Saturday, November 29, 2008

November 29, 2008 - Turkey Hangover

I intended to write this yesterday, but a very busy day at work left no time for blogging.

Our Thanksgiving turned into a much more festive affair than we anticipated! First we worked the whole day and both found ourselves extremely busy as we get closer to taking our leave. Then we went to our friend/neighbor's house (Mike and Caroline) to join them and their friends for Thanksgiving dinner. They have a great friend who often travels through Nairobi for his work and also happens to be an incredible chef. He made a turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies, the works! The rest of us brought salads and desserts and it was a fantastic dinner party! It might be the most food I have eaten at once in my whole pregnancy - it was so good I couldn't stop! And when I woke up yesterday morning, the baby was not moving around nearly as much as usual in the morning and we decided that s/he probably had a bit of a turkey hangover. Too much tryptophan for Simba!

Even nicer than the incredible food was the wonderful company! We met another pregnant American woman who works for the NY Times, along with her husband here (but he was covering a story in Rwanda at the time), and we agreed to be mommy buddies next year! I met an American acupuncturist who was so friendly and knowledgeable(and for those who know my history with acupuncture - I would actually trust her as much as Ted!) and who we hope to see more of along with her husband. Everyone else was great too! It was a fun night of getting to know new people, laughing a lot, and, even though it had been a hot, sunny day and didn't quite feel like Thanksgiving without any family nearby, we had a really great holiday!

We are close to having all of our bills paid and other such business sorted out before we leave for 5 weeks, and we will both even do a little work this weekend to ensure that everything gets wrapped up at our jobs before we go. I am 26 full weeks pregnant today - only 14 more weeks to go! Simba is definitely growing, my balance is a little off these days so I actually have to waddle a bit to make sure that I don't fall over (I do have freakishly small feet), and with the hot "summer" season getting started my feet and hands are more swollen than they used to be (although thankfully the itchiness has gotten better!).

One more week and we'll be on our way home!
LMW

Thursday, November 27, 2008

November 27, 2008 - Giving Thanks, Asante Sana

As I sit here eating my breakfast and watching CNN's covereage of these horrible terrorist attacks in Mumbai (6:45 am our time), I am overwhelmed by all of the things Kristoffer and I have to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. We are safe, we are healthy, we have a stable income from work we like doing, we are bringing new life into the world, we are able to travel to two other continents to spend time with our loved ones very soon, and the list goes on. Even though our Thanksgiving holiday might be spent somewhat differently this year than in the past - working all day, but having some kind of Thanksgiving dinner with friends tonight - it has certainly not escaped us how fortunate we are.

This past Sunday morning, we had the pleasure of joining some visiting Americans for breakfast at their hotel in Nairobi. A few of these visitors are from my home town of Andover, MA and with a group of west-coasters came to Kenya to spend this week building a much-needed well for an orphanage in the western Kenya city of Kisii. It was inspirational to meet the Kenyan woman who started this orphanage, and to hear the excitement in her visitors' voices about how they would be spending their Thanksgiving week. We were impressed by their act of selfless charity, as well as their plans to remain involved in the orphanage in the future when they return home to their regular lives. In a world where the news reports bomb blasts, terrorist attacks, financial crises, and health scares around the world all day everyday, it is important to also remember that really good people are doing really good things for other people everyday too!

It makes me less likely to complain about our TV and internet being broken (although both were finally fixed yesterday) and about crazy restaurants when I stop to reflect on all of the amazing blessings in my life. Kristoffer and I wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Make sure to tell someone else: Asante Sana (thank you very much, in Swahili)!
LMW

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22, 2008 - Kitchen's Closed

Kristoffer and I had a nice day out in the sun today, shopping at an outdoor bazarre and laying by the pool. It was a really hot day here - Africa hot even! Around 5:45 pm we went to a new restaurant in Nairobi that we discovered last weekend for an early dinner. They have EXCELLENT chocolate milkshakes, which I really craved after all the sun. So we arrived, were given food and drink menus, and ordered our drinks. When the waitress brought our drinks, she put them down and started to walk away. Kristoffer said, "Can we order our food now?" She replied, "Food?" We replied, "Yes." She then said, "Oh, the kitchen is closed since 5:30 pm." So Kristoffer said, "Then why did you give us the food menu?" to which she simply said, "Oh, sorry," and we asked for our check.

We have had plenty of experiences at restaurants here where they didn't have some of the food on the menu, but to actually not even be open and still be giving people the menu was a little crazy! As Kristoffer said when the waitress walked away, "That was a new one."

Am I allowed to start an official countdown until we leave for our holiday? If so, we're at 13 days. Oh yeah...and only 15 weeks left until Simba roars for the first time!

LMW

Friday, November 21, 2008

November 21, 2008 - TGIF!

Kristoffer and I leave for the US two weeks from tonight...and even though we are SO happy it is Friday today because we've had sort of long week, we wish it was the Friday we were leaving.

You know when something small annoys you about someone, and then all of the sudden EVERYTHING about that person drives you crazy and they can absolutely do nothing right by you? Well...that is sort of how we feel about Kenya these days. This week our cable broke, our telephone line at home broke, our housekeeper shrunk some stuff in the wash, someone at work screwed up my paycheck, etc. On the scale of "no a big deal" to "life's serious problems" these are definitely no big deal...but they are all just making it that much more difficult for us to wait for our holiday. We know that when we come back in January we will feel refreshed and will be able to appreciate, once again, all the things we like about Kenya and Kenyans...but in the mean time, enough already!

As we wind down in these last two weeks we are both very busy at work: I am finishing up my current contract so I have a lot of work "due" to my boss and Kristoffer has to take care of a lot in preparation for being gone from his job for five weeks (we still can't believe they allowed him to take so much time off - we are VERY lucky!). At 25 weeks in utero, the baby is also growing and moving constantly - which is a fun distraction except when I want to sleep. It is hard to fall asleep when someone is constantly nudging at your insides!

Last night we watched the Abba movie musical Mamma Mia on DVD, which we "locally" purchased after it never ended up coming to the movie theaters here. I loved it, of course, and the baby was moving around a lot so I assume s/he loves Abba too. I think Kristoffer thought it was cheesy and predictable (although he didn't say so in those words) but seemed happy that I was not complaining about anything for two hours while watching the movie.

This weekend we start shopping for our trip home and hope, hope, hope to place an order for baby furniture to be made while we are away.

Thank Goodness It's Friday!
LMW

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

November 19, 2008 - World Toilet Day

When you work at UNICEF, you sometimes get emails like this....

Dear Colleagues,

You may not be aware, but today is World Toilet Day. November 19 was declared as "World Toilet Day" in 2001 and this is now being celebrated all over the world. The purpose is to increase awareness and generate local action for better sanitation practices.

In Kenya, with 38 Million population, we need to increase available toilet facilities by over 50% to meet the demands of our growing population. Lets applaud the WASH section who are working with GoK and partners to achieve this goal.

Remember, always wash your hands with soap, after every critical moment, please be an advocate and remind others! Why? Imagine, Over 70% of care-givers do not wash their hands at critical moments , Hand washing with soap alone, will reduce child death caused by diarrhoea by 20%!! AMAZING.......We can do this together, Yes we can......


So, Happy World Toilet Day to you...I hope you make it a good one!
LMW

Monday, November 17, 2008

November 17, 2008 - Bizarro World

Today both Kristoffer and I felt like we were living in a strange, strange world - not necessarily for bad reasons, but we both thought that strange things were happening!

For Kristoffer, he had a very important, serious meeting this morning with officials from the Ministry of Education (a meeting which he was responsible for facilitating). It all went well and a few hours later, he found himself at a production plant for CSB (corn soy blend: a nutrient-fortified product WFP provides to schools for pre-primary school children to have morning porridge) walking around wearing a hair net as he learned about their manufacturing processes. He thought that was really strange!

For me, I was really busy at work but was distracted by strange noises coming from under and near some shelves in my office (which I share with 3 other people). After being convinced there was some kind of animal in our office, we notified the appropriate people and waited, waited, waited for them to come do something about it! Finally, it was so distracting that my colleague decided to hunt the animal herself. I was convinced it was a group of mice or a snake so I went out into the hallway, and when she started poking around a big black cat darted out towards her and jumped out the window! Phew - mystery solved - there was a cat in our office! We get back to work and within a few minutes hear more of the same noise...like scratching. So she decides to keep poking around and, sure enough, she finds an empty box with 3 very new kittens (their eyes were just opened so about 2 weeks old). Either the cat had the kittens in our office and we didn't know it this whole time, or she somehow dragged them in through the window when we weren't there at night or over the weekend. Now we have 3 kittens and no mama cat...we hope she comes back in through the window tonight to get them so that they don't die. We didn't want to put them outside or they would most likely be eaten by the family of 12 monkeys that hang around in the trees outside our window. Bizarro!

Finally, when we were driving home from work today we noticed that a lot of cars/drivers were behaving so strangely. They were all driving according to their own rules - cutting people off, driving on the wrong side of the road, etc. - and we saw several near-accidents. We couldn't quite get over it - even for Nairobi people were driving crazy! But then we got stuck in a horrible traffic jam shortly after noticing this and had to pull a bizarro u-turn of our own to go home a different way. You know what they say...when in Rome!

Nothing new on the pregnancy front...my pregnancy was the most normal part of the day!

LMW

p.s. To add to the bizarro-ness of the day, Kristoffer and I have been sitting next to each other on our couch for the last two hours, on two different laptops, each working on a project for our respective jobs, without TV, music, or talking to each other. Believe me when I say this is VERY bizarre for us!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

November 15, 2008 - 24 Weeks Pregnant

Today I am 24 full weeks pregnant. Yesterday we had our usual check up with the doctor (no ultrasound) and everything went very well.

Actually before we met with the doctor, we went to check out the "Pavilion" maternity wing at the hospital where I will be giving birth to our baby. The nurse who gave us the "tour" was so nice. We saw a "standard room" - your basic private hospital room with a bathroom, TV, mini-fridge, very similar to those I've experienced in America, not bad at all; then we saw an "executive suite" - which has a more spacious hospital room, an upgraded bathroom with both a shower and a separate bath tub, and a private living room (with couch, chairs, and TV) connected by a sound-proof wall for visitors to be in there with the baby and/or Kristoffer while I could be sleeping! Both types of room have a bed for Kristoffer to stay over night with us which is great, but we will definitely be going with the suite. We also saw the nursery and asked the appropriate security questions, and we saw the labor-delivery-recovery room where we will be until after the baby is born and we are both all cleaned up and moved to our suite. Overall, we feel really good about the hospital. It was clean, the staff was very friendly, and it made us feel really good to visualize where the big show will take place.

Then we went to see my doctor. We like her so much! We think that she likes us too because we probably show more emotion than most Kenyans do(sometimes we are practically giddy!) and because we probably ask more questions than most of her patients. Kenyans are typically more diminutive in the face of doctors, lawyers, and other people of authority. Anyway, everything went well at the appointment. I gained 3 kilos in the last 4 weeks which is really good news because up until now I haven't gained too much - probably 8 or 9 lbs in total. My heart rate (a little higher than usual) and blood pressure (low but normal for me) were both fine and consistent with previous appointments. The baby's heart was also normal at 164 bpms, especially because s/he was moving around a lot yesterday. The baby is located in the right place and measuring perfectly for 24 weeks. All good news! We talked to the doctor about interviewing pediatricians, which we will do when we get back to Kenya in January, as well as scheduling our child birth class, again something we can't do until we get back in January. She confirmed that my swollen, itchy feet and my late-night calf cramps are totally normal in pregnancy. The one thing I need to continue working on is trying to eat more. Kristoffer ratted me out and told her that I eat less now than when I wasn't pregnant - but it is not for lack of wanting to eat! I honestly can't eat more than I do - it is very bizarre!

Finally, we talked a lot about our upcoming travel plans. We have 6 flights total and 4 of them are pretty long; I have to make sure to sit on the aisle and in a row with as much leg room as possible, I have to drink a lot of fluids, take small walks and stretch my legs often, and try to get a lot of rest in between flights. Nothing surprising really and most things that all people should do on long flights anyway; I just have to be more careful as a pregnant woman so that I don't get blood clots. She predicted that coming back east will be harder than going west (which is usually the case for me!) and she thought it was probably a good idea that I will not be working between our trip and my due date so that I can just get a lot of rest and be as ready for delivery as possible!

We always leave these doctor's appointments so happy and excited; unfortunately it was temporary because the food I ate for lunch yesterday made me really, really sick last night. I had horrible stomach pains for a few hours - if I didn't know better I would have thought I was having contractions! Finally I was violently ill and felt much better once my system was clean and empty. Kristoffer was so wonderful, holding my hair back and rubbing my back as needed. When I was sick early on in the prgenancy it was much quicker, not painful, less dramatic. This is the second time that I have been sick in this way in the last month and I hope it is the last time! Today I am feeling better, although a little weak and sore in the stomach, so we will take it easy this weekend.

This is what we look like these days, Simba and I. We arrive in Boston 3 weeks from today and I am sure I will look even bigger by then! (photo taken in our backyard)



LMW

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

November 11, 2008 - Simba's First "Game"

Last night Kristoffer went to watch a squash tournament (squash the sport, not squash the vegetable - K is all about squash these days) with our friend Mike and the chocolate chip cookies I made him, and I stayed home to lay on the couch and watch my favorite Australian soap opera. Shortly after lying down, the baby kicked and these days his/her kicks can be also seen by watching my belly. I decided to poke the little one back in the same spot, and within 2 or 3 seconds s/he kicked (or maybe punched!) again. I poked back, then the baby kicked, I poked back, then the baby kicked. We went back and forth at least 10 times before we both got tired of this game. I was so bummed to be alone because I wondered if anyone would actually believe that Simba and I played our first mother-child game! It was so fun! Perhaps some might say this was just a coincidence and that Simba was not responding to me directly, but I say BOO to that! It sure felt like s/he was responding to me! And it was totally awesome. It made me really excited to play real games like "peek a boo" with our baby in the future.

My latest pregnancy symptoms include strong cravings for milk and very, very, very itchy feet (like around my arches and toes...so weird!). I am also pretty tired these days - almost in a first trimester sort of way - which I think is attributed to that fact that the baby is growing so fast. We have a 24 week doctor's appointment on Friday and will bombard her with questions about our upcoming travel, dealing with jet-lag, and scheduling our child-birth classes. We will also take a tour of the hospital pavillion where the baby will be born.

March 7th definitely seems closer everyday!

LMW

Monday, November 10, 2008

November 10, 2008 - Keeping the Pace

There was a news story released yesterday saying that many headphones for iPods and other MP3 players can cause cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators to go a little crazy.

http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUSN0940463220081109

Because I have already received a few emails from people asking me about this, I thought I would post that I never talk on my cell phone on the left side of my body (pacemaker side) for the same reason, and I don't ever have my iPod headphones close to my heart. I should be OK in terms of this new concern. People who are more pacemaker-dependent than I am (like really old people or people with stronger arrhythmias than mine) are at greater risk of such a thing causing a problem than I am.

I use my pacemaker a small percentage of the time, although it will be very interesting when I see my cardiac surgeon in NYC next month for a 6-month post-op check-up to find out if I have been using my pacemaker more during my pregnancy than I used to. It is likely for women to become more susceptible to heart rate drops, low blood pressure or blood sugar, and fainting spells when they are pregnant; this is why I am very grateful that I had my surgery and got a brand new pacemaker before I became pregnant. It is an added insurance policy for sure!

LMW

November 10, 2008 - Kenya's Contradiction

The front page of today's newspaper tells us a lot about Kenya I think. At the top of the paper is a big headline which reads: Free Obama Calendar Only in the Nation. And sure enough, when you flip to the middle of the paper, there is a large one-page calendar from November 4th, 2008 to November 4th, 2009 and an enormous picture of Barack Obama. There are still quite a few articles and op-eds about Obama's big win and what it means for the US, the world, and Kenya specifically (as my father asked, "Has the boat arrived to bring all of the Kenyans to America yet?").

And then, on the same front page of today's paper, the bottom article is titled: Villagers lynch 11 robbery suspects. The article proceeds to describe, in detail, how a village near the oast was being tormented by gangsters and didn't feel the police were doing enough about it so a group of villagers captured the gangsters themselves and publicly lynched them to death...and then had a party to celebrate.

This dichotomy on the front page of the paper in which you have an extreme symbol of freedom and justice alongside images of extreme cruelty and lawlessness is the ultimate problem in Kenya. Kenya is a country that so desperately wants to uphold democratic values and ideals and wants to be a shining example for other developing nations, in Africa especially. And yet, throughout the country, Kenyans are still overwhelmed by acts of corruption, violence, and tribalism. The Kenyans celebrating Obama and wanting to claim rights to all that he has become are the same Kenyans celebrating the practice of lynching which goes against the very core of everything Obama is and represents today.

It makes me happy that Kenya is so happy these days about Obama's win and the possibilities of hope they have for the future because of him, but it makes me sad that Kenyans can't see that they are not on the same path as him and that they have a long way to go to get there.

LMW

Saturday, November 8, 2008

November 8, 2008 - Pregnant at the Post Office

It has been an interesting week here for us. A few big nights of staying up late, coupled with some busy days at work and one new adventure to the post office! We even tried to go to a late show of the new James Bond movie which premiered here yesterday, but 10:30 was a bit TOO late for me (by 9pm I was very grateful that we weren't going to the movies...although we did stay up to watch Obama's press conference) so we'll be going to the 6:45 show tonight.

Today I am 23 full weeks pregnant. I have to say that other than my fatigue and the occasional waddling from lower back pain, I am feeling great. I am definitely growing bigger, and apparently people around me are noticing! At the election party we went to there were two different people who asked me if (a) I am having twins and (b) if I am due in December! I am not THAT big, but maybe because I am normally so petite I look further along than I am? I hope I was not too snippy in my reply: "Just one baby, first week of March!" There was also a funny scene at the party in which a complete stranger started to rub my belly. I have heard of this happening to pregnant women, who are entitled to react in a variety of ways. It didn't bother me that much and mostly I just thought it was funny that it was actually happening, but soon she realized that maybe she crossed a boundary and completely freaked out! "I'm so sorry! I can't believe I just did that, that is so gross! I didn't even ask! I hated when people did that to me when I was pregnant! I'm so sorry!" Her realization made it a much bigger incident than it would have been; I assured her that it was no problem and Kristoffer and I had a good laugh.

But about that trip to the post office...if you read some of our blogs last year you'll know that going to the Central Post Office to pick up a package (when it is bigger than an envelope it has to go through "customs" which means you have to open it in front of a postal worker) has the potential to ruin even the best of days. It is something we have to plan very carefully: we can only go on Fridays because it closes at 5pm and we would never make it there in time from the UN on a regular work-day. Fridays we are off from work early and still we need to brave weekend traffic through the city's center.

The reason we went to the post office yesterday is because my friend Joanna sent me a birthday present back in July to arrive in August. We received a "yellow slip" notification of the package the first week of August...and then we accidentally lost that slip of paper. When at the post-office to pick up some other packages in August, we asked them what we should do about this and they said we could just give them the tracking number...but we didn't tell Joanna to save the tracking number for us so we didn't have that information. Then they said they would send us another "yellow slip" within 2 weeks time. OK...so we decided to wait for that.

Well it is now November and we still never got another "yellow slip" and I have been getting increasingly frustrated and sad that the post office is holding my birthday present hostage! Yesterday I begged Kristoffer to take me to the post office so I could further investigate and hopefully get them to help us find the package without the magical "yellow slip" or a tracking number. I was prepared to tell them that there was an autographed picture of Barack Obama in the box if I had to!

The first funny part of our trip was that the two guys who are generally responsible for retrieving packages remembered us from August. They didn't even really need to see our identification! The only package that they could come up with was one from Denmark that we had gotten from Kristoffer's mom already. To my credit, I did not freak out. I have learned that raising my voice to a Kenyan is not helpful - they just do not respond to that at all. So I spoke slowly, clearly, and with the patience of Job. We were told to go to a back room of the post office and were handed off to another lady who tried to make the situation seem hopeless, especially because I didn't know the size of the package we were picking up. After she kept saying that there was nothing we could do without that damned "yellow slip" or the tracking number, and I kept saying that there had to be something we could do to find the package because we know they have it...she said, "Well...if you have the patience, you can go through all of our books of "yellow slip" receipts from July and August to find the one you are looking for." She was definitely expecting us to say "No way!", but clearly she didn't know me. I was like, "Yes! Please let us!" She brought us a stack of about 15 books of "yellow slip" receipts and we started reading through them. I had a general idea of when the package arrived (end of July) so I started with that book and sure enough within 3 minutes I had found the yellow slip addressed to me for a package from the USA!

It took a few more minutes for this lady to get her act together, but she did issue us another "yellow slip", which we took back to our two friends at the package window and who very quickly found my package from Joanna! We had to open the box in front of the customs ladies...who were talking to Kristoffer about Barack Obama of course, were happy that I was American, and were VERY surprised that we persisted enough to find the package! When we opened it we found my birthday gift - an ORANGE maternity t-shirt - and a baby gift - the book "Goodnight Boston" and a Patriots football blanket! One customs lady said, "Are those for the baby?" and the other one said, "What baby?" and we said together pointing at my belly, "The baby in there!" It was our first baby gift and it was very exciting...especially because I'd been waiting since August just knowing that the box was there. I wonder how many people never get their "yellow slips" and just leave their packages in the large, non-digital abyss of the Kenyan post office.

We were so happy that we didn't even mind all of the traffic we had to sit through to get home. And we realized that once our driver starts working for us next year, we can send him to the post office to pick up our packages for us! So cool! And the lesson we have all learned is this: we appreciate gifts and love getting them, but please make sure you send us the tracking number if you ever send us a package so that we can ensure the post office doesn't keep the package from us for months!

LMW

p.s. Thank you to Joanna and Dave for actually sending my birthday/baby package...I am so glad it was not in vain!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November 5, 2008 - One of those Key Moments in Life

"Oh God, this is one of those key moments in life, when it's possible you can be genuinely cool -- and I'm just going to fail a hundred percent.” (from the movie Notting Hill)

I would really like to write something brilliant and momentous about Barack Obama's big win last night, but I also fear that whatever I write will be inadequate.

I could write about how all of Kenya is celebrating today, and will officially celebrate again tomorrow as November 6th has been declared a national holiday in honor of Obama. Kenya's President said in today's news, "This is a momentous day not only in the history of the United States of America, but also for us in Kenya. The victory of Senator Obama is our own victory because of his roots here in Kenya. As a country, we are full of pride for his success."

I could write about how Kristoffer and I stayed up most of the night (we snuck in about 4 ½ hours of sleep) and watched the election results as well as Obama's acceptance speech with our American neighbors across the street, who threw a "Kwaheri Bush!" party (Kwaheri = Goodbye, in Swahili).

I could write about the tears Kristoffer and I both shed when it was announced that Barack Obama won the election and when he addressed the country.

I could write about my memories of learning about the Civil War and watching "the Blue and the Gray" (an epic mini-series on the Civil War) in Mr. Heidenrich's 8th grade history class, thinking to my naive self that there would probably never be a non-white President in America.

Fast forward eleven years and I could write about being an American History teacher in NYC, teaching my diverse population of students about the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, reading Huck Finn with them, trying desperately to convince them to stop using the "n word", and hearing their frustrations at feeling like political doors would never honestly be open to them.

I could write about how much I wish I was in my NYC classroom today.

I could write about the fact that regardless of for whom you voted, with what political party you are aligned, or what you think of Barack Obama as a person or politician, you must be made of stone if you are not incredibly moved by the fact that America elected a person of color to the highest office in the country for the first time.

Finally, I could write about being an expectant American mother, knowing that my American-Danish child will be born in the country of his/her President's father and will never quite understand that color was once an extreme barrier in achieving both the greatest and smallest successes imaginable.

But again…all of that seems so small compared to the magnitude of this moment in America and around the world. I am neither a die-hard liberal nor an extreme conservative, and I am not naive about the promises of political campaigns. Of all the things that I could write today, this is what I will write:

Barack Obama is not a perfect man or a perfect politician, and he will not be a perfect President. But…he has inspired and motivated more Americans to engage in our political process than ever before; he has redefined the vision and hope that many Americans have for our future; and he almost instantly regained the respect and support that nations around the world have for America. So regardless of how perfect he isn’t, he is our new President and it is only in the best interests of our country and the entire world to unite behind him.

I am very proud to be an American and I am hopeful that Obama will actually help bring the change for which my country voted yesterday.

LMW

Monday, November 3, 2008

November 3, 2008 - Kenya's OBAMAmania

The election is not until tomorrow and Barack Obama has not yet won the presidency, but Kenyans don't seem to care! The whole country is getting ready for the election, in a way that makes it seem like Kenyans can actually vote in it. For example, since last week there have been so many "Barack Obama" ads in the newspaper...including a full-page spread of his picture! We read in the newspaper yesterday that the village that Obama's father comes from has already chosen which bull they will slaughter if Obama wins, and the village is planning to be shut down for a full day's celebration on Wednesday. The biggest paper in Kenya, "the Daily Nation", has a policy of not endorsing any political candidate as they reminded readers in yesterday's Sunday paper, and yet the editor wrote an entire column on why he really, really, really think Obama should and is going to win. He is definitely Kenya's favorite half-son.

The icing on the cake, so to speak, is that a small, young theater company here in Nairobi has written and began performing "Obama the Musical", a theatrical production showcasing the life and times of Barack Obama through song and dance. I am not kidding you! It was first performed at the national theater yesterday and will be showing all week. Obama the Musical! And in case you think I am making this stuff up, here is a link to a BBC story about it:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7702840.stm

So yes, the whole country is on edge! The cartoon in the paper yesterday even joked that there would be more post-election violence in the country if Obama loses. Let's seriously hope not!

In other news, I am in my 23rd week of pregnancy and still amazed at how often and quickly my body is changing. My acid reflux has been better for the last few days and possibly my acne (although the last time I wrote that my acne was better it came back with a vengeance). I have become so used to waking up in the night with painful cramps in my calves (each time it is like the worst "charlie horse" ever!), that I don't even remember them happening anymore. Unfortunately, Kristoffer does! On Friday and Saturday nights I woke up screaming with a cramp, he woke up terrified that something awful was happening with the baby, proceeded to massage my cramp until I fell back to sleep, and then lay there totally awake with his heart beating out of his chest. Both mornings I had no memory of these incidents happening! Sorry Kristoffer!

We had a very relaxing weekend other than the cramps. A particular highlight was intervewing a woman (the third we have interviewed) to be our live-in housekeeper/cook/ayah (ayah means nanny or babysitter in Swahili). Ida came highly recommended from an American friend of a friend who used to live here and employed her for several years before leaving the country. She was friendly, professional, provided proper documentation of all her skills and training, and we thought she was very easy to talk to and get along with. She was a better fit for us than the others we interviewed. We plan to offer her the job this week and hope that she will accept; if so, when we return from our vacation in January she will move in to our "staff quarters" (we have 2 rooms and bathroom facilities in our house for staff) and begin making us the laziest people on earth. She used to work for vegetarians so Kristoffer is very excited about that, she is first-aid trained so I am very excited about that, and she seems to understand that because I will not be working full-time when the baby comes (if at all) her duties will be more housekeeper/cook centered than nanny. But, it will be really nice for us to have regular help that we trust for when we do want to go out without the baby or if I am working at home. We have also arranged to hire a driver starting in the new year so that Kristoffer can be driven to work and I can still have a way to get around (since I still refuse to drive here). I would say that by April, we will be so spoiled and used to the expat way of life that it will be hard for us to ever return to the real lives of people in America or Denmark! AH!

Anyway, off to start another Monday. I mailed in my vote for president over a month ago so I don't get to go to a voting booth tomorrow...but like the rest of Kenya I do remain on the edge of my seat!

LMW

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November 2, 2008 - Carbon Credits in Kampala

If you read all of our blogs and have a good memory you may recall that earlier this year I took some consultants from a company called EcoSecurities around Kenya to do what they call a feasibility study. We had a great trip, were stopped by elephants in the middle of the road and met with some local rural woman to whom I still owe a water borehole.

Anyway, last week was the follow up workshop/training in Kampala, Uganda. As the carbon focal point for the Kenya Country Office of WFP, I went to Kampala assisted by my Kenyan colleague Bernhard from our emergency operation.

The flight itself was great. I had a window seat and the sun was setting during the 1 hour flight. I could see Mount Kenya most of the way there, quite interesting how you normally look down at things from an airplane but Mount Kenya stood stall and was almost at the same altitude as the plane. Lake Victoria is beautiful with many small islands and when I walked down the stairs from the plane I was greeted with hot humid air and a view if the sun setting over the lake.

We stayed at a nice hotel in the city and the workshop was prepared and executed by a professional team from EcoSecurities; the company has officers around the world but these guys were from Oxford, England. I was very active in the workshop which was quite dense in content: this carbon credit business is fairly complicated. I presented for my group and it was the first time in my life that I wasn’t nervous before giving a presentation. My exposure to things like this is just so common to me now that I haven gotten used to it: Great!

So what is it all about? In 1995, developed countries agree to reduce their emissions (pollution) and sign an agreement in the city of Kyoto in Japan: hence the name The Kyoto Protocol. The countries that ratified the protocol have to lower their emissions a bit below their 1990 levels. If the country finds it more cost-effective, it can choose to lower emissions in another country. Say Denmark can’t meet its target, we can then buy credit from, say, Germany which has lower emissions or we can install solar panels or plant trees in Germany to meet our targets. The Green house effect doesn’t discriminate so it doesn’t matter where you off set the emissions. But there is another mechanism, the so-called Clean Development Mechanism, which allows a country which has ratified the Kyoto Protocol to buy the credits from a less-developed country. That is where the World Food Programme comes in. If we can prove that we will off-set emissions we would then be eligible for Carbon Credits (Money). So if we plant trees or install energy-saving stoves through our programmes, we can apply for these credits. But the process is expensive, very technical and long term. In most cases the credits would only amount to 10-20% of the investment (for us) and you have to off-set the carbon before you are reimbursed, so there are many challenges. However, there is no doubt that this will be big in the future and I’m sure we will do it eventually, and since I am the focal point it is my responsibility that it is carried out, or at least in initiated, in Kenya. I’ll present to the heads of all of our units this coming week.

Hopefully the USA will ratify Kyoto soon, as it would be a huge boost for the market and the fight against global warming. At the last global meeting in Bali, the USA was told to either cooperate or GET OUT OF THE WAY! Which is now a famous quote from that meeting. Europe is now the world leader on the carbon front, and even the farmers in Kenya have noticed that the climate is changing. The rain patterns have changed and are not as reliable as they used to be. So come on America, this is affecting us all! I sometimes wonder if Baby Simba will ever forgive us for the mess we are creating on our planet right now.

And to the no-climate change believers: go to school, because you must clearly be illiterate. Yet another massive study was released this week, confirming that climate change is man-made. However, having read both the Danish and American news for quite some time now, I must say that those studies rarely make it to the US media.

What can you do? To quote Nicolas Stern, when he was asked this question at a presentation I attended at the World Bank two years ago: “The most effective thing an individual can do is to become a vegetarian!” Nicolas Stern is a former vice president of the World Bank who released a massive study for the UK government under Tony Blair a few years ago.

Ok…I’ll get off my soap-box now!
KW