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!


Mark Benson said...

Kenya is a blessed nation in terms of its game reserves and the natural beauty it is home to. Quite definitely flights to Nairobi are taken from around the world to work for charity purposes here and also for enjoying one spectacular vacation in Kenya.

Muminah Tannous said...

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