Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September 4, 2012 - Six Months in Dar (part 1)

We have hit our 6-month anniversary here in Dar (well, I have...you'll remember that Kristoffer arrived one month before us) and, as usual, I am a sucker for anniversaries and milestones and spending lots of time over-thinking these things.  So, naturally, I am reflecting a lot on our move here.  It is no small achievement to survive your first half year in a new country...and I say that with the experience of having done it twice.  

I am dividing my "reflections" into 3 parts to tackle the three major components:  1) the logistics of actually getting here 2) highs and lows and how to's of settling in, and 3) NBO vs DAR (might be a trap, but it's really hard not to compare!).

This particular blog will tackle the first issue:  The Move

By all accounts (mine, Kristoffer's, other people's upon hearing how we did it...), our move went about as smoothly as it could possibly have gone.  There is a decent list of all of the things that helped this transition from NBO to DAR (via 3 1/2 months of world-wide-wandering) go so well.  These are things that I want to remember for any future international move and also that I would recommend to others in the same situation.  We were definitely more expert this time around than in 2007 when we showed up in NBO with 4 suitcases, 2 backpacks, and no idea what we were in for.  

In no particular order, our moving success is attributed to:
  • Knowing someone who had just moved from NBO to DAR shortly before us.  She was able to recommend a moving company (who were thought were pretty awesome and reasonably priced) and offer some insights into moving logistics and daily life.  This was very helpful in managing our expectations.  She was very friendly upon our arrival.
  •  Having a friend of a friend who already lived in DAR for a couple of years to answer my many, many questions over email.
  • Having a mother-in-law who did research for us and found The Nordic School for the kids.  Eventually we would have stumbled upon this gem on the Internet or when we arrived, but she found it first and we pretty much never looked back.  It is a great community for our family.
  • Staying in the region. It gave us some context and frame of reference, although DAR is a very different place than NBO (more on that in part 3).  There is a similar East African vibe here that already felt familiar to us. (obviously, this one would be pretty hard to replicate...unless we try for Uganda next time?)
  • Rose's relocation.  The fact that she wanted to move with us to Dar and even arrived ahead of me and the kids meant that they instantly had another loved one in a strange new place, and that I could manage getting stuff done without having to search for staff.  For me I also felt like I had a friend here right away and we could share in the adventures of being new together.  Gold.  Also will be hard to replicate again.
  • Planning ahead.  Before Kristoffer left the US I had found him a place to stay (didn't turn out to be so great, but at least he had someone to pick him up from the airport and take him there!) and had made appointments for him with 3 different realtors and at the kids' school.  He had a small window before he started working and so was able to just hit the ground running.
  • Short-term separation.  Kristoffer's coming to Dar ahead of us was probably the #1 best decision we made.  He was able to find our house, get our stuff from Nairobi, set up all the big stuff, buy a car, and welcome Rose before we were even on the airplane.  Kids walked in to all of their own stuff and I got out of having to do most of the unpacking (at least until our shipment from the US arrived). No long-term hotel stays for us (thank God). Brilliant.

The biggest challenge to our transition here has been selling our cars in Nairobi (still working on that...please God...throw us a bone!); we have had pretty bad luck with those cars and it has kept one foot sort of stuck in Kenya.  Once they are sold our transition will be 100% complete.  We will really hope September will be the month for that.


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