A Year of Highlights with Ryder

Why haven’t I written about Ryder for a year?

I don’t know.

For a while I gave monthly updates. Once the baby stage is over, the milestones aren’t as apparent. And so it goes. And time races on.

Here’s an overview of what the last year was like for this third culture kid. He and I traveled alone without Jacob to a lot of countries this last year: Lesotho, Ethiopia, Turkey, Kazahkstan, Kyrgyzstan, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, and a brief glimpse of Dubai.  He is the best travelling partner you can imagine.

We all moved to South Africa-the first time. We had a layover in Rome. No child can resist Italy because as far as I know, pizza and gelato are all children want to be satisfied in life. Once we got settled in Green Point, he attended a Montessori school, and I got him some letters and numbers learning books.

We played the “aaah’’ game, running from the waves in the water, frequently.

He had a friend named Adzel who he enjoyed play fighting with.


The dentist said in his entire practice he’d never had a child patient who was so cooperative.


We went on the Baz Bus together through the Garden Route and Lesotho and ending in Durban. An 80 year old French lady told me she’d never seen a child like him in all her life because he was so well-behaved and sweet all those hours on the bus. We went on a one day safari through Addo Elephant Park—his favorite were the warthogs. He made friends with a worker in the highest pub in Africa.

Ryder with zebras warthogs


He loved the Sea World-esque water park called U Shaka in Durban and continued to talk about it the rest of the year. He befriended backpackers and hostel receptionists alike.

friends with hostelbackpacking buccaneers

We stopped through Istanbul and Addis and he was spoiled by our friends there—Bektash, Christine, Meweded and Meri—and can I just say there is something special about having people you love meet your child for the first time—and flew on to Chiang Mai, city of Thai temples.




There he met Shaye, who he still remembers fondly to this day, and he attended a little preschool there where they threw him a birthday party with cake for his fourth birthday. Good thing, because there wasn’t easy grocery shopping there, and I wasn’t doing much cooking or baking.


In addition we went to the haunted house, which he clung to me throughout and we had to leave early. He talks a big game with scary stuff, like wanting to eat this vampire’s blood soup, but he has a low tolerance level ultimately. The Korean bingsu desserts never grew old, however.


We spent a lot of time at the mall. Where we got him a blow up alien, who he liked to both swim with and sleep with. We bathed with elephants-a combination of nervousness and  carsickness made him throw up a bit when we arrived—but he ended up loving it. Pictured below is a man who wants grandchildren desperately, but who only has one daughter who does not want children.


I had hoped to hit up Laos or Myanmar while we were there but we just didn’t have the time. We already had flights—to Kazahkstan and Kyrgyzstan via Dubai. It was only a four hour layover, but we did get to see the tallest building in the world.


He was spoiled there with candy from the non-English speakers there. We went to many amusement parks—both Almaty and Bishkek were full of them, to my surprise. Ryder was just chanting, “Kazahkstan” this morning, randomly. Riding a roller coaster down a mountain in Almaty was a highlight:


We survived a yurt stay, and lived it up at a resort town on the lake. Really, really looking forward to the next time we can come back to this region. I didn’t know anyone to travel there with kids—so I was nervous—but it’s absolutely kid friendly and we loved every minute. Here we are at a local livestock market near Lake Issyk-kul:DSC01098DSC01145

We next arrived in Amsterdam, where we spent two perfect months. Ryder and I both had museum cards. His favorite was Microbia—a museum about bacteria. Jacob replaced Ryder’s old scooter with a new one, but most of the time he rode with us on our bikes. He especially loved riding with Jacob, where he could jam out to tunes with him. Jacob made him his own playlist. Also, Jacob’s bike was not too big for him like mine was for me. I fell over maybe…five times? Dutch people are said to be the tallest in the world. I am below average height.

He loved getting to be a “big friend” to Ben and Sally’s little girl, meeting Daniela and other new foreign friends, and spending time with Grandpa and Grandma. He had a friend at school named Aufvisa—and reminisced about how great his laugh was, once we left. We had a kitchen here, but there were just too many amazing places to eat and I didn’t cook much. Jacob gave Ryder a matching haircut. There were free swimming pools in the city’s many parks.


teeter totter amsterdam

snacks amsterdam

jacob and ryder trip with ben and sally




We hit up Denmark, combining a family history road trip which we survived by playing hide and seek among the gravestones, with Legoland, dinosaur and zoo parks, and beaches. Another EXTREMELY kid friendly place.

ryder dinosaur park

kalli church denmark


We moved to Germany, stopping in Belgium along the way. The B&B host was so kind to him. The stairs at Lodging at 8 were very narrow and he fell down them. The owner gave him some Star Wars stuffed toys with oversized heads (because they give us nightmares—said his kids) he said. He also took him with them to his gym to go swimming. It was pretty adorable.


In Germany, Ryder made a friend named Abishela, who he says it will be forever until they can talk again, and can he please take a plane to go see her? We played a game pretending the Loch Ness monsters were coming to get us at the park down the street from us. Pretty soon, they had moved in. It was a boy and a girl. They were Ryder’s imaginary friends for a while. We also went regularly to the library to play matching games with German vocabulary, and to a toy store that actually had a slide inside the building. We read The Lorax—surprisingly delicious to read Dr Seuss auf Deutsch—and ate cereal every morning because his school started so early and it was a trip to get out there—30 minutes bike ride. Cereal has now been eliminated and it’s eggs for breakfast, in South Africa. His school is just around the corner.

There wasn’t much to do in Muenster. We went to the main thoroughfare frequently. The Galeria had free wifi, and a kid’s tower where you could drop them off for three hours max and only three euros.

I introduced Ryder to The Labyrinth—a moment I’ve been waiting for. He was justly enamoured.

We did a lot of McDonalds since it was too cold to spend much time outside, and this one had an indoor play area.




We did a last minute train trip through Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Lichtenstein. All Ryder requested was to play at a playground, and I would negotiate what I wanted to do with a playground stop. Simple enough. It was a lot of trains for looong hours. Ryder is a tremendous sport. My friend from high school gave him a dinosaur themed book. Ryder’s still devoted to his hobby.


He loved the snow in Germany and he got to open lots of presents with family at Christmas time. He sings Christmas songs all year and he didn’t want the holiday to end. Here he is making dinosaurs with Nonna—in adorable footie jammies from Grandpa and Grandma.


A special treat was getting to celebrate Andrea’s son Ryan’s birthday—Ryder loves cake. Although the other kids knew each other, Ryan took care to make Ryder feel included. Ryder felt very comfortable and those two spent hours jumping on the trampoline and running in circles around the house. Ryan requested that Ryder come to all of his birthdays—if only we could oblige!

We had the briefest of layovers in Paris—he got to see the Eiffel Tower which he now recognizes—and we had an accidental layover in Qatar—he handled the Islamic Arts museum only with promises of playing on my iPhone. He preferred the souq with all the animals for sale. Then here we are, in South Africa. It’s a completely different lifestyle. We eat dinner at around the same time every night. I’m going to start him and his new sister-for-now on piano. We can begin accumulating toys. We are deciding what sport to put him in, and perhaps a language school. I’m away sometimes with school and internships and he misses me,—he still tells me every night how much he missed me when I went to Pretoria— but he now has new people in his life who can entertain him. The paddy has become more of a weekend event. He skips wearing underwear because he likes to wait until the last second to go to the bathroom and underwear can slow him down. We just got him his own little blow up mattress. He is Almost potty-trained but nights are risky especially when we have soup for dinner.

His Dad got him Legos-he loves building dinosaurs with them.  I love taking him to dinosaur museums because he can recognize the fossils without me telling him what they are. The Chicago airport, with which after the escapades of this year we are now quite familiar, has a dinosaur skeleton.


That shirt is his favorite-he wants to wear it forever, he says. He puts it on every day when he gets home from school, if he remembers.

He eats anything and everything put in front of him and coaches his new sis, who is experiencing an entirely new palate now, to do the same. They set the table every night.

He hates bedtime, or so he says. He’s ‘not tired’. But getting him his own bed has helped, actually, to get him to sleep quicker.

He is close to reading. He knows most of the letters, and enjoys “reading” Are You My Mother to us before bed.

His teacher says he loves to write. He is learning to write his name.

His best friend at school is now Chris. I don’t believe that’s not his real name, but he’s from China or thereabouts, so they changed it to something easier.

Well, that’s all about Ryder for now. More to come.


Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 376 awesome articles for us.

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