So we have once again descended further into the world of "it won't be like this when you move back home..." by hiring a cook again. You might remember Syprose from our Nairobi days. She came one day every week, did a big shop and then made 6 meals that we would freeze and eat throughout the week (all for the hefty price of $12.50 a day). And while we have been really happy to have only one staff person here in Dar (trusty Rose, that is), I do really miss having someone help with the cooking. Rose occasionally makes us African food for dinner, which is nice, but just a few times a month. She is too busy with other responsibilities to be a full time cook - but so am I (considering how long it takes to do everything here)! So our new guy, Kennie, works at a local restaurant during the day - within walking of our house - and comes to us 3 evenings a week to make dinner. We plan menus, I shop, he cooks.
He is more expensive than Syprose ($27 a week) BUT is also a better cook than she was with a lot more experience (he used to work at luxury safari camp and some restaurants and for other expats) AND he is so low-maintenance (which Syprose was not). He and Rose get along really well and he is teaching her to cook many of the dishes he makes. He makes really fresh food and seems to be honoring our preferences really well.
I think he has made 10 meals for us so far this month and they have all been really good. His BEST meal so far was pot pie - chicken for me, vegetarian for Kristoffer. It was the most delicious chicken pot pie I have ever eaten. It was so good that I was incredibly sad when the meal was over and I haven't stopped thinking about it since Thursday (tonight we had carrot soup with salad and homemade bread rolls-also delicious!). We are really happy that we hired him because it is nice to get a break from our usual meal cycle, and when I start working again next week it will make my life a lot easier.
Yeah for Kennie! And here's to enjoying the perks of this lifestyle for as long we can :)
It is 6:15am – the sun has risen
behind the grey clouds and something incredible is about to happen on Mkadini Rd
in Dar. He, the Incredible Kris, was born for this.
The Incredible Kris (TIK) glanced
to the sky while he closed the gate to his house. The start button is pressed
on his mobile and the timer starts counting catching every hundredth of a
second. With tremendous force TIK engages the pedal on his newly acquired mountain
bike. The lightweight body aluminum rims, shimano gear and disk brakes should
enable TIK to break the legendary commuting time record. His is off on the
first nicely paved road, conveniently inhabited by the former Minister for
Roads. TIK triple checks the traffic on a larger cross road which enables him
to jump the first stop sign at lighting speed. Four African (as in large) speed
bumps are sufficiently mitigated by the front wheel suspension. A small group
of people walking on the road are avoided by a few inches as TIK jumps down a
small hill to meet the beat up dirt road stretch which, with the help of heavy
rain and gravity, has large parallel bumps. TIK forces the bike to progress
over this challenging terrain without compensating on speed.
As the Oysterbay Secondary School
is passed children in uniforms notice flaming lines following with wheels of TIK
as, with much dexterity, he avoids the minefield of deep pot holes in the tarmac.
When passing Trinity Hotel, where he stayed during his first week in Tanzania,
a fellow biker appears in front going at a much, much slower speed. TIK passes the
biker who almost stops in awe of such eminent velocity. A bajaji is the next
victim of TIK. As it is slowing down with a possibility of a right turn, TIK
moves to take over this vehicle which best can be described as three-wheeled scooter
taxi with a roof. Will he get on the inside or outside? TIK moves to the
outside but a large oncoming Toyota Landcruiser forces a last minute change of
plan as the bajaji is passed on the inside. Reaching Coco Beach TIK finds the
dirt track between the main road and the beach. Many commuters regret seeing
their car being passed by a bike on the side dirt path as morning traffic builds
up lining up two straight rows of bumper-to-bumper cars. TIK gets a glimpse of
the sun rising over the ocean and the usual 25-30 larger container ships
waiting to get into one of the most inefficient ports in the world (FYI USD
20,000 per ship per day). If he could look further TIK would see the island off
of Tanzania, where significant offshore gas reserves were recently discovered.
A lonely biker ahead breaks down
to cross one of four small trenches disposing water from the main road. TIK catches
up to the biker just at the crossing of one of these trenches. Kris changes
direction and with a nifty move jumps over the trench at the widest spot and races
to cross the main bridge going in to town. Now on Ocean Road TIK is on the sand
between the coconut salesmen and the beach. On the narrow path a man is walking,
which allows for optimal speed. He apparently refused to step aside into the
grass as TIK races towards him: “Want to play chicken?” (No, Mary, he did not!)
Out of the sand and down the last
stretch, TIK is welcomed by a nicely paved road, which cuts through the Gym
Khana Golf course. Every muscle in his body begs to stop as the Incredible Kris
sprints the last 500 meters with the aim of flying at the end (flyv og vind!).
Start to finish: 17 minutes and
48 seconds, and more importantly only 13 hundreds of a second.
I have a guilty admission to make. I was checking the traffic "stats" for this blog on Friday when I noticed that a lot of readers were getting to the blog through the website http://www.expatsblog.com. Somehow unbeknownst to me, I have been included on this expat blog directory as a "top blog". Now granted, there are no other Tanzanian blogs on their list - so maybe I am just the only one they have found - but someone had to like the blog enough to get me on that list, right?
On December 15th they will award Gold, Silver and Bronze awards to the top 3 blogs in each country. I wonder if they give out awards at all if there is only one nominee in the first place? Maybe I have a chance of "winning" then! And, actually, one of their criteria includes the reviews/comments people make about the blog. So if you want to help me "win", you could go here and leave some love for this blog by scrolling to the bottom of the page and submitting a comment/review. Thank you so much in advance (and if I win, I will buy you a drink the next time I see you...).
Anyway...like I said...this is a guilty [read: good for my ego] admission. But I am still happy that somebody out there in the virtual world thinks there is something worthwhile here in my virtual diary of our African adventure.
When leaving a fantastic job with meaningful responsibilities,
daily wins and some collegial respect it can be hard starting any new job.For the last 8 months or so I have been
the new guy at the end of the knowledge line; the wrong end that is. Over the
last months I have been assisting, supporting and assisting again. However
normal this is, it is absolutely painful and when adding up my real
contribution over the last 6 months (what wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t
there), I can now at last point to one little thing. I wrote a piece in the newspaper and it is also posted here.
I will not sugar coat the truth that I am having a difficult reintroduction to my normal life after being home last week and Kyle's death. It is wonderful to be with my husband and children again; less wonderful to be away from my siblings and parents and cousins and aunts and friends. But I thought I would blog about something else in an effort to distract myself (and, perhaps, you).
When I was home people asked me a lot about living in Tanzania and there were some common questions that I thought I would share here, in case you are also wondering the same. I think some of these I have addressed in other blogs, but maybe in too verbose a manner. As Mrs. Walker taught me back in elementary school, I'll try to K.I.S.S. [K.I.S.S. = Keep It Simple, Sweetie]
FAQs about Life in Dar
1. Is it really THAT hot?
Yes. Hot and humid. From now until May. July and August were beautiful months of perfect, non-extreme summer weather...also known as "winter".
2. Do you sleep under mosquito nets?
Yes. All of us. Always. Malarial mosquitos bite from 10 pm to 4 am, so as long as they are not inside your net you are not very likely to get malaria. Of course there are exceptions.
3. Do you like it better than Nairobi?
Please remember that, although we were ready to leave Nairobi, we mostly liked living there. And we do also like it here. Security is marginally better. Health care is marginally worse. Weather is "worse" here. Access to the beach is better. Kids going to a Danish school is amazing.
4. How's it going with Rose?
I don't blog about Rose too much anymore because I think she might occasionally read the blog [if you're reading this...HI ROSE!] and I don't want her to feel exploited. But it is going very well. We are so grateful that she moved with us. She is good at her job (both housekeeping and nannying) and really loves our kids, and it is NEVER a bad thing to have more people in your kids' lives who love them!
5. What is Charles doing now?
We hear from him occasionally (most often through Rose). The goats my parents bought him have multiplied and are doing well. His wife is teaching with the degree we helped her get. Charles has a job that we helped him get working for a Dutch guy's business and family.
6. Does Grace speak more English or Danish?
She still speaks more English at home, but is definitely bilingual. She does not speak English when she is at school or with her friends from school. She can switch either language on or off with ease, and I've noticed she is speaking more Danish to Noah lately. She knows a bit more Swahili now as well and because of other children and teachers at school she understands (and speaks a little) some Norwegian and Swedish. Actually she is really good at song lyrics in all of those languages. It's awesome.
7. When are you moving back home? [and, one might add, what home are you moving back to?] We don't know when or where, just yet. If we had to give our ideal plan it would be to be in Dar for another year. Then to "do" Kristoffer's third year on this contract with the World Bank in Washington, DC (which is probably a long shot, but I said this was our ideal!) and then get another contract to stay there for awhile longer. We would love to buy our own house in the DC area.
Hope that cleared up some of your questions. Are there any others?!
My nephew Kyle would have been one month old yesterday, but he passed away at 27 days old. About the time my airplane touched down Kyle's symptoms worsened slightly...and I arrived at the hospital about 90 minutes before he passed away. When I met him I sang to his sweet, beautiful face...
...this little light of mine...I'm going to let it shine....this little light of mine...I'm going to let it shine...this little light of mine...I'm going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine...
Shortly after that Kyle had a pulmonary embolism (blood clot to his lung) and crashed. Christine, Kevin and I were with him when he died. I don't know why Kyle waited for me...I don't know why he wanted me there...but I know that he did. And we all know that his suffering and pain are finally over. He was brave beyond what was asked of him...fought harder than he should have had to...
Rest in peace now, sweet baby boy. Your life was a small, brief gift. A blessing to your parents, your sister, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles and cousins, and their friends. Your fight....your brave, brave fight...touched people all over the world, and inspired an outpouring of love and faith that I can only pray will provide your parents with a light blanket of comfort in the coming days. You have been and always will be loved, Kyle. So deeply loved. Please watch over us...please be with us...please take care of us, sweet angel. I know that your little light is shining brightly in a place far better than here.
Tonight I am flying to Washington, DC to meet my nephew Kyle, and try to provide whatever moral or logistical support I can to my sister and her husband, my parents and my niece for the next week. I already feel that it is too little, but travel for me in the weeks after this trip would be difficult because of Kristoffer's work schedule and I started to feel like I just couldn't stand being here anymore without seeing my family. It will be hard to be away from my kids for 9 days but there is no doubt in my mind that it is the right thing to do.
Kyle is fighting so many complications aside from the initial heart defects he was facing. I just can't wait to give him a kiss and tell him how much I, and so many people from all around the world, love him and are praying for him.
I am also praying that all goes well for a smooth trip (flying 24 hours without 2 kids?! what could be easier?!) and for a very uneventful week at home here in Dar. Rose and Kristoffer will have things under control with the kids, along with some very helpful friends. I know they will miss me - and the feeling is more than mutual - but I also know they will be just fine. Praying that I get to see sweet, baby Kyle take a turn for the best. Sorry to family and friends I won't see or talk to this trip - I know you understand.
I don't know if it is because I have been in a lot of classrooms lately, or if it is because I have needed a small project to distract from my homesickness, or if it just because my kids love to count! But I decided to make a "Counting Wall" at our house (*note that I am NOT normally a DIY-er at all but really, would there be any other kind of counting wall besides a "DIY"?) and I thought I'd share how it turned out. Grace has been able to count well in English and Danish for ages, but Noah is learning (and obviously he is just learning to talk as well) and Rose is also trying to teach both of them a lot more Kiswahili. So I wanted the Counting Wall to go from one to ten in all three languages, plus include a picture (doggies!) and the actual numbers.
I used the wall in our upstairs hallway. I was thinking of having the numbers go up the stairs, but I was afraid that would turn into playing on the stairs which is really not to be encouraged in this house (Noah is such a risk-taker/dare-devil!). It was a big blank wall that now has a little color and a little character to it.
This is how it turned out:
(yes, the wall is curved...almost every room in our house has one "curved corner"...but that kind of adds to the look, right?)
(to the left of the wall is Noah's room; across from the wall is Grace's room - I am standing in her room to take this picture)
It was easy to do: I typed up the text, printed it out along with all the doggy pictures, cut out the white paper pieces, glued them onto normal size colorful cardstock, took the pages to a place to be laminated (really miss my old lamintor!), cut the bigger cards out and hung them up with mounting tape last night while the kids were sleeping. I could have done it more perfectly by measuring and/or using a paper cutter. But alas, I was pretty much looking for speedy gratification on this one.
They were VERY excited when they woke up this morning. Grace was going through them by row and then by column. Noah was just pointing to them at random and squealing...especially liking the doggies. In hindsight I should have put the doggies in a lower row (they are eye level for Grace but a little too high for Noah).
But I'm happy with how it turned out, and even though I think Kristoffer thought I was a little nutsy at first he seemed to like the end result.
Big Girl Grace has had a lot of accoplishments lately. In addition to swimming in the ocean by herself, she can open up the refrigerator by herself and can almost always get properly dressed by herself. We attempted a nap time "sleepover" for the first time with her friend Solveig the other day. They didn't actually go to sleep, although they were quiet and resting for awhile, but it was a solid first attempt. She just has an air of independence about her (which Noah THINKS he also has but that sometimes gets him into trouble...). And, for the first time at a birthday party this past weekend Grace decided to get her face painted. We've tried many times before but she was strongly against it. This time she was so eager and had a lot of fun (although did promptly wash it all off by herself as soon as we got home).
Allow me to present, the making of the Tiger Lady...
Tiger Friends! They proceeded to run all around roaring at and "scaring" the villagers :)
Thank you to blog followers for reading up on Kyle and sending many well wishes. The little guy and his family still have a long road ahead of them but he seems to be getting stronger everyday, which is truly a blessing. It is hard to be so far away from home when there is an emergency like Kyle's, or when there is a big celebration like my cousin's wedding this past Saturday. I wish I could easily be home to help my sister in some way, or that I could have been on the dance floor with my very fun relatives. That is a downside to living here, for sure, and you can be sure we are making plans to get home to both Denmark and the US for a visit ASAP.
Life in Dar has been pretty much status quo lately, full of work (full time for Kristoffer, part time for me at school for a few hours most days) and birthday parties (we hosted one for Kristoffer and have been attending one every weekend for Grace's friends!) and sibling goofing around mixed with sibling competing-for-Mama's-attention. Grace is taking swimming lessons now and swam in the ocean by herself for the first time yesterday; maybe she was really just floating but, trust me, this was a very big deal for her. She was incredibly proud of herself as she paddled around squealing, "I can do it *self! Mama you're not holding me!" Noah is talking more and more and continues to [try to] emulate absolutely everything his sister does. I think we should be worried that very often the second thing he says in the morning is "Bye Bad"...translation: i-Pad! (and the first thing is usually Far, or sometimes Mama).
Our weather is getting hotter, of which I am not a fan, but otherwise I feel like the kids are in a great routine in our daily life (minus the too-early wake ups...but really we've lost hope that they will ever sleep after 5:50 am on a regular basis). I am working on a project for their school to create a library space and establish a "library day" routine for the children. They had a great system at Grace's school in Nairobi and I am hoping to just modify it to fit this school community. The administrators and many other parents seem very supportive of my idea so we'll see how it all turns out.
Here are a few new pictures of Grace and Noah these days...
Noah rearranges as much as he can of the kitchen on a daily basis.
Birthday party fun.
At Far's birthday party...eating cake with her besties.
And notice that from the back Grace is sporting braids these days.
This was the cake...I should have taken a picture of it when it was whole and not upside down!
It was a Happy Hour feast. The "Happy" drink tables were outside.
Masks from a birthday goodie bag. Getting ready for Halloween?
At the school's "sports day". The ladies sporting Olympic Gold Medals. Noah was sleeping :)
Saturday morning paint project.
But I forgot to take an "after" picture. Next time!
*Grace says "self" instead of "myself" or "by myself" because that is how you say it in Danish. I keep trying to get her to say "by myself" when she speaks English but she keeps translating it directly. She also never says "only" in English and instead uses the Danish word "kun" in both languages.