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Munchkin on safari

We sometimes wonder what goes through our young son’s head during our travels. He won’t remember these early trips – the ten European countries he visited before his second birthday, the African safaris and boat trips, the sojourns in New England to visit his grandparents – but does he enjoy these travels in the moment?

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If our two-week trip through Namibia is any indication, we think he actually enjoys them quite a bit. For one, he was on much better behavior during those two weeks than he is during a typical weekend at home. Sure, he had his meltdowns – if dinner came too late or he didn’t nap enough, he would get cranky. The most memorable meltdown was when he screamed his head off at S because she had had the temerity to take a shower: “No, mama, I want you to be dirty! I don’t want you to take a shower! I want you to be dirty!” he cried over and over. But then again, he has similar breakdowns at home.

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A more important indicator was that he was much more interactive on this safari than on our previous trips. “Papa, papa, look – a chipka (birdie)! Come, take a picture!” That line, delivered with the exuberance that only a child could muster, just about broke D’s heart with love. When S tried to get him to nap one afternoon in Etosha, he grew especially keen on game watching: “What’s that? We have found a animal!” Nana supplied the answer when S wouldn’t; “Mama, it’s a ostrich,” he dutifully reported.

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And there was more. “Let’s go guys! I don’t see anything!” he’d announce if we stopped too long for no reason that was obvious to him. Asked if he wanted to go see some elephants, he responded coolly, “No, we already saw them yesterday,” which was very much true. Towards the end of the trip, S’s mom bought Munchkin a stuffed leopard that was quickly redubbed Cheetah when we saw some real-live ones. “Cheetah, meet your friends!” Munchkin told the stuffed toy after gazing at the real deal.

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During the several local trips we took just prior to our Namibian odyssey, he would sometimes grow impatient after too many hours in the car. Music and snacks worked wonders in such situations. “No! I want my music!” he announced crossly when D had hit play on whatever CD had been in the car’s stereo, before demanding his favorite three songs from the “Going to the Zoo” CD. “What do you have for me?” he asked when S offered him a snack, and when she confessed that she had run out of his pouches and cookie bars, he mused rhetorically, “Nothing!”

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Because he always had someone – usually nana and zadie – to share the backseat with him in our safari car in Namibia, those drives went considerably smoother. He napped, snacked, asked to stop when he needed to relieve himself, and spent a lot of time playing hide-and-seek, concealing himself under a thin blanket and insisting that we look for him. It was his favorite game out of the car too. When he played the seeker, he would count to ten as quickly as he could and then sing, for example, “Where is nana?” to the tune of Where is Thumbkin: “Where is nana? Where is nana? Here I am, here I am. How are you today, sir? Very well, I thank you…” and so forth.

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His other favorite occupation was to get behind the wheel whenever we stopped long enough to get out of the car and stretch our legs. “I’m the driver today. Are you ready, guys? I’m driving to Uganda, let’s take a picture!” After the safari portion of our trip was over, we said goodbye to S’s parents and spent a weekend at Victoria Falls en route back home to Kigali. His nana and zadie gone and our excellent guide and driver also no longer with us, Munchkin grew weary of our travels at last and demanded to see his nanny and our dog. “We have one more day of vacation,” S told him, unwittingly spawning an awesome new word: “Onecation! Onecation!” Munchkin rejoiced at the news that we’d soon be going home.

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