Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 27, 2012 - Little Scholar

Yesterday we had our parent-teacher conference for Grace.  It was awesome.  

The highlight was that Grace had just colored this picture at school and, completely on her own, wrote the names (if you can see them): Grace (on your right), Mama (bottom right), Far (top left), Noah (under Far), which you can mostly read.  The teacher sitting with Grace at the time was really surprised. Wow!

The teachers we met (2 of 6 who interact with Grace regularly) had so many nice things to say about Grace and I know we walked away beaming with pride.  They think she is mature for her age, great with communication, energetic to tell a story or sing a song in front of the class.  She is also very strong willed, but they have only seen her have a very bad temper (or "go ballistic" as one described it) once. She cries a lot on days when she is very tired, and usually I have warned them that she woke up too early on those days.  She eats very well (our daughter?  Hallelujah!) and responds very well to praise.  Her fine and gross motor skills are great. She no longer has accidents at school (or at home, for that matter).  She loves to play with her girlfriends but is also comfortable doing her own thing.  They say she is very happy - and we said so are we!


Monday, November 26, 2012

November 26, 2012 - Still Crazy After All These Years

My parents celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary today.

What great role models they are for my siblings and I...and for the rest of the world too!  No doubt they have had their ups and downs.  Marriage is about compromise and, in their case, involves a lot of disagreements about driving directions and traffic.  But 46 years...many different jobs and addresses and moves...4 kids...10 grandkids...some dogs.  A lot of lot of love, and their own fair share of sorrow too.  But after all these years they still make it look so easy.  

We love you, Mom and Dad.  Happy Anniversary!

Friday, November 23, 2012

November 23, 2012 - Big! Cool!

Yesterday's highlights include:

*Grace discovering the word "cool."   Everything was cool.
"My picture is so cool, Mama."
"That's a cool skirt."
"Noah looks cool."
(Wait until I teach her to speak "Boston" and say "wicked cool!")

*Noah saying the word "big" for the first time AND putting it together with other words.
"Big ball!"
"Big car!"

What can I say? 
It was a big deal and was very cool!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 22, 2012 - Thanks, but no thanks

I usually write a Thanksgiving blog about what I am thankful for: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.

But this year I am not going to do that.

The thing is, on a daily basis I am a pretty thankful/grateful/appreciative person...or at least I try to be.  I pray. I write thank-you notes. I work hard to keep in touch with people of importance from my present and past (a few years ago I had the pleasure of a reunion with my nursery school teacher Mrs. Corkadel and had the chance to thank her for giving me such positive first memories of my education.  And thank you for that reunion, Mrs. Duffy!). I keep memories.  I try to teach my children to also have these qualities.

In fact, last year on my blog someone left this comment (and thank you to her for that!):


Wyndago said...
I never met anyone so thankful and I have not even met you.

You have used the word "thanks" (includes the words thankful, thank but excludes the word thanksgiving) 20 times and the word "grateful" twice in your last 11 posts.

Great blog. All beautiful.


But this year is different.  

We aren't with any extended family this year (we didn't celebrate the holiday last year but at least were with family in Denmark!). We were not invited to any holiday celebrations with other Americans today. I went to work, the kids went to school. I am also married to a man for whom this day is not a traditional holiday and who is both a vegetarian and also currently in Uganda.

I am also feeling especially not-thankful that Kyle died and that my sister and her husband have to deal with this holiday without their son.

I do not begrudge anyone else a wonderful day.  But even though there are many things for which I am thankful, I will save my thanksgiving for another day.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 21, 2012 - Interview

The website that has been promoting my blog lately, www.expatsblog.com, has interviewed me. 

Please check it out here!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 20, 2012 - Starting to Pack...

The countdown is on.  Sixteen days until we leave Dar for seven weeks away (five for Kristoffer).  First stop Denmark.  Next stop USA.  

You know...our usual world tour.

There are many reasons why we are ready for this trip home.  Many. 

Two of them include:

1.  Grace probably has some kind of amoeba (awaiting further tests), which we suspect because she has had two episodes of violent stomach cramps and vomiting within two weeks of each other.  And while she is not as small as she used to be, she doesn't exactly have weight to spare.  We all are probably due for being de-wormed, in fact (it took me years to accept the fact that we live some place where de-worming is reality!).  But I would rather do it when we are going to have a break from the likelihood of getting said amoeba again, so will probably wait until we get to Denmark to do so (although maybe she'll get some other medication before then).  

2.  We found this guy on the outside of Noah's mosquito net the other day when I went in to pick him up after his nap. 

Spider crab.  Crab spider.  Googling indicates that it is not a poisonous bite, but a painful, itchy one.  And if we found one, isn't it likely that there are more?!?  Shiver.

Winter clothes and Christmas presents are nearly packed.  Kristoffer has two more trips before then (first Uganda for 4 days, then Burundi for 3 days) so it will be a busy time until our plane takes off.  But then we'll be wearing winter coats, drinking hot chocolate and NOT worrying about sunblock or malaria for a nice long stretch.  Bring it on!


Monday, November 19, 2012

November 19, 2012 - The Learning Wheel

First of all, you know me. I love anniversaries.  We left Nairobi one year ago yesterday (November 18th).  Isn't that incredible?  I feel like the year has been so big and complicated and busy and has gone by really, really fast. Wow.

Also, today was Noah's first "parent-teacher" conference at school.  It was supposed to be 30 minutes, but because I am a talker it was more like 65 minutes.  This is the "tool" used as a basis of discussion about his growth and development (if you can see it). 

The goal for Noah (and all kids in his class) is that he will be a "4" (is able to do) by the time he is 3 years old.  For most categories he is a 2 (able to with help) or 3 (almost able to) with an occasional 1 (is not able to do) or 4 already.  I thought the discussion was insightful - they see him do things that I don't see him do (and vice versa) - and thoughtful - his 4 teachers really love him and appreciate his personality. They had so many nice, positive things to say (like if they have ever kids they really hope to get one just like Noah...but of course, they haven't met him at 5:00 am!).  It was a really interesting conference.

Big take aways are that he is sweet and happy (we knew!), that he falls on his head a lot (we knew that too!), and also even though he isn't the youngest in the group anymore he is the smallest still so the other kids sort of see him (and treat him) as the baby of the group.  We're two months away from his second birthday.  That is also very hard to believe!  

Next week is Grace's conference, using the same tool with the goal of being a "4" by the time she is 5 years oldl obviously the "criteria" change with the age group. As I was looking at The Learning Wheel, I was wondering where I would fall in my age-appropriate group.  Maybe I should be a "4" by the time I am...35? 40?  When you're a grown up, is there development in these areas happening that we don't know about?!  


Saturday, November 17, 2012

November 17, 2012 - Ngoma

For the last six weeks at the Nordic School, the kids (particularly Grace) have been learning about Tanzanian culture. They have done singing in Kiswahili, dancing, drumming and crafts along with learning about the flag and eating traditional Tanzanian food once a week.  This has been REALLY fun for Grace and yesterday was their final "project" for the topic.  Called "Ngoma" (which means "dance"), it was a celebration of Tanzanian culture and a celebration of our kids!

Parents had to provide kangas (or "cloth") for each child and the school had someone make traditional clothes out of the material (from what I hear the school paid only $1.90 per child!). Below were my kids getting ready for "Ngoma" (bribed with a lollipop to wake up from their naps).

Noah and his friend Helena before the show.
Noah's class was up first.  I'm sorry the video quality is poor - I was sitting in a bad spot to see Noah's face (he is to the right). But you get the idea.  It was very sweet!

Noah and his classmates getting ready.

Then Grace's class performed 4 different songs.  She was so excited and proud.  It was really fun(ny)!

Grace with the Head Master and her classmates getting ready.

First Song (the funniest and the longest recording).

Second Song (kids dance in pairs or trios).

Third Song (Grace's drum "solo").

Fourth Song (the Tanzanian national anthem).

After the show there was a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Masai hut that the children all built together over several weeks.  They can play in it for the rest of the year.

And some of the older children who come for after school programs showed us how they can jump like a Masai!
There was a man making sugar cane juice on the spot!
And exhibition of the Masai jewelry that the kids made.

I have to say that this event illustrates the best parts of living here.  First, the kids have a "home" culture and community at their Nordic school where Nordic values and traditions are present for them.  But second, there is so much diversity! From the exposure of living here in Tanzania to all of the different cultural elements they get from having friends who are also half-Nordic and half-something-else (American, Tanzanian, Kenya, Dutch, Finnish, British, South African...)...they are just such open-minded little people.  I could not be happier about that.     

Ngoma ilikuwa furaha! (my attempt at saying: Ngoma was fun!)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November 14, 2012 - Seasons

Nine months into living here, I've decided that there are really two seasons in Dar.

Season 1 (end of June through early September): what I call The Lovely Summer (also called "winter" by the locals).  It is warm but not tooooo hot and humid.  There is a lovely breeze and in the evening sometimes you can even bundle up in a light cardigan if you are outside. You don't worry as much about malaria.  You are never in a state of constant sweat.  It is dreamy, perfect summer weather.

I love this season.

Season 2 (all other months, peaking in December from what I hear): what I call Take Three Cold Showers a Day and Change Your Clothes Even More Often Than That.  I think you can imagine what this season includes. It is hot. It is sticky. It is buggy. I am never not sweating. My kids have weird heat and sweat rashes.

I despise this season.

There are some transitions into and out of these seasons, but they are not distinct enough to be their own seasons.  And throw in a short rainy season (now supposedly, but it hasn't rained in a few days) and a long rainy season (I think that is Mayish?) but they are just subseasons of our current season.

There is a lot to love about living here, and maybe if we moved from Florida we would find this weather a bit more charming.  But wow! I am wearing my second tshirt of the day and it is 9:15 am.  It really makes me miss Nairobi's awesome weather and has us all very excited for the cold of Denmark in a few a weeks (and that says A LOT because normally the weather is not one of Denmark's strengths!).


Monday, November 12, 2012

November 12, 2012 - On My Own

First of all, while I did not win the expat blog writing contest I entered, it was so heartwarming to read the lovely comments people wrote and see all of the "likes" I had on Facebook.  Thank you so much for your support.  I will try again!

Maybe this week will give me new good blog contest material.  Kristoffer left in the middle of Saturday night for the US (he made it to DC via Istanbul and I hope is sleeping now at my sister Christine's house) and the kids started our week together by waking up at 5:15 am.  By 9 am we had exhausted so many activities, including baking muffins and packing all of their winter clothes for our trip to Denmark next month, that I did resort to an hour of television for Grace (Noah has a very small attention span for TV so it bought me about 15 minutes).  Usually we reserve TV for an afternoon unwind but I was exhausted! Luckily Grace had a play date in the afternoon which got her out of the house and away from asking me, "is Far coming home yet?"

Our very long day also included the worst temper tantrum I have ever seen from either of my children.  You might be surprised to know that it came from Noah, not Grace! For 30 minutes he was the most angry, sad, tired, aggressive, inconsolable toddler I've ever seen.  I even contemplated taking him to the doctor when he was hyperventilating. It was more than bizarre coming from such a sweet, happy, funny, easy going boy. Clearly he is not happy that his best friend has left the country but I am really hoping it was an isolated incident.

Anyway, kids slept all the way until 5:40 this morning and Monday has been going well so far (ok it is not even 9 yet!).  Hope that lasts for the rest of this week! We really look forward to Far coming home again on Saturday.


Friday, November 9, 2012

November 9, 2012 - Movie Theater Etiquette

Kristoffer and I went to see a movie in the movie theater last night.  It was our first time doing that here in Dar and we haven't actually been to a movie theater since Dec/Jan in the US. That's a long stretch - yikes!  It was a nice treat to see Daniel Craig be sooooo good, and Javier Bardem be sooooo bad.  A little escapism is what I needed.

But the real experience comes from just going to the movies here.  I had completely forgotten the movie theater etiquette (or lack thereof) in East Africa - here in Dar it was the same as it was in Nairobi.  

Highlights include:

1.  Come late.  Up to 40 minutes late.  No worries.  (But really, who misses the first 40 minutes of a BOND movie?!)

2.  Keep your phone turned on and answer calls throughout the movie, talking casually to your friends and family as if you were in the privacy of your own home.   

3.  Talk to your friends and people sitting around you throughout the movie as well.  And don't use a movie theater voice either.  Just talk normally, because that won't disturb anyone.


It takes some getting used to.  At first it was driving me crazy but then I started to tune out the distractions as I used to do in Kenya.   (But if you, my brother Mark, are reading this...I thought more than once that you might have a nervous breakdown during this experience.)

One difference here is that we didn't have to stand for the national anthem before the show, as we used to do in Nairobi.  I actually kind of missed that tradition.

We went to the newest movie theater here in Dar and it was a good experience...despite all of the busy people around us.  Kristoffer is heading to the US for a week tomorrow night and it was nice to have a date night before he leaves.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

November 7, 2012 - Toy Story

This is a car that Rose made for Noah out of an old milk carton, some bottle caps, toothpicks, and string.  When I saw it - and how much he LOVES LOVES LOVES playing with it - I said to her, "I'm impressed! You're much more creative than I am."

Rose replied, "When you can't afford to buy toys for your child, you just make them."

And my child loves Rose's milk-carton-car as much as the Fisher Price car I bought him.

A nice reality check for me. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 6, 2012 - Election Blog Redux

It is election day in America today so I wanted to blog about voting.  I don't have any experience in Tanzania, but of course the experience we had with the Kenyan election in December 2007 will be with me forever (you'll recall that close to 2,000 people were murdered and 500,000 people were displaced from their homes in violence that erupted throughout the country following a corrupt election).  So I will repost some of what I wrote in January 2008...because the importance of voting...the importance of exercising the right and responsibility and freedom to vote is on my mind.

The full blog is here.  But the highlight about democracy is below:

Finally, a word on democracy. In Kenya, 40% of the population lives in extreme poverty and while they may not have food or water or shelter, they believed they had a vote. They didn't take it for granted and they cast it towards a leader they thought would improve their lives. When you take that away from people, when you tell them that their vote didn't matter, they are left with nothing. That is why young men in the slums are chanting "No Raila, No Peace!" and claiming that they are willing to die for this cause. Odinga may also be a corrupt politician and might have done nothing to help these people, but it is not a question of who is a better person or would be a better president. If the election was rigged, as it appears to have been, then Kenyans were robbed of their voice, their vote, and their hope. We hope to see the leaders do something to heal this country now. There are other countries with election drama right now besides Kenya, namely Georgia and Pakistan. I know Denmark's election has passed but my personal hope is that at home in America , when people are voting in upcoming primaries and in the 2008 election, they look around at what people in these other countries are fighting for and do not take their freedoms for granted.

Happy Election Day, to my fellow Americans.  I hope you enjoy your voting experience, knowing that you will not be persecuted in any way...your family will not be threatened or intimidated or harmed...your church will not be burned...and your vote will be counted.  It might not be a perfect system, I know, but millions of people the world over are envious of it.  

God Bless America...get out the vote!


Monday, November 5, 2012

November 5, 2012 - Writing Contest

Good morning.  Hope you had a nice weekend.  We spent a lot of time at the beach which was really nice.  Grace is turning into a little fish and Noah is slowly warming up to the ocean.

I wanted to let you know that I recently entered a writing contest for expat bloggers.  I had to submit a minimum of 1000 words related to expat life that I had never published on this blog before.  First prize is $500, second prize is $100 ... but 45 people entered so it is actually a tough contest!

In addition to considering the actual writing and topic of the blog, the judges are also considering the number of Facebook "likes" and comments made about the specific blog I wrote for the contest.  So, if you want to "vote" for me (and technically it is still election season until Wednesday, right?) you have until Saturday to do so I believe.

Go here:
http://www.expatsblog.com/contests/6/family-rules to read my blog entry.

At the bottom you can "like" it or share it on Facebook or tweet it or write a comment.

Thank you, in advance (and for spreading the word to help me get more "votes"!).  
I really appreciate your support of me and this blog.

Have a great day.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November 3, 2012 - The Three Men

I’m an early riser and normally commute to work an hour before everybody else. I pass a big intersection every morning and almost every morning I see the same three people reading the newspaper there. Now, three people standing and reading the newspaper is not that outstanding in Africa; however, these people stand out.

They have a few things in common. They are all waiting for traffic to build up to begin their work day, they are all there early, and the following two morning hours is quite significant for all of their work.

Guy number one is maybe not surprisingly a newspaper salesman. He is carrying about 30 newspapers and is waiting for the traffic to build up (read: slow down) so people have a moment to buy the daily news from him through their car window as they commute to work.

Guy number two is a traffic policeman in a cool white uniform waiting for the traffic to build up so he can direct it and ideally ensure order on the road together with about 10 other policemen on that main stretch going into town.

Guy number three is a young smartly dressed man on crunches. He is missing one leg and is waiting for traffic to build up to walk down the long lanes of traffic to ask drivers for a little money for his daily bread.

Sure enough, almost every morning these three guys are standing reading the news and sometimes cracking a few jokes.


Friday, November 2, 2012

November 2, 2012 - Trick or Treat

The Ladybug and The Dragon
(Friday evening trick-or-treating at a little school party)

(cameo appearance below by Mama - work with what you've got - dressed as "the color orange")

Hope you had a Happy Halloween (if it is a holiday where you live!)!