Sunday, November 27, 2011

November 27, 2011 - First Week in Denmark

After surviving phase 1 of our move (Operation Leave Kenya) and our journey to Denmark and after having some nice days with Farmor and Hans, Grace got really, really sick with pneumonia this week.  She is not 100% yet, but is at least much, much better.  We nearly had her admitted to the hospital after she kept getting sicker, but somehow this morning her high fever broke and she just quickly started to improve.  I guess the second attemp with stronger antibiotics kicked in.  She is breathing easier and coughing less, and is generally much more herself.  PHEW.  It was a sad and scary few days, and we are very relieved that she is on the mend!

Noah is sleeping worse than a newborn (between the two of them, Kristoffer and I are not sleeping much at all), but is otherwise having a good time at Farmor's house. Nikoline and Josefine visited us this weekend; they are such wonderful cousins and I have nicknamed Nikoline "Rose Jr" because she is so great with Noah!  As you can see below, he looks very sweet and innocent.  But  I think that crate of beer knows better :)  SKÅL!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

November 24, 2011 - A Thanksgiving Prayer

I've recently been thinking about all the things I'm thankful for this year.  The list is sooooooo long that I could never properly blog about it.  Like you, I'm thankful for my health and my family and friends and my wonderful children and my loving husband and the food on our table.  I am just a very thankful person, so I wanted to find a prayer or something to post for today...but in the end, the one prayer that keeps coming to mind is one that I know Grace says at her school before lunch.  It doesn't quite cover everything, but sometimes simple thanks are just enough.

Thank you for the world so sweet.
Thank you for the food we eat.
Thank you for the birds that sing.
Thank you, God, for everything.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November 23, 2011 - Kwaheri Kyuna (Moving Part 8)

As I have recently blogged about, saying goodbye to Grace's little school - Kyuna Kindergarten - was one of the harder things for me to do as we left Nairobi.  So I started going there regularly during the school morning to take pictures of Grace doing some of their different activities.

I already blogged about Mondays when they would do horse riding at school.

I went to school last Tuesday, when Grace's class has both a "musical instruments" lesson with Miss Joy and swimming lesson.  Sadly, Grace refused to swim because the water was too cold.  But, as they say in Kenya, she tried.  And at least she had fun during the musical instruments before the swim.

I also visited on a Wednesday, when she had a "physical education" lesson with Mr. Cooper.  

Sadly I did not make it to school on a Thursday for "music & movement" with Mrs. Ichihashi (the headmistress) or Friday for her weekly visit to the library...but I know these are routines she will miss in the coming weeks.  

This past Friday, our last day in Kenya, I brought in snack to Grace's class for a goodbye party.  It was really just a chat with her class about how Grace would be moving and an opportunity for her to give everyone in her class a "thank you for being my friend" card.  She also brought cards and flowers to her teachers and assistants from last year and the office staff.  I just wanted to make sure she had some proper closure on her first school.  She seemed fine, but I was a weepy mess!  I will make a photo album for Grace will pictures of all these activities and one photo of each child in her class that I took last week.  On the eve of Thanksgiving, I am extremely thankful that Grace spent one year at such a wonderful preschool.  
~ with Mrs. Wanyaga ~
~ with Miss Alice and Miss Carol ~
~ her class waiting patiently for their yummy cinnamon rolls ~
~ with Mrs. Ichihashi ~

Kyuna, you will be missed!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 22, 2011 - Double Digits

Another month down and our boy is now even closer to his first birthday.  That is very hard to believe!  He survived his first 10 months in Nairobi and is now enjoying some holiday time in Denmark.  

This past month has been a busy one for all of us as we prepared to move from Nairobi.  Noah spent a lot more time with Rose than ever before as Kristoffer worked a lot and I both rushed around like a crazy woman and kept a closer eye on Grace who was processing a lot about our transition.  He seemed to do well throughout all of this, and his bond with Rose was both strong and sweet, thankfully.  

In the last month he has really improved his drumming skills - I swear he is going to be the musician in the family!  He is a good climber and is more Curious than ever (note the capital C!).  No new teeth - although they must be coming! - and no new improvements in the sleeping department.  In the last few days he has eaten more small finger-foods than ever before without choking too much, which I think is great progress.  His personality is still very sweet; he seems to be quite a Mama's boy these days (not sure if he is clinging to me because I've been so busy the last month, or because he misses Rose and I am a good substitute!).  

This boy has a wonderful little laugh and continues to look up to his big sister - nobody makes him laugh quite the way she does.  It melts my heart every time.  

Noah celebrated his first Halloween, his first time swinging, his first wave (which he now does more regularly) and his first time standing on his own this past month.  The question remains: will he or won't he walk before his birthday?  Maybe the very cold weather will motivate him to walk or run!

Love this little guy!


Monday, November 21, 2011

November 21, 2011 - Leaving on a Jet Plane (Moving Part 7)

This is how our departure from Nairobi was supposed to go:

Movers and everyone leave house by 6 pm.  Somehow manage to eat dinner (note: this is the one part I had not figured out ahead of time).  Two taxis will arrive to take us to the airport at 8:30 pm.  Flight departs at 11:40 pm.  8 1/2 hours later we will land in Paris.  3 hour layover in Paris before 90 minute flight to Denmark.  Arrive in Denmark at 11:20 am on Saturday.  Grace and Noah will have wonderful reunion with Farmor and Hans in the afternoon; Mama and Far will sleep.

This is how our departure from Nairobi actually went:

Movers and everyone leave house by 6 pm.  CHECK.

Dinner:  never managed to figure that out but sent emergency text message to friend (thank you, Meaghan Wilson, if you're reading this) "is there any way you can facilitate getting us some dinner?!"  30  minutes later she shows up with a packed picnic of spaghetti and meatballs, in addition to Cheez-Its, pudding and juice boxes for the kids, and 2 large cold beers for me and Kristoffer.  She was amazing!

Just prior to eating the dinner we get a phone call from Kenya Airways: due to fog in Paris our flight has been delayed by 3+ hours and now leaves at 3 am.  We were expected to miss our connection to Denmark and were told that we had been put on the next flight which would leave 10 hours later, but that during the 10 hours we would be given accommodation. Awesome!

We ate, we bathed the children, we tried desperately to get them to sleep.  Somehow that eventually worked; Grace slept in her empty bedroom on a bed made of towels and blankets in the exact same spot that her real bed used to be.  It was an image that I will never forget.  Noah slept for a bit in the stroller and then we managed to get him lying on another bed of towels and coats on the floor.  Also very cute.  What was NOT great about this situation was the absence of mosquito nets:  both kids got seriously chomped on by mosquitos.  About 10 bites each!  Once they were asleep we were able to shower and properly re-pack our bags to go.  Then we also slept on the floor of our very empty house.

At midnight the 2 taxis arrived.  We locked up and slipped the key under the door.  Grace said, "Bye bye house!"  We learned that with absolutely no traffic you can get to the airport from our house in under 25 minutes!  That had never been done before!

At that hour the airport was easy and breezy and calm and quiet.  Totally not the JKIA we are used to. At "check in", I was told that the plane only has 2 baby bassinets and they were already given to other passengers with babies, even though I confirmed 3 times previously that I had the bassinet for the flight.  I tried to be very calm about it (remember my last airport meltdown?) and did not pitch a fit.  Also, Kristoffer's seat was not anywhere near the rest of us.  Boo hiss.

We asked a very nice passenger to swap seats with Kristoffer, which he so kindly did.  So we were together and the kids managed to sleep for most of the first 3 1/2 hours (or at least Grace did; Noah woke up like every 20 minutes and nursed back to sleep.  It was not ideal.). Yes I had to hold Noah the whole time.  Then the next 5 hours they were mostly awake.  Grace watched DVDs - thank you God for inventing DVDs by the way - and Noah squirmed endlessly.  Kristoffer and I talked about sleeping in Denmark.  

When it looked like there might be a small chance of us making our connection, Kristoffer asked the cabin crew about it.  They didn't offer to call ahead and inquire or tell them we were coming or anything, but said we should talk to someone when we deplaned.  

So, after 8 1/2 hours on that plane, we got off.  We were denied our gate-checked stroller because there is a strict rule against that in Paris, which we were NOT told about in Kenya.  So we ran, ran, ran, each of us carrying one child and some bags, to try and catch our flight.  We were given various bad or wrong directions by different people as to where to go/how to make our flight.  We could see it blinking on the screen - WAITING FOR US NO DOUBT - but we couldn't seem to get there in time.  Before we even figured out how to get the bus to get to the right terminal, it was gone.  Sigh.  

Then there was some drama where we were told we had not been booked seats on the next flight to Denmark and that it was full and we might have to wait until the next morning.  We were told to go to the Kenya Airways office in another terminal because they were the only ones who could sort the problem out, except then we found out that there is NO Kenya Airways terminal in Paris.  Obviously.  

While the children passed out and slept on the floor - see picture below - I managed to find an extremely lovely and competent and wonderful Air France customer service person who did actually serve this customer.  She got us booked on the flight and checked us in so that the only thing we had to do was wait for 8 more hours for our flight.  And, by the way, there was no accommodation provided to us because our layover was not overnight.  Basically, everything the Kenya Airways person told me on the phone the night before and at the airport was wrong.

When the kids woke up again we took the bus to the correct terminal, we found a row of seats and camped out for the next 8 hours.  Grace watched DVDs and made up games to play.  Noah squirmed and crawled and nursed (that is ALL he seemed to want to do for the entire trip, by the way), and repeat. Kristoffer and I still talked about sleeping in Denmark.  We really don't remember how we managed to survive those 8 hours sitting and laying on the floor in a very small Parisian airport terminal.  But we did.

At 8:10 pm our flight left for Denmark.  All four of us slept on this small commuter 90 minute flight.  When we landed, our luggage came out promptly.  Farmor was waiting for us with warm winter jackets and yummy snacks.  It was wonderful.

Noah cried for most of the 45-minute drive home...because really after 24 hours of travel already, who wants to be buckled into a car seat for even 1 more minute!!!  Grace was pretty tired and calm and happy to be with Farmor (I don't think I have yet given Grace enough credit for being amazing throughout this travel saga).  Then we sort of hit a deer on the road! We just grazed him (or her) as he (or she) was running across the road.  Scared the heck out of us (or me, at least), but no damage was done...and really it was a climactic t ending to our dramatic day.

We arrived home to a waiting Hans with more yummy food and sweet gifts and the most comfortable beds to sleep in ever.  Pretty much after 1 week of sleeping only 4 hours a night MAX, I think we've never been happier to go to sleep.  In Denmark.

Now we've had two great days of rest and relaxation and home-cooking.  It might not be Life in Nairobi, but Life in Transition is so far so good!  


November 21, 2011 - Packing Up (Moving Part 6)

Thursday and Friday were jam-packed, stressful, intense days, but I think everything went as smoothly as it all could have gone.  The moving company was efficient and we were pretty happy with them; they had 85% of the house packed and loaded into the truck by the end of Thursday.  Rose was on Noah duty, I was on Grace duty and was the Logistics OIC (officer in charge), Kristoffer was on work duty, Charles was on run-errands-as-Madame-requests duty and make-sure-the-movers-don't-steal-anything duty (he really liked that power of that last job).  

We were really impressed with Grace because we expected some kind of total meltdown when she saw the house packed up, but it didn't come.  I had told her that there would be many people at home when she came back from school to help her pack up the house.  When we got home later she kept saying, "There are so many people here to pack up!"  She was inspecting what they were doing and even told them, "Don't forget my mattress!" She loved watching them carry all the boxes up the big hill to load the big truck. They left all of our beds unpacked for Thursday night and Grace slept great in her own bed, despite having a complete empty room otherwise.  Wesat amidst boxes and luggage on Thursday and ate pizza for dinner.  It was surprisingly cozy!

Friday was also a bit crazy because in addition to the movers finishing up we had Grace's goodbye party at school, Kristoffer's goodbye lunch with his office (to which I was invited and expected to attend), we had to hand over the car to the car broker, and tidy up the house.  

And then we left Kenya.  But that story is for another blog.  Here are a few scenes from our move. 


Thursday, November 17, 2011

November 17, 2011 - A Crazy Haze (Moving Part 5)

I think this is my last blog from Nairobi because at some point in the next 24 hours we will have to pack our wireless internet router.

It is 6 am on Thursday.  I've been up since 4, when Kristoffer also woke up to go to work to get a head start on finishing up "handing over" all his projects before his last day tomorrow.  We had a late night, but made some progress related to moving: agreed to terms with a broker to sell our cars after we leave, possibly agreed with our property manager about "fixing up" the house after we go before the new tenants arrive, and some packing for the Denmark/US portion of our next adventure.  

I am beyond emotional at this point because I'm so tired.  It is just about getting everything done now and getting on that plane at midnight on Friday (that's in 42 hours, by the way)! The movers get here in 2 hours and for some reason all I can think about is making sure that Grace has finished making cards for all her friends to give them at her "goodbye snack time party" at school tomorrow morning!  Noah is pretty much permanently attached to Rose's hip during the day, for which I am very grateful because I wouldn't be able to get much done if he was permanently attached to mine.

A special thank you to a small group of American friends who took me our for coffee yesterday morning (with two brand new babies in the group as well!) and for my friend Miriam, who brought me the most delicious sandwich I've ever eaten for lunch yesterday. Those were the only moments of calm in my entire week - and I am grateful for them!  

Everything will work out.  Everything will get done.  We will soon be at Farmor's house.  And I am sure in the coming weeks as we wind down from this segment of our move, there will be lots of time for reflection on this transition in our life... but right now I just feel like I'm in a crazy haze!

I can hear Grace singing in her bed right now, which means it's time to go and officially start our day. Wish us luck!

Goodbye, Life in Nairobi! 
Kwaheri Kenya!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November 16, 2011 - Things I Will Miss (Moving Part 4)

There is a lot about Nairobi that I will not miss, namely our lack of security these days...and, the cheese counter at Nakumatt, of course.  But I've been trying to remind myself of all the things I WILL miss about Nairobi because despite some inconveniences, it has mostly been a great four years here.

In order of no importance, some of things I will miss (aside from my friends, of course!) are:
  • Grace's school, as previously mentioned
  • our house
  • the flowers - such beautiful, beautiful flowers!
  • our house
  • the garden cafes and general ease of being outside
  • our house
  • the weather
  • the cheap local fruit 
  • our house
  • Dr. Nesbitt, Grace & Noah's pediatrician.  I've said goodbye to his office no fewer than 4 times over the last few weeks, but then I keep popping in to have them look at something.  Yesterday I took Noah to have his skin checked because I thought he had ring-worm (turns out just weird looking eczema) and I did finally say an official we're-not-coming-back-before-we-leave-on-Friday-I-pray goodbye.  When you live in a country with various unfamiliar and/or contagious diseases, you REALLY want to trust your child's doctor.  And we do.  Completely.  Through Grace's weight issues and Noah's hospitalizations, he's just been great. He knows us. He knows them.  I will really miss him, his nurse, his receptionist.  The whole lot of them.  
  • our house
  • local shopping at some of the places I've written about on the "Best of Nairobi" part of this blog
  • our house
  • not being new:  it is HARD to be new!  And I felt "new" here for such a long time (ok, occasionally still), but when you've been in the expat community of Nairobi for four years, you are actually "OLD"!  I recently learned that some of my friends think of me as the one who knows where to go and what to do, which I can assure you is not how I think of myself!  This came as a surprise to me, but then I thought of it and I do often have advice or contacts for "newER" people because I've lived here for so long now.  We know short cuts to take, when to avoid traffic hot spots, where to get X, Y, Z, etc.  We are simply not new!  It's a very strange phenomenon to not be new, but to still (always) be foreign in a place I think.  And while excited for our next adventure, I don't look forward to being completely and totally clueless again.
and, last but not least...


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November 15, 2011 - Grace's Goodbye (Moving Part 3)

We told Grace that we're moving about 3 weeks ago.  There were just too many people coming and going (Poachers & Co) and too many of our things were being sold for her to not notice.  She's a pretty sharp little girl.  When we told her she reacted pretty well - we told her she'll have a new house, a new school and will make new friends at our new destination.  Her first question was "Can Mrs. Wanyaga come?"  Ok, I pretty much started crying on the spot - she loves her teacher SO MUCH she wants to bring her with us to a foreign country!  Then she started packing.  She went around picking up all the things that she wants us to not forget and then she put them all on our front hall table.  Since then, we keep tidying up, and then suddently the front hall table will have a whole new batch of individually bagged toys.  

Yesterday on the way home from school she told me, "Mama, I have to say goodbye to all my friends because soon I'm going!"  I don't know if those were her words or someone else's, but I thought that was pretty darn articulate.  We've made a calendar to count down the days until we say goodbye to our house and go on a big airplane to Farmor's house.  She keeps reminding me of who is coming: Mama's coming, Far's coming, Noah's coming, my lamb is coming, my baby lamb is coming, my suitcase is coming, etc.

I basically think she is doing a great job handling the move.  Given all that, she wants to be held almost all the time, she has regressed in her potty training (suddenly, lots of accidents!), her eating has once again declined, she has started waking up at 5 am again, and she is more hostile towards Noah like she was circa August and September.  So, while she is mostly OK, she is not without stress in all of this.  We are trying to help her verbalize what she's feeling and to include her in everything that is going on.  We are trying to be very loving and consistent in our discipline.  We know logically that she will be fine and that she is not yet 3 years old and will not be scarred for the rest of her life just because we're moving.  We know this.  But I am still worried about her!  And I fear for the possible meltdown when the movers are here all day Thursday and Friday and our house starts to look like just an empty-other-person's-house instead of Grace's house!

For me, probably the hardest part of our move is leaving Grace's school.  It is just the most loving, well-rounded, perfect little place for her.  She has had the most wonderful introduction to "school" that I could have ever hoped for.  She has friends and adults who she knows well and loves, and who know her well and love her.  I've been going to her school pretty often in the last few weeks to take pictures of her doing all their various activities so that I can make her a proper album of memories from her school.  I always leave in tears.  It has been a wonderful community, for both of us.

I know she is not yet 3, but so far in her life she seems to have a pretty good memory.  And I really, really, really hope and pray that for the rest of her life she has some special memories of her Kenyan life.  It has been so very sweet.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

November 13, 2011 - Poachers (Moving Part 2)

There's a lot of stuff to do when you move, internationally or otherwise.  But when you leave an expat duty station there is something that you definitely expect to deal with that is not such a big phenomenon when moving at home.  I call them "Poachers" and basically everyone you know is a potential Poacher.  

First you tell a friend that you are leaving to go to X place where your husband will now be doing Y.

The friend says something along the lines of, "Wow!  Such great news for your family, but so sad for us to be losing you!"

You say something like, "Thank you!  It's true.  We're happy to be going but saying goodbye is definitely hard."

The friend will then definitely say one of the following:
  • Can I ask, have you found your driver a job yet?
  • Has anyone seen the house yet?
  • Who is taking your nanny?
  • Will you be selling the cars?
  • Are you bringing your refrigerator?
  • What furniture are you getting rid of?
  • What about that great bookshelf in your living room?
Even our staff asked the following:
  • Can I have your curtains?
  • Please, I'll take any clothes you aren't bringing with you?
  • Do you really want to take that carpet?
And the thing about the Poachers when you are the expat who is leaving is that you are not at all offended that the first or second thought people have when they hear you're leaving is to snatch up all your stuff.  You are, in fact, relieved because you know that the Poachers will help make the process a bit easier.  I myself have been a Poacher in our time here!  

So with the help of the Poachers and my Nairobi mom's group on Facebook, in two weeks time we sold everything we wanted to sell (except the cars, for more complicated reasons), found Charles a fantastic new job, and got Syprose (the cook) some new contacts.  Rose is a different story for another blog, but will basically be joining us at our next destination (thank God, thank God, thank God, thank God).


Saturday, November 12, 2011

November 12, 2011 - Saying Goodbye (Moving Part 1)

A few weeks shy of our fourth anniversary of living in Kenya, we're moving!  

I'll talk more about the details of our next stop in another blog because right now we are processing the reality of our upcoming departure on Friday night.  Four years is not a small amount of time.  It's the amount of time I was at Syracuse, the amount of time I was a teacher in New York City, the amount of time we've lived here.  Nairobi - for all it's good and all it's bad - has really become our home; our children were born here; we've become a family here.  Even though we are quite happy to be moving, it is also sad in many ways to be leaving this place.

We've known we were moving for about 3 weeks and in that time we've been REALLY busy!  Grace's way of dealing with the move has been really interesting and warrants a blog of its own; obviously Noah is unaware.  I've been dealing with all things related to getting out of Nairobi and Kristoffer has been dealing with all things related to finishing work at WFP.  

Today was a very special day in our process.  We hosted a small party at one of our favorite garden restaurants so that we could properly say goodbye and "thank you!" to all of our Nairobi friends.  While not everyone could make it (you know, it's always tough to get everyone!), those who were able to join us were really the people who have been most important in our life here.  Grace may or may not have thought it was her birthday because there was a bouncy castle and face painting (and in Nairobi, bouncy castle = birthday party!).  Rose and Charles came too and had a wonderful time.  

The food was good. The drinks were good.  The chocolate cake was REALLY good.

But the friends...our friends...were the best.

In the last 3 weeks it occurred to me that the people who are most important to us at home will likely never meet the people who are most important to us here.  And that's weird!  But, for those of you at home reading, I'd like to introduce you to the people who have helped make our four years in Nairobi memorable and special.   And for those of you here in Nairobi reading, please know that you will definitely be missed and will definitely not be forgotten.


Monday, November 7, 2011

November 7, 2011 - Mondays

A lot of people don't like Mondays, but Grace is not one of them.  And because today was a UN holiday and Kristoffer didn't have to work, we basically followed Grace around all day taking her picture throughout a very happy Monday. 

First, on Mondays Grace has "horse riding" at school.  You can see her class all lined up waiting their turns to ride the horse.
And then it was Grace's turn!

We came back a few hours later to pick Grace up from school and a very happy girl came running for us!
Then in the afternoon Grace had Monkeynastix.  There are nine girls in her class, but only 3 were there today for a 1:1 student-teacher ratio.  Awesome! Grace learned that it is hard to kick a ball while wearing gumboots (but she likes to be ready for the rain at all times and you have to respect a girl with a strong footwear preference)!  She was running, jumping, and stood on her head for the first time.

I hope everyone else's Monday was as fun as Grace's!