Wednesday, April 25, 2007
A loooong time ago, I wrote about a planned family trip to the land of my wife's birth, the Philippines, wondering about the logistical and cultural considerations involved with using a carseat overseas. Well, the time has finally come to put the rubber to the road, as it were. Our big trip "home" is fast approaching.
My non-continental-U.S. travel experiences have been slim so far--a trip to Puerto Rico, two trips to Mexico, two trips to Hawaii, a half-remembered childhood daytrip to British Columbia from Washington State. This is by far the longest flight I'll have been on, let alone with The Pumpkin, who at 2-and-a-half is no stranger to planes. And this trip is different in a much more important way--for my wife, who came here at age one, and her parents, who are the only members of their families in this country, this isn't a vacation as much as it is going home. For someone born and raised in Los Angeles whose immigrant ancestors on both sides of the family are at least three generations in the past, this is something entirely new.
For the first time, I'm going to meet people I've only heard about for the last 15 years, people I'm related to by marriage, people who are my wife's family. My daughter's family. My family. It's a weird idea, a weird feeling, for a guy whose own family-by-birth is pretty small. The number of first cousins I have, I can count on my fingers. For my wife, even thousands of miles and years apart, cousins aren't cousins--they're brothers and sisters. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about all this, about making a good impression, about the language and culture barriers, about traveling with my in-laws in their own homeland, where they're the experts. I want to have a good time, to make sure my wife and babygirl have fun too, and to show my parents-in-law how much I respect and appreciate them. So yeah, nerves are there. But I so want this, for my wife, and for my daughter, though I don't know how much she'll remember in years to come (we'll have plenty of pictures, though, if I brought enough memory cards and the right power adapter, that is). And you know what? I want this for me, too.
So I won't understand everything, linguistically, culturally even. So I'm not Filipino, just "Filipino by marriage." But being surrounded by people who look like me, a country full of brown skin and miscegenated features? And add to that that I'm related to a whole bunch of them, and they to my babygirl? Yeah, I want this.
So we're running around buying "tropical-weather" wear (90 degrees with similar humidity, only 80 at night!), packing balikbayan boxes for the relatives, prepping The Pumpkin with talk of the Philippines and going to where Nana and Tata are from, with them, and going on the plane, and meeting lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. We've tried to get her used to the backpack carrier we've bought, gathered all the power cords for the various electronic devices (thank god for portable DVD players!), and stocked up on sunscreen and bug repellent.
And we've been reading The Pumpkin these two awesome, brand-new books from Asian-interest publisher Tuttle, both by Filipina expat Liana Romulo: Filipino Friends and My First Book of Tagalog Words. They're both from the p.o.v. of Filipino American kids--"Filipino Friends" actually follows a balikbayan kid on his first trip to the Philippines. [Thanks to the good folks at Tuttle for sending me these, and just in time, too! Wow, I didn't even realize till I looked at Amazon that "Filipino Friends" isn't even out yet! Cool. Heh.] Definitely cool books for trip prep.
Oh--and the carseat? Yeah, bringing it. Heh.