Sunday, July 27, 2008

Quality family time in Temagami

Catherine is enjoying some great quality time with her family on Lake Temagami, Ontario. All is well in the near north. Wishing everyone a great summer 2008!

Catherine and Mamoo

Catherine is getting to spend some quality time with Mamoo. Reading books, helping her with her hair and riding in the boat to a picnic lunch.

Enjoying northern Ontario

Here are Catherine and Molson enjoying a swim in the lake. Everyone is doing fine and the weather has started to warm up enough to go swimming. Its a toss up whether we'll have a day where you can get a sunburn on the dock or where you will be in your jeans, sweatshirt and rain jacket.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

THE Trip

This blog will chronicle the adventures of Robin and Catherine during their marathon journey from Dhaka, Bangladesh to Temagami, Ontario, Canada July 2008.

First of all, for those without AWHILE to kill or the patience to read this entire blog, CATHERINE AND I ARRIVED SAFELY IN CANADA.

Unfortunately, we had to get Catherine out of bed at 11:30PM (she had only been asleep for 2 hours) to catch our 1:30AM flight to Hong Kong. Dave accompanied us to the airport and was in charge of wrapping and transporting Catherine’s car seat. We checked 2 bags plus the car seat…not bad considering we will be gone for over 2 and half months.

We had a fairly uneventful flight to Hong Kong. Luckily, Catherine slept for about 2 hours and the seat next to us was empty. I did have some swelling in my feet, which was a little worrisome only because the flight was so short compared to what we had ahead of us. We arrived in Hong Kong at 7:30AM local time (there is a 2 hour time difference) and had about an 8 hour lay over. I was thinking about the layover in terms of an entire ‘workday’ spent killing time with a toddler in a strange airport…probably not the best approach, but I couldn’t help it!

I had decided not to bring the stroller on this trip because there would be no place to use it in Canada and the only reason I would probably want it would be in Hong Kong. Yeah, that was right, I really could have used it then! Even after the short first leg of the trip in coach, I was tired and my back hurt, same with Catherine, so not surprisingly, she wanted to be held…A LOT! Since there was no one else to hold my backpack, her backpack and her stuffed animal, I looked and felt like a sherpa! We sat and rested for the first hour on some comfortable chairs and we had a little snack and read some books. She actually ate on the previous flight (why do they feed you dinner at 3AM on flights?!). We walked around and found a kiosk selling Olympic paraphernalia and bought some shirts for family in Canada. The total for 3 t-shirts came to like $300 Hong Kong ?dollars? and I didn’t have the brain power to know or figure out the math, but really, really hoped it was not even CLOSE to an even exchange rate! We spent time getting acquainted to the airport layout and found lots of fancy shops and restaurants. We decided to have an early lunch at Café Deco, located right next to the Champions sports bar and grill. I contemplated eating there, but it seemed a little odd going into a bar as an 8-month pregnant woman and toddler…so we skipped it. The lunch tasted good and revived us a bit. Then we set off in search of the “playground” friends from Dhaka had told us about. It is located at gate 23 and we spent a significant amount of time there! I have no idea where Catherine got the energy to run around on the colorful carpet, bang on the music switches and climb on and over everything in sight!? We looked for the day lounge, as I was losing steam and wanted to lay down for a few hours. We found one but all they had were chairs…why would I pay $40 PER PERSON to sit in a chair??? I could do that for free at the playground! We opted out of the day lounge and decided to keep plugging away. The plan would be play, then go for ice cream (yes, there is a Ben and Jerry’s in the food court!!!) and then back to the playground. Our flight (thank goodness!) boarded at the gate RIGHT NEXT TO the playground. Talk about lucky! We had our ice cream, another round of playing and then boarded the plane. With a last minute bathroom stop, we ended up boarding the plane LAST.

We took off 30 minutes late because a passenger failed to show for the plane and OF COURSE, his/her bag was completely buried in the belly of the airplane! Catherine slept for about 2 hours just after we took off and I scooted over in my seat to allow her to stretch out. Coach was completely packed with not one open seat! My back began to hurt and I just willed Catherine to stay asleep. She woke up and ate and opened her gift from a friend in Dhaka (Thanks, Elizabeth, what a GREAT idea!). Of course, the tiny finger puppets were a huge success, but I thought we’d be lucky not to lose one of them under the seat as that’s where they all kept ending up! We took off on a walk around the plane. The walk took us from coach (completely packed like a flying bush taxi), to business (about half full), to first class (about 2 people), across the plane and back to coach. On our second lap, the flight attendant in first class asked that I not walk through the first class section as I was a distraction to the passengers…Yeah right, I am distracting them as they try to watch their large screen TVs that were about 6 inches from their face! It was so dark on the plane, I can’t imagine anyone could see anymore than a silhouette walking down the aisle. I explained that I was 8 months pregnant and was unable to put my feet up in coach and was worried about the increasing swelling in my feet. To boot, I was traveling alone with a toddler. She said she understood. I sorted of chuckled and then I started to cry. No really, I just couldn’t help it. I had no idea that I was already so tired. I mean we were only 4 hours into a 15+ hour flight! She asked me to follow her and took me to the last seat at the way back of the business class section. She said you and your daughter sleep here and you put your feet up. She brought me 2 pillows and a down comforter-like blanket. I was speechless. I thought, yes, she is my lifesaver…we can get a couple of hours of sleep, I get to put my feet up and then we return to our seats in coach. Well, we put the seat back (FYI: Cathay Pacific biz class seats GO FLAT) and we slept, and slept and slept. Catherine slept for about EIGHT hours and I slept almost that long! We woke up and had a few hours to kill, the flight attendant encouraged us to stay in that seat and we did! We got our stuff from the other seat and sat there for the duration of the flight. The woman had literally saved my life!!! We when were getting ready to land in Toronto, I pointed out the CN Tower and the lake to Catherine and all she could say was “Where is the boat?!”

There was a SLIM chance that we could have made an earlier flight to North Bay (7:30PM) but because we arrived 30 minutes late and waited in a long customs line, we had no chance. We would have to wait until our scheduled departure at 10:45PM. The customs agent asked where we were going (“cottage”) then specifics about where it was located. She asked where we lived, for how long. How long were we staying in Canada, did we have our return flight booked? When was it? Then she asked where Dave was and whether or not I had a note to travel with Catherine or not. Oops. That was too far down the “to do” list to get to before we left. Lucky for me, she must have thought I looked honest and/or unlikely to kidnap my own child. She let us go and then we got to wait for our luggage to come out. I got a cart, because there was no way I could handle it all without a cart. I stupidly went looking for the desk to check in for our next flight without realizing that we were in THE WRONG TERMINAL. That would have taken me awhile. I knew we flew out of Terminal 1 for the flight to North Bay, but it never occurred to me that I would arrive in another terminal. But I was an international arrival and then a domestic departure…duh! Brain was not functioning at full capacity. We found the train to terminal 1 (after a couple of superfluous elevator rides) and found our check-in gate (again after a couple of wrong turns). It was 8PM. I, again NOT THINKING, should have taken some of the things in my backpack that I knew I would not need on the last leg and stuff them in our suitcases we were re-checking. I mean I had a big bag of Olympic t-shirts and other stuff I knew I would not need between now and north bay! Oh well. We ate at Wolfgang Puck café and waited the 2 hours to board our last plane.

Mercifully, this flight was only one hour. As soon as we took off, Catherine was asleep and slept the entire way. Almost there!


My parents were there as we walked off the plane and walked the 50 yds from the little puddle jumper plane to the terminal. It was about 18 Celsius (we had come from 40+ in Dhaka!). Catherine saw Mimi and Coach and started smiling and laughing right away. I saw them and started crying right away. It was similar to that “I just finished my very first marathon” misty eye cry many runners get…full of emotion and exhaustion. It was nearly midnight. I had no idea what day it was or was going to be in a few minutes. I just wanted to get AWAY from the airport and any airplane. We drove the few minutes to the hotel in North Bay and Catherine and I crashed. She slept great and I was up on and off. I was finally up for good about 5:45AM. She was up about 6:30AM. We decided to venture out into town and let Mimi sleep. Coach was already heading south for his MD appt. We drove to where my prenatal appointment would be in SEVEN short hours! (1PM) and then went shopping at the grocery. There were many impulse purchases, not sure whether it was from the fact that neither of us had eaten yet that morning or that we hadn’t seen much of this good food in nearly one year! We went to breakfast at Tim Hortons and I was feeling GOOD. A box of 40 Timbits to take with us and I left feeling GREAT. Only thing missing is Daouda. We miss you and will see you soon, InshAllah.
The photo was taken as Catherine and I got off the plane in North Bay.