Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 31, 2013 - Easter Buddy

Happy Easter!

Kristoffer, Grace, Rasmus, Jytte, Nikoline and Josefine left for safari this morning at 4:30 am.  It was about 9 hours of driving to get to a city called Moshi and I hear they made it just fine.  Noah and I will join them tomorrow, by airplane.  Then we are off all together to visit Lake Manyara, the Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro Crater.  Absolutely can't wait!

But that left Noah and me hanging out together for Easter.  Trust me, he's a really good date :)  We had an Easter egg hunt at a friend's house (thanks to the McWilliams family for hosting us!) and went off to a fancy brunch at the Hyatt Hotel with them and another family too.  It was really nice to be included in such a lovely day.  Despite having to wait 90 minutes for brunch (the hotel had confirmed an 11 am reservation but the brunch didn't actually start until 12:30!) Noah was very well behaved and was a pretty good little eater too.  I enjoyed the best brunch food I have ever eaten (anywhere! not just in Africa!).  

I missed going to church today.  It is something that I generally dislike about living here - that we don't have a nice church community - but there was actually a threat of violence against Christian churches in Dar today so even if we HAD a good church to go to we probably would have skipped out because of that security warning.  

It was otherwise a very nice day and my little Easter Buddy and I will be off bright and early tomorrow to join the others for our safari.   Hope you also have a wonderful day!


Friday, March 29, 2013

March 29, 2013 - Zanzibar Ferie

(Thank you to Rasmus and Jytte for the pictures from their awesome new camera!)

We went on vacation (ferie) to the tropical island of Zanzibar, just a 90-minute ferry ride away from Dar.  Zanzibar used to be a different country and sort of still thinks it is, which gives it a very unique and interesting flavor.  Admittedly this was my second time to Zanzibar and I still did absolutely NOTHING cultural (spice tour, Stone Town tour, Jozani Forest to see the rare monkeys that live there, tour of the Mitoni Palace, etc.).  But it is still an amazing place to go - even if you just stay at your little hotel or resort.

We stayed at the Shooting Star Lodge on the eastern coast of the island, and liked it very much.  Food was fine (sometimes great, sometimes not - mostly just good), service was very good, drinks were very good (and not very expensive!) and the atmosphere was just perfect.  There was one common infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean where the restaurant/bar was, but also Rasmus, Jytte and the girls stayed at a little house that had its own private pool (so that was really cool).  

It looked like this...
From the top balcony...
Looking down into their own garden...
Playing in their private pool...

Noah was just in it for the snacks at first...(but by the end of our stay even he was swimming in the pool!).
After we got there (and the weather was good!) we took a Dhow cruise out to sea.  A dhow is a very old-fashioned "traditional" type of sailing boat still used here in East Africa.  It was a very special experience...the water was the blue-greenest I've ever seen it.

In our 3 days there we spent a lot of time in this lounge...particularly because days 2 and 3 included a lot of rain!
We drank some lovely little cocktails...
And watched our dinner swim right up to our plates...
(literally...this guy worked for our hotel and picked up the fish from a fisherman just at our beach spot).
We ate here...
And had a lot of fun together!

Buying fancy, freshly found seashells...
Hunting for crabs...
Playing mancala...
 And making lots of new friends...

I think Grace still misses this pool... (can you tell where it stops and the ocean starts?)...

Kristoffer, Rasmus, Jytte and Nikoline went on a great snorkeling trip for one day, and accidentally ran into 11 dolphins on their way home.  They jumped right in and went for a swim with them!  WOW!  

It was raining a lot, which was a little bit of a downer, but we still managed to have a really nice time (and even though Grace had 6 night-time hours of being very sick there were no other problems and thank you very much to the hotel's housekeeping for their very efficient laundry service).

When it was time to go home we waited for our ferry here...
And climbed on board...
Ahoy, maties!
Kwaheri, Zanzibar!  Tutaonana baadaye!


Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24, 2013 - Going Coastal (again)

I guess I've been so busy that I haven't blogged in awhile!  Between work (subbing, school library, etc.) and getting ready for our visitors (Rasmus, Jytte, Nikoline and Josefine arrived from Denmark on Friday morning) there has been a lot going on.  Grace was also sick with a sinus infection and we found out yesterday that Noah has fungal infections in both of his ears (which explains his lack of sleeping-through-the-night for the last week).  Rose left for 3 weeks in Kenya yesterday and we are taking the 7 am ferry to Zanzibar tomorrow.  Three nights of beach paradise sounds pretty awesome!  Grace is in heaven with her cousins here...Kristoffer is also pretty psyched to have 3 weeks with his big brother (for the first time since he was about 13 years old!).  And Jytte and I are going to get our nails done in an hour.  No complaints here :)

It is also National Orange Day (Happy Birthday, Syracuse!) and Palm Sunday, so it will be Easter in a week.  I'm feeling grateful to have family with us and hope we can all enjoy our beach trip.  When we get back from Zanzibar we rest for a couple of days and then leave for a week's safari to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.  I am sure we will have some great pictures to share.  Did I mention that Kristoffer and I are taking a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti?!  

Some days it is good to ask: is this really my life?! 

Friday, March 15, 2013

March 15, 2013 - Mvua

Mvua means "rain" in Kiswahili. And it started 2 weeks ago here in Dar. Last year when we arrived in the blistering heat of March, people kept telling us that the long rains were coming.  "They are almost here!" But they came really late, actually.  Almost May/early May if I recall correctly. And they didn't last that long.

But this year the rains came early, and with them some added perks and challenges in our daily life.

Challenge: biking is a little bit less safe for Kristoffer than it used to be, with all of the current mud and puddles.

Perk: the rain cools off our crazy heat...and since it rains most days for at least a little while, this is very helpful.

Challenge: the cooling off doesn't last too long and yesterday, for example, when it didn't rain where we live after 6 am, by midday it was insanely, insanely hot and humid.

Perk: it is great for Farmers and the country's agriculture.  Obviously we remember how badly things go when the rains fail from our time in Kenya (which kept Kristoffer extremely busy at WFP).

Challenge: Mosquitos. Mosquitos. Mosquitos. And back to worrying about malaria at the first sign of someone feeling sick. I envision quite a few blood tests next month.

Perk: it is super fun to play in the rain or mud at school of you are, say, 2 or 4 years old.

Challenge: lots of laundry!

Perk: people seem less lethargic after the rain!

Challenge: potholes the size of kiddie swimming pools! Driving becomes a big like an obstacle course.

Perk: it is an actual season, so something different than just endless heat.

Challenge: lots of dampness and then in and out of air conditioning means that a lot of people get sick with coughs and cold. And who knows what else will fester as the season continues.

African rain is somehow different than any rain I have ever experienced before in my life. It doesn't rain buckets, but bathtubs. It doesn't rain cats and dogs, but elephants and rhinos. There aren't sheets of rain, but walls.

It is the loudest drum show I have ever heard. It is exciting and awesome, but also a little bit frightening too. It wakes me up in the night, and compels me to get out of bed to check on the kids because I know that if they were crying there is absolutely no chance that I could hear them.

Pretty much as long as I am not caught driving in it (so scary!) I am a fan of this rain of ours. We will just hope that it doesn't negatively impact our upcoming beach trip and safari with Rasmus, Jytte and the girls when they come from Denmark next week!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 13, 2013 - DG3

Peter, our new day guard, is great. Compared to our previous 2 day guards....he really does his job. He denies people at the gate if we haven't told him they are coming (2 friends have so far called me to have me tell him on their cell phones that they are allowed in). He won't even take Rose's word for it! He writes in a big ledger every time anyone comes or goes from the compound. And he is much quicker at the gate then the last guard (who would often keep us waiting to be let in for 5 minutes...and what was he doing all those times??). He seems to take his job seriously.

We really like him.

Although I did catch him napping a bit during the day yesterday.

And he already asked Kristoffer for a (small, at least) loan.

So it's not 5 stars all the way. But even 3 or 4 stars is a big improvement!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 12, 2013 - The Human Fund

If you are a Seinfeld fan, you might remember the episode in the show's last season when George is too cheap to buy Christmas gifts for his work colleagues and instead gives them donation cards for a fictitious charity, The Human Fund ("money for people").  It is the same episode as "Festivus for the Rest of Us".  Anyway...Kristoffer and I love Seinfeld.  We own all the seasons on DVD and watch them repeatedly.  We still find them hysterical.  

Almost a year ago, we started noticing a car driving around town with a spare tire cover for "The Human Fund - money for people".  We were insanely jealous of the super-cool people who owned that...because of course we knew they were also Seinfeld fans!  Fast forward 7 months and we discovered that we already knew the people with that tire cover.  They actually had a few of them custom made for others in on the joke.  And it is a pretty funny joke here because every NGO/Charitable Organization pretty much has its own tire covers...and, you know...they are for REAL charities!  

We were so happy when these friends donated their final tire cover to us...I think once they heard how Seinfeld-pyscho we were and how much we so desperately loved their tire cover they felt a little bad for us.  So now our Landcruiser sports this bad boy.  

It's been on there for a couple months, but I literally still giggle every time I see it (the picture totally cracks me up!). 

Monday, March 4, 2013

March 4, 2013 - Big Day part 2 (Dar Anniversary)

The Welsien family touched down in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania one year ago.  We were hot.  Really hot.  And scared of many things. And nervous about many things.  And we were really hot. Did I mention that we were hot?  And at the clinic almost everyday.  And boy oh boy, were we hot.

But one year has passed, and we did it!  We survived!  Even better than survived...we like it here!  We have had some ups and down, but we feel at home now.  We LIVE here!  I feel more attached to our house and our daily life and people here than I did after just one year in Kenya.  I am more involved here than I was in Kenya. And I am not as scared as I was there.  I am more independent.  Although in Kenya I did feel more attached to the country than I do here, that might have had to do with the fact that our first year in Kenya was when the country was an extreme crisis.  I think the wisdom of having done it once before took about two years off of our learning curve.  So after one year in Dar I feel about the same as I did after three years in Kenya.  And that is a good thing!

Kristoffer has had a challenging adjustment to a really different kind of work than he was used to before.  He has risen to the challenge and is increasingly happy with what he is doing. (I think...right, Krisoffer?)  He runs or bikes to work, plays soccer (football) with a group of Danish guys, is learning to sail, and is still the best Lego-builder in our house.  

Grace and Noah.  Wow, do they love their life.  They go to a great school, have friends and activities.  They love our house and have a great routine here.   We go to the beach and the pool every weekend.  They have each other and us and they still love Rose so, really, what more could they ask for!?

I am really busy!  I am substituting at the international school.  I created and "run" the little library at the kids' school and am also now on the school board.  I maintain the daily juggle of errand running (buying diesel, electricity, visit 3 stores to shop for one meal, etc.) and managing staff.   I'm still working on our children's book and other "memory keeping" projects for our family and blogging of course.  I think I am happy here too.

We are still hot - but not as hot.  We still get sick - but not as often.  We still miss our family and friends in Denmark and the US - but that will never change, no matter where we live!  AND we've made a "bucket list" of things we want to do on this continent while we still live here so we hope to start checking off those things and enjoying the benefits of an African life while they last.  

Some days I am not so enthusiastic about still living in Africa (and I am entitled to those ups and downs, right?).  But today it feels pretty good.

Happy Dar Anniversary to us!  Let's hope year two is a great one for our family.

March 4, 2013 - Big Day part 1 (Kenya's Election)

When Kristoffer and I moved to Kenya in 2007, we were pretty naive.  Or really naive.  Or maybe even incredibly naive.   We convinced our families that we were moving to one of the most peaceful democracies in Africa and boarded an airplane with 6 suitcases and 2 backpacks.  Little did we know that a few weeks later the country would plummet into a crisis that it is still reeling from even now.  I can still hear my mother on the other end of the phone when we finally got through to tell her we were OK saying, "We're watching CNN.  They are killing each other with machetes!"  I  blogged often about my understanding and perception of the events of early 2008 here...but now I find it really embarrassing to read those blog posts!  I have learned and experienced so much since then.

So here we are now...and Kenyans are going back to the polls.  There are many good articles out there about what it's like for Kenya right now and you can easily find them on your own (just really try to avoid CNN if you can...honestly).  I admit that I am a little bit obsessed with this election, considering that we don't live there anymore.  I am reading everything I can.  Talking to whoever I can about it.  I woke up with butterflies in my stomach knowing that some Kenyans had already been at the polls for hours waiting for their turn to vote.  Rose is here with us in Tanzania and is worried about her family.  She told us that they didn't move to hiding because there would be no TV and they want to be able to watch the footage and results.  Let's hope that was not a mistake.  We usually do not pay to have cable TV but did so last week so that she, and we, could all watch coverage on the Kenyan news.

I guess I still feel connected to that time and place...having seen the best and worst of Kenya in the 4 years that we lived there.  I am not worried about violence today.  I am not worried about violence tomorrow.  I am a little worried about violence towards the end of the week...but more so about violence following the almost-inevitable run off between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.  One candidate needs 50 percent of the vote in order to win the election, but with 8 candidates and about 90 percent of the country evenly divided between those two just looks like the current, extreme tension could end up following a similar path to last time.  It is so much more complicated than I realized 5 years ago, so my knowledge and understanding have changed quite a bit.  But my hopes for the country have not.

I hope that all Kenyans are able to vote without being intimidated or fearing retribution against their families.  I hope that the political and yes, even tribal, leaders in Kenya encourage their people to be peaceful, to be humaniarian, to be democratic.  I hope that nobody has been procuring arms or planning attacks "just in case."  I hope that the election is fair...and that the winner is not just the best of all cheaters. I hope that Kenyans can show the world their better side...embrace their unity along with their diversity.  Kenya has  been its own worst enemy, but I hope today it is its own best friend.  

All eyes on Kenya.