Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31, 2010 - A Family Interview

I preface this blog by saying that it is currently 5:13 am in Nairobi. I've been awake since 3:48 am...and so goes the last few weeks of pregnancy. In my attempt to do an interview with Kristoffer and Grace similar to the one I posted last year, I will interview them over breakfast when they wake up any minute.

To reflect for a moment on what I wrote about my hopes for 2010:

  • improved schedule of eating and sleeping for Grace: We've had our ups and downs, and it hasn't been easy. We did figure out that there is no medical reason for her lack of weight gain (at almost two she is just 20 lbs now) and we continue to try new strategies to improve her eating. She sleeps GREAT, but not LATE. Some mornings she wakes up before 5 am. One time this week she stayed in bed until 6:30, which she has never done before. In her entire life she has never slept 12 hours. BUT she is the world's greatest "go to sleeper" and doesn't wake up during the night, so that is a HUGE improvement from this time last year. We feel pretty lucky about her, in general, so we try not to complain about these minor issues. Overall, she's still our Amazing Grace!
  • find out sooner than later where we will move to next: I guess that will be a repeat wish for this year. We didn't end up moving this year - thankfully, given the pregnancy - but it might catch up to us this year. Where to?!

  • Kenya gets its act together: Eh. We aren't too impressed with Kenyan politics these days. Since the ICC announced the six names of high-profile Kenyans who the Hague might actually prosecute for crimes against humanity in relation to the 2008 post-election violence...well, let's just say that the MPs (members of parliament) have not shown their best faces to the world. More on that another time. Let's try to keep this blog cheery!

  • I learn something new – like how to play the drums we bought when we moved to Kenya – or that I do something incredible – like climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. I am not na├»ve so I doubt I will accomplish both of those things, especially given Grace’s sleep issues, but I do hope to make something new and interesting happen for myself in the coming year: Took drum lessons for a couple of months - yes! Unfortunately, in my first trimester drumming made me throw up so we had to stop our lessons, and then we went to Denmark for a long time, and then we came back and life got a little bit complicated. So we haven't been drumming lately and no Kilimanjaro for me (again) this year, but by "something new and interesting" then yes - Rocky has been growing for much of the year and we just have to wait a short while longer to meet him/her!

For 2011, I mostly just can't wait to meet this baby, for Grace to become a big sister, to see what unfolds between my children and for all of us as a family of four. I also hope that I FINALLY get to the Kenyan Coast this year (4th year's the one!). I am really looking forward to having Kristoffer's mom and Hans here for 4 weeks and my parents here for 6 weeks after that. We've been craving some family/home loving for a few months now! I also look forward to traveling home to the US and to Denmark at some point in May or June. It will have been my longest stretch away from home (1 whole year - ah!) - too long for my taste! I've recently been doing some curriculum writing/consulting work and sort of hope that I get more opportunities to do that in this next year. In 2011, I hope to continue being grateful for all that I have, enjoying the small moments of joy we experience in our life, and loving that I am on this crazy journey with an incredible husband. Happy New Year to you! Now let's see what the other two have to say...

Talking to Grace at 5:50 am, sitting on the sofa with her cup of juice and her bunny, waiting for Far to come down for breakfast...

Mama: Grace, we're starting a new year tomorrow. What can you tell me about this past year?

Grace: Mornin', Mama! Mornin', Mama!

M: Good morning, Grace! Tomorrow we start a brand new year. What do you think of that?

G: I sit. Tickle, tickle, Mama.

M: (laughs) Do you have anything you want to say about last year?

G: I watch Bear and Ojo.

M: That's true. You did really like to watch "Bear in the Big Blue House" a lot this year (although not so much anymore). Do you have anything else you want to say about last year?

G: (drinking juice)

M: Anything at all?

G: Mama, cup to be washed.

M: That cup does need to be washed. Thank you for the reminder. Grace we're going to a party tonight to say Happy New Year! Can you say "Happy New Year!"?

G: (says something that sounds like Hallelujah!)

M: That's right! Happy New Year! And guess who is going to be at the party? Alvin!

G: We take turn.

M: That's right. When we play with Alvin we take turns.

G: Grace take turn. Alvin take turn. Not sad.

M: Right. Grace takes a turn, then Alvin takes a turn. And we don't get sad when Alvin plays with our toys. Anything else?

G: (runs into the other room - effectively ending her interview)

Interviewing Kristoffer in the morning before work turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. Let's try again a little later....

3:49 pm, just after Kristoffer got home from work and 1 hour before leaving for a Danish new year's party...

Lisa: Ok, honey, here I go was 2010 for you?!

Kristoffer: (long, quiet pause...thinking very hard) John Lennon once said something about "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans" or something. I feel a little bit like that. And I think this was the year I discovered the importance of a family. And the value of having children. Now Grace can do stuff and I really like that. She can clear the table and blow her own bubbles. So I have to do less (laughs). And I can say that I looked at the moon more this year than I have in my whole life.

L: Why is that?

K: Because of Grace. We look at the moon every night or morning. We love it!

L: And what are your hopes or plans for 2011?

K: That we will get a healthy baby who sleeps well. That I will be able to find a new job. That I will be number one on the squash ladder at the UN. And that I become better at appreciating and valuing all the little moments of happiness in my life.

L: You sound a little bit less excited than you did last year?

K: I'm tired! Maybe tommorrow I'll have more of a fresh perspective. It's exhausting to end a whole year.

L: Fair enough. And, just FYI, last year you said you wished to beat the German guy in squash and last month you finally did it! So congratulations on that.

K: Thanks (with a smile).

Happy New Year!

Kristoffer, Lisa & Grace

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 28, 2010 - The Reunion

I took about 10-15 minutes of very cute Grace video between the 24th and 25th, with Grace opening presents from Farmor, Hans and Oldemor in Denmark as well as from me, Kristoffer, and Santa Claus. She took interest in, played with and seemed to really enjoy all of her gifts, but really the video everyone's been waiting for is of Grace opening up Bamse, who Santa Claus (Julemand) magically found. Click on the link below for their first few minutes together!


Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27, 2010 - Our Christmas Lesson

We didn't take a lot of pictures this Christmas. Because we were only three, we were all actively engaged enjoying each moment together and didn't do much to capture them outside of our hearts and minds. We took a little video, which is too cute not to share at some point this week, but the 12 pictures below are pretty much what I took with our camera.

Honestly, I had spent the last several months being quite sad that we weren't going to be home in Boston with my family as we were intended to be before Rocky was a twinkle in our eyes. And, yes, we were sad to miss out on going to church with my family and playing flag football in the snow (well, Kristoffer was) and seeing my parents with all of their grandchildren and Grace playing with her cousins and joking around with my siblings...that was sad. But we didn't spend the majority of our weekend acting on our sadness; instead our quiet little family Christmas turned out to be quite special.

On the 24th we celebrated a Danish Christmas with candles lighting up our tree and singing while we danced around (never fails to make me cry - even when not pregnant!) and Grace opened her non-Santa-Claus gifts. When Grace went to bed Kristoffer and I had a non-traditional Christmas dinner of delicious bread, cheese, fruit, chocolate, and wine (thank you to Carrie for reminding me that Rocky has all of his/her fingers and toes at this point, and a big glass of delicious wine wouldn't hurt!). On the 25th we woke up to see if Santa Claus had visited our house, we drank mimosas and ate my mom's traditional breakfast casserole, and we found a new, wonderful church to go to where Grace was an angel-toddler during Mass.

I thought we would be lonely, but we weren't. I thought our $11 fake little Christmas tree from Nakumatt would be so ugly, but it wasn't. I thought I would feel a little bit empty, but I didn't. In fact, I don't think I could have felt more full.

We learned this Christmas that even though we love our extended families so much and love to celebrate holidays with them, we are our own family and enjoyed being "just us" for a holiday as well. It was a Christmas we won't forget for that reason, and we are so grateful to have learned this lesson. Just in time for our family to grow a little bit bigger.

Here is a taste of our Christmas girl...she was as sweet and cute as you could dream her to be. And she was certainly all the gift we needed.

Grace and Far were ready and excited to light the Christmas tree.
Grace played with one of her new games by the light of our fake, little, beautiful tree.
Grace knew just which stocking was hers!
And, Grace insisted that the cookies and milk for Santa (the carrot was for Rudolph, of course) actually be placed inside the fireplace. She was very curious whether he would drink the milk or not, and that was the first thing she checked in the morning.
Our African mantel looked lovely too.
WAAAYYY too warm for a fire, but the candles we could handle!
Did I mention that our ugly tree from Nakumatt turned out to be quite beautiful?!
She reminded us again, "Grace's sock!"
Christmas dinner!
When Grace woke up on Christmas morning, Santa's big surprise was that he "found" her lost Bamse (from 3 months ago when we were in Denmark). It was the reunion of a lifetime. Video to come, I hope. It was the best moment of my Christmas to see Grace reunited with her best friend. You could definitely feel the love - a true Christmas miracle!
Grace found Bamse wrapped inside a baby doll stroller that she now loves to push around. She calls it "Bamse's Stroller".
And after we went to church she was happy to play with Bamse some more! It is safe to say that they haven't spent much time apart since their reunion.
Our beautiful, Christmas girl!
Despite our tropical weather and lack of snow, the spirit of Christmas was alive and well in Nairobi this year. We are so thankful for that!

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 24, 2010 - Merry Merry

Merry Christmas to you! We are having a long and quiet holiday weekend. So far it has been very sweet. Even though we are sad not to be with our larger families or out of Nairobi for a bit, we are also really enjoying being together for this holiday as a family of three before Rocky arrives in one month from today. We are taking some traditions from each of our families and making up some new ones of our own as well, which is also very sweet.

We hope wherever you are, you take a moment to celebrate the people you love and to count all of the blessings in your life. That's how we're spending our holiday :)

And don't forget to smile...something like this little girl will do...
Lisa, Kristoffer & Grace

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 17, 2010 - Cooking Stones

It is evening in a simple home in Kenya. Four children have had light tea for breakfast and no lunch, but are now waiting for dinner, the only substantial meal they get in a day. Their father died of AIDS many years ago and they now live with their mother who is HIV-positive.

“Mum mum is the food ready soon?” they ask.

“In a little bit,” replies the mother as she adds more firewood under the boiling cooking pot. This was the fifth time she was asked about food being ready that evening. Her youngest child has already fallen asleep on an empty stomach. And sure enough, one by one they each fell asleep as they waited for the food to cook. The last question about dinner was from the oldest girl who eventually gave in and fell asleep too.

After having ensured that all of her children are sleeping, the mother puts out the fire, takes the lid off of the cooking pot, and removes the warm water and few stones she had put in there when the children were outside playing. There was never any food in the pot or in the house for that matter, but she has learned from experience that it is the easiest way for the family to cope with days like these; days without food.

This is not only a true story, but actually a coping strategy that some of our poorest beneficiaries have shared with us. This was often their reality prior to the food assistance that WFP provides to HIV/AIDS patients in Kenya. You don’t often hear these true stories, but it is important that they are told.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 16, 2010 - He Named Names*

Yesterday, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague announced the names of six Kenyans who he is seeking to indict for committing crimes against humanity in the violent aftermath of the December 2007 national elections. He claims that they not only instigated the violence, but in some cases had been planning for it for up to a year before the election took place; this violence left approximately 1,500 people dead and over 1/2 million people homeless (some of whom are STILL homeless). In a country where the elite are known to get away with just about anything, this is a big step towards ending the impunity they are used to. The Hague judges will now have to review the prosecutor's evidence to determine if he has a case; he also mentioned that there were many others involved in orchestrating the violence but there was not enough evidence to charge them at this time.

Of the six names, only one was a surprise to anyone. In regards to the other five, I haven't spoken to any Kenyan who didn't already think they were "thugs" or "crooks" of the worst kind, and in almost all of their cases they are in the middle of investigations for other crimes (such as fraud). So while it wasn't HUGE news, it was a HUGE day for Kenya...and when we woke up this morning there were no reports of any reactive violence happening in the predicted "hot spots" following the announcement. Maybe that is also a sign that Kenya is slowly but surely growing up.

The NY Times article about yesterday's announcement can be found here.


*note: blog title references the Seinfeld episode "The Race" from Season 6, when Elaine is dating a communist.

Friday, December 10, 2010

December 10, 2010 - D-Day's coming to Kenya

I was going to write some commentary about the political situation in Kenya right now, but another Nairobi blogger did such a good job that I'll just direct you to read what she wrote here:

I'll save my brilliant insight (cough, cough) for what happens after the 15th. Things could get interesting around here...just in time for Christmas! Reminds me of when we arrived 3 years ago!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Decembe 9, 2010 - The Old Masai Way

Yesterday, I was driven to a meeting outside of town by WFP Kenya’s oldest employee, a Masai called Stephen. I have driven with him before but I have to share the following with you.

Stephen must be well into his sixties; his father who is still alive had 8 wives, of which 4 have passed away. Between his 8 wives, the children numbered 20 girls and 30 boys. This year the whole family got together including the grandchildren: they were 320 people and ate an entire cow in one sitting.

As a boy Stephen left home after his circumcision. He didn’t want to follow the tradition and kill a lion; many Masai die doing this. He went to Tanzania and got a job with a white man and many years later got a job with WFP.

Stephen was reunited with his father many years ago, but only married one wife and also has a house. The Masai don’t normally buy houses and they normally marry many wives...or at least that is how it used to be.

Stephen’s father calls him a motorcycle, meaning that if one light fails he will be driving in the dark. This analogy refers to the fact that Stephen only took one wife which his father finds foolish.

Stephen has brought his mother to his house near Nairobi where she can easily get medical attention. She is 110 years old. As I have written earlier (maybe over a year ago now) Masai give children names after what happened the year they were born. You can be named after a big drought or flood or even “English” meaning that you were born when the British came to Kenya. One of Stephen’s mother’s names is “one shilling” because she was born when the British introduced the one shilling coin.

It is days like this - driving around with someone from a culture so different from mine - that I really appreciate what I learn from living in Kenya.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 7, 2010 - 32 weeks

I had an interesting doctor's appointment today. We made all the plans for my January 24th c-section, including booking the operating room, anesthesiologist and pediatrician to be there for the surgery. The surgery will be at 7:45 am so Kristoffer and I will go to the hospital the night before just like we did with Grace. We also discussed that if I go into labor any time before that day, I will just go to the hospital immediately for an emergency c-section.'s really happening! Less than 7 weeks to go now!

Rocky was measuring right on track for how "old" s/he is and was moving a lot during my exam. We've also noticed at home that Rocky is MOST active at 7:30 pm...pretty much the minute big sister is asleep s/he wants our undivided attention! We are curious to see if 7:30 - 9 pm is also Rocky's active time after s/he is born. Rocky is not breech like Grace was - his/her head is already down - but the baby hasn't "dropped" yet and I am not showing any signs of being "ready", which is also good at this stage. I have a scan in two weeks and then continue seeing my doctor every two weeks until GO time! All of these plans have made me really excited - I can finally see the light on at the end of what has felt like a very long tunnel.

Today Grace has been saying something like, "Mama go doctor for baby" and has been giving my belly a lot of attention, which are good things. BUT she has started to be a lot more clingy to me and crying for me when Kristoffer gets home from work and even a little bit during the day. A friend of ours who just had a baby said their 3-year old was the same way in the month leading up to their baby's arrival. Just all about Mama! So, hopefully it is just a natural reaction as I get bigger and she realizes something is really about to change. After all, who can blame her!?
But, also hopefully, she will love our new addition when Rocky arrives!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

December 3, 2010 - 'Tis the Season (take 2)

Normally YouTube lets me get the code to embed a video in the blog so you can just watch it from the blog without doing anything else, but something having to do with our lately-slow internet connection is preventing that from being possible. I think that now if you just click on the link below it will take you to the video of Grace's Christmas Concert performance. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I promise it will bring you two guaranteed minutes of happiness.


December 3, 2010 - 'Tis the Season

At Grace's school yesterday there was a Christmas Concert (because today is the last day of school until January 11th). Each class "performed" a Christmas song and there was a full nativity play put on by the older children (5-6 years). Grace's school - and the tuition we pay for her to go there - supports a kindergarden in one of Nairobi's slums and those children also came to perform. It was 90 minutes of pure joy and happines; the teachers and staff did such a great job with the children. I don't know if I am allowed to say it was the cutest thing EVER, but it was certainly in the top 10.

Kristoffer, Rose, Charles and I all went to the show. Grace's class, the youngest in the school, was one of the first to perform and they did a "dance" to the song "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town". She seemed totally shocked when she saw the large audience of parents and friends, even though she could do the "dance" at home when I sang the song. We had no idea she would be in costume! It was hard to get really good pictures because we didn't get there early enough for seats up front, but I think you'll get the idea from these, and you can find Grace because she is the smallest and the only girl (so the only one wearing a dress):
(the Japanese woman is the headmistress of her school
and the Kenyan woman is her teacher, Miss Mbata)

Grace also loved the bouquet of flowers we brought her to celebrate her first performance:

I am working on putting the video of the song up but our internet has not been itself the last few weeks and is currently not letting me upload the video. Keep checking back if you want to see it!

And a few more notes:
1. No need to ask - I did cry throughout a significant portion of the show. Hormonal pregnant mothers should not be allowed to attend such events! My heart just melted :)

2. After her performance Grace proceeded to fall asleep on her teacher's lap for the rest of the show. It is a lot to ask a little one to sit quietly and watch a stage for almost 90 minutes!

3. You know you are at an international school when the part of Mary in the nativity is played by an African girl and the part of Joseph is played by a Japanese boy. It was wonderful to see such diversity in the student population. We are so happy with our decision for Grace to go to this school, and we were so proud of her today!

Merry Christmas already!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 2, 2010 - Kitu Kidogo

Today in the car driving Grace to school Charles said to me, "Madame...I don't think corruption in Kenya will ever end." Now if that isn't a sad way to start the day, I don't know what is!

Where did his statement come from?

Yesterday Charles went to the post office for me to pick up a package from my mother. It turns out that most postal workers were on strike for the second day of trying to pressure the government to increase their wages. It also turns out that there were a few postal workers still actually working, but in order for them to do their work they were demanding bribes from customers. In Swahili, "kitu kidogo" means "a little something" and if someone asks for "kitu kidogo" they are asking for a bribe. So when Charles requested my package they told him that they couldn't get it without "kitu kidogo." He called me with an update and I confirmed that under no circumstances should he pay them anything, he could just come home and try again another day. Well, Charles had other plans.

He basically staged a protest during which he stood there for 3 hours and told them that he wasn't leaving without the package or without speaking to the very head manager. So he just stood there and waited and waited and waited. He said they couldn't believe that he wouldn't just pay them something small to find his package. Eventually they caved and decided to just make him happy so he would go away, but by the time they found out where the package was he had to leave to run two more errands for me before picking up Kristoffer from work (reminder from blogs past: once they locate your package you still have to go through several levels of bureaucracy for stamps and signatures as well as make a trip to the bank to pay duty, so it could have taken up to another hour before he could actually leave with the package).

So he at least got documentation of where the package was located so that he can easily go back today or tomorrow to pick it up. And he didn't pay "kitu kidogo." It is discouraging to live in a country where that happens at every level of society on a daily basis. After he told me that he thinks corruption will never end, I asked him if it was at least any better than it used to be? And he said that yes, in fact, there is less corruption than in the past but still too much. So I suggested that maybe it is just a very long process and with time time time it will continue to disappear. I also congratulated him for standing up against corruption yesterday (literally, for over 3 hours). We hope that it is Kenyans like him who will change the status quo.