Thursday, July 29, 2010

July 29, 2010 - Referendum Ready

In 24 hours we are departing for holiday in Denmark. Kristoffer will be staying for 2 weeks while Grace and I are staying for 6 weeks (he is coming back towards the end for a few more days and to travel back to Nairobi with us). Grace will get a lot of attention and have a lot of fun with Farmor and Hans for most of the trip, while I will hopefully get a lot of rest. And boy do I need it! In addition to being 13+ weeks pregnant and supposedly on "bed rest" for another 3-4 weeks, I have also had bronchitis for the last few weeks which has turned into a painful lung infection. I went to the emergency room last night, realizing that I needed some medical attention before we travel, and told the doctor that I thought I had cracked a rib. It was that painful and I didn't know what else it could be (also I have been vomiting and coughing so much it actually seemed a likely diagnosis). He said, "But you aren't a doctor, are you?" Good point, guy. Turns out that a lung infection can cause pain similar to that of a cracked rib! He didn't seem that concerned about my pain but was concerned about getting rid of the infection; so I am as drugged up as I am allowed to be given Rocky's residence on the inside and hope to be feeling better before our departure tomorrow morning. There is a big part of me that feels like all of my troubles will disappear once I am in Denmark! Let's get there!

More interesting news is that Kenya is headed for a very big day. On August 4th Kenyans will go to the polls for the first time since the 2007 election to vote on a new Constitution for the nation. The draft of the new Constitution was approved by Parliament a few months ago and the country will vote in just a few more days. This is a big deal for many reasons:
  1. There has not been a national election since the violence that plagued early 2008; Kenyans seem resolute to exercise their right to vote but everyone is treading carefully and hoping (praying, really) that, regardless of the outcome, violence will not ensue and that corruption will not prevent a fair election from taking place.
  2. The new document limits the power of all three branches of government in a way that the country hasn't seen before; for example, for the first time the President shall not also be a Member of Parliament from a certain district of the country. Ideally, these new measures will curtail corruption.
  3. A significantly controversial clause in the document states that abortion is illegal (as it has always been here) except in cases where a medical professional believes the mother's life is at risk. The church, a powerful institution, believes this will open the door for future laws to be created to allow for abortion to be carried out liberally and they have campaigned actively against the new document (with financing from right-wing American conservatives, we believe) throughout the country, specifically in poor areas where people are not educated and rely on their religious leaders for political guidance.
  4. The new constitution also limits the amount of land that can be privately owned, gives power to a land commission to levy taxes on land and even correct historical land injustices, and even gives equal land rights to women (shock! horror!). This is another controversial part of the constitution but one that every outsider agrees is CRUCIAL for the country's future.
  5. Finally, there is a little bit of controvery regarding the part of the constitution that exempts the Muslim population of the country from the Bill of Rights and acknowledges their own courts, called Kadhi. This seems to be less controversial than the other two big issues, but has still been discussed a lot in the media.
  6. The original and current constitution was essentially written in the UK by Brits in the early 60s, so the proposed document would now be much more empowering for Kenyans to live by today.
Politics in Kenya doesn't get more interesting than this. Last night when I was sitting in the emergency room (for 4 hours...) watching the local news, I learned that over 50,000 Kenyans are going to be criminally charged with registering to vote multiple times. Their names were even published in a public "list of shame"; Go Kenya! That is amazing! Otherwise, 12.5 million Kenyans have registered to vote on Wednesday, which has been declared a public holiday to ensure that Kenyans can safely get to and from their polling stations.

It is expected that the new constitution will be adopted, but it is also anticipated that in pockets of the country (likely the Rift Valley and urban slums) there could also be reactive violence or proactive measures of intimidation. Of course we (we = all expats, probably, but definitely me and Kristoffer) hope that Kenya votes for the new Constitution because it would be very good for the country to do so, even if it might not be 100% perfect by every interest-group's standards. But, we hope even more that that Kenyans are able to participate in an open and fair election without fear of persecution for their choice or their ethnic background. We hope the country can prove to the world that they have learned, changed, grown in the last couple of years.

When Wednesday comes around, I anticipate that the Welsiens will be enjoying a certain lovely garden in Varde, Denmark with some certain loved ones, but you can be sure that our thoughts will be with Kenya as we all eagerly await the outcome of the referendum.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

July 25, 2010 - New Blog

Our friends Meghan and Matt have a new blog to share their six-week African experience. They are going to be doing some volunteering for a few weeks so I suspect their reflections and observations will be really interesting.

Check it out here.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

July 24, 2010 - Kwaheri Karen!

It was a real treat for us to have my friend Karen here for two weeks. I am not that sure that Nairobi was all that she bargained for: she went to two play/mom's groups, Grace's traumatic doctor's appointment (they tried to give her a nebulizer for her bronchiolitis...yikes!), my ultrasound, and grocery shopping a few times! She babysat Grace a few times so that I could sleep and participated actively in feeding and diaper changing. What a trip!

She did manage to see some cultural stuff: Kristoffer took her to visit the By Grace Orphanage, she visited the giraffes and elephants and Karen Blixen sites, and she took Grace on a field trip to the National Museum...
...which Grace slept through entirely.
Together with our family, Karen visited the Kiambethu Tea Farm (our third visit there) and we captured some moments from that day.
She even caught me and Grace in an intense game of peek-a-boo!
We managed to kick Karen out of our house for a few days so that she could go on a safari to the Masai Mara. She had a great time seeing Kenya's wildlife up close and personally, and even had an incredible hot air balloon ride. (Note: Karen was conveniently at the Mara when we had "the Rat" visiting!)
For her last day in Nairobi, we set her up with our other visiting friends, Meghan and Matt, to visit Nakuru National Park for a day. Last night we all went out to dinner to celebrate having such good friends in Nairobi!
But sadly, this morning Karen had to leave us. She is off to South Africa for the next three weeks to participate in an educator's program on oral history.

We are so happy you came to stay, Karen, and we already miss you! I feel so lucky that even though we only worked together for two months in Washington, DC we have stayed such good friends! Kwaheri!*
*Kwaheri means "goodbye" in Kiswahili

Friday, July 23, 2010

July 23, 2010 - Grace

I have been remiss in blogging for some time (also in taking pictures, videos, noticing that my daughter has molars!, etc. Yikes!) so here is an update on Grace.

She currently has bronchiolitis (like baby bronchitis) so hasn't been quite herself. When she is sick (yes! it is winter here!) the first thing to go is her appetite, which of course is the one thing that she can't really stand to lose. But, alas, we are in a near-hunger strike this week. She has finally started to drink juice (we push it for the calories) and a little bit of cow's milk. Her vocabulary is expanding a lot with her favorite word pretty much still being "no", although she also says "yucko" quite a bit for anything dirty or any kind of trash. Grace doesn't have a lot of hair, but she finally has some hair...slowly but surely it is growing. She is sleeping a long stretch at night but still wakes up way too early for anyone's happiness (least of all mine) and takes one long nap during the day most of the time, at which time I am also asleep without fail.

She likes to do a lot of things on her own: going up and down the stairs, brushing her teeth, throwing away her own wrapped up diapers, turning on and off the music in her room, feeding herself, picking out which DVD she wants to watch in the morning, drawing, and climbing up onto the sofa. Grace also likes to try to do a lot of other things on her own even though she might not always be successful, like putting on her own clothes/socks/shoes. It is a really fun age - she plays well by herself and with others (others = adults mostly...with other toddlers we are making progress little by little) and seems to have a creative imagination. She loves to build with her legos, try to dress up her stuffed animals, play with her "choo choos" and little dollhouse, and, as usual, read her books. We can't wait for everyone in Denmark to see her next month!

This is what Grace looks like in the last few days (note that she just decided that she really likes to pose with a smile for the camera...what a ham!):

Our little peanut is getting so big!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

July 22, 2010 - The Rat

No, "the Rat" is not another nickname for our is a nickname for the critter that we found in our kitchen last night which was actually and unbelievably an enormous rat! We heard some weird noises from the kitchen and my friend Meghan and I encouraged our brave husbands to go fight off whatever intruders might have made the noises. That lead to the discovery of "the Rat" and its subsequent entrapment in a kitchen cabinet.

My first thought: Wait, are we at the 14th Street subway station in NYC?
My second thought: No, we're in Kenya! We're supposed to have monkeys, not rats!
My third thought: How embarrassing! We have 3 visiting friends from the US and did not invite this icky rat to stay too!

While "the Rat" was quiet during the night, he was trying to bust out of the kitchen cabinet this morning while Grace and I were eating breakfast in the dining room. I got nervous - not knowing how strong "the Rat" was - and opened up some drawers that blocked the cabinet doors from being opened. Little did I know that the drawers were connected to the cabinet and so within minutes "the Rat" was on the lose again. I managed to trap him inside the kitchen and then did what I'm sure you would have done in my situation: I called for Charles to come take care of it! I explained to him that there was a big rat trapped in the kitchen and asked if he could please go in through the back door and get it out. "No problem," he said.

So I am back in the dining room with Grace when I hear Charles enter the kitchen. A lot of banging and slamming followed for the next 90 seconds. Then I hear, "It is OK, Madam, you can come back in now." When I opened the kitchen door, there are quite a few things out of place in the room and there is Charles standing in the middle of the kitchen, holding an enormous dead rat by the tail. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!! I definitely did not know he was going to KILL the rat...thought he might shoo it out of the house or trap it in a box or something! But hey, I'm not complaining!

It was so gross that I can almost not write about it without getting sick, but alas, Charles was my knight in shining armor and disposed of the imported-from-the-NYC-subway rat immediately. Thank you Charles, and thank you to our friends Meghan and Matt for not instantly running for a proper hotel last night :) Never having had a rat in any home I have ever lived in, I hope we can safely say that this was the first and last time.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 21, 2010 - Meet Rocky

Grace's brother or sister is due to arrive on the 1st of February. Because Kristoffer's contract ends in November, we aren't exactly sure where our baby will be born but we are very excited for his or her arrival.

While "Rocky" might seem like a funny nickname, it has a certain meaning for us. The last six weeks of our pregnancy (weeks 6 to 12) have been pretty tough. We've had a couple of scares that all might not be well for the baby and the picture above, taken two days ago, is actually the fifth ultrasound I've had to have. For the last three weeks I have been on "complete bed rest"...which does not have the same meaning when you have a toddler as it does when it is your first pregnancy, I imagine. My version of "complete bed rest" has been to let Kristoffer do a lot on the nights and weekends, to give my housekeeper more responsibility on the days she is here, to hire someone to come play with Grace for 3-4 hours every day or two so that I can stay off my feet a little bit, and to nap every moment that Grace is napping. It might not be the most complete "complete bed rest", but it has been the best I could do and it has helped (in addition to some extra vitamins and hormones). We believe that our little one is truly a fighter, surviving odds that might have been against him or her, and so the name "Rocky" seems quite fitting...even for a girl!

Other than pure exhaustion - all the time! no matter how long I've slept! - I have had many usual first trimester symptoms quite similar to my pregnancy with Grace. As we move into the second trimester this week we hope that my food aversions and sickness will subside and that I will get a bit more energy to enjoy the middle phase of pregnancy (when I'm not yet waddling and can still sleep comfortably!). We are also looking forward to preparing Grace for life as a big sister. As Kristoffer said to her a few days ago, "Grace, I think you are very catered to...but only until February!"

So let the countdown begin and cheers to the next six months of preparation for our family to grow!


Friday, July 16, 2010

July 16, 2010 - Only in Kenya

In the last month we have had three visitors from the US, which has been really fun but also a bit time consuming away from this blog! Johanna is a friend from college and she came to Kenya for a couple of weeks with her friend Sharon (below). We had a great time with them!
My friend Karen, who I worked with for 2 months in Washington, DC, has been here for the last week (sorry, we haven't taken any pictures yet!) and has been a great guest. She and Grace are best friends now and we're showing her all the ins and outs of Nairobi. When she leaves we have more visitors coming: my friend Meghan from high school and her husband! So fun to have so many Americans around!

In other news, my wallet was stolen two weeks ago. Of course this can happen in any country to any person at any time and was not really that big of a deal. Yes, I was annoyed and inconvenienced about having to call banks in the US, Denmark and Kenya but it was a pretty small blip on the screen. I dealt with it, got over it and never thought I'd think of it again. UNTIL...I got a phone call yesterday from a branch of my local bank saying that they had my wallet! Somebody actually turned it in! All the cash was gone, of course, but all of my cards and identification were still there. Inside there was also a name and phone number of the guy who turned my wallet in to the bank, but I can't decide if I should contact him (he likely wants a reward...) because what if he was the one who stole it in the first place?! Tough call, but really ONLY IN KENYA! I would have never gotten my wallet back in the US - thank you, Kenya!

In addition to visitors and travels, we've been busy with Grace being busy, busy, busy. She is into everything: running around, playing with everything, and talking up a storm! We think she is at a very fun age and enjoy all the funny little things she says and does. In two more weeks we are traveling to Denmark and really look forward to seeing all of our family and friends there.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 13, 2010 - WFP "news"

Please read this story on the WFP website today about a project that Kristoffer is working really hard on. It will give you a bit more of an idea about some of the important work he does here. You can also see some of his photography from his trips to "the field". He doesn't like to brag, but I am really proud of him and recognize that not all of WFP's work ends up on their front web page. It is a big accomplishment for him!