Travelling with joy – part 2
It wasn’t too long after lift-off from Sydney that Milan my 18 months old bundle of joy finally fell asleep hugging his “blankie”. Despite his head laying on my lap and his legs extending onto my mother’s lap my mother and I managed to get some eyes shut too, but not for long.
It must’ve been about four hours later when Milan started tossing and turning and my efforts of trying to get him comfortable failed. Frustrated my little angel turned into a monster. He screamed the loudest, lungful, highest pitch scream I’ve ever heard. I am positive every single person on that airplane turned towards us at that point. Yes, they were all giving us dirty looks for waking them up.
So I grabbed the little one and took him to the very back of the airplane to calm him down. Hoping to put him back to sleep I was singing songs and telling him stories. He eventually did stop crying, but he was still embarrassingly loud. Milan decided it was playtime and all he wanted to do was to explore this very strange place; running up and down the aisle, playing with the airplane door and attempting to go up the stair to the staff only and kitchen areas.
I was able to trick him to return to our seats but of course he wasn’t going to sit still or just lay-down and sleep. Instead he was standing up checking out people sitting behind us and tapping on the others’ heads sitting in the row in front of us. To add more to the embarrassment he’d scream when I sat him down.
Since he didn’t want to sleep I thought his toys could come in handy. However, little Milan was not interested in these very familiar objects, but he gladly discovered the little T.V right in front of him. He fiddled with the remote control for a little while then turned the lights on and off then discovered the button to call for flight attendants.
To make him give up the remote control I called for a nappy change and took him to the bathroom. Since it was a different bathroom to the one at home he wanted to explore that as well, of course. Once that battle was over it was time for his early morning bottle and Milan finally fell asleep in my arms. Only it was shortly before landing in Bangkok. We did manage to get a few minutes of sleep though.
The one hour transit in Bangkok was another nightmare. After getting so comfortable on the plane we had to pack everything again and take it with us. So off the plane we got with all our bags close to snapping our backs yet again. I was already telling my mother “what have I gotten myself into?” We weren’t even half way there yet.
The next leg to Dubai was somehow smoother. My mother and I took turns entertaining Milan and going on walks and feeding him. He also managed to get some more sleep.
Landing in Dubai we were happy to be at least a little closer to our destination and nervous that we had to collect our luggage. We had 9 hours to get our luggage, go through immigration and security and make our way from terminal 3 to terminal 1.
Terminal 3 was exclusive to Emirates Airlines and a shiny sparkling place. Still, we made our way to terminal 1, where we thought our next flight would be.
Here we asked around and found out we were actually at the wrong place, but we weren’t panicking as we still had quite a lot of hours to spend. So we used the free time to exchange some money and ordered food. We also freshened up and changed as the weather here was already very humid even in the early hours of the morning. We let Milan run free and wild taking turns in chasing him while one of us stayed with the luggage.
After spending about three hours we wanted to catch a taxi to go to terminal 2, where our flight was leaving from. The weather outside was quite humid and hot by now. We were surprised how far this terminal was away. It took at least 20 minutes to get there.
Arriving at terminal 2 we slowly but surely came to a shocking realisation. The terminals were clearly segregating people, destination and countries according to their socio-economic standards. Terminal 1 was a completely different world from terminal 2 let alone to the exclusive and luxurious terminal 3 we had initially landed at.
At this very aged terminal 2, we travelled alongside people from not so well off Asian and Africans countries including Iraq and Kurdistan. But to add our shock passengers were also treated differently here. Staff working at this terminal was very commonly yelling and insulting passengers if they entered the wrong queue, and were very openly making fun of the travellers’ dress and appearance.
Both my mother and I speak Arabic well and we could understand everything that was said. Even though most were kind towards us not everyone received the same treatment. There was one instance in which a couple of immigration officers were making fun of a woman of African appearance. As one of the officers checked her passport he told his colleague “this one turns out to be holding a Canadian passport damn it” as if it was something she wasn’t worthy of. We were absolutely appalled.
As we waited at the gate we met a Kurdish family from Melbourne who shared our shocked about the treatment of travellers. Soon the waiting area was filling up by Kurdish speaking passengers and this made us feel closer to home than we had anticipated. Thanks to Milan we were soon speaking to everyone as he was running around and attracting everyone’s attention.
We boarded a very old and small passenger plane, which seemed fully booked out. We got a little worried as this plane looked very shaky. This time the air pressure really affected Milan’s ears. Before we knew it he was being passed around like a parcel between fellow travellers wanting to comfort Milan. I was a bit worried at first, but the warmth and friendliness of the Kurdish people around us was overwhelming.
The four-hour flight from Dubai to Sulaymaniya was coming to an end and we landed at 8pm local time and 7 degrees Celsius – quite a difference to the climate in Sydney and Dubai.
We were here; this was it, finally arriving home. It felt like there was a familiar smell in the very cold air.
The following days and weeks were full of emotional reunions with family and old friends. We did many road-trips to other areas and cities in Kurdistan including our home town of Kirkuk (the orphan abandoned city, which I won’t talk about here as it is a whole other story).
Unfortunately Milan started suffering from diarrhoea, which meant he was using up a lot of nappies, nappy rash cream and body wash very fast. He was eating almost everything that was offered to him for the first time in his life. He was sharing and wanting everything his little cousins were eating. During the whole time I was unable to find let alone control the cause of his diarrhoea. As a result he started getting a severe nappy rash.
So we ran out of nappies, nappy cream, and wipes by week three. I was recommended many different brands of baby products that were available. Surprisingly the range was huge; you could find many international brands in most super and mini markets. Huggies seemed to be the only product that wasn’t available though. I tried all brands yet nothing was really helping. We did make it through the month and a half of travelling though.
I think you can never be prepared enough when travelling with young children. Part of it is to go with your gut instincts and hope for the best. With my experience of travelling with Milan here is a checklist of:
Things I don’t regret having packed (plenty of)
- Baby formula. I had packed the right amount so that on the day we left I had about half a can left, just enough for the trip back.
- Gifts for all of my family and friends.
- “Blankie”, Milan’s favourite blanket.
Things I packed (way) too much of
- Baby food. They were also very heavy because of the glass jars.
- Clothes, shoes, and make-up for myself which I could have done without.
- Toys that everyone had recommended to take on-board. They were no use what-so-ever because there were so many interesting things for an 18 months old to explore.
Things I wish I’d packed more of
- Huggies, they seemed to be the only brand of diapers that could have prevented Milan’s nappy rash.
- Nappy rash cream that worked for Milan as it wasn’t available in shops.