Thursday, August 29, 2013

August 29, 2013 - Another First...

I had my first car accident in Africa this week.  I am fine - don't worry - and it was very, very minor.  I was driving on the main road and somebody turning onto it from a side street did not wait until I completely passed him so nipped my tail end.  Definitely not a very big deal.

I will say, however, it still freaked me the hell out! Because the weird thing is, we didn't call the police.  The police are kind of a wild card here and if they come they could end up making it a lot worse by demanding you pay a bribe or something like that (especially with a mzungu involved).  The young Tanzanian guy who hit me was extremely polite.  When I asked him "what happened?" he responded, "I don't know what I was thinking."  I took pictures, he gave me his information (which I verified by calling him on the spot), and as we were leaving the site he tells me, "Drive safely!" about you?!?

It was more freaky because I couldn't get in touch with Kristoffer. His phone was damaged over the weekend and apparently died completely that morning, he wasn't at his desk, the receptionist said he was out to lunch, and his lunch buddy did not respond to my emails while they were eating together.  I just didn't like that I couldn't get in touch with him to tell him what happened and find out if I had done the right thing.

Which of course, I hadn't completely.  You are supposed to call the insurance company in the moment (came to find out later that ALL 3 phone numbers for the insurance company are no longer working, so that would have done me no good whatsoever) and if you are going to file a claim you are supposed to proceed immediately to the nearest police station, which was actually not very close to where I was in the first place.  Whoops.  Although I am still really glad that I didn't get the police involved - I just absolutely do not trust them.

In the end, we'll just repair the small damage and see if the guy will be a good guy and pay for it.  But if he doesn't, there isn't anything we can do about it anyway (don't want the insurance premium to go up, after all).  I guess that is not all that different than what would have happened if we had been in America.

I think my point of writing this story is that I just sort of felt very "out there" on my own over here in that moment, and wondered in fright what would have happened had it been a serious accident, especially given that daily driving here is full of "close calls".

For now I will just be very grateful that the kids were not in the car with me and that it was very minor.
Drive safely out there!


Monday, August 26, 2013

August 26, 2013 - Four-AND-A-HALF

Grace has been dying to say that she is four-and-a-half pretty much since the day she turned four.  I wish I could convince her to just enjoy being the age she is and not rush to get any older!  But today is the day.  

Her quirky personality is continuing to emerge.  She is a thoughtful girl - wanting to do the right thing and please her parents and teachers, kind and loving and playful towards her brother, funny and interesting to talk to and play with.  Most of the time.  Her "other" side is a little bit manipulative so that she gets her way and a little bit jealous of others and also aggressive on occasion.  But we're all a work in progress, aren't we?  

She is learning to read - very slowly - but enjoys it and the praise she gets with every small step.  She is very happy to be back in school every day until 2 pm and will start her dance class again tomorrow.  We're trying to convince her to start swiming lessons again but for some reason she wants a break from that, and we're not pushing it.  She loves to be at the beach though and has a lot of fun there, especially with her best friend Mattias.  Our small concern with Grace is that she seems to be shutting out other friends and classmates and has tunnel vision for Mattias only.  She doesn't want to play with or talk to anyone else!  We're hoping it is only a reaction to most of her girlfriends leaving the school or moving away, and the teachers assure us that with some more time her friendship with him will be less intense.  But they do play great together and have so much, so we are of course happy about their friendship (and our friendship with his parents, actually).  We just hope she doesn't burn other bridges, so to speak.

When recently talking about what Grace could be when she grows up, I mentioned a paleontologist because she loves dinosaurs so much.  But then she decided, "Or I could be a dragontologist who is a person who knows everything about dragons."  So she has a career aspiration already - we'll just have to start looking into good dragontology programs.  

Grace stresses me out sometimes, I admit, because she seems to know EXACTLY which buttons to push at the exact "right" moments...and I just can't figure out how she does it.  Am I THAT transparent?!  But most of time I find her to be just lovely and awesome and incredibly cool.  And even though I would rather she didn't age so quickly, if it makes HER happy, then of course I am happy for her to be 4 1/2 years old today.

With her current best friend Mattias - super heroes fighting the monsters away!

Really poor quality pictures taken in a rush this morning...but you get the idea.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 13, 2013 - Super Kids Go Back to School

We take the First Day of School SUPER seriously in our family.  Drop-off was a breeze as both kiddos were really happy to be back with friends and teachers in such a fun space at their school.  Happy Birthday to me (can you hear the angels singing?!)...I am off for a pedicure and lunch with a good friend.  It's a bummer that Kristoffer is in Ethiopia, but getting to have some me-time as well as spend my birthday with my very own superheroes is a pretty awesome way to kick off a new year!

Hoping Grace and Noah are having a SUPER day to start off a SUPER new school year!
(and what a difference from Grace and Noah's first days of school last year!)


Monday, August 12, 2013

August 12, 2013 - A Few Days in Dar

Last week we had friends, Soren and Anne, from Copenhagen visit us for a few days before they went to go on safari, climb Mt. Meru, and beach it on Zanzibar. We look forward to having them for a couple more days again before they head back to Denmark. We get many fewer visitors than we did in Nairobi so we felt it was really a special treat. They brought us presents from Farmor and Hans, which is always like Christmas!, and we enjoyed spending more than just one meal with them (which is usually all there is time for when we are in DK!).

And although they were in Dar for only 3 1/2 days before they headed up-country, in hindsight we realize that they had sort of an adventurous time. Normally in our daily life here we live in an expat-bubble that is just very normal and not particularly adventurous (I mean, given that we are here in the first place). We don't consider it to be "REAL Africa." But our friends reminded us that maybe we do live in the "REAL Africa" a bit more than we think. After all, we have been here for almost six years and must be pretty desensitized. 

Here are some things that we did not think were such a big deal, but that really shocked our friends!

1. Visiting the city's main bus terminal to buy tickets for getting to their safari company in Arusha. It was a more hectic version of this image, and was really overwhelming. They ended up opting to fly (which was my recommendation in the first place!).

2. On our way out to dinner on their first night with us, our night askari (security guard) pulled Kristoffer aside and was hysterically crying. He said he just got the phone call that his father died and he immediately had to leave for the far away village of his family. He asked for a lot of money for the trip. Assuming that the story was true (otherwise his crying deserves an Oscar!) we gave him 40% of the money he asked for...which we know we will never see again (and we also think was on the generous side). Then when we in traffic on our way, the security company called. The askari had not been able to get in touch with the company to send a replacement for him, so he pressed the emergency panic button at our house to get their attention!

3. Riding in a bajaji (called a "tuk-tuk" in Kenya and many other places) like this one with Rose to the big market in town and getting pulled over by the police when the driver did something illegal. The officer tried to get the driver to say that the mzungus forced him to do it so that he could get money from them. The driver did not betray his passengers but did pay a small bribe to be released.

4. On their way home from the market in a different bajaji, a different officer confiscated the driver's keys because he didn't pay for parking the day before. Our friends and Rose had to advance the driver their fare so that he could pay the fee and a small bribe to get his keys back.

5. Driving to the beach for a swim and dinner on their third day with us, we noticed a lot of people, particularly women, gathered at one junction. There was a lot of riot police trying to disperse the crowd. We don't know what happened, but we did see one man get hit with a baton by one of the officers. 

UMMMM....I think that is it? Not "bad" for three days in the expat-bubble! 

Our friends also got to see the wonders of having Christopher (the cook) and Rose around. And they seemed to really like our beach and visiting Grace & Noah's school (where WE thought the pool water was REALLY cold but they thought it was like a mild bath), they had a great time playing squash with Kristoffer and also seeing his office. So it wasn't ALL totally scaring and overwhelming. But I did really appreciate Soren's comment when he said, "Your daily challenges are REALLY different than ours!"

And that was just a few days in Dar!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

August 11, 2013 - My Latest DIY (fail or not?)

Grace is slowly learning how to read these days (I am using this text, FYI) and I thought it would be fun to make a "velcro word wall" in her room, so that she can play with the words she knows how to read, make sentences, sort for rhyming, etc.  Sort of like our counting wall,  I also thought that making this wall would satisfy my "back to school" teacher urges.  Kristoffer said something like, "Can't she just use a whiteboard and magnets?" Which is a great idea! But a big whiteboard costs about $100 here.  And the little ones we have aren't THAT much fun.  Plus I thought that velcro would be more interesting to her because of the fun noise it makes.

So here's what I did:

1.  I printed words (the few she can already read, as well as maybe the next 75 that she'll learn) on colored cardstock and had them laminated. (yes, there is a color code but that is only for the benefit of  my neurotic self, and would totally frighten you away if I explain it here I am sure).

2. I attached velcro strips to the back of them using double sided tape. Later I found out that the tape wasn't strong enough so in round two the velcro strips were glued to the laminated words.

 3. I wiped off an empty patch of wall in Grace's to her bookshelf.

 4. I mounted the other half of the velcro onto the wall using a stronger double sided tape (the verdict is still out on how much wear and tear - literally! - this tape can take before I need to find a stronger adhesive.

5.  Then I gave Grace a box of laminated words that she knows how to sound out and revealed the wall to her.  Her initial reaction was along the lines of "wow! my words!"

6.  The final product:

The reason I don't know if this is a DIY success or failure is because:

A.  Since her first time playing with the wall she has had no interest whatsoever.  I suppose a small part of me did think (hope?) that she would be instantly writing sentences.


B.  It just doesn't look that cool.  The counting wall is way cooler, but I didn't want her words to be stationary - I want her to be able to use them at some stage.  Maybe it would have looked cooler if I had put the strips on the bright green wall in her room instead of the white wall.  I don't know.

Anyway, time will tell if the velcro word wall lasts or not.  Maybe as her reading skills progress so will her velcro interest!


Monday, August 5, 2013

August 5, 2013 - Two more...(for the road)

There are two pictures I forgot to post in my blog yesterday. Some of our very good friends who moved away recently include Ella and Lucy (their baby brother and pretty awesome parents too) who in the last year have become fast and true friends of Grace and Noah.  On one of our last play dates a couple of weeks ago their Mama had a creative photo shoot with the girls while Noah was having a potty incident. The pictures turned out so lovely.  A final photo keepsake of Dar days just looking forward to someday living in close proximity to them again (where in the world might that be?!).

Here are these silly stunners! Dar is not the same without them.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

August 4, 2013 - Scenes from a Summer

Somehow the weeks have passed and there is only one left before school starts for the kids on August 13th (Happy Birthday to me!).  I was really afraid they would be bored, but that hasn't been too much of a problem.  Various playdates and lots of pretend play at home have filled our days, and last week the kids were both a bit sick with different infections so we mostly layed low.  We said goodbye to some friends who went on holiday and are slowly (and thankfully!) coming to Dar, but we also said goodbye to some other friends who have moved on to live in other parts of the world.  Such is this life.

I did accomplish some of the things I wanted:  potty training Noah, starting to teach Grace how to read, and playing the piano.  But Kristoffer has worked A LOT these last many weeks and has not been able to go out on our sailboat yet.  Hopefully we will rectify that situation soon.

Our kids are really fun to play with these days, and seem to be enjoy their lives here. It is great that they have had a lot of quality time with some friends and each other this summer, but we are all looking forward to the routine of going back to school!  Here are a few shots of how these "summer" days (it has been so chilly lately - 70 degrees F!) have flown by.  

YOGA and playing at Ella and Lucy's house

SWIMMING and playing at Freya's house

DRUMMING, reading and playing at our house

I guess we're lucky that they aren't sick of each other yet!