Uncategorized

Umrah 2015 with a Toddler

Disclaimer:  Like I said before, there is nothing amazing about what I did as many many other people have done it with more than one kid but I am blogging this in hopes that it will be a useful starting guide to those who wish to bring their kids along. I am in no way telling you what you should be doing or telling you that what I did was the perfect way. I apologise in advance if something about this post offends you, somehow.

So lets start!

Before the trip:

I did not really think much about the fact that I was going with a toddler because I just wanted to go. I was worried about her first long flight yes and praying alone with her with absolutely no one else I knew who would be with me. So, I bought the child harness (2 types, because just in case one snaps or something.) and…. a gps tracker/alarm. The latter will sound off  if she somehow strays an x-meter away from me. This is an amazing invention but we actually did not need this throughout the trip because the harness worked fine/she did not stray too far away/we carried her in crowded areas.

One more thing that we did was to practise praying while carrying her for a few weeks.

Immigration:

THIS WAS SOMETHING WE ABSOLUTELY DID NOT ANTICIPATE BEFORE THE TRIP.

I do not know if it is normal or if it is because we took Saudi Airlines (because the SQ flights didnt seem to have this issue) or just some divine forces testing us but we were tested well. I hope we passed. At least until after my full body check going home.

Once the plane landed at the Hajj terminal, we took a bus to the terminal building itself. The bus did not open its doors till maybe about 20-30minutes later. WHY? Because I later found out that this was how they controlled the crowd. They have several stop points. Until the jemaah in the next stop point has been cleared, you will wait. And wait we did. So after the bus, we were all escorted to the boarding room. You know the room you go in to before you get on to the plane? Yes. At first we were told to wait for 1-2 hours. Basically it added up to 4 hours?

There were actually many many kids of all ages on my flight. Iman had some kids to play with if she was not sleeping. To put her to sleep I just carried her in my carrier. Iman is totally used to this so it wasnt an issue thank god!  We also brought our own fluffy pillow from home so she could lie down on it to rest. We also packed a small bag with some of her favourite toys/books/snacks which came in really really handy. We gave her one toy/snack at a time.

When we were queuing up at the immigration counter which also took ages, Iman fell asleep again. Then when it came to my turn, guess what? I had to take her out to take a picture. That was not all. The officer asked for my boarding pass stub. Why? Until now, that remains a mystery. So of course I did not have it. That delayed everyone else’s turn after me. Sorry guys. Anyways I think after that some other people had issues because we had to loiter around for about 1.5hours more before we could take the 6 hour bus ride to Madinah. That was at about 3am?

By this time, I was already EXTREMELY TIRED. I could not sleep proper on the flight and at the waiting room. I wanted to cry already. My husband was surprisingly quite positive and so was Iman! I bet she was tired as well but she had sufficient naps in between I think because she was not moody or cranky. Alhamdulillah! I was though. Hee hee. So I had to let go of her normal sleeping time (I am a very uptight person.).

Bus ride honestly felt shorter than 6 hours.

I had a similar stalling issue going back to Singapore too. But I am back and thats all that matters.

SO checklist for immigration going into Saudi and going back to Singapore;

  1. Pillow
  2. Bag full of  favourite toys/snacks/books.

Prayers:

Strangers LOVE to carry/pinch/hug/talk to Iman. The first time it happened, I was shocked. After that it was fine. The first time someone scooped her up, I said ‘NO NO NO!’. The person replied ‘YES YES YES!’. Okay. So some people will ask permission but some wont. And no point explaining unless you can speak their language.

So the harness is very important.

When going for prayers, I will bring some snacks and toys in my small sling bag. Thats all. And after a few prayers I realise that she cannot sit still for a long time so at Nabawi, I went for prayers after the adzan. Theres about a 15-minute grace. But that means there wont be space in the mosque so I always sit just outside the entrance where the air is cooler. The mosque inside is divided into the section for women with kids and without, by the way.

The main difference between Haram and Nabawi is that, men and women go into the same entrance for Haram while at Nabawi, the entrances are different. Which means, at Nabawi, you will be on your own. At Haram, if it isnt the prayer times, you can pray at the same section. If not guys will be a section in front and girls, behind. Not far away. And at Haram, if you want to pray in the mosque, you have to come in wayyyyyyyyyyy earlier.

How I did my Ibadah with her:

Within the 15 minutes grace, I can perform a few solat sunnahs (unless its a period which you can’t) or read the quran. Iman will be sitting on me/playing with her toys/looking around/playing with kids/disturbing people/nursing. Depending on the situation, I will be praying either sitting on the floor (being on the same level as her makes her feel calmer)/sitting on the stool (if she is sleeping and I am carrying her)/standing or all threee at once. Haha. If she is on the floor, I will always have her harness around my wrist or foot. Always. I will always follow the jenazah prayer right after the wajib prayer also because its very short. Sometimes my husband will take her and then I will be freeeee. Anyway, I have to really tell myself to calm down and just focus when she cries/disturb people while I am praying and just do the necessary. I try. Very hard.

Umrah/Sunnah Tawafs:

Carried her throughout. Sometimes she will sleep, sometimes she wont but no major issues. Because she is used to being in a carrier. We also did it on our own as it was faster.

Nap times:

Jet lag causes some naptimes to be very unpredictable. I aimed to pray at the mosque all the time but not possible to follow all the jemaah prayers. I missed a few sometimes. But once she woke up, I will walk over to pray. Sometimes cannot. The thing about my hotel at Haram is that theres a speaker that is connected to Haram for allll the main prayers. So I dont know if this is counted as jemaah prayers but I just niat to, and follow. Both my hotels were at most 7 mins walking distance to the mosques.

Mother:

Me. Because I was the main person carrying/attending to her throughout the trip, I was extremely tired some of the times. I have to make calculated decisions to let go of some of my plans sometimes because I would not be able to sustain. Khidhir was very helpful and offered but this was his first trip there and I wanted him to have more time doing his ibadahs.

And that is all, folks.

Please feel free to ask any questions. I hope this can help you! Ultimately you know your kids best.

 

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Paris

Paris, France

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“Paris is always a good idea.”

– Audrey Hepburn

No matter what people say about the city, I still love it. I love the romantic charm about the city. The personal and detailed architectures, soft lights, the gilded accents, the smell of freshly baked pain au chocolat, the Eiffel, the dreamy sunsets, the whole je ne sais quoi about it.

C’est tout.

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Chamonix, Uncategorized

Chamonix, France

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So the story goes like this. Because Khidhir gave me free reign over our holiday planning, I decided to make it worth the trip (and savings) by going to different cities which offers different sceneries and the whole works. After my trip to Interlaken in 2010 with Auntie and Auntie Mama whereby I DID NOT paraglide and regretted for life, I told myself that I would do so at the next chance I get. And there is no where else I would want to jump off other than the snowy Alps. Going back to Interlaken was going to be too expensive so I googled for the perfect location in France and found Chamonix! Paragliding really was my main agenda there. But heck, it was NOT easy (or cheap) to get to. At all. And we almost gave up.

Thank God, we managed to find a route by train, to and fro. 3 trains rides from Brussels and 2 to Paris. By the time we hopped on the last train it was pitch black and we were SUPER tired by then. We were crazy relieved to meet the landlord, Jean Pierre, who was kind enough to fetch us and send us to the apartment. All the while we still could not see anything. We found out why the next morning. Our place was super tiny but cosy AND MAHA COLD. Even with heater at full blast. By the way, the landlords have been very accommodating to ALL my requests and questions over email prior to the trip. Probably the most efficient ones thus far. Anyways, throughout the 5 days there, Khidhir and I slept with probably 4-5 layers on. Bathing was a chore. Outdoor temperature ranged from -10 to 1 degree celsius.

I got the most pleasant shock of my life when I pulled the curtains aside the next morning! The view was breathtaking! For some reason I forgot that Chamonix was situated in a valley which means we were surrounded by the French Alps and that was why we couldn’t see shit the night before. Doh. Amazeballs. So.friggin.worth.it. We spent the next 5 days just pretending that we have been staying there since forever. RIGHT. We went around to see the ski routes, went up different mountain peaks, paragliding (of course), walked around, took the bus to check out the nearby towns, drank multiple cups of hot chocolate and ate many many pastries and the likes.

We really did not want to leave. We ohhed and ahhed everyday at God’s creation. Even though its the same thing. Will definitely bring Iman there when she’s old enough to ski, insyallah.

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Antwerp, Brussels

Belgium; Brussels and Antwerp

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My ideal way to explore a city would be to walk aimlessly for hours. I will always look for their street markets for food and local produce. There’s something about cold weather, Christmas markets, hot food and hot chocolate that makes me very happy and calm. Antwerp and Brussels are so close in distance yet so far in ambience. Being the de facto capital of the European Union, Brussels is filled with relatively more urban and metropolitan as compared a more charming and laidback Antwerp. 

Uncle Adam and Mama actually brought us around these two cities in ONE day and the highlight had to be the Belgian waffles. It was crispy-ish on the outside but chewy on the inside. I really have no idea how they made it but now I know whats the hype all about. I observed the baker for a while and I noticed that the waffles dough was doughy and stretchy. HOW to replicate?!

I also want to remember the really considerate and friendly chocolatier who was kind enough to explain to me the flavours of the different truffles and made sure I chose from the non-alcoholic choices. Little gestures like this especially when shown by someone across the world who is not even of your religion, are very touching. 

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Middelburg

Middelburg

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DSC_3374-001 DSC_3373-001DSC_3756-001DSC_3766-001DSC_3771-001DSC_3775-001DSC_3782-001DSC_3800-001DSC_3810-001Kicked start our 20-day trip at my mum-in-law’s cosy home in Middelburg. Its a quaint town located about 3 hours away from Amsterdam and we love it there! There’s the whole peaceful and calming vibe about it. On the 3rd day we decided to cycle to their ‘town’ and check out their supermarkets (what else…) and shops, alas, because it was a Sunday, most shops were closed *facepalm*.

Anyhoos because I wanted to see the old traditional windmills so much (so much that I will buy one if I want to ostracise myself from the world), they brought us to a town a few minutes away (I forgot the name of the town!). Its so pretty! As you can see, there’s actually someone still living there. I am not sure if the windmill is still being used to produce electricity or flour though. That aside, that place is like something that I read off Enid Blyton’s books. I would totally retire there. Its like a kampung with awesome weather. Join me? Anyone?

 

 

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Jakarta

Jekardah with the Lehdies

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“How simple life is. It’s as simple as this: you’re hungry and you eat, you’re full and you shit. Between eating and shitting, that’s where human life is found. – (Houseboy + Maid, in Tales from Djakarta)”
― Pramoedya Ananta ToerTales from Djakarta: Caricatures of Circumstances and Their Human Beings

… and we did just that.

We planned on Saturday, booked on Sunday and left on the following Friday.  And Nana decided after us. RANDOM!

We reached new thresholds together and we will go through shit for one another. Literally and figuratively. Lol.

I LOVE Jakarta for their extremely hospitable and friendly people, relatively cheap and good food & transportation. Maybe we were just really lucky this time round. But then again this was my 5th trip there and none has been tainted (yet). It was important to me that taxi drivers did not go the long way from point A to B. Their bajaj rides were just hilarious because we were bent on sharing a 2-seater. Definitely bringing the boys along the next time round!

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London

London Honeymoon 2012

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“He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”
― F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby

[THIS POST IS ABOUT 10 THOUSAND YEARS LATE]

London. Why London as the first point of disembarkation to mark our now non-separate lives… forever? Because of a soccer match guys. A soccer match. Ok bedek. I really wanted to go to THE most anticipated exhibition ever and do everything Harry Potter-y too. What started as not even one of the top ten destination choices for me, ended amicably actually. The whole trip actually felt like an ordinary great super fun trip with my best friends. Okay maybe not as fun but very close.  We cooked together, we laughed together, we got lost together, we fought… alot but we learnt how to quickly turn that around… together(?). Ni important okay.

London was…c-c-c-c-cold. It is, one of the two, must go cities, for me, during the Christmas season! So checked that off my list. I love acting like I am a local when I am in another city. Do local-y things like go to the market, take their local transportation system (MOST FAVOURITE THING TO DO EVER), take a walk around their neighbourhoods & et cetera. To me thats when you really get to know the city. To me lah.

Nothing else to say except I regret (present tense) not eating the paella.

My conclusion. Because we make such perfect travelling partners, we will make it! YAY!

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