Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April 28, 2010 - Long Time No Blog

Our life has been pretty "regular" lately: Kristoffer works really hard at the office and plays squash really hard on the court; Grace reads really hard at home and plays really hard across the street with her friends; I do lots of other things really hard to keep us all happy and organized and good.

Our trip home to Boston is coming up a week from Saturday and I think the timing is just perfect. Grace's battle to gain weight has hit another plateau: she didn't gain any weight in the last 4 weeks which puts her, at 8 kg (17.6 lbs), well below the normal range for her age (about 0-1 percentile on any growth chart I can find). Two blood tests to screen for gluten intolerance (celiac disease) have come back inconclusive: the first time because we learned that Grace has a deficiency in one type of antibody necessary for the blood test to be accurate and the second time because the lab in South Africa screwed up. From 12 to 13-months-old and on a gluten-free diet Grace gained 300 grams, but this past month from 13 to 14-months she was also on a gluten-free diet and gained nothing. So we really don't know where we stand on that front, but what we do know is that she is eating a good amount of healthy food as well as foods that are really high in fat - yes I butter everything for her! - and nothing seems to be working. This is where our trip to Boston comes in; we are waiting for our appointment to be confirmed at Children's Hospital so that we can make sure that Grace is just perfectly petite and not facing a serious medical challenge to gaining weight.

The good news is that Grace is developing wonderfully, which is really the most important thing. She can walk for real now; even if she doesn't always do it she can do it perfectly whenever she wants and often does it when nobody is specifically asking her to. She can say a lot of words; the ones she says the most are "ball" and "Tsavo" and her newest word is "door" which she proudly says every time she sees or goes through a door. Example: today she screamed "door" over and over and over to the doctor and his nurse while pointing to the door because she hates being weighed and desperately wanted to leave. Or because she wanted them to leave so she could play with their toys in peace.

She has such a sweet and funny personality, with a bit of stubborn and bossy thrown in for good measure. And, even though she is small, she is still keeping up with all the other babes who talk on their mothers' cell phones...
...and send text messages to their friends.
[Note: not on the same day as these pictures were taken, but two weeks ago I left my phone unlocked by mistake and Grace did somehow manage to send a text message to my friend that said "fish" and nothing else. Think she is asking for it?]


Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 18, 2010 - Loves

What's new with Grace these days? Well...not too much!

She loves fruit (if only we could pack pears with calories!)!
She loves Tsavo!
She loves trying to do whatever Mae does!
She loves shoes!
~pictured in her new official walking shoes, now that she is doing a lot more walking by herself (today she initiated walking for the first time, instead of us trying to get her to do it)~

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 15, 2010 - Just the Other Day...

After arriving in Kenya, we quickly noticed the different ways that Kenyans speak English. They have some language patterns and sayings that are really foreign to me, even though they are speaking my native language (as their 2nd or 3rd language, usually). We often hear old-fashioned British vocabulary and sayings that, from what we can tell, British people don't actually still say, along with what seem like "strange" uses of specific phrases and translations from Kiswahili that can make a native-English speaker feel more than a bit confused. I'm not writing this as a criticism, just a humorous observation...after all, when I try to speak Kiswahili, or better yet Danish, I am used to laughter or confusion on the other end.

Kristoffer and I often talk about this "Kenyan English", as we call it, particularly because we often (I shudder, but it is true) catch ourselves saying some really bizarre things! Here are just a few classic examples:
  • "Pick it (or you/him/her/me)" instead of "pick it up": "Charles will pick you at the main gate." or "Please pick the package and deliver it to..."
  • Someone says hello to you and you respond, "Fine". Why? Because in Kiswahili you will say "Jambo, habari" which pretty much means "Hello, How are you?" and someone responds, "Mzuri", which basically means "fine". Kenyans translate this to English so if someone says "Hello", the "how are you" is assumed and they will respond "fine" even when you didn't actually ask. It took me at least 18 months to not be annoyed by this and I have since done it myself at least three times.
  • The word "alight", which means to come down/settle/get off of/dismount. I have never heard an American use this word and have never actually heard a British person use it, but it must have been used a lot by British here during colonialism. Charles will often say to me when arriving somewhere, "Will you alight here or should I drop you somewhere else?"
  • "Just the other day..." When a Kenyan says this phrase it could mean yesterday, last week, last month, 10 years ago, or before independence. Literally. Kristoffer had a conversation with a colleague during which he was talking about the early 80s when President Moi was in power and he actually said, "Just the other day, the president blah blah blah..." And, by the way, they don't say this in a nostalgic manner, such as "It seems like just the other day that Grace was a tiny baby." Once, Charles told me, "Just the other day we had a dog but it died and we didn't get a new one." And then I found out that was a few years ago!
  • "Isn't it." Said more as a statement than a question. After everything. It seems to be used to verify that something is true or when you want someone to acknowledge/agree, but it sounds horrible to a native English speaker's ears.
This meeting will be called to order. Isn't it.
I'm going to play squash this evening. Isn't it.
Grace doesn't like to sleep in the morning. Isn't it.
We should think about where we want to go for lunch. Isn't it.
I hate when I catch myself speaking Kenyan English. Isn't it.

The thing I wonder about most is will these "Kenyan English"-isms stay with us when we don't live here anymore?! Maybe "just the other day" will sneak up on me every now or I will occasionally drop an "Isn't it". In the same way I sometimes say "papah" instead of "paper" and am reminded of growing up outside of Boston and with my mother's strong accent, it will be proof to the world and to myself that indeed I have lived here and I have known this place.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April 14, 2010 - Staff Stories

Charles and Jonipher are having a tough week.

Late Sunday night, or early Monday morning rather, Charles heard noises outside of the room he lives in here in Nairobi. There were people outside and they called to him, "Charles, do not come out. Do not alert anyone that we are here. If you do, we will shoot you." They then proceeded to break into and rob his next door neighbor's room (the neighbor was away). He was worried and it sounds like a bit scared, although he would never use the words to us. He thinks he might know the young boys who did it; they obviously knew him. This is a reality of our life in Nairobi that we are always aware of but actually try to not talk about that much: a lot of crime. If Kristoffer had been leaving our house a little bit earlier that morning, Charles might have been outside using the bathroom and they would have been able to get into his room and rob him, or worse (since he would have seen them). So we are grateful that the situation wasn't worse and hope he doesn't have to deal with any similar incidents in the future.

Jonipher's trouble, on the other hand, is even worse because we learned from her this week that she has really high blood pressure. As in, 180/120 the last time it was taken. Kristoffer drove her close to her house on his way to a squash match on Monday night and this came up in conversation. When he came later he said to me, "I think Jonipher might die soon." WHAT?!?! Well, not only is her blood pressure dangerously high, but she is having severe headaches, tingling and numbness on one side of her body, and sometimes she has moments where she doesn't know where she is. We basically think she is a walking-stroke-about-to-happen and we are worried about her. So this morning I've sent her to a clinic to see a doctor and tell him these specific symptoms to find out what medicine she can take. We will have to pay for the medicine because she is supporting a very large family and can't afford it. She has 5 children: of the 4 adults, 3 are currently unemployed and she has one school-aged son with school fees. There are also several grandchildren and she is supporting all of them. So buying herself medication or spending money on healthy foods like fruit is too expensive for her. We'll see what the doctor at this clinic says today and then make a plan from there. Can you even imagine have a very serious blood pressure problem and doing absolutely nothing about it?!

I know that I complain about Kenya and Kenyans a lot (or at least I feel that I do) but really it is stories like these that do give me a shadow of understanding why Kenyans are the way they are. They live a pretty difficult life.


p.s. I'm adding to this blog to say that Jonipher has now come home and her blood pressure was actually 233/125. The doctor gave her some kind of pill to dissolve in her mouth over the course of an hour along with 2 other kinds of medication for hypertension and wants to see her again on Friday. Yikes!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

April 10, 2010 - Blast from the Past

Remember these drums from a very long time ago? Well we are finally putting them to good use and started taking drum lessons this week! I hired a guy who used to teach after-school drum lessons at the international school and he came to our house yesterday for our first lesson. Since it is not very likely that I will get to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro this year (time, money, Grace, etc.) I was determined to do at least one of the two things that I really wanted to do when we moved here. Kristoffer is better at impromptu solos and I am better at a keeping a steady beat, and we both had a lot of fun! Our teacher, Obuya, is maybe the coolest Kenyan I've ever met. Picture a darker-skinned, skinnier Bob Marley with a Kenyan-but-nearly-Ugandan accent (he is Nairobi born but his family comes from Western Kenya). Now we just need to find a baby drum so Grace can practice too...she did great for the first 20 minutes or so but then she wanted to play our drums and got frustrated that we weren't that into her. We intentionally planned the lessons for when Jonipher is here so she can entertain Grace. Can't wait for our next lesson! Keep your calendars out for our international concert schedule...


Friday, April 9, 2010

April 9, 2010 - Trip Down Memory Lane

Almost two months after we moved to Nairobi I blogged about meeting a woman who turned out to be my first friend here. She and her husband got married one week after we did and they arrived in Kenya a few months before us. Well they had a baby in December and we had a play date at our house yesterday. We also saw them a few weeks ago at their house and it has been really nice to reconnect with our kids after a long time of not seeing each other (she was working in Europe during her pregnancy and had her baby in the US).

Little Miss Grace and Master Santiago got along very well, and their naps overlapped so that my friend and I could have a nice visit. Grace has gotten very good at sharing recently and was happy to bring him her toys.

I have to say that it was really nice to have a small baby in the house again. We brought out all of Grace's old gear: her boppy (nursing pillow), her swing, her bouncy seat, her rattles...the works! It was a real trip down memory lane for Grace and she loved examining all her old stuff. The fun really started last night before bed when she started filling up the bouncy seat with all her current and past toys. Lately she has taken to "sorting" things: she puts things in a pile and then when she is done she individually moves each item to a new pile, and usually does it one more time after that. We are really enjoying all of the cute play we are seeing at this age.


Monday, April 5, 2010

April 5, 2010 - EWE (Easter Weekend Events)

We decided not to go away for our long weekend and took the opportunity to do a couple of things that we had never done in Nairobi before; we also spent three days of our weekend with different Nairobi friends. It was a really great way to spend a holiday weekend and today we are enjoying doing a whole lot of nothing at home.

On Friday we went to the Windsor Golf Hotel & Country Club with Grace's friend Hayley and her family (her mom is my friend Miriam with big sister Charlotte and dad Murray). The weather wasn't so good in the morning but we were there until the afternoon and enjoyed swimming in a VERY warm pool. The food was great and Kristoffer found a new squash partner in Murray. It was very close to our house and was a really nice place to spend the day.

Saturday was a slightly bigger trip. We drove to Naivasha (a little over an hour north of Nairobi - you'll notice if you've read our blog for awhile that we go to Naivasha a lot) with our neighbors to visit the Crescent Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Lake Naivasha. Crescent Island is actually a peninsula but depending on the water level can look like an island. We drove to the Lake Naivasha Country Club from where we took a 5 minute boat ride out to the sanctuary. With a guide, we then spent 2 hours on a walking safari! There are no predators or dangerous animals (big cats, elephants, rhinos, buffalo, etc.), except for some pythons which don't come out during the day, and so with our guide we were very comfortable walking around the crescent and enjoying the beautiful scenery and wildlife.

We saw many, many, many impala (and gazelles too but they are not pictured here)...
and some fighting waterbuck (a large type of antelope)...
but really the bulk of our safari was all about the giraffes. We have fed giraffes at the Giraffe Center a few times before which is the closest you can get to giraffes and is an incredible experience, although those particular giraffes are almost domesticated. Out in the wild we have seen hundreds of giraffes on safari before which have also been great experiences. But nothing can quite compare to tracking giraffes on foot and actually walking around with them.

At first we watched them from a good distance...
and then we decided to walk closer...
and closer...
...and we were able to get up really close to a 2-week old giraffe. You'll notice her umbilical cord is still hanging. Good thing for us that giraffes make particularly bad mothers and don't pay too much attention about protecting their young from picture-taking Americans. (I promise we weren't close enough to threaten the giraffe in any way...)
I like that this picture shows the giraffe baby with my baby!
We followed them for close to an hour. Our guide, Moses, knows the giraffes very well because he walks around the island with them every day. At one point I think we were only 50 ft away.
I love this one showing an adult giraffe with four kids. They are incredibly beautiful animals up close.
It became really fun to try to take as many poses as possible with giraffes close in the background. Here, Grace was happy to be let out of her carrier and walk a little. We used to think she was really small...but compared to even the baby giraffe she seemed tiny!
The Hartwell Family...
Grace and her best buds, Mae and Ben...
Mae (almost 9) loves, loves, loves Grace and Grace loves, loves, loves Mae right back!
Grace had a pretty good time playing with Ben (almost 10) too...
The fun really started when we let Grace play in the grass by herself (don't was completely safe...). Some day when she is older and doesn't quite know what we mean when we say she was born in Africa, we'll show her these once-in-a-lifetime pictures.
Could this be any sweeter?
Grace even let our guide Moses hold her for some giraffe poses...

As it is the rainy season now there was an afternoon storm coming in and so when the clouds started to get dark we started to head away from the giraffes to catch our boat back to the country club. In the future, when I think back to these years in Nairobi...I will think of this moment as a way to remember my Africa.
Almost back to the boat when we came across some more giraffes!
Apparently they couldn't get enough of us...
Grace enjoyed a little more goofing around with Sam and the kids before we went back for a late afternoon lunch at the country club...

Soon it was Easter Sunday! While I was at church, the Easter Bunny showed up (a little late, but that's Africa for you...) and hid Easter eggs around our living room (it was raining outside). Then Mae and Ben came over to help Grace hunt for eggs. This was a nice tradition to share with them after celebrating a Passover Seder at their house last Monday. Grace liked the Easter goodies that Nene & Pops and Aunt Meghan and her gang sent from the US. We wanted to dye Easter eggs but there are no white eggs in Kenya and it seemed weird to try and dye brown eggs - bummer! I think Grace's favorite part of the morning was throwing all the plastic eggs into the fire place once they were all emptied.

Later in the afternoon we went to Easter dinner with a different group of friends. Grace was a very good girl and willingly shared her toys with her friend Apollo (10 months) for the first time. This was especially impressive given that we are trying to wean Grace and she has been a little bit fussy and clingy (more on that later...). Kristoffer and I felt very proud of her on Easter.

Happy belated Easter to many giraffes did you see?!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 1, 2010 - Rainy Day

It was a very cool and rainy morning in Nairobi and only now is the sun starting to break through at 1 pm (which is rare). Our car is in the shop today so Grace and I are stuck at home and we had no electricity for the entire morning., raining, no car, no power...what to do?

First, we invited Mae and Ben to come over and build a fort for Grace to play in. That went well, as you can see.

Then Grace decided to play in the laundry. She has been doing this for weeks now and just loves to take out and unfold fresh clothes; she also loves to hide things in the laundry like my cell phone. Last week she decided she liked to put my underwear on her head while playing with the laundry*. Today for the first time she went for 3 pairs of underwear at once and began crawling around with them on her head, taking them off and then putting them back on in a different order. I apologize if it is inappropriate for me to post these pictures...but really I find them too funny to keep to myself.

The future of our rainy day hopefully involves taking a nap (with Grace a nap is never guaranteed) and then greeting Far when he gets home this evening to begin our four-day Easter weekend!

* please note that neither Kristoffer nor I walk around with underwear on either of our heads, so we really have no idea where this game came from :)