It’s been almost a week since we got back home from our viaje relámpago to Perú, my home country. Saying good-bye to my family is always extremely difficult for me because I never know how long it’ll be before we see each other again. Coming back to the States is also difficult because life here is so different at so many levels. From the taste of the food to the meaning of time…
Our trip back was hellish, to say the least. Three planes to get from Lima to Denver. We left my grandmother’s apartment at the ungodly hour of 2 a.m. and arrived at our home around 7 p.m. that night, which was really 9 p.m. for us considering the time difference. My daughter did amazing. She slept in two out of the three flights. My baby son, on the other hand, was a complete mess. The poor boy barely slept and was fighting off a cold which I’m sure only made him even more miserable.
On our final flight from Houston to Denver, just as I was about to maldecir en silencio the moment we decided to make such an unforgiving trip, Vanessa — who’s obviously much wiser than her 4 1/2 years — turned to me and said: “Mami, gracias por llevarnos a tu país.” She thanked me for taking them to my country!
If I wasn’t sure before about the importance that exposure to our roots through traveling has on our bilingual and bicultural children, her genuine, unprompted comment cemented it.
Traveling to both Peru and Puerto Rico is extremely expensive now that we’re a family of four, especially when we can’t stay longer than a couple of weeks due to our work commitments. After seeing the impact this short trip to Perú had on our daughter, my husband and I have made a pact that traveling back home as often as possible — at least once a year to either country — has to be one of our priorities.
4 Reasons why travel is so important:
- Full time exposure to Spanish. You might recall a post I recently wrote about how I inadvertently found out Vanessa plays in English because this arena of her life is mostly covered by English while she is in preschool. As I mentioned in my last post about our trip, I pretty much let Vanessa play, play and play some more with her 3 cousins while we were in Perú. I’m sure her “play” vocabulary has expanded exponentially! She also figured out that while we all speak Spanish, there are many variations of the language, as I’ve written about in the past. For some unknown reason (I mean, I have an idea of the history behind it, but it still doesn’t make sense), Peruvians call birthday santos instead of cumpleaños. And since we got to celebrate both my ahijado’s (see picture below) and my birthday there, Vanessa heard this word over and over again until she finally asked me what was up.
- Showing them our culture is way better than telling them about it. Culture entails many things, including language, food, music, traditions and, in the case of Latinos, familia. Instead of telling my daughter about all these, she got to experience it all first hand and I was thrilled to see she loved every aspect of it. From our very, very loud family reunions to the two days we spent at the beach doing what I always did as child there: nothing.
- A chance to stock up on all things Spanish. Before I had kids, I used to spend tons of money at the bookstore whenever I traveled to Perú, or any other Spanish speaking country, for that matter. While Amazon has gotten better and better in terms of their Spanish language selection, still nothing beats browsing the isles of a bookstore in search of that perfect book you’ve been dying to read. No more. Now I do that but for children’s books in Spanish. The bookstore in the picture below is only 3 blocks from my grandmother’s apartment, so it was one of the first places we visited! Vanessa was in heaven. I spent a fortune, but I left with four bags full of books and music for her an her brother. The kind of stuff I’ll never be able to get on Amazon
- An opportunity to expand their horizons and to see how life is different, but it’s also the same in other parts of the world. Again, the only way to truly understand this, is to live it, albeit for a short period of time. I think that, beside all the things I’ve mentioned in this and the other posts I’ve written about this trip, one of the main take-aways for my daughter is seeing why it’s important to speak Spanish and how this is a language spoken in many other countries of the world. I hope I never have to do it, but I know that reminding her of how she had no problems communicating with anybody there will serve as a strong detractor if she ever refuses to speak Spanish!
Have you traveled with your children to a Spanish-speaking country? How was that experience? Why is travel important to you?
Beautiful post, I was waiting for this one! so happy to hear you had a wonderful, rich, happy, relaxing time immersing in your mother country along with your bebitos! i’m with you! visiting your country is a priority in multilingualism and multiculturalism, this is the teaching that happens all on its own in such a beautiful way and that change us and our children forever. there are so many benefits to multilingualism, but this for me is my number one motivation. i want my children to know that they have a rich heritage and i want them to be able to communicate with all the members of their immediate and extended family! thanks for sharing roxana! did you get my article?
Thanks, Maria! You’re totally right, heritage traveling “is the teaching that happens all on its own”. Not too much need for explanations. I’ve always thought that showing and experiencing is better than telling. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. While the trip felt super short, I know the memories from it will last a lifetime and hopefully we’ll be able to make some more next year
I have goosebumps! I love this soo much! I love seeing the pictures with all the familia and your beautiful country! And totally, “going home” is worth the headache for the sake of our ninos!
The familia part was truly the best part. I had plans of taking my children to all kinds of places, the zoo, a tiny town type place, etc. In the end, Vanessa was having so much fun just playing with her cousins at home, that I decided otherwise. So glad I did!
ps – your beautiful abuelita looks amazing!
Gracias, Melissa! No sabes lo bien que está considerando lo que pensabamos que iba a pasar el año pasado. Si la ves, no te lo crees!!!
Roxana ~ Gracias por compartir la cuenta de su viaje. / Thank you for sharing the story of your trip. Your photos tell a story all by themselves, and I know I speak for all of us who read this post – you touched our hearts and our minds in many ways.
I witness our neighbor from Ecuador and his familia sharing the culture of their native country with fiestas next door plus many trips made with the kids back to their home country, and I smile. Just as I smiled as I read this wonderful post.
I’m so glad to hear that, Beth! And thanks so much for your constant support
I’ve been waiting for this post as well! The pictures are absolutely wonderful and made me smile. “Gracias por llevarnos a tu país”–what a smart, perceptive girl. So glad you had a good time, that was obvious from the pictures!
I’m glad you enjoyed it, Kim. I have a ton of pictures and videos and it was hard to choose the ones that would best document a sliver of our experience there!
I’m always in awe of the things that Vanessa comes up with. She truly surprises me every single day.
Gracias por compartir las fotos de tu familia con nosotros. Es precioso y muy emotivo.
Espero que podáis volver todos los años a tu país.
Yo también espero lo mismo, Carmén. Qué bueno que te gustaran las fotos. Gracias por tu comentario!
Just last week, bought airline tickets to take the kids to see their Abuelos, this summer. I will confess I’m not entirely looking forward to it– don’t tell anyone– I’m trying not to let the kids know this about me. The significant expense, the flying with 3 kids, the heat/dust/mosquitoes/scorpions, the security issue (cartels) so you can’t just go wandering around exploring like I would wish… always wondering when (not if, but when) I’m going to say something rude, with my not-at-all-perfect Spanish… and I know I am just spoiled but I REALLY do miss having a shower.
Well, now that’s off my chest, you know, I’m just going to try and remember what your little Vanessa said to you, and remind myself how important this is.
Maybe, if I keep the faith, after a few years of this I will enjoy it more. It’s not my home so I don’t have that sense of homecoming. If we go every year, hopefully, it will develop. Anyway… the kids HAVE to get the chance to spend time with their Abuelos and their Bisabuela. And their tios and primos!
In the meantime, I am really going to keep your lovely pictures in my mind!
Thanks for your honesty, Beth. I get you. I do hope all the sacrifices are totally worth it. Believe me, while it might sound like it was all fun and beauty, there’s a lot I have to get used to whenever I go back home.
For starters, my grandmother’s apartment is on a main, very busy street with tons of commercial traffic. It’s summer over there and there’s no central air conditioning (or of any other kind, for that matter) and so we have to sleep with the windows wide open or we die of heat. Well, I can’t begin to describe the traffic noise down below. It starts super early in the morning and it seems to never end!!
Speaking of traffic, I really don’t know how people are not scared to drive in Lima. It’s probably not worse than Mexico City, but it’s scary and plain dangerous. Hate it! I especially hate that most of the time we use taxis as a mode of transportation and not all have seat belts, so there’s no use in taking a car seat because you have no way of securing it!
Anyhow, the list can go on and on and on, but I choose not to concentrate on those things because everything else is so much more important and, in the end, the trip always feels too short.
I hope you’ll come back and share your experiences with us after your trip. Your’re doing a great thing for them. They need to spend time with their familia for sure! Nothing like it!
LOL! Before, I’d rather disbelieved my husband was actually sleeping right through the baby screaming, or actually didn’t notice the floor could have used a sweeping. Now, I understand many things. (A dirty floor doesn’t necessarily get your attention, if you’re used to dirt floors!) I like what you say: “I choose not to concentrate on those things”. I will indeed try to keep a positive attitude, especially for the kids! It will all be worth it!
Beautiful Post. thank you. It just reinforces my desire to return to Croatia so we can continue exposing our daughter to her other half of her family. I haven’t yet traveled to my native country, Mexico. Somehow I’m hesitant with everything i see in the news. I know it’s the same to talk about it than to see it. I do hope one day to take her to meet my extended family in Chihuahua.
(ps. I had a job interview in Denver for a Bilingual position and the lady who interviewed me is also from Peru!) It’s a fascinating country, bordering 5 other countries, I’m sure Peru has influences from these other paises. I’ve never heard of birthdays called santos, interesting.
Elisa!! You’re back in the States? I had no idea. I need to go over to your blog and get caught up!! Are you staying for a while? What are your plans for keeping up with the three languages? Let’s talk…
ooops, correction, “I know it’s not the same to talk about it..”
Great post! My bilingual kids are all grown up now and away from home, but I’m glad we were able to visit Mexico as a family on several occasions. I’m also very proud that they both draw upon their Spanish-language abilities and their cultural heritage in some aspect of their professional lives, as I do. Your children are beautiful, BTW.
really LOVE this post – thank you!
Fantástico! I see it’s an older post but it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I’m going to Puerto Rico with my two children (3 and 1 1/2) and I must confess that every time we go I dread the whole ordeal. But afterwards (ok, not maybe right away) I’m so happy that I get to visit home. We live in Arizona so it’s a whole day of traveling. What I detest the most is the airport/flying, especially when you have to take food for your kids (my youngest is the pickiest eater and still eats some baby food) Andar como burro de carga with strollers, carseats, food, diapers, extra clothes, toys and what not. But you know what? It’s all worth it! All my family is back home. Their abuelos, I have 3 sisters, 3 nephews and 1 niece and they’re all around the same age. I want my children to know their titís and tios, sus abuelitos. I want my nephews and niece to feel we are their family not some visitors that come from time to time. We are very lucky that we have the finances to visit when others can’t. So thank you again! I better get packing, we leave in a week!;)
Roxanna, I have stumbled upon your blog at a perfect time in my life! First, I must say that I really enjoyed your photos of your family in Peru. I have many similar photos myself, my husband is from Lima and we recently took a trip there with our 2 children. I completely agree with the importance of traveling the world with your children, bi-cultural or not. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. My husband’s family has recently offered us a good job there so we are considering moving to Lima. I know the positives the experience would bring our family but I am also aware of some negatives. So I am wondering, have you considered living there again with your children? I would love to have another mother’s outlook on this difficult decision. Gracias!
I loved your post! We took our daughter to visit my husband’s familia in Venezuela when she was just 3 months old. I can’t wait for our return trip this coming Christmas when she is 2 1/2 years old. She gets so excited about everything now, and I can’t wait to see her reaction to all of the new things that she will see when we are there. I will also be stocking up on Spanish books and music while we are there. Thanks for sharing your experience!
Oh man, I feel so left out : ) We are an Anglo family committed to bi-lingualism. All my family lives in The US. I am feverishly looking for an opportunity to immerse my family for a month in a Spanish speaking culture next summer 2011.
I’ve been following with great interest the Spanglish baby blog of the family from Los Angeles Ca in San Miguel de Allende and hope to emulate a stay like that.
Any leads or ideas on cities particularly adapted to a US expat family, all Spanish speaking, with 2 young kids (7 & 9). I’m looking for some structured daytime activities, but not a language school. Something more local and something we can do together as a family. Spain, and South & Central America hold great appeal.
This has been a really tough travel genre to crack. Is it heritage travel? adventure travel, volunteer travel? family adventure volunteer travel?? Any ideas?
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