Hello from Boston! Sorry I am a terrible blogger right now, but today the BBG and I are 36 weeks with 3 weeks and 1 day to go. I have much more to say about our lovely stay in Massachusetts so far - more on that soon, I promise - but for now just wanted to give a shout out to Kristoffer, Grace and Noah, who we miss dearly. It is definitely the final countdown for us until they arrive and our BBG is born. In the meantime blogging from an iPhone is NOT ideal so I'll say goodnight and write again soon. LMW
Monday, March 31, 2014
Monday, March 10, 2014
Had a smooth and easy trip from Dar to Amsterdam. Dare I say that when you're traveling Business Class you almost don't even want the 9 1/2 hour flight to end! People have been incredibly friendly to me all the way. One of my suitcases was extremely damaged (read: ruined) and a wonderful porter helped me file a claim and get a taxi. He was awesome.
My hotel is located right at the Central Station so it's a (pretty noisy) hub of public and tourist transport. There are lots of places to walk to from here, including the popular Dam Square. Yesterday when I arrived I first took a 3-hour nap. That was pretty great. Then I bought a "hop on/hop off" bus ticket and rode around the city to get a feel for it/see some sights listening to an audio tour on headphones. I tried to visit the Anne Frank House but the line was already 2 hours long and I would have missed the last bus back if I waited. Plus there was absolutely no way my feet were up for standing in a 2-hour line before even getting inside and climbing those stairs.
So this morning I started bright and early and was among the first visitors in to the Anne Frank House when it opened at 9 am. Having studied "The Diary of Anne Frank" in high school and acted in the play, also in high school, I felt some connection to this special place. I have heard people say that they were surprised at how "big" it is...which sounds strange, because it is not really big, but it is actually bigger than you do imagine it to be. I can see that now. It was a little eerie to be in the same place where Anne and her family were hiding. It felt sacred in some way. Surprisingly to me, the thing I found to be the most emotional was seeing her actual original diary. I have no idea why that affected me so much, but it did. The museum is very nicely done and is a truly loving and honest tribute to her life and experience and the symbol she has come to represent over these many decades. I am so grateful for the chance to visit.
I then moved on to the Van Gogh Museum. There are lots of recommended museums here in Amsterdam, but this one seemed to be the "must see" that everyone told me about. It did not disappoint. It was very well organized and planned, and the audio tour I listened to was interesting. This is my favorite piece that I saw:
Almond Blossoms (1890).
Van Gogh painted this upon learning that his brother, with whom he was very close, had a baby boy. The almond blossoms are meant to symbolize new life and I just love the way he painted the close up instead of the whole tree. I think the prego in me liked the symbolism for the baby, as well as the fact that almonds make me think of Kristoffer, who loves them. It was interesting to see up close that Van Gogh actually painted the blue "background" after he painted the rest of tree and blossoms...so even though it is the background, he painted the blue parts last and up close you can see the layering.
Anyway, the museum was lovely. I spent the next couple of hours sitting in a park, reading my book, eating various snacks, people watching and walking around a bit (mostly just to find my next bus). I got back to my hotel neighborhood a little bit after 2pm and then walked around this neighborhood for another hour before my feet were too angry with me to continue. I am proud that I managed to not only take the tourist bus, but also the public tram and public bus. It is always a great accomplishment to figure out the public transport system in a new city! Luckily, people here a very friendly and helpful (as a friend in Nairobi wrote me, "it's not France!"), and I'm sure my big belly helped garner a little empathy.
Two other things I've noticed: the city looks really clean despite not that many trash cans around. How are they doing that? And, I have seen absolutely no signs of poverty here. No homeless people anywhere. Where are they? I mean, truly it is wonderful if there is not a LOT of poverty here...but I don't totally believe that there is none at all. But go Amsterdam for making a great, clean impression of an equitable city!
Tired now, I've been reading and writing and watching a little TV in my room. It feels a little too quiet without the kiddos, if you know what I mean. I think I could spend days in this city - there is SO much more to see and do. Next time I'll bring Kristoffer with me though, and for now I'm glad I had the chance to get a feel for it here. There is just something I always love about walking around a city on a beautiful day. But I am ready to get my travel on tomorrow and once in Massachusetts, I'll stay there for awhile.
Back on the home-front in Dar, I hear life is going well. Kristoffer sent me the best video ever yesterday...have you ever heard sweeter laughter?!
See you on the other side of the pond.
Friday, March 7, 2014
A big part of my nesting instincts this pregnancy has been redoing Grace's room to become "Grace & Noah's Room" and Noah's room to become "The Baby's Room". Mostly I just re-purposed stuff we already had but we did buy a couple of new-to-us pieces of furniture and we had a brand new set of bunk beds made for Grace and Noah. They have now been in their new room for one week, sleeping in the bunk beds. It's going really well - they LOVE to play in their room and they love their bunk beds. They have decided to take turns every other night sleeping up top because they both want to do it, and that goes really well when it is Noah's turn up top, but he has a huge tantrum when it is his night to sleep on the bottom. Hopefully with a little more time he'll get the hang of it and won't be so sad when it's Grace's turn.
I wanted to have the transition complete before I left so that Noah won't feel like his little sister stole his bedroom (even though in reality she probably won't be sleeping in there on her own for some months after we get back). Good thing for us he is obsessed with his big sister and any chance to be closer to her is completely welcomed. Also good thing for us Grace is pretty awesome with him and really likes having him in there with her. So now you can see for yourself what their rooms used to look like (pretty sure I never showed you that?) and what their rooms look like now!
(Note: apologies for poor quality pictures - we're getting a new camera in America since on our good camera only the portrait and extreme zoom lenses work!)
GRACE'S ROOM - BEFORE
GRACE & NOAH'S ROOM - NOW
(The bunk bed is so big that it is hard to get one good shot of it!)
NOAH's ROOM - BEFORE
THE BBG's ROOM - NOW
(I promise that we will put the other side onto the crib and raise the mattress before letting the baby sleep in there!)
(Photo from my shower...signed by all of the guests!)
So...bedrooms are done. Stuff has been donated or sold or thrown away. Pantry and closets are cleaned out and reorganized. Blog is updated. I am as packed as I think I'll ever be for this trip (because really in America, I can just BUY what I need when I need it!).
Looks like it's time for the BBG and me to be on our way. Too bad doing the rest of that stuff was MUCH easier than saying goodbye to my husband and children is going to be tomorrow night.
I was always the girl on the last day of school crying as I said goodbye to teachers and friends for the summer. When it was time for me to go to college I cried for sure...but not nearly as hard as I cried the day I had to leave Syracuse after graduating! It was physically painful! Kristoffer and I were in a long distance relationship for four years until we got married...and in that time had some pretty tearful goodbyes. The day Kristoffer and I packed up my apartment in Brooklyn after our honeymoon to drive down to DC...it was raining horribly and I was sure that Brooklyn was crying as hard as I was to say goodbye. The first time we left for Nairobi I also had an incredibly weepy goodbye with my family...and even all these years later I still hate saying goodbye to my family or Kristoffer's family in Denmark when its time for us to leave. When people come visit us over here, I always say goodbye in tears. Do you get my point? In general, I'm pretty emotional...even when not pregnant...and goodbyes have always been hard for me.
But none of that could prepare me for tomorrow. It will be harder and sadder and deeper than ever before...leaving my little ones for so long, even though I know they will be perfectly fine and are in great hands with the best father a mother could ever dream of for her children. It is the right thing to do at this time, I know, but that doesn't make it any easier.
So wish me luck and safe travels. And if you're in America, I hope to see or talk to you soon! Hoping our Dar village helps take care of my people while I'm gone. We'll be back in June as a family of five!
Thursday, March 6, 2014
This past Friday February 28th was another Fastelavn celebration at the Nordic School. Flashback to last year here...but why didn't anybody tell me that I spelled the holiday wrong back then?!
Anyway, our kids were not as into dressing up this year. Noah wouldn't wear anything other than his Superman t-shirt, which he already wears every single possible day that it is clean (and some days that it is not so clean). Grace wore her dragon t-shirt and dragon cloak...until she was too hot to keep the cloak on anymore (which was like 15 minutes after putting it on). My theory after this year's Halloween and Fastelavn is that really these dress-up holidays were not invented in Africa or celebrated by Africans for a reason. IT IS TOO HOT! Great to dress up in Massachusetts or Copenhagen when it is already FREEZING outside and you can just add more layers to your outfit! Here the most appropriate costume is a birthday suit (which I do believe a couple of little ones were essentially sporting).
Anyway, it was a fun party for the families to get together and socialize, and for the kids to bang the "cat out of the barrel" in order to get their goodie bags. I received a lot of well wishes from people I am not likely to see before my Saturday departure. I had to remain seated most of the time because it was just too bloody hot. But all in all a nice gathering and the kids were happy to celebrate - as you can see below, they basically just love banging stuff!
BEFORE BANGING THE BARRELS
GRACE'S CLASS BARREL
She loved when it was her turn!
NOAH'S CLASS BARREL
His was made of paper instead of wood and as the biggest kid in his class now he was pretty much responsible for breaking it down. I think he would have liked the bigger wooden barrel better...but he'll have his chance next year. And as you can see he was pretty happy when he got his goodie bag.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
This week we received notification that Grace has met all admissions requirements to start attending kindergarten at the International School of Tanganyika (IST) next year. She is NOT yet admitted because they won't know how many spaces are available until mid-April (after the pre-school kids at IST have to confirm that they are moving on to Kindergarten or not), but we should hear before the BBG is even born. We have every reason to hope and believe that she is at the top of the priority list since I work there part-time and since the World Bank is high on the list of diplomatic priority. So that's great - fingers crossed that she gets into this school because we have no back up for August if she doesn't. Now that she's 5, the whole Kindergarten thing seems so much more real! Big girl school for a big girl!
Two Saturdays ago (just after my baby shower!) Grace's friend Solveig and her mom took our little family on our first tour of the IST Primary campus (I work at the secondary campus which is in a different location). While the classrooms were locked up and we could only walk around peaking in windows, Grace was excited for her friend to show her the school and it was great for her to start getting a visual on life after the Nordic School next school year. Once she gets in, there will be more tours and orientations for all of us, but this was a great way to start the transition for Grace...who seemed totally non-plussed and talks about going to IST all the time. Noah, on the other hand, seems pretty bummed that he is not going with her. Sigh...we'll tackle that trauma when we get to it.
Here are just a few shots of Grace's tour! It's a beautiful campus with an incredible pool!