7-10 Weeks Left

It has now been 30 weeks of being pregnant. And there are only 7-10 weeks left. I can’t believe it is coming up so quickly. We are going to have a baby soon!

Baby Room and Supplies: We have a crib and a whole bunch of toys and a stroller and an amazing video baby monitor from some wonderful friends. The baby’s room has been painted and the clothes have been unpacked into drawers according to size. We have some clothes and a beautiful snowsuit!

Shopping: Sometime in the next week or so we are planning to get a car seat and a bassinet attachment for the stroller. I would also like to get a package of newborn diapers. I am not exactly sure why that is something I want, but it seems to be important for me. I asked all my mom friends what they would recommend as the ‘must need’ thing to get for a baby and the most recommended items were either a swing or a bouncy chair so those are also on the list of things to get.

Cloth Diapers: We are planning to use cloth diapers. It sounds like a big deal, but from all the research I have done, I don’t think it will be that bad (hopefully). I have done a lot of research online and talking to people who have used cloth diapers. There are two parts to the diaper, the inside part (prefold) and the outside cover. The inside part absorbs the pee and poo. When we change the diaper that part goes into the diaper pail. The cover part can be reused if it hasn’t been exposed to the pee or poo. We will plan to have 20-30 diapers and do laundry every other day or every third day. Although we hope this works, if it doesn’t that is okay and we can always go back to disposable diapers.

Research and Information: I like to be informed. I don’t like to go into too many situations without some idea of what I am getting into. So I have read a few books:

  1. “Why Love Matters” by Sue Gerhardt – A book about a baby’s brain and social/emotional development both in the womb and after birth. I found this one very interesting probably partially due to my background in psychology and counseling. A VERY basic synopsis of the book is that babies need love and attention. They have many needs and their parents/caregivers should meet their needs as best they can as quickly as they can. If babies have their needs met, their brains will develop well and they will grow up to the appropriately social and emotional human beings.
  2. “Top Tips from the Baby Whisperer” by Tracy Hogg – A book about how to get a baby to sleep. When we were first pregnant, I asked all my mom friends what books I should read to prepare for having a baby. This one was one of the most recommended. I have only read half of the book so far, I feel like it will be very valuable once our baby is a few weeks old. It gives us an idea of what kind of routine we should have for his sleeping and other activities.
  3. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel – Great informational book for the whole pregnancy. I have been reading it off and on trying not to overload on information.
  4. “1000 Questions about your Pregnancy” by Jeffrey Thurston – Another informational book I am reading in bits and pieces.
  5. “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Harvey Karp – I have not read this book yet but it has come highly recommended by a dear friend who just had a baby so it is next on my reading list. It is also about helping the baby to sleep.

Despite reading and intending to read these books, I realize that we might not be able to follow every idea or suggestion in them. I appreciate learning the information and having some idea of what we will need to do with a newborn, but I also appreciate that we will need to learn about our baby and what he needs and what he is like.

Name:  This is one of the most popular questions I am asked. Yes, we have chosen a name for our baby. But we are keeping it to ourselves until the baby is born. We chose the name by it being the only name that we both liked. Done!

Hospital: My doctor delivers babies at three different locations (1. private hospital, 2. private maternity ward in a local hospital, and 3. a local hospital) in Budapest. We are planning to have the baby at the private hospital, which is located just across the river. I am a little nervous about this whole delivery location situation because it feels very different than what I would expect at home. And I am not even sure what questions to ask to help. But we have a meeting at the hospital next week so hopefully that will help!

 

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The hype is gone but the crisis remains?

It’s been awhile since my last post about the refugee situation or anything else. Despite the increased distance of the refugees from Budapest, it still here. It feels harder for me to be connected to it, but it is still happening. The hype may have gone down slightly both here in Budapest and around the world, but don’t let that make you think the crisis has stopped. It is still going on in full force in many countries. Hungary continues to try to stop refugees from coming in by building more fences.

Because the border is closed between Serbia and Hungary, the people must travel further around and so they do. Zakany is a Croatian town on the border between Hungary and Croatia. It is about 300 km from Szeged which is the Hungarian town on the border with Serbia which was the place where people were crossing until it was closed. This means that many people must travel an extra 300km to get around and then through Hungary.

Msap

Last weekend, thousands of refugees continued to travel through Hungary. In the border town of Zakany, police were not allowing volunteers to pass out food or water to anybody until they were on the train.

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Migration Aid is an organization in Hungary that was started at the beginning of this crisis (more than three months ago) and has been working with many volunteers to help refugees with travel, food, clothing, shelter, and any other needs they may have. They have a facebook page and post their needs for donations and often get filled up within hours or days because of the outpouring of help from the Budapest community. They just posted this update:

WE NEED YOUR HELP! Trains are waiting at the Hungarian-Croatian border until they are filled up completely. 700 people have been waiting for 8 hours yesterday to fill the train up to a 1000 passengers and leave to Hegyeshalom.
At the time, it  was only volunteers from Migration Aid’s crisis centre to distribute food and water – worth of 1000 euro. Unfortunately we run out of stock by the end of the day.
Could you please helps us stock up our supply with basic foodstuff for the upcoming days?
Pastries (buns, butter croissant), classic cheese wedges, muesli bars, still water (0.5 liter), carrots,…Items which are relatively easy to access and still satisfies hundreds of people when available.
Your donations continue to be very important. We await them at the Migration Aid warehouse at Verseny utca 10, Budapest district 7 every day between 4-8pm.
Thank you very much for your continuous support!

If you would like help by giving to people or organizations who are in direct contact with refugees, see the Migration Aid page on facebook. Much of it is in Hungarian, but it is usually also translated into English. There is also a person in our community who has a Go Fund Me account: Refugee Crisis in Budapest. She buys items needed and ensures they get directly to people who need them. Please don’t forget. Please help.

A dire situation is worse!

The latest (informal) update about the refugee crisis in and around Hungary:

As of Monday, Hungary closed its borders to refugees. When I heard this, my heart sank. What a way to make a dire situation even worse for so many people. If refugees try to enter Hungary legally, they may or may not be allowed in. If refugees try to enter Hungary illegally, they will be arrested and convicted. Because Hungary has declared Serbia a ‘safe country’, Hungary does not need to allow refugees who come from there into the country. They can send them back to Serbia, even though it is not an EU country. Countries declaring other countries ‘safe’ is done on an individual basis so this is convenient for Hungary.

Almost immediately after Hungary closed its borders, refugees were stopped and camped at the border in Serbia. Many people were still coming to go through Hungary to get to Western Europe. From what I understand, Serbia has much less structure set up to help shelter and feed the refugees. There were people in fields with very little to help them. Now they must take a much longer route to get around to Western Europe – back through Serbia, on to Croatia and Slovenia, and then into Austria. But most countries are closing their borders, so there would be no guarantee that would even work.

By yesterday, the refugees waiting at the Serbia-Hungary border had resorted to violence. And in their situation…why not? I am not a supporter of violence, but I do understand where it is coming from in this situation. See this video from the border! The police are responding with tear gas and water cannons.

And now as children, parents, adults, and babies continue their desperate journey for peace and safety, they are faced with another obstacle. Many will travel long distances by foot and besides injury, illness, lack of food and shelter, human traffickers, they must also be careful of landmines. Landmines are located along the Serbia-Croatia border.

As they journey, Hungary’s prime minister is planning to continue building his fence along Hungary’s border around to Croatia and Romania. He suggests that if Muslims move into Christian communities in Hungary and Europe, then Christians would ‘lose’. Wow! Apparently it is a competition and there are winners and losers in living together in a peaceful community! (Daily News Hungary – Orban)

As part of the new laws regarding refugees entering Hungary and obtaining asylum, there are also laws about citizens and residents helping refugees. Now, from what I have heard if I go to the train station to hand out food or donate items, I could also be in trouble and even possibly arrested. I hope that the aid organizations that are set up are still able to help but since most of the refugees are across borders now, getting the food and items to them has new and very difficult challenges.

How do you continue on? How do you face yet another insurmountable challenge in your journey for safety? What would do you do? These refugees are human beings and they are you and me. As you go to your job each day, they did that at one time also. They taught in schools and worked in businesses. Now they are fighting for their lives and for peace and safety.

Help!

What has happened and what is happening now:

It has been just over a week now that the ‘regulations’ were eased and the refugees could pass through Hungary without being registered. The ‘regulations’ require that a refugee register in the first country in which he/she enters the EU. Because of its location, Hungary is that country in this crisis. Up until a week ago, Hungary was either not registering the refugees or it was taking a very long time, and therefore the refugees were having to wait days and weeks before they could move on to Austria, Germany, and western Europe.

When Hungary’s government decided to do this, they also have said that there is an end date for which that will be allowed: Sept 15. As of tomorrow, refugees who enter Hungary illegally, as many of them have been doing, will be accountable to the legal system and will be tried and convicted accordingly. Refugees who enter legally will be taken to refugee camps, where up to this point, have had little to no resources or support except by volunteers and NGOs. They can then be held at these refugee camps indefinitely until they are registered officially.

The Hungarian government has been building a fence on the border with Serbia to contain the flow of refugees. They have also been preparing refugee camps. I wonder why some of these resources used for building a fence and refugee camps could not have been used for providing transportation for refugees to get through Hungary. Why is there such determination to keep them out and keep them contained? All they want is to get through and move on.

Last week the train station in Budapest was a place of movement. Many people were coming in and then heading out on trains. This week brings news of borders closing between Germany and Austria. Which will then have an impact on the border between Austria and Hungary. Hungary is starting to follow through on its threats of closing off the border with Serbia.

Refugee camps are filling up. Shelter, food, medical attention and warm clothing are needed. Donations are coming in but then they must go to the camps with are kilometers from Budapest. So many people are helping.

If you want to help too here are a few options:

Hungarian Helsinki Committee – http://helsinki.hu/en/
This group is providing legal aid to help refugees as they move through the asylum legal process. This will become a much greater need once the border between Hungary and Serbia is closed this week. Refugees will have a very small window of time to apply for asylum, or will be sent back to Serbia. Many lawyers are needed to help process the thousands of refugees in need!!!

Hungarian Maltese Charity Service – http://www.helps-project.eu/…/39-hungarian-maltese-charity-…
This group is present in various locations and is providing medical assistance right on site where refugees are in need.

Budapest-Bamako SOS Refugee Organization –http://www.gofundme.com/sosrefugee
This group is providing assistance of all kinds and we have volunteered with them recently at the border of Serbia where they have a medical tent as well as providing basic supplies.

Refugee Support in Budapest – http://www.gofundme.com/v63cey2c                                                     A group of friends and colleagues living in Budapest helping as best we can.

What else can you do?

Share the word. Talk to others. Read information. Don’t forget. Find out what is happening in other countries – Turkey, Austria, Germany. Ask your government to help. Remember, this could be you in another place or another time.

Disclaimer: I cannot claim to know the truth behind all the actions made by others or governments. I write to share my perspective and to spread the word.

 

The train left…

Last Wednesday I was at Keleti train station again. It was a very tense and desperate place. Refugees were lined up around one entire area of the station waiting to get on a train. Police were creating a human barrier to keep order. The train was in the station and passengers were boarding. Refugees were getting more and more desperate as time passed. They wanted to get on the train…they needed to get on. Some of them had tickets but almost none of them had the proper paperwork/registration to travel to Austria. Finally, the police line opened and slowly some of the refugees were allowed on the train.

The line of refugees was divided into sections separated by police barriers. The first section got on the train. They were next in line. The next section was growing more concerned…there was some yelling and a bit of pushing. Children were being held up so they did not get shoved around. When more people were allowed on the train eventually, those with small children were allowed on first. The train was delayed, first 5 min, then 10 min. More people were allowed on. And then eventually it was full and it left the station.

With all the tension, I expected there to be an aggressive response from the crowd of waiting refugees. But no, although there was still some noise and frustration, many in the crowd sat down and just continued waiting for the next train. They must have been in that line for hours by that time. Watching all this happen and seeing the faces of the people waiting was sad and scary. But I soon realized that all they want is to be safe and peaceful. Isn’t that what we all want? There was no malicious intent, they were desperate.

As I was standing there on the edge of all this happening, I thought about what my response might be. If I have to wait in line for more than a few minutes, how frustrated do I feel? And then what if on top of the waiting, I was hungry, exhausted, and running away from my home to help save my life and lives of my family? And then what if I had entered a country in which the government and the authorities were difficult to trust and all I wanted to do was get out? What if I just saw a train leave and I had to sit back down on the dirty floor of the train station and wait another 2, 3, or 6 hours? Or maybe I had to wait all night and sleep on that dirty floor? And if I had to rely on the goodwill of strangers for food and water? I can’t even imagine it. How would you feel?

 

It continues…and so what do we do?

It has been four days and so much has happened.

Last Friday evening I witnessed the chaos at Keleti station in Budapest where there were hundreds of refugees waiting. That night, the Hungarian government provided buses to those refugees and drove them to the Austrian border. Keleti station on Saturday was nearly empty of refugees. It was a completely different scene, with only a few people and many volunteers to help. Perhaps a solution has been found to help all of the refugees to move through Hungary quickly?

However, refugees are arriving at the Hungarian border from Serbia. They arrive on trains but must get off the train at the border. In order to get into Hungary, they must wait at the border.  There are no buildings or rooms for them to wait in, it is just the open air. The weather is starting to get colder. Yesterday, blankets were the greatest need here. Eventually, they are allowed to move on and must find a way to Budapest and then on to Austria and Germany. Some walk, others manage to get on trains or buses. Once at Keleti station in Budapest many have been able to get on trains so there are fewer people staying there now. A few who have not been able to get on trains have chosen to walk to the Austrian border. The people are just trying to get to safety and security. Sometimes they have family members who are waiting for them in Western European countries. Often they have family members who they have had to leave behind. There are children and babies who are being carried by their parents as they walk. It has rained and they must sleep outside along the road. Although, it would be easy to help these walkers by picking them up in private cars, we are not allowed because it is against the law and it would be considered human trafficking.

Needs are continuously changing. Much has been gathered but other items are needed. Yesterday I went to the train ticket office and got gift certificates for train tickets. The train ticket from Budapest to Szeged (a town on the Serbia-Hungary) costs 3500 Hungarian forint or about 12USD. The gift certificates will help those that do not have the money for the train ticket to get to the border and through to Vienna. The money for these gift certificates has come from a fundraiser fund set up by a friend here in Budapest (Refugee Support in Budapest). Money has been pouring in from around the world. It is going to help refugees with basic necessities of food, clothing, and blankets to baby wipes and diapers to train tickets to medical care and attention. In the time it is taking to write this blog post, I am finding out that many things are needed at the border for families who are staying outside in the cold.

Right now, borders are open for refugees without paperwork or registration. The “rules” require the refugees to register in the first EU country they enter. Since there are such high numbers of people coming through, the governments have relaxed those rules and allowed people to move through. It seems that end date for these relaxed rules is Sept 15. After this, no one is sure what might happen. What we do know is there will still be people who need help.

Even now things change every day. From moment to moment and day to day, no one knows when things will suddenly become even harder. I just spoke to someone who has been at the train station almost every day. Yesterday the atmosphere was calm and peaceful and she was able to help some refugees get train tickets to Vienna and Munich. Today she went back and the atmosphere was completely different. It was tense with an increased police presence that was much more aggressive.

Sometimes I wish we could do more. Or know for sure that what we are doing is what is most necessary. What are we doing? Hungarians and expats living in Hungary are donating money and buying needed items. They are going to speak to refugees and find out their stories.  But then today there is a pause…until a couple hours ago: blankets, tents, sleeping mats, and food. What’s next?

Keleti Station basement

As I walked up to the station, it looked quiet and normal. The only difference was the line of police vans and police officers in front. I walked around the corner and down the stairs. I descended into the chaos. It was overwhelming.

Despite the pictures I had seen all over social media, I could never be prepared for the reality of the difficulty and squalor. There were people sitting, laying and walking everywhere. Children were playing with volunteers while the adults sat talking and taking care of their babies. All the while  passengers were walking through to their trains.

I met with the others who were also there to share food and items (Refugee support in Budapest). The children came over when they saw we had some things to give. The adults were a bit more shy but accepted the food also. We spread out and walked around in the hope everyone would get some. Some refused and others took extra. The children were grabbing the marker pens and paper to play with. The items were quickly given away until we had only a few things left.

A tiny baby onesie was of the things we had left. So we went looking for mother and baby who may need it. We walked carefully through the small pathways in between where families and groups had set up their “camps”. There were a few tents, but less than a quarter of the people had this luxury. In the mass of people and activity, a small boy approached us pointing to the onesie. He led us to his mother and tiny baby sister huddled in a tent. It almost didn’t seem real, but there she was. This little baby had already travelled a longer and more difficult journey than most of us can imagine.

Once we finished, we left the station. We left to go to our comfortable homes where we have clothes and food. Something that most of the people in the station could not do after they left their lives behind them.

For the Syrians, after 4 years of conflict and crisis in their country, travelling hundreds of miles to get to Europe and facing extreme hardship in the basement of a train station, I can’t help but think if only. If only, they did not have to leave their homes. If only, there was no war and there could be peace and freedom. If only, there would be a place for them to go. If only, the other countries in the world could have organized themselves so help could be offered quickly and easily.

The refugees are you and me, in a different place and time. They are mothers and fathers. They are professionals and people who work in trades. They are children who love to play with toys and fight over their games. They are babies who need lots of care.