her headphones don’t fit her ears, and Ivy gasping with her signature piercing, over-stimulated, dear-God-I’m-so-tired-would-someone-PLEASE-help-me-fall-asleep shrieks. But it’s okay. And eventually, everyone knows it’s okay. Because alhamdulillah, the moment the plane moves they’re both asleep. For seven hours straight (thus far!!).

And I am so very thankful for that.

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Our mode of transport was MUCH bigger on the inside.

We’re about 30 minutes outside London in a very picturesque and compact city. Everything is in walking distance — and while I was resolved to conquer my fear of public busses, it looks like I may not need to ever take one (I’m fine with subways and trains, but not busses — there’s too much pressure and anxiety to know exactly when to get off, and I’m always worried about inconveniencing others with the stroller. It’s a serious fear. Though oddly, it only applies to busses in other cities. It’s my main mode of transport back home).

But I truly love walking — there’s something comforting in trusting that my feet will always take me home, even if I get properly lost along the way.

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We found these boats after getting properly lost exploring the city.

Yesterday, Eryn and Ivy fed some ducks and geese at the river. Then we watched a swan build her nest. And spoke to the man dragging the river for scrap metal. And waved to a boatman and his dog. Then we went home for tea.

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Jammie Dodgers to the rescue!

As a Whovian I’m totally, blissfully overwhelmed and excited about all of the Doctor Who cultural cues woven into the fabric of time and space here. Doctor Who posters, billboards, merchandise, and clothing are everywhere — from the supermarket to the vending machines. Matt Smith (who plays the current Doctor) was even filming part of the 50th Anniversary special at Trafalgar Square while we landed at the airport. That’s almost as exciting as having John Barrowman smile at me.

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Today was owl crafts.

To make sure the girls keep busy during the week, I have a month-long list of every story time, rhyme time, and craft time at every library and museum in the city. There’s not much to say about that, except that Eryn really gets into her craft. And after making a few new friends, she’s started calling elevators “lifts,” popsicles “ice lollies,” and chips “crisps.”

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The Abu Bakr Mosque looking lovely under construction.

As today was Jummah we decided to go to one of the local mosques (not the one pictured above). It was the worst place I’ve never prayed at.

We walked in, unloaded the kids, took off our shoes, and climbed the stairs to the women’s section, only to find that the door was barred with construction materials. The men’s section looked even worse. I asked if there was a place for women to pray and was told, “no” even though there were signs pointing to the upstairs prayer place and notices for a sisters’ halaqa. It was only later that I learned that the mosque was recently shut down for health and safety reasons due to asbestos. They’re now renovating.

While this is probably the best sincere excuse EVER, I still would have appreciated knowing that there is no space for women (yet) — especially since the website makes it clear the mosque is now operational. No matter. There are plenty more mosques to see and I’ll try to catch each one.

Tomorrow we’re off to see the Queen at Windsor Castle!

Well, we’re officially back home (for now). There’s a good chance that I might jump on the next available flight and head back down south — especially since within 48 hours of returning home, Eryn is sick once again. We’ve been battling several strains of flu and cough between myself and the girls for over two months, and fever-sharing is getting a bit tiresome.

Alhamdulillah, our brief trip to the beach was a literal God-send. A girls-only trip saw the babies frolicking in azure waves and absorbing some much needed vitamin D. I enjoyed people watching and digging my feet into the sand — and had a fascinating chat with a Tartar woman from Moscow about the modesty logistics of combining her bikini with hijab.

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Hands free, in-sling nursing means more time to work on my hand tan.

And while the sun and humidity (temporarily) drove away snotty noses and up-all-night coughs — it’s only a matter of time before we’re enjoying a muggy and bright Toronto summer. The geese are pairing up, which means spring is around the corner, and I’m looking forward to packing away the winter hijabs.

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Zero degrees! It’s practically flip flops and shorts weather.

Has anyone read Alif the Unseen? I’m thoroughly enjoying it and would love to have a book club if anyone is interested. It’s fascinating partly because of all the familiar computer lingo, partly the familiar Gulf/Bedouin landscapes, and partly the fantastical Jinn elements — but I am most definitely enjoying reading a Muslim work of fiction that quotes the Quran and unapologetically swears like a sailor.

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After smirking at Little Blue Men, it’s refreshing to be terrified of Jinn.

Ivy is standing on her own more often these days and it’s just a matter of time before she’s running circles around Eryn. Just yesterday I was commenting to the Hubby that our little baby is growing up way too fast. She’s so sweet and happy and I’d love for her to be like that forever. Poor Eryn is going through another jealousy phase and consistently orchestrates role-playing where she’s a “little sister” and I, as the “big sister,” have to take care of her like a little baby. She’ll cry, whine, drink “num-nya” from my elbow or knee and make all sorts of perceived baby demands. All. day. long.

Since today was a sick day stuck inside, we played “little sister lion” and “big sister lion” — you know, just to shake things up.

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Working on our fierce, growling lion impersonations.

Just in time for American Thanksgiving, a travel advisory put out by the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Chicago just showed up in my in-box.

If you haven’t been following the recent news, discussions and outrage on the Transportation Security Administration’s new extreme “pat-down procedure” policy, then I highly suggest starting here and here. Stories are flooding FB groups, Twitter, and on teh Internets relating shocking stories of sexual abuse and the violation of children, pilots, breast cancer survivors, and rape survivors as TSA agents are required to physically grope our private areas. Even Roger Ebert is weighing in on the subject. The pat-down procedures are so invasive that a TSA Abuse Blog has been created and people experiencing abuse are encouraged to contact their lawyer and file civil rights complaints against the TSA.

The Advanced Imaging Technology machines are also now being used for primary screening purposes alongside the metal detector. If you refuse the AIT, you get the enhanced pat-down. If during the primary screening process there’s a beep, an anomaly, you’re wearing bulky clothing or just for random fun, you may be subjected for the secondary screening process. Which includes a MORE intrusive pat-down than the “new-thorough-enhanced-standard” pat-down.

According to the Chicago Crescent, Muslim travelers are especially weary that they may be “randomly selected” based on their names, appearance or clothing. Women in hijab or loose garments may be asked to undergo a pat down.  CAIR is already reporting that people:

are being referred to secondary screenings even though they do not set off the metal detector, a phenomenon reported frequently to CAIR by female Muslim travelers

Every time I travel I make it a point not to beep when I walk through the metal detector. Even after I’m given the all-clear my head is regularly massaged by security staff trying to feel up my scalp. It’s all in my head, but the second I step into line, I feel like every officer is looking at me and my family.  And when I’m patted down (each and every time, even though I don’t beep) my face grows so hot in embarrassment — because surely everyone is thinking, “ooh, what is she hiding?”

It’s gotten to a point where I don’t even wear the hijab in the Spanish style when travelling. I’ll just tie it once behind my head and let the tails hang loose around my neck so I don’t (again) freak out security who have to feel the bun for incendiary devices.  Like many other people, I HATE the thought that I may have to be subjected to a thorough grope-down, even if it’s in a private room with female officers.

Since he travels frequently to the US for work, I’ve been speaking with the Hubby about this issue for two days now. We’re both incredibly outraged at the “new-thorough-enhanced-standard” pat-down and if selected, he is considering opting out of both the AIT machines and the pat-down. Unfortunately, according to CAIR, TSA officers have threatened to arrest or fine passengers who opt out of the entire screening process after it begins.

Here is some more information from CAIR that you need to know about the secondary screening process:

If you wear the Islamic head scarf and you are selected for secondary screening, ask the TSA officer if the reason you are being selected for secondary is because of your head scarf. If the officer confirms you were referred to secondary because of your head scarf, before you are patted down, you should remind the TSA officer, who should be of the same gender, that they are only supposed to pat down the area in question, in this scenario, your head and neck. They should not subject you to a full-body or partial-body pat-down. You can always request to pat down your own scarf, including head and neck area, and have the officer perform a residue swab of your hands.

This applies to everyone. If you are recommended because of a bulky clothing item, the ONLY areas the officer can touch are those covered by the item in question.

The more you know.

We survived yet another 13 hour flight, and I really have to say that it’s all due to Eryn being an excellent traveller.

Despite a round of croup, she was brilliant on both flights from Kuwait-Washington, Washington-Toronto. Slept the entire way.

And she was snotty enough for us to *cough* use her to bypass the REDICULOUS line at US customs, and again at security. We would have missed our connecting flight otherwise. And I don’t know how, but all of the millitary men who fell in love with her on the flight, also snuck in behind us in the “special services” line.

I wonder how long we can keep doing this?

And why was my sealed bottle of distilled water taken away from us, while the obviously open (and full) sippy cup was not? I even asked after being told, “we’re taking the baby’s water, ok?” “no, not ok, but whatever — is the sippy cup ok?” “yes, that’s fine.”

And to think, we just came from three airports (Nairobi, Ethiopia, Kuwait) where security measures allow you to carry water bottles, liquids, gels, and in some areas of the airport, allow you to walk through metal detectors with car seat, stroller and baby intact (with your shoes off of course).

Anyway, now that we’re almost back in the full swing of things, I’ll be updating more frequently and hopefully coherently.