Thursday, June 13, 2013
Monday, June 10, 2013
One of these days I will blog about something other than the kids. Maybe. But today we got their class pictures, which are very cute. Except Noah's eyes are closed. And a few teachers are missing from the photos. But otherwise, cute! There are a few doppelgängers in there...can you spot Grace & Noah?
Saturday, June 8, 2013
Last weekend we had a little dinner party with some of Grace's best friends from school. These four big girls have been close since last summer when we organized a play group everyday for them - you might remember their first photo together here. Well, next year they will be all split up: one family is going home to the US, and two of the other girls will be starting an international schools here in August (thankfully they are still in town!). This dinner was meant to be sort of one last "hurrah" before moves and vacations and school changes. You can see how silly they are!
After a fun time outside , we moved inside for a little dance party...which is why the Mamas are not featured with the Fars (and one small, sweet diva) below.
Noah plays by himself at school mostly, unless he is with Grace, but luckily one of the only other kids he does actually play with sometimes, Helena, will still be at school with him next year. They love to give each other hugs and kisses, even if they don't look at the camera at the same time.
Thanks to Mama Freya for these great pictures. We so happy to have lovely friends here in Dar.
Friday, June 7, 2013
Monday, June 3, 2013
Just as they did last year, Grace and Noah's school put on their end-of-the-year circus performance this past Friday. It was a sweet show, including 6 minutes of Grace and her three besties being circus horses doing what their demanding trainer told them to do...with a treat at the end for their cooperation. Noah's circus act - "cats and mice playing" - was adorable but was one mouse (or was he supposed to be a cat?) short as he refused to participate. It was a little too close to his nap, and you know...there was a lot of papparazzi.
He did get halfway into costume, with face paint!
But mostly just wanted to hang out with Far (this is after the face paint has been sweated off).
(I did warn you that it was 6 minutes long...and the minutes are a bit slow...feel free to eat your breakfast while you watch or something!)
Some still shots of the "fabulous horses" this year. Grace LOVED all their preparation and had so much fun performing in "character"!
After she did her first trick...
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Grace loves to dance, and when she turned 4 she could finally join the dance class offered after school by two Norwegian teachers who are also professional dancers. She loved the class! And yesterday was their "show" to end the semester. There were 5 dances, and Grace's group were supposed to be fishes, so you can see them wearing "fins".
She was very proud, especially after being "a little nervous." At the end, Noah gave his big sister a small bouquet of flowers (which he didn't even know he was going to do!) and when I put her to bed last night the only thing she said about her show was, "It made me really happy that my brudder gave me flowers." I think that bought him a little bit more forgiveness the next time he bites her :)
Monday, May 13, 2013
I have started to look into possibilities for more regular work here in the education sector of development. There are no specific job prospects out there but I am circulating my resume and talking to a few people, so that is good. And from the research I did intially when we moved here and I applied for a few different jobs with development partners coupled with some of the conversations I am having and things I am reading now, it is clear that the system of education in this country is so deeply flawed that I actually wonder how and when it will ever change.
A fellow expat blogger recently wrote about corporal punishment. You might recall from our Kenyan days that while I was proud of Kenya for making corporal punishment illegal, I was appalled at how widespread the practice still was (blogged here). Well, in Tanzania they tried outlawing corporal punishment but recently decided to reinstitute the practice legally. One reason they gave is that with 70% of students failing their national exams (which the government has recently decided to just nullify altogether) those students must be doing so poorly because they were NOT threatened by the cane! In order to perform well in school, people here honestly believe that the students must be caned.
And when you meet adult Tanzanians, if you find them to be conflict-averse, good at following instructions to the letter (when they understand the instructions) but unable to critically or creatively think for themselves...they are very likely to have been students in the country's public schools. I don't know if it is the same in private schools...but if Tanzania is anything like Kenya the problem exists there as well.
I am not trying to offend Tanzanians...who we find to be friendly and kind and not nearly as brusque as Kenyans...because it is certainly through no fault of their own. We interviewed a cook this weekend (who we are considering hiring) who is from Malawi and he has lived here for 20 years. He still sends his children back to Malawi for public school because, even though Malawi is a poorer, less developed country, he believes their education system is much better than Tanzania's. Corruption is a very big part of the problem here and it is a sad state of affairs for sure.
As my blogger friend writes,
"If you were trying to design an educational system to more efficiently drive creativity, inquisitiveness, and love of learning out of students, you would have a hard time topping Tanzany."
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Very rarely does a day go by when I haven't wished at some point to have a recording of all conversations that take place in our house. It would be so helpful when Kristoffer and I disagree about who said what (I asked you to...No you didn't!...) but mostly I want it because the things that these children say are just so priceless. The saying, "Kids say the darndest things..." was invented for a reason.
To set this particular scene: it was about 6:20 am yesterday. Kristoffer had just left for work and I was sitting at the table eating breakfast with Grace and Noah.
Grace: I want to go visit Niko. [she still very much misses her cousins who have gone back to Denmark] I think we have to take a big airplane to get to Denmark. When can we go?
Me: Well, it costs a lot of money to fly to Denmark and I don't think we have all that money right now, so it might be a long time.
Grace: How much does it cost?
Me: Tickets for the airplane probably cost more money than you can even think of.
Grace: *thinking...thinking...* Ok, I have a great idea. Noah and me have some money in our piggy banks. You can use that to help buy tickets.
Me: Wow, Grace. That is very nice of you to share your money.
Noah: Me money. Airplane Nene's house. [Noah talks about going to Nene's house at least once a week.]
Me: Wow, Noah. You want to share your money to buy tickets for an airplane to go to Nene's House?
Noah: Yeah. Now.
Me: Ok, well I think now is too soon. But how about Mama and Far will save some more of our money and when we are close to having enough we can use the money from your piggy banks to help buy the tickets.
Grace: Yes........but then you have to give the money back!
So much for giving - she was offering me a loan! I'm just glad she hasn't figured out about interest yet!
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
And now for a bit about Noah. This boy. Ohhhh, this boy.
Noah is so sweet and cuddly - always has been. But since turning two we have also seen a new side to Noah. He is incredibly stubborn and, while we thought his sister would remain the champion of inexplicable temper tantrums, we think now he might have surpassed her in that regard. He gets his whole body into a tantrum - throwing himself on the ground, rolling around, stomping, kicking, wailing. The whole shebang. We are trying not to give in to his every small wish and to help him understand that he can't always have his own way. But boy is he tough!
He is also pushing his sister's buttons quite a bit. He is always so well-behaved at school from what we are told, and at other people's houses or out in public. But at home he will kick, bite, push, and throw stuff at Grace without any provocation (A-T-T-E-N-T-I-O-N!). He has also taken to doing things he is not supposed to do, like coloring on the walls, or pouring food on the floor. Because that is SO fun!
Looks so innocent, right?!?!
Noah weighs about 26 lbs (27th percentile) and is 34.5 inches tall (46th percentile). Since his birthday he has grown 4.5 cms. WOW! For a few months Noah was not eating much. He would eat well at school for lunch, but at home meals were not really working for him. Fruit, yes. Other food? Not so much. But since last week he has been eating REALLY well and we are psyched. We are half-joking/half-serious in our hope that there has just been a change in him motivating him to eat...and not a TAPE WORM (which is not that uncommon here). He still likes fruit and is back to eating yogurt and toast often. He loves pasta and especially brown rice. His newest food discovery is hard-boiled eggs. Some days he will eat 2 or 3 of them!
Noah has been sleeping in his toddler bed (one side removed from his crib so that it is open) for a couple months now. And just about 10 days ago he realized that he didn't need to cry for someone to get him when he wakes up, so he lets himself out of his mosquito net and his room all by himself now. That makes for 6:30 wake ups with him right in my face saying, "Eat now!"
Noah is talking more and more. He has words in both English and Danish, although probably slightly more English. The biggest challenge is that he can't say the sound for "s" so sometimes it is hard to understand him correctly with that sound missing. I think one of my favorite words he says is "aturday" :)
Noah loves to play Legos with Far and is really into trucks, motorcycles, tractors, and cars. If he watches any kind of TV show he is hoping for some vehicles to be featured. He also gets really into whatever pretend play Grace is directing, "let's play Mama and Baby" she'll tell him...or "now we will have a picnic!" He happily follows along with her...and will then eventually throw a block at her head. He is definitely frequenting "time out" these days, but we know it is just a phase and look forward to its end.
Noah with a Masai "walimu" (teacher) at the village school we visited.
Noah enjoys going to school and I think is starting to play a little bit more WITH some other kids instead of just side-by-side play near other kids. He is always in the sand box, which is also great because we usually go to the beach every weekend. He loves music and knows the words to the Tanzanian national anthem along with a couple other songs in Kiswahili, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, You are My Sunshine, and Mamma Mia :) He especially loves BABIES in real life...we have two friends with wee ones at home and he is completely sweet on them. Doggies, cats, and other animals remain very popular. And before he sleeps during the day or at night, it is books books books books. He knows which books Mama can read in English, and which books are for Far in Danish. He has his favorites for sure. He is really into his Far, wishing for him whenever he is not around and needing him to do bedtime at night. One of his favorite things to do is go in to work with Far on the weekends to drop off clothes for the week (since he bikes in). "Me go arbejde!" (his Danglish is pretty sweet, by the way).
He must have had a bad fungal infection in his ears for quite a long time before we got into under control, and as a result was not swimming much. But for the last month he is back into it and likes to jump into the pool and kick and splash in the water. He is so much fun :)
The picture is a little fuzzy, but you can still see that Noah charm.
We find this boy irresistible...he'll charm your socks if you let him!
Monday, April 29, 2013
I haven't blogged about
anything Grace in awhile so I thought I would do an update today. We really have a big girl on our hands these days.
(Note: Blogs like these are more for me than for you. Feel free to pass this one up if the dirty details of a 4-year old aren't that interesting to you!)
Turning four was pretty huge for Grace. She is physically a lot bigger than she used to be (which of course is supposed to happen, but for someone who was overly small for a long time this is very good news), which I think you can see in her newly rounded face especially. She has grown about 3.5 cms since January (that's more than an inch!), which is a lot! She is 39.5 inches tall (33rd percentile) and weighs 30 lbs. (7th percentile). Remember when she wasn't even on the growth chart?
She doesn't eat huge portions, but she does eat 3 meals a day (obviously eating more when she really likes something a lot, just like other kids.), especially a great lunch at school. Her favorite food is spaghetti with meat sauce. She still likes fruits and veggies like carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, maize (corn) and broccoli. Ice cream, cookies, cake and candy are popular choices for a Saturday treat - but she talks a good game and never eats very much of any of them (regardless of how much she wants them!). She still naps 4 or 5 days a week (thank you, God, for this small gift); I know that is not so common with 4-year olds but she really still needs it. Her worst moments in terms of behavior and whining (ahhhh) come when she is exhausted in the evening and hasn't napped.
She has an active social life with play dates on the weekends with many different friends. Her original group of girlfriends remains in tact, but she plays a lot with some other kids at school which is great since one of the big girls is moving home and another is going to a different school next year. She is particularly fond of a little Norwegian girl named Maya. On Monday afternoons she goes to a little dance class and on Fridays she has a swimming lesson. She loooooves to swim now (finally!) and is getting closer and closer to having her wings off. It is such a joy to watch her joy in the water!
Grace can be very thoughtful but is also testing boundaries. We have been talking lately about doing the right thing or the wrong thing, hoping that she can learn the difference in various situations. She adores her brother, but he is testing and pushing her a lot these days (more on him in my next blog), which is hard for her to get used to. She is good at keeping up with what is going on with different people (so and so was sick...or his mama is away for work...or she was bitten by another kid...etc.) and is inquisitive for lots of grown up details (what are you talking about? what did you tell Far? etc). And sometimes the things that come out of her mouth just totally make me smile. This morning I heard, when Noah did not want to listen to the book she wanted to "read" to him, "I do not understand why you are being so grumpy this morning!" She also loves to try and "teach" him by asking him questions. "Noah, are you supposed to color on the walls? No you are not. Tell me. Are you supposed to do that?....No, I said, you are not."
She continues to love books and counting and drawing and puzzles...and is very good at pretend play. Her TV is limited to every other day, which is a great policy because sometimes she forgets to ask if it is a TV day and will then go 2 or 3 days without watching anything. She continues to be very interested in and strong in languages. At school she is speaking quite a bit of Norwegian and Swedish in addition to her fluent Danish. Also one of the funniest things she said to me recently was, "Mama, I am really disappointed in you that you do not speak Norsk (Norwegian)." Sheesh!
We had a small scare last week when Grace very suddenly had a horrible headache at school. She was screaming in pain and I had to go get her. As I was bringing her into the doctor's office her eyes rolled back and she went limp in my arms. She wasn't out for more than a second but it scared the bleep out of me for sure. The doctor couldn't find anything wrong with her, and after some Tylenol and a 3.5 hour nap she was much better. We are hoping it was an isolated event but I do still feel a little bit on edge after the whole thing.
She remains in preschool until the end of June (thank you for their extended 3 week calendar this year!) and then we'll have to come up with how to keep her busy for 6 weeks of vacation before school starts again in August. We have no travel plans this summer and hope to enjoy the BEST weather Dar has to offer during July. Next year some of her friends are moving on to preschool or kindergarten at the international school, and quite a few kids from school are moving away as well (darn those expats!), but we decided to keep Grace at the Nordic School to benefit from the language and culture as long as possible.
Kristoffer hates blog posts like this because he thinks I am just bragging about our kids. That is not my intention - I am mostly just DOCUMENTING and hope that someday when she is all grown up she enjoys reading a bit about her early years. We are so lucky that this sweet girl is ours!
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
In a big family, people can be really different from each other. They might drive each other crazy, they might disagree about everything, they might not even like each other, they might fight like cats and dogs. In any family, even. Big or small. But when your chips are down, people in your family are the ones who stand up for you, who hold on to you. They become you.
So it is in America. During times of trouble, America is like one big family, despite it's incredible diversity. And Americans stand up for and hold on to each other. When something happens in New York, we all become New Yorkers. When something happens in Newtown, we all live in Newtown.
Today we are all from Boston. We are all marathon runners or spectators.
Boston is a little place with a big personality. A place where I have lived and studied and went to my first concerts and performances and fallen in love and had surgeries and eaten the best clam chowdah and seen my favorite art and danced until my feet hurt and celebrated my friends and watched marathons and fireworks and became a sports fan even though I don't like sports. And I am homesick for it today. Grateful for the safety of my loved ones, but so so deeply sad for those who were killed, injured, or traumatized.
Today we are all from Boston.
Posted by The Welsien Family at 9:52 AM
Sunday, April 14, 2013
We said a sad goodbye to Rasmus, Jytte, Nikoline and Josefine in the wee hours of Friday morning. Actually, Grace said goodbye before she went to bed Thursday night. And when I picked her up at school on Friday she told me, "It is OK that Josefine and Nikoline had to go home. But I'm ready for them to come back now." I think that about sums it up - we loved having them here and will surely miss them a lot in the coming months until we see them again. We hope they had as much fun on their vacation as we did. It is certainly the hardest part of this expat life - being away from those we love so much. We hope they had a smooth and easy journey back to Denmark. Their luggage going home was full of African trinkets, and memories that none of us will forget.
Some lovely snapshots below.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
On Friday the 5th we left Ngorongoro crater and began the journey back to Dar. Noah and I were dropped off at the airport at some point, and the others drove on...sleeping over somewhere (not worth mentioning where) halfway home and eventually arriving back in Dar Saturday afternoon. It was a BIG week for all of us: kids were great in the car for so many hours and mostly only melted down in the evenings from pure exhaustion; our visitors got so lucky with all of the game they saw and had some truly "African" experiences along the way; Kristoffer and I had an amazing experience together in the balloon and also really enjoyed being on safari again. Truly a great week. But before we finished, there was this:
A Farewell Baboon.
We drove back over the bridge from Monday. This is the river that we crossed.
This is where the bridge rails were destroyed (same on both sides).
This was the road behind us. Obviously the next time it rains heavily the road will be flooded again. Would be great for the government to build a proper bridge! Especially since they lose MONEY from tourists who get stuck there and tell all their friends not to go!
Finally, our excellent guide Lymo with his little group of Danish clients. He was great!
And THAT ends our family safari of 2013. Does it make you want to come visit and do it with us next time? My new suggestion for a Tanzanian tourism tagline is, "Tanzania: Something for Everyone".
Friday, April 12, 2013
The amazing thing about the crater is that almost all animals are in there, and it is fairly open with not a lot of thick bush to hide them. So you see everything out in the open. There are no giraffes or leopards, but we saw them in the Serengeti so it wasn't a problem. We really had an excellent few hours driving around inside seeing great game. Here's a sample:
We found a cheetah on our way to the crater. There were actually 3 but they were hard to see in the tall grass (thanks to so much rain this season). This one was peeking up, and then went back to sleep.
And some lounging lions on our way out of Serengeti.
Also on our way to the crater, thousands of wildebeest!
Also on our way to the crater, "na na nee boo boo".
The crater from above.
Driving 600 meters down.
We saw this old man on our way down.
He was trying to cross the street so had to go in front of this truck. So close!
Lots of buffalo.
(is it a gaggle or a flock of ostrich?)
Trying to look out from the inside.
With a baby hyena! First time seeing a cub, and definitely the most hyena we've ever seen.
We ate lunch (in our truck) by a small lake with this guy and his friends.
And the moment you've all been waiting for, rhinos! There were 4 in the distance and we watched them walk closer and closer for quite some time, just eating all the way. Awesome!
Then we drove back up to our lodge. All of these rooms look down into the crater.