New York City – Our Big Rotten Apple
“Time flies.” I heard this phrase so many times in my life. Not fair. Not fair at all. It flies when we’re having a great time; but when it’s tough,it freezes as you inch your way out of hell. I sit here, month 19, calm as a meditating lotus. I’m in room 52 of the Garden Village Guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Doing a ‘looking back’ and the memories flood and swoosh from the time we left home 19 months ago, with 3 kids, 8 backpacks, and 10 passports. It started out very painfully. We were confused, exhausted, sick, angry, and… I should probably stop the list right here. Like Dorothy’s house swept up into a foreign land; strangely, I feel like I’m going back there, and then. Lotus flower? She’s gone. Heart beat- accelerated, palms-sweaty; curse words- spewing. Hard times like our arrival to Bangkok arise. It is in those moments,those huge international first-step moments, when we really ask ourselves what the fuck we’re doing.
Beginnings are always a little tough.We should expect that.
We did expect it, but had no idea it would smack us off our feet like it did. The last three weeks before leaving all that we loved in Israel and took a flight to USA, Gabi and I had a hysterical mountain of work to do. She was running Conscientious Parenting Classes four nights a week, finishing up with clients, and teaching English every other day. The night before we left, Gabi fell asleep on the couch while I finished up last minute stuff until 4am. To be honest, I felt so exhausted that I did not care anymore. We planned for months and months and months, and still got to the finish line with our tongues sticking out.
Arriving to your around-the-world family adventure exhausted is highly unrecommended. We arrived to New York, totally dead and jet lagged. We took turns falling asleep in mid-sentence, while standing, and even while walking. The kids felt a bit lost. (I lie!) They were freaking out confused, and whined that they just wanted to go home. They cried at nights and oh, we were so clueless what to do. Remember, we were struggling to keep our eyes open.
While boarding the flight, the all-awesome Continental pilots let Dahnya, Orazi, and Solai take a sneak peak in the cockpit. The pilots pushed all sorts of cool buttons that made noise and impressed the kids. Having my mother working for Continental (today United Airline) and having her graciously give us allll of her flight benefits that first year has been a huge blessing in allowing us to travel much longer than we’d have to otherwise. This benefit was, and still is, a great financial saver for us! Go Continental/ United Airlines !!! You rock!
The day after we left Israel, their school put on a holiday play and celebration. Our kids were active in preparing the event, and were so upset in missing that highlight in their social life. They cried (literally) that they were missing the the Purim Ball, the event of the year!
Our dear friend Kim who lives in New York City bought us tickets to a Purim Ball in the JCC in her area. The kids got ready for hours. The dear sweet girls, Dahnya and Solai, did and redid their hair; put on their costumes, and even applied make up (a rare thing for us!). “This is gonna be the BEST! Purim in New York City!”
When we arrived, in costumes which we carried all the way from Israel, we found only a handful of kids; all babies in comparison to our kids, and few partially dressed up. They took one peak into the ball room, ducked their tails between their legs, took off their costumes at the door, and wanted to go back home.
And us, as parents, we stood there so lost and miserable.Were we really doing a good thing for our kids? We took them away from that nest , that school, those friends, the extended network of cousins and aunts and grandparents who meant the world to them. For what? To be lost in New York City?
The wiped off their sad faces and walked in with courage. Kim had treated us to this event and they really made the most of it. Good food, a sweet clown who made shapes out of balloons, and lovely coloring and art activities. Who knew most the kids there would be in diapers to toddler? Who knew? On the other hand, Orazi took it very hard. He had a really wonderful social life in school and missing the big event he helped planned was tough. Being at this event with “babies” instead of celebrating at school with his gang was too much for him. Before leaving, Orazi had begged us to say few more days so he can take part in the school Purim party. We could not. He took off his Zorro costume, sat in a chair, and cried. I totally broke at this point. I wanted them to have a blast. I wanted us all to have a great time. We were waiting for the big “Wow!” but it did not come. Orazi had had three really hard days and kept saying how, how much he wanted to go home. He had cried himself to sleep every night. This was so hard for us who thought we were doing some amazing thing for our children.Kim and Gabi stayed with the girls while I took Orazi for “therapy” ice cream. Like his mother’s breast milk when he was younger, sweet stuff always calms down this mama’s boy. The girls , all four of them, hung out in the party. The boys, no pre-packaged party for us. We discovered our own heaven! An entire roof-top playground, complete with scooters, slides, and huge building blocks. There we were, fresh out of Israel, now on the roof of this tall building with a view to to the New York City skyline and the moon that I had never seen. Until almost 11pm; we stayed there. We laughed, and ran around, and breathed. What else can five wayward, tired, confused travlers and one lovely old friend do?
That night, Gabi and I decided that every day of our trip we will structure in time for them to be kids. To go wild, run, explore, connect to their bodies and the world in the most kid-way possible. No more putting them into situations where they have to be quiet, behave, listen, stop, beware, and not breathe. (Of course, we don’t want them to turn into wild breasts who respect nothing. So, as we go, we’re learning to balance it). But not breathing, fitting into little cubby holes that others to be in. That’s not the point of seeing the world; that’s not the point of being a nomadic family; that’s not us.
Staying in NYC
In our journey around the world as nomadic family travelers, I can count on one hand how many times we made accommodation reservation before arriving. NYC was one of those places. We knew we would arrive tired (but did not know we would break down like we did). I thought it would be best to be more prepared. We know for a fact that accommodation in NYC, especially in Manhattan is expensive. Cheap hotels can be found and one doesn’t have to work hard to actually get great deals. We considered a few options, but when it comes down to downtown Manhattan our pocket cried due to the high prices we found. And it was neither high session time nor summer time. New York hotels offer you a variety of options and amenities and we tired to see what would fit best a family of five. And as much as we really wanted to say in a nice hotel, it was too much for us to afford. In booking a hotel, a family of five is sometimes asked to book two rooms. (Ouch!) We ended up compromising on a AirBnB reservation of an apartment in Upper Manhattan, located only one block from the Subway station and ten minutes from Central Park. I am not sure we paid less than if we had reserve a cheap hotel room, but it served us really, really well.
Exploring New York – Minus One Klaf
In our ‘old’ life, our kids were so used to running free and exploring without limits. Suddenly, in the small apartment, in China town, in the subway, on the streets of New York; things drastically changed. “Stay here!“, “Don’t leave my hand!“, “Don’t touch that!“, “Don’t wander!“, “Don’t breathe!” A very stressful, exhausting beginning. The nomadic family not feeling feel so nomadic0able, huh?
Arriving to the Great Unknown was scarier than we imagined. Even traveling in so-called dangerous Colombia with our kids wasn’t that troubling for us. Colombia was after 8 months on the road; this was day 3.
So…. we managed to keep our eyes open (toothpicks!) and explored the Big Apple with joy.Well, almost.
Considering the hysterical pace of things until we left and all the last minute stress, well, I got really sick in New York. While I stayed in to rest, Gabi’s friend Kim took the rest of the Klaf gang to Central Park and around town. What a life-saver!
They chilled in Central Park and then went ice skating. Gabi thought they would get bored and stop after a few minutes. How wrong was she?
Ice skating connected them with something they loved. Back at home, in the town to the north of us named Metula, there is a lovely ice skating rink. It was amazing to see them on the ice, for hours. To stay awake, Gabi talked to anyone near her. Some people thought she was drugged or crazy by her enthusiastic, “Hi, I’m Gabi. Let’s Be Friends!” attitude.
Our kids filled their bodies with everything we usually forbid them to dream of. They ate hotdogs, pizza, popcorn, french fries, and ice cream. Maybe it was the guilt of taking them away from their friends in those first days. Maybe it was the guilt of Gabi and I falling basically sleeping for the first three days straight. Maybe it was because the ice skating rink didn’t offer anything nutritious. Either way, they were in heaven (until the point they complained about how their stomach aches) .
Solai fell asleep on the Subway on the way home after ice skating. Gabi was physically exhausted (did we already mention that part?) and couldn’t do it, so my brave Dahnya carried her sister half a city block in her arms. She helped Solai up four flights of stairs, took off her wet clothing, put her fresh clothes on, the moved her (dropped her accidentally) into the bed Solai had asked to sleep in before she feel asleep. Oh.
We’ve come home in a few ways since then. More than a few ways.
We now know that ‘home’ is wherever the five of us are. We’ve tried to split up here and there for ‘air’ and always found we were happier together. When the boys went to Battambang- ah, what a touching example of us needing to be one family. Or when I went to sell the car for two long months, and the kids made sheet-stuffed dolls with my clothing to sleep with at nights. Or when Gabi will go to her two week Vipasana in mid-September…
I guess, we used to just want time alone, time for ourselves, time to breath alone. And, we still thrive off of it; but, now, it’s different. Now, something’s changes in the cosmos, and we know, that no matter what’s going on, we’d always prefer to be together. Until the next season, when we’ll want more time apart…. and then, the next season…
Now, in Seim Reap, Cambodia, we look back and and laugh about what we went through when this journey had begun 19 months ago; and how much we have grown and evolved as individuals and as a family… and, also,.how similar it was when we landed in South East Asia over a year later.
Conclusion: We don’t well on 20+ hour commutes. We don’t. And, we love sleeping. And, you know that Gabi AND Kobi wrote this post. (YOu could tell. I knew you could). And, the rain is sooooo strong outside. And, I have to pee don’t want to get up. (Who is willing to pee for me?) And, I hate editing post. And, I best stop before God-knows where I go with this….
Ever landed in your VACATION and missed it all? My brother once spent his three days in Hawaii with high fever and shots in the butt. Ever think we’ll learn how to kick jet lag in the butt? Ever been pleasantly delighted to find that a place you were sure you’d abhor (smelling, dirty, noisy, polluted NYC) ended up being unbelievably amazing (clean, safe, green, lovely)? Ever went waaaay out of your comfort zone to do something you thought was so amazing for others, to find it back-fire and you sit, dazed and confused and reeking in guilt? Ever read the I-can-d0-no-wrong Parenting Manuel, and by chance, know where I can get a copy?
You like us, tons. And we like you, bundles and bundles. Leave a little smiley and we’ll smile back.