Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28, 2012 - When Hot Means Cold and Cold Means Hot

As an attempt to be civilized or stay married, if you will, I shower at least once a day. Our house is brand new but when I want hot water in the shower I turn on the cold tap and when I want cold water, which I always do, I turn on the hot tap.

You may be thinking, oh the plumber swapped the two by mistake, but our plumber is fine. This mystery has a slightly more advanced explanation.

The “cold” water tap is connected to a large rooftop plastic tank. The tank is placed on the roof so we can enjoy gravity-pressured water in the house. The rooftop tank is black so after 12 hours of sunshine it is sometimes almost scalding hot. That is the explanation for the “cold” water being hot at the end of the day, but how does the warm tap then manage to be cool?

Well, the hot water is also connected to the rooftop tank but is then directed into a water heater placed inside the top corner of the bathroom. If we want hot water we can turn on the water heater, but believe you me, nobody wants hot water in Dar, so we never turn it on. This hot water is cool because the heater is placed inside the house, shaded, and provide for a wonderful cool evening shower.

Mystery solved.


March 28, 2012 - Boring

Another hour and a half at the clinic today. Both kids are very slowly improving. Grace's fever is finally down right now (although we thought that yesterday and then last night it spiked) and Noah's fever is gone too. Their issue is still coughing and because they are not eating well they are having stomach problems from the medicines. But today was not about them. Rose was feeling a little ill yesterday and woke up today sick with the same throat infection as the kids, so she had to go to the doctor. And I have a full on sinus infection, which I was hoping would be just a cold, but of course not. And because both of us needed to see a doctor to get antibiotics, we couldn't leave the kids home alone and so the four of us, once again, spent the morning at the clinic. I am boring myself with this story! And I feel like we've "lost" almost a whole week now where I have't done anything on our list of things to do for the house and Grace hasn't been back to school after her first week (and next week is off for the Easter holiday) and I haven't found a playgroup for Noah yet. Argh. And now they are both asleep so I should shut my eyes for a few minutes. I guess there is always next week. LMW

Monday, March 26, 2012

March 26, 2012 - His and Hers

Fevers. They now have matching fevers. It would be funny if they weren't actually still sick (or sick again). Noah finished his antibiotics yesterday but was awake throughout the night with a fever and cough. Despite being in the middle of her antibiotics Grace's fever is still almost 103 F. So we were back to the clinic this morning. Noah actually has a brand new viral infection - his second since we've been here. Grace is still just battling this throat infection and her antibiotics were increased. The dr honestly thinks that once they are adjusted to this environment their health will improve. I just hope I survive until is no fun having two sick kids! And I have a list of other interesting blogs to write about this new land of ours...but I guess they'll have to wait for healthier days. LMW

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 25, 2012 - A Driving Experience

(Kristoffer's first blog in Dar)

Every weekend here in Dar, Grace and I go to the World Bank to drop off my clothes for the week as I am now biking to and from.  This is also an opportunity to run a few other errands on the way and do some father and daughter stuff. I also have a small “stress ball” in my office that she enjoys playing with.

Today she fell asleep going there so not much fun for me although I enjoyed her quiet company.  On our way back home I saw three police officers on my side off the road. Now the last 4 years in Kenya we have had diplomatic plates on our car. We must have past more than 100 police check points but were never stopped because of those plates. Unfortunately our new Tanzanian car is just being registered in our name and still has Tanzanian plates in the interim. So I was pulled over by these police officers although I wasn’t driving fast or doing anything wrong.

I pulled down the window and a young, female Tanzanian police officer dressed in her beautiful white uniform greeted me in Kiswahili. I greeted her back, but on the second greeting I got slightly confused and she said with a smile, “Sema poa,” which means the response I am supposed to give her is the word for “cool”. I said “poa” and looked at her.

“What is your name?” she asked me in Kiswahili.

“I am Kristoffer,” I replied in some language.

She looked at me in a shy way; maybe she hadn’t expected a white (expat) person to be in this car. “I just want money for lunch!” she said with a big smile, while looking down at the ground.  I am thinking: NOOOOOOOOOOO, I have lived in Africa for more than 4 years and have never given a bribe.  How do I get out of this one, and with my sleeping child in the back?

So after a three second pause, I replied, “But I can’t give you that.”

And then she replied: “OK.”
I asked her, “What?
“Just go,” she said still smiling.  I put the car in drive and slowly spun off.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

March 24, 2012 - Sick Joke

I thought I was putting it out there to the universe with my blog the other day that I was all done with people in this house being sick.  And yet.  Grace started with a fever during last night and by the time she woke up this morning it was over 102 F (over 39 C) and she was pretty miserable.  So yes.  We spent a portion of our Saturday morning at the clinic.  Again.  One of the nurses said,  "Give it a few more weeks and they'll get all sorted out."  Let's freaking hope so! 

Little girl went to bed without a fever finally.  We discovered that she likes chewable tylenol a lot better than other fever reducers we've tried.  Noah is almost done his antibiotics and she has just started hers, for the same throat infection he has.  Kristoffer hesitantly asked the doctor, "So we're going to get it too?"  She mentioned something about it mostly affecting kids.  

So if I wasn't clear before, I will be explicit now:  PLEASE NO MORE INFECTIONS IN THIS HOUSE!  I think we should be all clear for at least the next half year.


Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23, 2012 - Delivery

One of my favorite things about living in Brooklyn, NY was that you could get ANYTHING delivered to your house (I guess that goes for all of NYC really).  And my absolute favorite thing to get delivered was BREAKFAST on a Saturday morning.  One phone call, and 20 minutes later I am eating yummy pancakes and bacon while watching reruns on TV in my pajamas.  Amazing.  Regardless of how lazy this proves me to be (the diner was approximately a 3 minute walk from my apartment), I loved it.  And no I didn't do it every weekend, but I could have if I wanted to!

And now to the present day, when we are in the process of organizing for a new delivery service to our home in Dar.  Diesel.  For the generator.  Since I will never be touching that beast again, and do not love the smell of diesel in the car that lingers for days after a purchase, we will be outsourcing this task.  When I suggested the idea, Kristoffer didn't even think that such companies existed....until yesterday when he was informed about what company delivers diesel to his office for their generator.  They will now be our diesel supplier.

And I am almost as happy about it as if it were breakfast.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 22, 2012 - The New Norm?

I was back to the clinic yesterday when Noah suddenly spiked a high fever out of the blue (almost 102F or 39C).  Fearing malaria or dengue fever (so soon?  really?!), I rushed him over.  The check-in nurse said, "You come here a lot."  Yes.  Thanks.  I'm aware of that.

Luckily not malaria or dengue...he has a bacterial infection in his throat and ears.  Not that this is great or anything, but slightly less scary.  And so he now he is on antibiotics; he didn't have a great night with the fever going up and down.  I am left this how living in Dar for the next three years is going to be?  Someone on antibiotics every other week?!  Please, NO!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 21, 2012 - Tidbits

A random collection of updates...

Our refrigerator has been having an identity crisis since we got here.  It has to do with the "quality" of electricity, actually.  Mr. S says the electricity comes in 3 phases (what does that mean?) and in the afternoon/evening is the poorest quality.  So between 3-4 pm everyday, our refrigerator starts to break down.  Turning on and off, lights blinking, weird noises, warmer temp inside.  And then by the time we go to bed, it is fine again until the next afternoon.  So weird.

A guy from the generator company came and thought he had "fixed" the problem that gave me a shock.  When he went to show Mrs. S, he put his hand on the gennie and then HE got a bad shock too.  But that somehow inspired him to actually know the problem and we are waiting for a new part to fix it.  So it wasn't just that the gennie hates me.

Grace is at school, day 4 today.  The first two days I stayed the whole time (8:30 to 12) and then yesterday I left for 2 hours in the middle of the day.  Today she told me when we got there, "Mama, you can leave now."  So that is a good sign.  She also told me today, "Those people speak Danish like Far."  I asked her who "those people" were and she said, "everyone at school."  Then I told her, "You can speak Danish like Far too," to which she replied, "and English like you."  (I think the author of this recent NY Times article on bilingualism would be proud.)  Yesterday was the first day that Grace correctly pronounced the word "because", which she has always pronounced as "pause".  I have thought it was the cutest thing, and got a little sad that she is saying it correctly now.  Although she has always been very verbal, she is often speaking in a more sophisticated way these days.  Grace has also moved into a BIG girl bed.  Not her toddler bed anymore.  A queen-sized bed (thank you Hartwell family for donating Ben's bed to Grace!).  She looks like a wee little girl in such a big island of a bed...but she LOVES it.  Tonight is "parent's night" at her school.  I'm looking forward to meeting some new people (and improving my Danish, I suspect).

Noah is the cutest little guy.  He climbs on everything.  He is everywhere.  Trying to run even!  He has figured out where the latch on the gate is to go upstairs and I fear will soon be able to undo it by himself.  He knows how to get water from the filter.  He can almost say - and tries very hard to say - ball consistently.  He also says Mama and "Yeah" and MMMMMM when he is hungry.  Grace and Noah play a game where she yells NO and he says YEAH.  Over and and over and over again.  I love it.  He is still not all the way back to sleeping through the night like he was before we left the US, but I hope we're getting closer to that.  He is eating great the last few days, which is a relief because we learned at the doctor's last week that he hasn't gained any weight since he left Nairobi  four months ago (he probably did, but has had 3 different viruses since then so he must have lost what he gained).  

Kristoffer seems happy at work, although is still learning a lot and figuring out his place in the system.  His boss is back and is here now permanently I think, so that should help.  His Kiswahili is getting better and better, and I think soon I will start taking lessons if I can find a tutor to come to the house.  If I leave East Africa after living her for 6 or 7 years and can't speak more than the 7 phrases I know now...that would be a shame!  So I actually have to start studying and now that Grace is into some kind of schedule, I hope to be able to do so (maybe starting in May...Rose will be going on leave to Kenya for over 2 weeks in April so I won't have any help with Noah...and I don't think HE is ready for Kiswahili lessons).

Lots of rain last night and this morning.  Is the rainy season finally actually here?  Because after that comes the "cooler" weather and we are all ready for that! 


Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 17, 2012 - Catching Up

We have not had any Internet other than on our cell phones this week, and I can’t blog from my phone.  I think the Internet situation is actually the most frustrating part of being here. 

I last left you with Grace and Noah both a bit sick.

Tuesday followed up with me being sick as well.  Kidney infection.  I had been brushing off my symptoms as related to the heat or jet-lag, but on Tuesday they were undeniable.  I was promptly loaded up on the strongest antibiotic around.

Wednesday morning I went to my first “spouse club” meeting for UN/World Bank spouses.  It was a very nice and diverse group of women, but just as in Nairobi the group is a little bit consumed with conducting proper meetings and fundraising, which are not super high on my list of priorities just right now.  I hope to make connections with some of the women who have smaller children, and I also learned about two other “newcomers” groups that I will try to participate in a bit as well.  As I told my mom, when you move to some place new it is important to cast your net wide in order to find some fish worth catching. 

The big event came towards the end of the day.  I went to show Kristoffer where to put the diesel in the generator and I received (what felt to me like) a really big electrical shock!  I have never had that experience before, and it was extremely unpleasant.  Painful even.  I was instantly worried about my pacemaker.  My google-search-from-my-cell-phone indicated that it is very unlikely that harm came to my pacemaker, particularly because it was probably not “on” at the moment I got shocked.  But I felt weird until the next morning.  Sheesh. 

The kids have been eating and sleeping better; for Noah this is all dependent on him not getting too hot.   Sometimes I feel bad keeping him home in the house most of the time, but when we take him out during the day he really doesn’t do so well.  Luckily his virus seems to be gone and he is generally much more himself.

Thursday was a big day for Grace, as we headed to her school for the first day.  I stayed with her the whole time from start to finish (as the school requested) and was very proud of her.  The school is very different from her school in Nairobi, so I think it was good that I stayed to give her a bit of security as she figures out this new place.  She didn’t talk to other kids or play with them, but she did listen well to the teachers and she ate really well at snack and lunch.  She didn’t speak too much Danish, but seemed to understand a lot of what was said.  They even sang one of the songs she knows pretty well (tak, Farmor!).  And when we left she said she wanted to go back the next day (too bad school was closed on Friday for a teacher’s meeting!).  There was no crying at all, so I think it can be counted as a big success.  She will adapt quickly to their new systems and the teachers say that in just a few weeks (or less?) she will easily be speaking Danish, and a little Swedish and Norwegian too (like some of the other kids).  Looking forward to taking her on Monday and maybe leaving her alone for a bit of that time too.

Thursday was also the day that our security guards started.  We have a day guard, whose name we still can’t understand (is it awful if I just refer to him as DG from now on?) and a night guard named Abdullah.  Seems like a pretty boring job to me just watching our house and opening/closing the gate as needed for 12 hours, but it does make us feel a bit more safe.  At night, we are basically like a fortress.  There is a guard at the first gate which gets to Mr. and Mrs. S’ house…along with 3 dogs – 1 German Shephard and 2 Dobermans…and then another gate with our guard before our house.  Just try!

On Friday Kristoffer didn’t work (still has a couple of “getting settled” days he can take off) so we ran a whole bunch of errands, including trying to get new and improved Internet.  The verdict on that is still out, but at least we have something for now. Kristoffer and I went out to dinner last night at an Italian restaurant.  We sat outside and it was my first time being out at night here.  I was really paranoid about getting bitten so I am not sure I relaxed enough, but the food was good and it was nice to see a little bit of the night life.

It’s great that our generator is working (even though it tried to kill me, and yes someone will be checking on it this week to make sure it is properly grounded) because we haven’t had any outages this week.  Kristoffer is in a good routine of running to work Monday morning, biking home and then to/from work the rest of the week, finally running home Friday afternoon.  I am more and more comfortable driving around by myself.  The only weird part for me now is going in reverse because I can’t seem to get used to looking over my left shoulder instead of my right.

Today we were invited to the home of some friends of friends from Nairobi and had a lovely few hours with their family and another friend.  Their oldest is 5 ½ years old and Grace really warmed up to her so it was a great connection to make.  They have been very helpful throughout the process of our move, even when we were still in Nairobi and I was emailing a million questions. 

Speaking of Nairobi, there are SO many Nairobi "people" here.  In addition to meeting one American woman who had her baby a few days after Noah was born in our Nairobi hospital, at the clinic on Wednesday I bumped into a woman who was actually in my little Nairobi book club. I didn’t know her very well and had forgotten that she moved here almost 2 years ago.  CRAZY!  And so nice to see a familiar-ish face!  In the spouse club there were two other women who had moved from Nairobi in the last year. 

It took me 11 days before I had my first “holy crap, I live here” moment, which I think is not too bad (I definitely had that moment a lot earlier on in Nairobi).  I almost cried for no reason at all…or just because sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming.  But mostly it has still been easier than I expected it to be. Rose seems to be doing well here so far, and I thank God that she is here. 

I am hoping to blog more regularly again and will eventually get past doing just a day-by-day play-by-play…but as I have not been able to email much this week I figure it is still the best way to keep our families and friends informed. 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day – the only Irish thing I have found here is the butter (don't ask me why they have Irish butter!?) but the kids were dressed appropriately for the occasion.  If only our Internet was fast enough to post pictures L.  Something to keep striving for...

With only a few more mosquito bites under our belt (I think we’re still in single digits), we are doing pretty well in Dar  Hope the same for you wherever you are.


Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12, 2012 - The Down Side

We were bound to have a tougher day and that came today. 

During the night the rainy season officially started with a big storm, complete with rain, thunder, lightning and some serious wind.  We lost power, which caused Grace to wake up because she was so hot, which caused Noah to wake up because he always wakes up when she screams.  From 2:30 to 4 am Grace was in our bed, where we were hot and sticky and not sleeping.  At 4 am the power came back on and we persuaded her to sleep in her own A/C.  Even though the power went out again at 6 am, she managed to sleep until 8.  But I was tired from all the opening and closing of windows (more labor intensive in our house than you would imagine) and coaxing of children.  We should now have a few weeks of rain and then a cooler season starting in April.

When Grace officially woke up, she complained of stomach pains.  Her complaints worsened along with her symptoms.  Noah has had diarrhea since Thursday (after his brief fever) and she started with it today.  By noon, we were at the doctor’s clinic.  A blood test* indicated that Noah just has a virus, which he has seemed prone to his entire life, but Grace actually does have a bacterial infection and was started on antibiotics.  We also learned that Noah’s “heat rash” is really a fungus.  Awesome.  I did like the doctor, a German lady, and thought she was good with the kids.  Obviously trained in tropical medicine, she knows her stuff.  But the clinic is not just for kids and is pretty much the only place for anyone to go, so it really busy with lots of waiting.  I guess that’s just something we have to get used to.  At least it is only 3 minutes away, unlike our 20-minute drive to Dr. Nesbitt in Nairobi.  I am hoping that both kids getting sick the first week is not indicative of how often they’ll be sick in the next few years.

The reality of living here is setting in a bit more, as the doctor told me, “You’re not in Nairobi anymore!”  She was referring to the water and how we have to be WAY more careful because the water is just full of parasites and bacteria.  We thought we were being careful, but somehow Grace got infected in just a week of being here so obviously we weren’t careful enough.  We are trying new strategies now, and we are probably going to install a fancy water filtration system in the house to help us keep vigilant.

When we got home from the doctor’s office, our generator was working!  Mr. S’s son came to tell me that he bought a certain amount of diesel for it but that I should buy more because who knows how long this outage will be and it is already dwindling.  I left the sick ones home with Rose and brought one of the shamba boys, Emmanual, with me to search for diesel (something I never actually had to do in Nairobi, even though lots of my friends had to do it).  The gas station I went to was out of diesel so I ended up going right back home.  This was an interesting car ride because Emmanual doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Kiswahili (unless we just wanted to say and goodbye to each other over and over again).  We were pretty quiet.  At home Mr. S’s son knew another place to try so he came with me this time and taught me how to go about buying diesel for one’s generator.  Never something I thought I would know how to do, but lets it add it to my expat-resume.  When we got home, he had the boys poured the diesel into the generator, but they spilled some which caused a shut down and now it is not working exactly as it should.  Of course!  So tomorrow the company will come back.  PRAY that it gets us through the night because it seems there is no end in sight to this power outage.

Before and after the diesel drama I made two different trips back to the doctor with samples from the kids.   So it was kind of a crazy day. Thank God for Rose. Both kids in bed now, neither feeling 100% great but hopefully on the mend.  And I am hoping tomorrow is less eventful.


*Note the difference between G & N, each getting the same finger-prick blood test.  G cried before, during and after for about 5 minutes in total. Very dramatic.  When the lab guy pricked Noah’s finger he smiled and giggled.  It was the highlight of my day I think!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 11, 2012 - Striking Gold!

So much to say.  Not enough running internet to say it!

Friday we hit the expat jackpot when we went to a “Happy Friday Playgroup”, with at least a dozen other expat families who get together at a different house each Friday to kick off the weekend.  An American colleague of Kristoffer’s was hosting, which was great, and a former colleague of mine at UNICEF (who moved here in August) was also there.  So awesome!  Could not have asked for a better event in our first week.  The bad part is that we didn’t bring Rose with us, so spent most of our time running after Grace and Noah instead of collecting phone numbers (expat note: must collect phone numbers!), but we did have several good conversations with people and hopefully made ourselves known as the newbies in town.  People couldn’t believe we were out and about already J Most people that we’ve met here are American or Danish!  I am going to call Dar “Little Denmark” in fact, because I can’t get over how many Danes are here.  Everywhere I go, I hear people speaking Danish!

Saturday’s successes involved purchasing a washing machine, finding an Italian gelateria, and finding a new little grocery where they sold good cheese options at more reasonable prices!  I officially know 3 people here and saw 2 of them when we were out.  Definitely a small community.

Today’s success involved going to the Dar es Salaam Yacht Club  (DYC) for an hour (where we saw the 3rd person I know!).  It felt like being on vacation with our feet in the beautiful Indian Ocean.  We have to be recommended by someone who has been a member for at least a year before we too can have membership and regular access to the DYC.  We managed to find a Dane who will play the part so hopefully in another week or so we will “accepted” to the club and will have permanent weekend plans at the beach.

Biggest challenges remaining: internet and Noah’s adaptation to the heat.  I think Grace is coming around (although has definite anxiety about starting a new school soon), but Noah’s little body is really having a tough time.  We continue to work on mosquito prevention.  Keeping ants, geckos and flies out of the house is also an ongoing venture.

On the agenda for this week: introductory doctor appointments for the kids, my first “spouse club” meeting with other expat spouses, and hopefully spending some morning hours with Grace at her school before she officially starts.  Our generator is close to being installed and some other improvements have been made on the house.  We are in good shape!


Friday, March 9, 2012

March 9, 2012 - Who's Got the Power?

Yesterday was all about power.  Our electricity went out at 9 am and we assumed it was a usual power cut.  But then Rose remembered something and discovered that we were actually out of “credit” with the electric company.  Let me explain.

You have to pre-pay for your electricity here.  You go to the power company – they have little shops set up all over the place – and you give them some money and they give you a receipt with a special number on it.  Then you go home and find your electricity meter, which is flashing a big 000 since you have no credit, and you type in your special number.  Then the meter shows the amount of money you paid and as you now use your electricity the number dwindles away until your credit is gone.

Ok!  So this was my first day home alone with K back at work and I was excited about the possibility of going out to buy more credit for both electricity and my new cell phone (pretty much the same system as the electricity – you buy credit and spend it down – which is also how we did it in Nairobi).  Rose sort of told me where to go to buy the electricity (she did it last week) and I got into my little Rav4 to explore on my own. 

The place was so close to our house – like 90 seconds drive (or I suppose a few minutes if one wasn’t afraid of fainting in the heat) – that I drove by it, and while trying to find a place to turn around I saw a sign for another similar place.  So I drove a little further until I found it, but of course the “machine” that lets you buy this electrical credit was not working there.  There was a little convenience store so I went in there where I found out I could buy both electrical and phone credit.  The manager was very nice and laughed at me when I told him, “I’m really new here!”

I safely drove myself home and proudly showed Rose our electrical credit.  Go me!  I’m officially independent and didn’t hit anything while driving on the “wrong”…I mean left…side of the road.  It was a very good feeling (even though I was driving granny style – really slow!).

Next problem: in the time that I had been out buying credit, the power did officially go out so that even if we had credit, we would have no power.  This turned into a 12 ½ hour outage during 97 or 98 degree heat (that’s like 36 or 37 degrees I think). We kept waiting and waiting, and getting hotter and hotter.  Noah won’t sleep when he is really hot so he didn’t nap all day.  Grace begged to watch a show but nothing was charged or working so that was impossible.  Both kids spent most of the day naked and playing in a big laundry bucket full of water (somehow it was better than the bathtub that they refused).   We took one field trip – yes, I drove again! This time with passengers! – to the air conditioned grocery store, but I had spent most of the money I had (and still don’t have my own ATM card) on phone and electrical credit that we couldn’t buy much and couldn’t loiter at the store too long.  To be honest, I told Kristoffer that I was too hot and exhausted to cook hot food anyway and he ended up going for pizza at 7:30.  Perhaps that made me a bad housewife on Day 1 and yes he was the one at the office all day, but at he had A/C and did not have two crazy-hot kids. The Dar version of me is a work in a progress.

At 9:30 or so last night the power came back on.  It turns out that a big transformer for the whole area that we live in blew out, and they are waiting for parts from Japan to arrive to fix it. I have no idea what is powering our electricity in the meantime.  Kristoffer went out with one of the boys* around the compound and typed in our electrical credit so that we could all get some nice A/C sleep last night.  Phew.

 *There are two “shamba” boys living here, working for the landlord **doing various jobs around the compound for them and now us (sweeping our driveway or bringing us a paraffin lantern at night if there is no power).  There is also a “fundi”, or carpenter, on the premises.  His name is Bahati and even though I can barely communicate with him, Rose and Kristoffer are doing a good job and really like him.*

**From now on, I will refer to the landlord as Mr. or Mrs. S.**

So yesterday I felt powerful because I could drive by myself, but powerless because we literally had no power.  Our generator is supposed to be installed and running any day now…but the electrician is not very predictable even though he keeps telling Mr. S that he is coming.

Today we have only had one short power cut but otherwise it is cooler today and the power is on.  Grace happily had 30 minutes of charged iPad time and Noah even took a little nap.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March 7, 2012 - Cooling Off

Today was a little cooler here, which was nice, and we had a drizzle of rain.  Kristoffer and I found a shopping mall about 6 miles from where we live.  It was not as fancy as a Nairobi mall, but it was air conditioned (I think it was the first A/C mall in East Africa?) and had a lot of great stores.  Two of the stores were like Walmart (or, I suppose, Nakumatt) and we found lots of good stuff at better prices than the small grocery store near our house.  This was exciting!  Unfortunately our washing machine did not survive the move.  We aren’t sure what happened but we can’t get anyone to fix it so we were actually shopping for a new one.  Hate to spend the money, but I think this weekend we’ll buy one that we saw today. 

Kristoffer also bought a really cheap bike!  Because the cost of fuel is much more expensive here (at least than the duty free fuel we bought in Nairobi) we are trying to be a bit more conservative with driving.  Kristoffer is going to try to bike to and from work (or somedays even run if it is not too hot).  He thinks it will take him 20 minutes, which will give him freedom from the normal commuting traffic and will build regular exercise into his day.  We hope it works well - tomorrow he'll try it out!

The biggest bummer of the day was that Noah is a bit sick.  He has a little fever and is just not himself at all.  The poor little guy.  It is too soon to be malaria, particularly because he hasn’t been bitten by any mosquitoes yet!  But if he isn’t better I will take him to the clinic tomorrow.  It is likely to be just an unfortunate coincidence that he has a virus just a few days into Dar…but we don’t mess around with fevers in this place so we’ll get him checked out to be on the safe side.

Kristoffer is back to work tomorrow and I am on my own.  Who thinks I will really miss Charles? (I do!) Wish me luck!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March 6, 2012 - Inaugural Blog: Life in Dar

(Note: For now we are using a slow USB-modem – kind of like dial-up – because proper internet is crazy expensive. It took 9 minutes to load a "new post" page on the blog alone.  Sigh. We were spoiled in Nairobi when it comes to Internet, but we'll keep looking for a better option here.)

We arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania at 8 am on Sunday morning.  Our trip was long but not too tough all things considered. Grace, Noah and I traveled by ourselves from Boston to London where we met up with Kristoffer to fly on to Dar. Our original plan was changed at the last minute because our first flight was delayed, but that ended up being a blessing in disguise and it all worked out well.  The kids had a lot to see and do in business class.  Lots of space to roam around and buttons to push.  There were no major crying incidents or tantrums and both kids got a little sleep – although not at the same time, so I was pretty tired.  When Grace saw Kristoffer in London for the first time, she tried to run under a security rope to get to him before she was re-routed through the metal detector.  In London, our business class tickets were great because we could shower, eat well, have a “kids room” to let the little ones free, and I even had a little massage.  Phew.  That made the 9 ½ hour flight to Dar easier, and with another pair of hands it was over pretty quickly.  We are now permanently spoiled after having flown business class.  Economy is going to be tough for the next three years (the World Bank flies you in business when you move to and from only).

The airport in Dar is very different from the one in Nairobi – smaller and brighter, seemingly not as “official” and even hotter.  Getting our visas went smoothly and Kristoffer had asked some porters to gather all of our bags, so once we were properly paid up and stamped, we basically walked right outside to meet a driver from the World Bank who would bring us home.

Driving 20 minutes from the airport to our house (with no traffic on a Sunday morning), the word that came to mind was “quaint”.  Now I don’t actually think that is the right word, but it is maybe the closest to what I mean.  The city does not feel as urban as Nairobi…fewer high rise buildings (if any?), no matatus (another kind of mini-bus called a dala-dala, but they seemed much less crazy), and not as many people walking outside.  The HEAT seems to be a big factor in all of that.   It is just smaller and more “African”, if I can say that respectfully.  It is just not as built up as Nairobi, which is not at all a criticism.  And, I should add that there is a lot of construction all around us so perhaps it is following in Nairobi’s path.

We arrived at our house and Grace greeted Rose with a HUGE hug. Noah looked at her like, “Wait, don’t I know you?”  She was very happy to see us and I was relieved she was here.  Upon walking into our house Grace started jumping on her mattress (it is an old one that we use as a trampoline in our play space) and rediscovering her old stuff.  When she saw her little frog potty she exclaimed, “I think that frog potty missed me!”

And so it was a very easy and pleasant introduction to Life in Dar.  Our house is big and nice.  It is brand new and some little things are still being tweaked and improved here and there.  Our landlords are a lovely Tanzanian couple who live in the house next door (on an adjoining compound) and are going out of their way to accommodate our wishes.  They are EXCELLENT first-time landlords, particularly compared to the ones we knew in Nairobi.  Score one for Dar.  As nice as it is, the house does have some “interesting choices”, we like to call them.  For one, the urinal in the downstairs bathroom.  I’ve never seen a urinal in a house before!  Not sure if that is a Tanzanian thing or just the builder’s preference?  But quirks like that make it kind of charming and I feel that Kristoffer really lucked out in finding this great house.  We will make it our own with a little bit of time.

Our first night in Dar was…HOT.  One power outage (still waiting for generator to be installed! Things don’t move quite as quickly here as…in Nairobi…cough cough…) with no A/C gave the kids a heat rash.  Once the power came back on, Grace’s A/C was leaking so we couldn’t leave it on and she barely slept that night until 5 am she was so hot and jet-lagged.  Noah’s room had A/C but he was also awake for most of the night.

This led into our second day here, which everyone has been saying was the hottest day they’ve had this hot season.  Like so hot we didn’t care about eating.  So hot we took 3 “cold” showers during the day – and I say “cold” because our water comes from a big, black tank on the roof where the water basically cooks until we use it…so the “cold” water did not come out THAT cold!  It was so hot that even Kristoffer almost fainted.  Grace was MISERABLE and almost sick.  In the dining room and our bedroom the A/C was working and did help.  The quick trip we took to see the beach was just that – QUICK – because it was just too hot (the water was warmer than a bath tub).  My hair is like one big helmet of frizz, and we’ve learned that Noah also has curly hair (what little hair he has in the back that is…sort of like his Pops!).

We also visited a local grocery store.  I was surprised to find a Subway there.  The store was much smaller than Nakumatt in Nairobi…but if you’ll recall my relationship with Nakumatt you’ll know that I was not sad to say goodbye to that nemesis.  This store was small and organized.  I found what I needed.  The produce looked better than at Nakumatt, although there was not as much of it.  I saw mushrooms yesterday and when I went back to get them today realizing I wanted them for dinner, they were gone. Lesson learned: if you see it, buy it because it will be gone tomorrow.  I did find and buy Nairobi-priced cheese (like $10ish for a pack), but when I took it out for lunch today it was really, really bad.  Lesson learned: really try to avoid the cheese.

Night number 2 (last night) was better for Noah.  He woke up twice during the night but easily went back to sleep and ended up getting a total of 12 hours.  Because Grace slept for most of the day yesterday, she never really went in to a deep sleep until almost 5 am again and then we woke her up around 10:30 to try and break this cycle.  At 9 pm tonight (typing this) she is still awake bouncing around the house.

Now about the mosquitoes.  Our compound gets sprayed once a week and we will spray inside our house about twice a week.  The spray is seriously toxic though, so I am not thrilled about it.  A necessary evil, I fear. For nighttime, I bought the kids a whole bunch of the lightest weight long-sleeved zip-up pajamas.  But, it is WAY too hot for them if their A/C is not working.  Grace slept in only a t-shirt but Noah’s A/C was working so he slept in the jammies.  We lathered them up in kid-friendly anti-mosquito lotion for their exposed parts and with their nets down they did not get any bites.  I, on the other hand, got 2 bites.  Bummer L.  It was bound to happen, I guess, given that I was running around from kid to kid the first two nights.  I have decided not to take anti-malarial medicine because it is not sustainable for the long-run that we are here and I’m not excited about the possible side effects (stomach issues, etc.).  The medicine is also not great for kids, although they are allowed to take it.  If we get sick, we’ll get treated.  Kristoffer has also had a few bites.  We’ll just do our best – particularly in May, June, and July, which is “high malaria season”.   

Today we visited the medical clinic that all expats use and I registered our family with the doctors there.  The kids will go next week for check ups and their latest shots.  I asked the doctor a question because I have been having an eye problem since we got here.  Burning and itching on my eyelids.  Not my eye itself, just all around it.  She thinks it could be an allergy or some kind of reaction to the heat, so we’ll see how it improves with time. 

We also visited Grace’s school today!  We got a tour and I met the headmistress and several teachers.  They are very eager to welcome Grace when she is ready to start in hopefully just another week or so.  It will be a very different place than her school in Nairobi, but I think she will really like it and it will be SO good for her (and really cool!) to be at a Danish-speaking school.  We went in the middle of the day – peak heat! – so Grace was not very happy (I think “wilted” is the best way to describe her in the heat).  We’ll try to bring her a few more times before she starts to get her more familiar with the people and the place.

I also drove from our house to the store today.  Kristoffer goes back to work on Thursday and then I’m on my own so I have to start getting comfortable behind the wheel.  Luckily, nothing is really more than a few miles away.  If I can just remember to stay on the LEFT side of the road (particularly when turning!) I think we’ll be OK.

It seems like in a few more days the kids will be over their jet-lag and onto a more normal schedule.  There is a flow of workers doing things on the house, but at some point that will stop and we will start feeling like we really live here.  I look forward to visiting the World Bank someday soon to see what Kristoffer is up to, and also to meeting some new people (Potential friends? Please? Anyone?).  Every day is a learning experience, for sure.

All is well in Dar so far!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 1, 2012 - Checklist

Since moving to Tanzania almost one month ago, Kristoffer has accomplished a lot.  With a little prep work done by yours truly, but really mostly on his own, he has managed to:

ü Find a great new house
ü Import our truck of furniture and everything else from Kenya to Tanzania
ü Unpack the truck full of stuff into our great new house
ü Buy a car
ü Enroll Grace in a Danish-speaking pre-school
ü Help Rose (our housekeeper from Nairobi) get settled
ü Start working at his great new job with the World Bank
ü Research grocery store prices to prepare me for the fact that we will no longer be eating cheese.  Ever.  Or almost ever.  Like maybe for our wedding anniversary we’ll splurge and buy 100 grams for $19.
ü Scope out the “yacht club”
ü Find the best Italian restaurant (where do they get their cheese?!) 

And maybe he has done even more than that!  He has been a great scout for our family, and now that the toughest part is over the rest of us will join him.  We will leave for the airport at 5:30 pm on Friday and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, expect to walk through the front door of our great new house approximately 32 hours later. 

I swore that I would NEVER travel internationally with two little ones by myself, but that was logistically and financially impossible for this trip.  The best we could arrange is for me to fly a third of the way by myself with the kiddos (overnight…pray they sleep…pray they sleep…pray they sleep…pray they sleep) and meet up with Kristoffer in London.  Then we will all travel to our new home together (via Nairobi…which will be kind of weird).

I think that I am as prepared as possible, and will do my best to keep everyone calm, cool and collected.  With a little help from the iPad, TSA (sheesh, of course I have a pacemaker on top of two little ones), British Airways staff (with whom we don’t have a great track record BUT we’ve never flown business class before so we think that they are supposed to be much nicer to us this time) and all of the nice business people who will be THRILLED to see me and my cherubs in their cabin of the plane this time around…we will make it to London with no drama at all and will be very, very, very happily reunited with Kristoffer/Far.

All things considered, I think our transition so far has gone as well as possible, with great thanks to our families in Denmark and the US, and especially to my parents for letting us take over their home for over 2 months.  But alas, it is time to leave their retirement community and get on with a life of our own. 

I know the challenges will be new and different (have you heard about the price of cheese over there?!  Ok…sporadic electricity and HELL-like heat and malaria will also be tough…) but I am ready to meet them.  And Kristoffer keeps assuring me that once we adjust to the challenges, we are really going to enjoy living in Tanzania. There is a lot of excitement here (Grace is just bursting!) mixed with nerves and a little bit of fear, to be fair. 

So wish us luck.  Pray to the Travel Gods and whomever else you can think of for the smoothest 32-hours-of-international-travel-with-small-children imaginable.  And I will check-in from the other side whenever I manage to find Internet access (not yet at our great new house).

The next time I blog, our Life in Transition will finally be Life in Dar. I hope you’ll keep reading!


p.s. I also managed to ship off 285 cubic feet of our stuff from my parents' basement to Dar so that we will actually have 95% of our belongings all together in one place.  I am really excited to open all of our wedding gifts again in 8-10 more weeks!

March 1, 2012 - Boston Children's Museum

Today was our last full day in the US and we went to the Children's Museum with my parents.  This was great because all of our stuff is packed and ready to go so there is not much for the kids to do at home.  It was also a yucky, rainy day so it was great for the kids to be busy and active indoors.

I took more pictures of Noah because Grace was too busy to catch her in a still shot :)  You can see the theme of the trip below...basically, Noah trying to do whatever his big sister was doing!  It was a fun day and a nice way to close out our extended in Massachusetts.