Travelling with an infant certainly presents some challenges. Bright lights and activity during flights energize and cause certain young children to wiggle between legs and escape into the aisle during take-off. Eating at a restaurant is an exercise in mess and sound minimization. Naps need to be very carefully scheduled in order to occur in the hotel room rather than the walking tour. Baby-proofing a new room needs an eagle eye and quick reflexes.
However, I have also been surprised by how Hayden has also managed to open up the world to us. I had expected to receive a globally negative attitude from others towards our noisy messy rascally son. Instead, Hayden seems to make friends everywhere he goes. This was very apparent during our trip though Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In most restaurants, the waiter or waitress would usually scoop him out of our arms, say “bye bye” (if they spoke any English at all), and then whisk him out for a tour of the kitchen, to return a few minutes later proudly waving a banana or a pineapple swizzle stick. At museums the attendants would insist on baby-sitting, pulling out hand-embroidered bracelets to tie around his wrist. As we walked through bazaars, Hayden would be showered with blankets, tokens against the evil eye, or strange looking biscuits.
The people who so generously gave these gifts to our son refused to take any cash in return. Luckily we had packed extra items of make-up, LED torches, and Belgian playing cards so we could return the favour. I was really touched and humbled by the kindness of the residents of Central Asia. Bringing Hayden along on our travels helped me to feel like we were all part of one global community, doing our best to bring delight to the next generation.