Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 27, 2011 - Another Day at the Office

I was thinking today that it may not be very clear to people what a WFP Programme Officer does on a normal day, so let me share what I did at work today:

§  Yesterday the Ministry of Education confirmed that we can go ahead with a school meals emergency response by providing food to all drought affected primary schools during the August holiday. This means that there will be no teaching at school but the students can show up and get a meal at noon. Today I followed up with logistics; they had already moved around 50% of the food (Yay for WFP Logistics! But I told them to move even faster; over 7,000 tons -  let’s do it in two weeks), I called the Ministry to push them to do their part which they are doing very well (their part is moving a lot of food - Let’s hear it for the Ministry of Education!); I called a few field offices to see what action they had taken a day after the intervention was approved officially; quite a lot J

§  I am Project Manager on an energy-saving stove project in the Dadaab refugee camp. We are buying between 5,000-10,000 stoves for the refugees. One of the suppliers sent us a sample today. We hope to select a supplier by end of next week but 6 things need to happen: official opening of the tender box, technical evaluation, financial evaluation, presentation to the tender committee, award the contract and maybe release of an advance payment.

§  A large purchase order of institutional stoves was placed today which means that my other project for stoves in schools will reach 1,000 schools by the end of the year and that all deadlines will be met. I recently trained 350 head teachers on the project; it took 3 days, and we got very positive responses; this was mainly due to the prep work of our field offices (well done them).

§  We received an urgent request for our regional office today; they wanted to know how much fortified porridge (called “corn-soya-blend”) we could loan out to our Somali operation. I did a simple calculation, called our warehouse guys in Mombasa just to double check our stock levels, and sent it off.

§  I coordinated some other payments for our projects, released about a 100 payments in finance (took 45 minutes) and signed a few checks for staff that were travelling.

§  I texted with a Danish Journalist in Dadaab refugee camp and gave her some practical advice. It also seems that another Danish paper wants an interview with me later this week and then I found out later in the day that I was mentioned in an article about Kenya in the second largest newspaper in Denmark. Had a meeting with them on Monday but didn’t know they would put me in the paper!

§  Gave some data for our monthly report, did some pre-work for some upcoming projects, wrote a recommendation.

§  Got a call from a contractor in the evening. He wanted me to come to the school he is building for us in the slums and see the progress he had made. I’ll go there tomorrow morning, so we can plan for his next payment, I don’t want him to run out of money again…

§  I also learned today that a 6 month-old baby can sit up in a small tub by himself…but only for 12 seconds, after which he will subsequently lose his balance and hit his head on the plastic edge. 


Saturday, July 23, 2011

July 23, 2011 - The "F" Word

Three years and almost eight months after moving to Kenya, Life in Nairobi is now officially 500 blogs old. 500 blogs!  Wow!  I thought it most appropriate for our 500th blog to take Life in Nairobi back to its roots and write a bit about what's going on in East Africa right now, particularly because it is so relevant in Kristoffer's work, which is the reason we live in Kenya in the first place.*

Unfortunately, the news isn't good.  The past two rainy seasons in Kenya have failed, leading to a devastating lack of crops which provide food throughout the Horn of Africa (HOA consists of Kenya, Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia), in addition to those countries also having a severe drought of their own.  The drought facing HOA is thought to be the worst in 60 years, and comes just after recovery from a drought in 2008, which followed the post-election crisis in Kenya.  Let's face it, times have been tough in Kenya since we got here.  There are 11.3 million affected by hunger in HOA right now.  

The food crisis in Somalia is so dire, in fact, that the UN officially declared a famine in two parts of the war-torn country (believed by many to be the least stable country in the world).  For the word famine to be used, there have to  be three criteria present:
  • acute malnutrition rates among children exceed 30%
  • more than 2 people per 10,000 die per day
  • people are not able to access food and other basic necessities
Because the situation is so severe in Somalia, Somalis are walking over the border into Kenya to the Dadaab refugee camp (the largest refugee camp in the world).  These people are fleeing some combination of high oil and food prices, lack of water and political conflict/violence.  When we arrived in Kenya there were 200 people crossing the border into Kenya which was a record high at the time; the latest numbers from the UN indicate that now 1,400 people walk into Kenya from Somalia everyday.  Of course Kenya is also facing the drought and high food prices/lack of food...but the refugee camp offers some hope for basic assistance and so the Somalis keep coming.

Here is a bit of an overview, if you care to watch:












In the ways that matter most, our daily life is not that affected.  We do sometimes get rain in Nairobi; our altitude helps us there. And, of course, we can afford to buy food, even if prices have gone up, and we drink bottled water so we are not relying on the water that falls from the sky to meet our basic, immediate needs.  But our household staff feel rising costs deeply; the maize flour they buy to make ugali (a staple Kenyan food) has doubled.  Because 80% of Kenya's electricity is hydropower we are having more frequent power cuts now.  There is a "run" on sugar, because a Kenyan diet consists of so much sugar that Kenyans started buying it all up out of fear that prices will go up too high or that the supply will disappear altogether.  Mostly, we feel the desperation in the country.  When people are desperate there tends to be rising crime, which holds true here as well.  As a result, we are extra cautious when we are out and about, and we really don't go out much at night (when we do, we don't go far).

Kristoffer does not work in the emergency section of the World Food Programme (obviously, emergency is their biggest mandate as the largest humanitarian aid agency in the world), but the entire country office is very busy trying to provide aid.  Kristoffer works in school feeding and usually children are not fed during school holiday breaks.  To help fight the effects of the hunger crisis, school feeding will now take place in targeted areas during the holiday (end July-early September), so even though he is not "in" emergency, his development unit is still called to help in some way.  

Kristoffer was actually contacted by the very small WFP office in Copenhagen and asked if he could be the "eyes and ears" for Denmark in terms of the situation on the ground here.  He gave a live interview on the Danish national news about 10 days ago which, we have heard from some family and friends, made quite an impact.  

I am not trying to make a shameless pitch for WFP, but right now they are facing a 40% shortfall in their ability to meet the needs of the people most severely affected by this food crisis and donating to WFP is actually the fastest way possible that you can help make a difference.  If you would like to donate and are in a position to do so, please visit here to donate funds which will help get food to HOA as soon as possible.

When facing one "f" word (famine), it is appropriate to rely a bit on another "f" word (faith) to get through the crisis.  In addition to dollars for food, affected people in the Horn of Africa need prayers to help them deal with extreme conditions and suffering that have no end in sight.  It is also, once again, time to count our own blessings.  

*I know this blog started out being about our daily life in Nairobi, the interesting situations and challenges we faced upon moving here.  That it has become almost entirely about our family - specifically the ins and outs of Grace and Noah - was completely unplanned (remember: when we moved here we had no intention of having children while we lived here!).  While Kristoffer has access to the real Kenya and has travelled throughout the country, my entire life as a stay at home mom here takes place in a 10 mile radius around our house (if that).  If he had time, he could write really interesting blogs about the work he does, the people he meets, and the things he sees.  But since he doesn't have that time, I can really only write about what I know, and what I know is motherhood.  Sorry if that came (or comes) as a disappointment to anyone following the blog.  Writing about the kids is both a survival mechanism and hobby for me, and I don't think that will change any time soon.  But, at 500 blogs old I think I will try a little bit harder to share more of "Kenya" when the chances arise.  

Friday, July 22, 2011

July 22, 2011 - Noah's News

Noah is 6 months old today!  Feeling like I've just gotten used to the idea of having two children, it is a surprise to me that the youngest one is already half a year old!  

Noah has been to the doctor a lot lately; two weeks in a row he had some kind of a bug with various symptoms that required tests to make sure he didn't have a Kenya-related infection (malaria, etc).  Luckily it was (or they were) just a virus, but he has definitely been a little bit off, particularly in the sleeping-at-night department.  While not sleeping well, he is eating well and has tried apples, bananas, pears, and orange veggies like squash, sweet potato and carrots.  Next week we might start on the greens.  Developmentally he is doing great and acquires new skills every day.  Noah has some favorite toys - particularly a crab rattle that Grace also loved and his taggie - and continues to love music and Grace.  While not yet successful, he looks like he is trying to crawl and can both rotate 180 degrees on his belly and push himself up and down the length of his crib. Some of his uncharacteristic fussiness might also be related to teething but there is no way to know until he actually gets some teeth!  These are his latest stats:
  • Height: 67 cm or 26.3 in or 50th percentile
  • Weight: 7.74 kg or 17.1 lbs or 50th percentile
  • Head Circumference: 44 cm or 17.3 in or 50-75th percentile

These are pictures of Noah from this week (I know there are too many, but really, how could I choose just one?!). Despite getting two shots today he managed to be in good spirits for his monthly photo. The third one down (close up of his face) is my absolute favorite - I know he is Danish, but when he smiles like that I can't help but think of my Nana's favorite song, "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling".  He is a handsome little buddy for sure!



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 20, 2011 - Book Review

Bossypants by Tina Fey (2011)
recommended by lots of people

I happen to very much agree with most of what Janet Maslin wrote about this book in her review in the NY Times, so I won't try to recreate the wheel and write too much more.  Much like Fey's TV show "30 Rock", I thought her book was funny, but not quite as funny as I thought it would be.  I did laugh out loud 5 times and especially enjoyed/identified with her later chapters that involve parenting and family stuff.  She had way more messages related to feminism (or rather gender-equality) than I expected, which I liked because it wasn't just a funny book  - there were actual messages inside it!  And the details of Tina-Fey-as-Sarah-Palin were themselves worth buying the book for.  I'd say it is a great beach read this summer (unless you are having winter in Nairobi, in which case I recommend reading it in your wool socks while your baby is teething and awake all night).   


Friday, July 15, 2011

July 15, 2011 - Toddler Tapas

We are very happy to report that it seems like Grace is still gaining weight; unfortunately, we believe most of that weight is coming from her "Special Milk" (Pediasure/older toddler formula) instead of food because she continues to be an extremely difficult eater.  We let her eat as much as possible at the table, and then when she gets down we try to feed her the rest of her food while she is playing (or, if it is before bedtime, watching a show).  We consciously fight with her less than we used to about food, but she is still not very motivated to feed herself well.  We have good days and bad days (like many toddlers, I am assured by other moms), but I always end up hoping, hoping, hoping that one day she'll wake up and just be a good eater!    

Grace is not in school anymore (well, she has one more week of "camp" but they don't do lunch) so she is back to eating all 3 meals a day at home.  I have to say I dread this a little bit, because it means I have 3 battles to face each day on the food front instead of 2.  But I reached out to my fellow Nairobi moms and asked (via facebook, of course) what kind of foods their toddlers eat for lunch. I was just hoping to get some new ideas to try out.  One mom said that her daughters like to eat finger foods out of an ice cube tray:  they play with the food too, but also consume a nice variety.  Sounded like Toddler Tapas to me!  So I decided to try that yesterday.  This is what my Toddler Tapas looked like, although to Grace I called it "ice cube tray lunch" (loaded up with many of her favorite foods):  

Top row: carrots, apples, 2 chicken & apple mini-meatballs, corn, mandarin oranges, cucumber.
Bottom row: whole wheat bread shapes (heart, triangle, star, moon), hummus for dipping, peas, yogurt for dipping, sliced turkey shapes, more bread shapes.

When she sat down at the table and I explained her lunch to her, Grace told me, "Great idea, Mama!" And she looked like this for a few minutes...
...but I think I was a bit over zealous for the first time around.  There was just too much food for her, and too much variety I think (although I hoped that would be a good thing).  She didn't want to dip (I also falsely predicted the success of dipping), but ate all of the hummus off her finger and asked for more of that.  She ate all of the apples, one slice of cucumber, one slice of carrot, 2 individual peas, and four (out of 8) bread shapes.  There was a lot of food leftover and she refused to even try the mandarins, mini-meatballs, corn or turkey.  

I decided not to fight her to eat more once she asked to get down; it was not a complete failure because she seemed "into it"  and really liked the hummus, but she definitely didn't love the eating experience as I had imagined.  A few things I learned for the next time I try to do Toddler Tapas:

  1. leave a few cubes empty so she can move around and/or sort her food as she likes
  2. put a little bit less of each item in there so that even if she just has 1 or 2 bites she can feel successful having eaten all of that food
  3. try some raisins and nuts next time
  4. maybe preview a dessert tapas as a reward for eating up
My intention in writing this blog is first to document my efforts - she may not be eating, but we are trying over here! - and second to ask if anyone else has some new ideas for me to try.  I am very, very happy to steal other people's good ideas, especially when it comes to feeding Grace!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 14, 2011 - Sorry!

There was a little confusion in the blog-o-sphere yesterday, but now my Wednesday blog for Professor Coplin is actually posted here.  Please encourage educators you know to subscribe!


July 14, 2011 - Book Review

Since Noah was born, I haven't read anything for pleasure.  Lots of news and lots of parenting article/books/blogs.  Lots of emails and lots of facebook.  But nothing for pleasure.  Until last week!  And maybe the reason I enjoyed the book so much was simply the fact that I was reading it for me (because the New York Times critic who reviewed it didn't like it that much!).  I even gave up a 2 hour nap when every other person in this household was asleep yesterday so that I could lay on the sofa and finish my book.  Good stuff!  So here it is, for better or worse, my review of this book, should you be interested.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (2008).
Fiction.  Read it for my book club's August book.

This is a story that mostly takes place in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), about the lives of two boys who were born to an Indian nun nurse and a British surgeon.  Their arrival was a surprise to everyone around them (who didn't know about one night of a love affair); their mother died in birth, their father abandoned them moments later, and they were raised by an Indian couple who were both doctors at that same hospital.  They were actually conjoined twins who were separated at birth, but spent their lives having some kind of super phenomenal connection to each other.  The book has a lot of medical jargon in it, but I found that the writer's medical descriptions were actually quite beautiful.  I also thought the beginning was a bit slow and hard to follow at first.  But, I loved the description of life inside this little African hospital. I particularly loved the characters who raised the twins as their own.  Of course the story gets complicated and tells a somewhat fictionalized version of political/historical events in Ethiopia and Eritrea, but that too was interesting to read.  Most of the story was not predictable, until the very end (a bit of a disappointment), and I found it had much to do with the human spirit, faith and exploring the definitions of family.  There were lots of great quotes in it and I also liked that there were moments in Nairobi, NYC and Boston in the novel (all the places I've lived!).  I don't think it was the greatest book I've ever read, but something in there spoke to me and I really enjoyed it.  


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 13, 2011 - Guest Blogger

Starting today, I am guest blogging here, a site where my former professor from Syracuse University, Bill Coplin, is advocating for more skills-based education in America.  Before Noah was born I wrote a curriculum for his program, which you can find here if you're interested, and I'll be blogging every Wednesday for the next ten weeks at least.  Most of what I'm writing about is for teachers trying to incorporate real-world skill development into their classrooms.  It is a nice way for me to contribute to something educational even though I am not working in the classroom, and, as always, I am grateful for the opportunities that Coplin always seems to give me.  

Check it out!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

July 12, 2011 - Visitors!

Last month we had a number of visitors pass through Nairobi.

One visitor was a friend from college, Michelle.  She lived two doors down from me our freshman year at Syracuse (yeah, L-Town!) and now lives/works in NYC.  She even mentors a student at the high school where I used to teach!  She came to Kenya for work and was kind enough to bring us a lot of goodies (including NYC bagels!).  Charles was able to pick up the goods from her hotel but I wasn't able to see her before she was travelling in the country for work.  BUMMER!  Michelle, if you read this: thanks again and please come again so this time we can see you!

But even before Michelle came, there were other visitors!

First, Sam and Ben - who used to live across the street (with Jen, Mae and Tsavo) - were visiting from California.  Sam had two weeks of work here and Ben came to see his friends!  We got to hang out with them a bit and, as you can see, it was a lot of fun.  Sam was last in Nairobi the day Noah was born, but we hadn't seen Ben in a year so it was a real treat!  We still really miss having their family nearby.

Then, there were a group of ladies from my hometown of Andover, MA who came to do volunteer work at the Margaret Okari School in Kisii.  The leader of the group, Peg Campbell - who fundraises for the school back in the US - had come once before when I was pregnant with Grace and we were happy to hear she was returning with a new group.  They spent one night in Nairobi and we were able to have breakfast with them.  It turned out that the mother and sister of one of my friends from high school were in the group as well (Mike Jones' Mom, Betty Mobbs, and his sister, Penelope!).  It was so crazy, but we had a great visit with them and hear they did a lot of good work while they were at the school.  Thank you again to Peg for also bringing a box of goodies from home.  Kristoffer enjoyed sharing some of his project development in Kenya for their reference in the work they are doing, and I think the ladies liked holding our kids while we ate breakfast too!

It is so nice when visitors come a-knockin'. As long as we are here, you are welcome!


Monday, July 11, 2011

July 11, 2011 - Friendly Forest

Grace is really into Dora the Explorer - has been for a few months now - and Dora is always going on adventures so, of course, she has a trusty map with her at all times. Lately, we've been making Dora-style maps before we go places so that Grace can follow along.  Maps go something like: bumpy road, roundabout, Grace's school (chanted in a Dora-ish way)!  When she gives Charles or Kristoffer directions, it is very funny: "Charles, careful on the bumpy road.  Go to the roundabout now!"

Yesterday we made a map that had: flower garden, bumpy hill, Friendly Forest.  The Friendly Forest is really Karura Forest in Nairobi, which used to be a dangerous and scary place, but has been revamped by the government and private donors (I think) to become a safe and lovely natural getaway inside the city.  You have to pay to get into the forest now, which keeps out some undesirable characters, and there is armed security.  There are beautiful trails with a waterfall and some caves (we haven't seen those yet).  Yesterday we went just for a short walk in the afternoon, but plan to head there again soon (with more supplies now that we know what we're in for) for another adventure.  

For more information on the Karura Forest, click here.

My Family in the Friendly Forest

Thursday, July 7, 2011

July 7, 2011 - Toddler Tricks

Warning: if not interested in toddler details, skip this blog!  When our blogs are published into annual books (thanks Bibi and Jen!) they serve as "baby books" for Grace & Noah, so the details are more for me than for you!  Sorry!
Grace is a real big girl these days.  I know this because many times a day she tells me, almost like a song lyric, "I can do it by myself. I'm big now.  I'm so big."   She is also a supportive daughter who congratulates me when I do big girl things too, like climb up the stairs by myself, finish the food on my plate, go pee-pee on the potty.  She tells me, "Good job, Mama!  You're big like me!"  This is a stage of life that we really enjoy, because when she is cute she is so darn cute, and I would say that enjoyment pervades about 94% of the time.  The other 6% of the time she is really pushing our buttons, challenging us, driving us know, being two.  

Here are some of my notes about Grace in the last few weeks:

  • Grace has decided to double all plural words in English.  So cars = carses, clothes = clotheses, books = bookses, shoes = shoeses, etc.  Why does she do this?  I have absolutely no idea.  I alternate between thinking it is cute or a little bit annoying, and I wonder when she will realize that she only needs one "s" instead of two!
  • Grace speaks in complete sentences, almost exclusively.  If I ask her if she is OK, she doesn't just say yes or no.  She says, "Yes, I am otay" or "No, I am not otay" (one time she even said, "I am not sure.").  She is increasingly using compound sentences with "and" or "but" as well.  
  • In both languages, her vocabulary is increasing rapidly.  Kristoffer is reading to her in Danish a lot more than he used to and that is clearly paying off.  She mimics both of us and tries to repeat whatever we say.  I called her "very independent" the other day so since then she has been working on correctly pronouncing that word (she is close!), and she knows what it means because she is uses it appropriately.  We really have to watch what we say and how we say it, because it will surely come out of her mouth the exact same way.
  • Her accent changes depending on who she talks to, even within the English language.  To me she says "dinner" but to Rose she says, "Dee-nah" the way Kenyans pronounce it.  She is a language code-switcher - impressive!
  • Little Miss Imagination is really fun to play with and to watch while she is playing alone.  She still really loves her "friends" Elmo, Quack Quack, Bunny, Bamse, Elephant, Doggy Doggy, Baby, etc.  and continues to play with them in unique ways.  This week she must have been playing "school" with them because she had them all lined up against the wall, sat in front of them and read them a book, then said to each one "Well done, Elmo!  Well done, Bunny!, etc", after which she said to the whole group, "Well done, everybody!  You've had a good day!"  Was she mimicking Ms. Mbata, her teacher from school? I think so!
  • We recently introduced a "time out chair" for disciplining Grace (sometimes works, sometimes doesn't...sigh) and so now she is also using it to discipline her friends.  On Tuesday Elmo hit Doggy Doggy and was put in the time out chair, with the timer set.  She told him, "Elmo we don't hit anybody, otay?  That makes me sad. Say sorry to Doggy Doggy when the timer goes off."  She sat and watched him until the timer went off, then she made Elmo hug Doggy Doggy and say sorry.  Next...Doggy Doggy kicked Quack Quack.  And repeat.  It is a little bit eery to hear your own parenting come out of your 2-year-old's mouth!
  • Grace loves to sing songs, listen to music, read books, and play the tambourine.  She also loves to color, color, color and to hide, hide, hide (sometimes to seek too)!  To assist her independence I bought her a little stool which she carries around the house to reach things by herself.  She feels so proud to get things and put them away on her own.
  • Good days/bad days.  She eats a decent breakfast about 6 days a week; lunch 4-6 days a week, and dinner 4-6 days a week.  If she eats a good lunch, dinner will likely not go that well (and vice versa).  
  • The strategy that seems to work of late is to get her to eat as much as possible at the table, then let her down to play and every few minutes invite her back to take a bite or two of food.  That is actually helping us get more food into her for breakfast and dinner at least.
  • She is still drinking "special milk" (Pediasure or older toddler formula) about 5 times a day, which I am sure is the reason she has put on weight.  
  • Aside from really making Noah smile and laugh most of the time, she has tapped into some of her maternal instincts to help us take care of him.  If Noah spits or throws up, she is the first to run for the burp cloth and wipe it up.  She brings him toys to play with and congratulates him when he does something "big" like sitting up by himself: "Good job, Buddy!  Well done!" She also told him at dinner last night when he spit out some cereal, "Noah, we don't spit out our food."  Maybe I should call her Echo!
  • Grace has started to be possessive with her stuff around Noah.  If he grabs (usually by accident) her duvet or a toy she gives him a small lecture, "Noah, that is my duvet.  You cannot take it without asking nicely."  Miss Manners!
  • She also has a lot of empathy for Noah, and others.  If I react to something with a gasp or a sigh she quickly responds with, "Oh no, what happened Mama? Are you otay?"  And the same if Noah cries - she is genuinely concerned about how people feel and making sure everybody is "otay."
  • Yesterday was the Drama Festival at Grace's school, where each class did a performance.  It was not quite as funny/impressive as the Christmas Show, but was still cute.  Grace's class - which has quadrupled in size since she started in October and now has another teacher and many assistants - sang two songs: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (which she has known for months and months and months) and Miss Polly (new to me).  Most of the kids in the class froze or, like Grace, bit their fingers and picked their noses.  As soon as we got home, of course, she did the whole performance for me and Rose, but at school the audience still shocked her! 
Grace is biting her fingers:
 Grace is picking her nose:
 Rose with Grace, eating watermelon, after the show:
 Grace and the best pre-school teacher ever, Ms. Mbata:
  • Today is the last day of the term before the summer holidays but Grace will go to "camp" at her school on the same schedule for two more weeks.  Anything to prolong screwing up her schedule!
  • Grace received her first "report card" from school.  It is two pages that highlight her language/knowledge, social/emotional, and physical development since she started in October (scanned below, but maybe you can't see it too well).  We were surprised to get such a formal report from the school but were very pleased with their comments, particularly that Grace has come out of her shell a bit to play with other kids more than she did in the fall.  As noted, Andrew is still her best friend and all her other friends but one are boys (good thing she got a brother, I guess!).  The report is very, very sweet.

Parenting a toddler is not the easiest job in the world.  Some days we feel very successful and some days not, because of course she feels her emotions extremely, has temper tantrums that we can't always predict, is pushing her boundaries, and is very stubborn (I say she gets that from Kristoffer, he says she gets that from me.  Hmmm....).  But her wonderful qualities far outweigh those difficult moments, from which she has to learn and develop as well, and at the end of every day we usually debrief about her cutest and most challenging moments, and how much we love her.


Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4, 2011 - American

Happy 4th of July, to family and friends at home and other Americans abroad. It is one of those days - like Thanksgiving - where trying to celebrate it in Kenya just rubs in the fact that we aren't in America. Yes, we will eat corn-on-the-cob for dinner tonight, but we won't be at an outdoor BBQ or on the beach (it is "winter" in Nairobi, after all) and we won't see fireworks. It just isn't - and absolutely can't be - the same. Bummer. We have a lovely life, raising these little Danish-Americans here in Nairobi, but on days like today - when Kristoffer goes to work as usual, and Grace to school as usual, and I go food shopping as usual, and nobody is dressed in red, white, and blue - I miss being an American in America.

I hope everyone at home will drink an extra Sam Adams for me and give a few extra "oos" and "ahs" at tonight's fireworks on my behalf.