Thursday, March 24, 2016

March 24, 2016 - IST's Got Talent

Last weekend, Grace participated in the annual talent show at her school: IST's Got Talent, 2016!  She did a dance with 3 other girls that she is good friends with; one of their mother's picked and choreographed the song with them.  She had SO. MUCH. FUN. that it was just a total delight to observe the whole thing.  She loved the practices.  She loved the "costumes".  She loved being with her friends.  She seemed to actually love being on the stage!  She loved watching the other acts ( hem...44 of them...) and cheering on the other students at her school.  She loved the t-shirt she got for participating.  She loved dancing around on the stage with all the other kids at the end of the show (think 98 degrees in the shade) and being "in" on something special.

We loved that she was confident (didn't seem nervous at all - in front of hundreds of people!) and happy and had so much fun.  What more could a parent wish for?!


(very difficult to get these 4 girls to look nicely at the camera at the same time!)
"The Twiga Girls"
(the name of their act!)
performed the "Superman Dance"

And the show (thankfully they were #10 and not #45 - did I mention it was insanely hot?!!?):

Post-performance fun...she loved being part of this community!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

March 13, 2016 - On the Road Again

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!
After 8 1/2 years in East Africa, we are moving to America!

Kristoffer's job is being transferred to World Bank HQ in Washington, DC and we'll be looking to buy a house in the greater DC Metro area.  There will be so many wonderful perks of moving to America...and some brand new challenges for our family as well.  Kristoffer and I were just married and had only lived together in DC for less than 5 months when we moved to going back +3 will certainly be different!  We are very excited (and I am pretty emotional - no surprise there) about this transition.

We told Grace and Noah yesterday morning (Aya was present, but not particularly interested in the conversation) and their reaction was overwhelmingly positive.  They were jumping up and down and cheering!  Noah had a small, sad moment when he was afraid that all of their toys would not fit into their small personal suitcases, but we assured him that everything would be going over to America by boat and he can pack all the toys he wants. Phew!  [We didn't tell them that we'll likely pack out in about 5 weeks...]

We also talked about how things will be quite different for us without having staff in America - no Oliver or Christopher!  Noah said that they will have to start to make their own beds (yes!) and that Mama and Far will have to start to cook (uh oh!).  

At the end of the day we had an amazingly sweet moment with Grace - I wish I had recorded it! - where she told us that all day long her brain had been preparing a speech she could make on her first day of school in America so that she could introduce herself to everyone.  And she asked if she could practice the speech.  Well, let me just tell you, it was outstanding! It went a little something like this:

"Hi, my name is Grace and my birthday is February 26th.  I was born in Kenya and just moved here from Tanzania.  My Dad is from Denmark and my Mom is from America.  I went to a school called IST.  I have a little brother who is 5 and a little sister who is 2.  I like to play tag and to swim and to play soccer and I like dinosaurs and reading.  At my school we learned Kiswahili which is the language they speak in Tanzania and I also liked to do PE, music, art and to go to the library.  I hope that some of you will show me around the school and play with me when we have play time. I want to make a lot of new friends."  

Just the fact that in a mere 10 hours Grace could make that jump from "we're moving to America" to "I'm going to have to introduce myself to everyone..." completely blew my mind.  After we heard her speech, Kristoffer and I pretty much looked at each other and said, "She's going to be just fine!"  Of course we can't exactly predict the tough, emotional moments that we're all going to go through, but it is a total blessing that the concept of moving is super common in our world and that for years our kids have seen other kids go through the exact same kind of transition.   I anticipate that the next year is going to be a roller coaster, but we're ready for a change and can't wait for the ride to start!


p.s. When we leave, to blog or not to blog?  That is the question! 
(Since I'm not doing a great job of it these days, it seems like a good time to close up shop.  But let's see...we might get some really good stories out of this move!) 

Friday, March 11, 2016

March 11, 2016 - Super Swimmer

Way back in January, actually it was on Noah's birthday, there was a swim gala for Grade 1 students at Grace's school.  Last year we watched them swim just in their class, but this year there were races between the four 1st grade classes, and students got to demonstrate different strokes and water skills (treading water, diving for things, etc.).  Grace loves swimming - it is probably her favorite thing to do - and she has made a lot of progress over the last 2 years.  It was really fun to watch her in the water and with her friends and her class before and after her events.  I love that her school provides regular opportunities for parents to see the skills our children are's really a gift.  Some pictures and a video of our little fish below.

I love this picture of Grace, because it shows us her baby face!

Grace's Class!


Thursday, March 10, 2016

March 10, 2016 - Catching Up with Noah

Noah has had some interesting things going on and some accomplishments lately.  Last week was World Book Day, and so Noah paraded as a dragon from one of our favorite books, "Dragons Love Tacos."  To prep for this role, we had Taco Tuesday for dinner the night before :)

With this past Sunday being Mother's Day in the UK, Noah's British school had a very big Mother's Day celebration last Friday.  All the moms (or mummies, as they call us here) were invited to a special assemby.  Noah even told me to "wear something special".  He felt a little bit bad that Far was not allowed to come, but was very strict about it. Each class performed something - songs or poems, and in Noah's class it was a skit about the things you should do to celebrate your mother for Mother's Day.  And each child publicly gave his/her mother a hug and picture of him/her in a magnet frame and a hand-made card.  It was incredibly sweet!  I was happy for Noah, who memorized and loudly spoke his two lines...his first "part" in a performance.  Because Noah graduated from speech therapy (the day after this show), which he has been going to for a year to help correct an articulation problem with his /s/ sound, I was especially proud to hear him say those /s/ sounds on the stage in front of everyone! 

Looking very serious up on stage before the show began.
Noah's first line:
Noah's second line: 
(the whole skit was about 8 minutes, so I've really cut it down)
His class song:

Noah also made this portrait of me (although he said he was sorry he forgot my glasses)...
I think the resemblance is striking!
The next day Noah had has his last speech therapy session...and received this small trophy that his lovely therapist gave him.  He was SO proud and happy (even if he didn't really know he had been in speech therapy the whole time...).  
Another recent accomplishment for Noah is that a few weeks ago he started swimming on his own without his swim belt.  He is finally becoming more comfortable and confident in the water...and below you can see him floating totally on his own (he did that for many minutes!).  We haven't had success with a swim teacher for him here - he only wants Far to teach him, so we are sort of prioritizing that and now these two have a lot of momentum (when Noah isn't too excited to actually do it).

So far, being 5 has been pretty awesome for Noah!  What a guy!  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

March 9, 2016 - Danes in Dar and Our Saadani Safari

Well, as usual, I'm quite behind on our blogging.  But we did recently (in February!) have a wonderful 3-week visit with Kirsten/Farmor/Mor and Martin, our 15-year-old nephew, who came from Denmark.  It was Kirsten's 7th visit to us in East Africa and Martin's first.  It would be an understatement to say that the kids were happy.  Grace and Noah LOVE being around family, so they were just thrilled. We were brought so many kind, thoughtful, generous presents and "tastes" of felt like Christmas!  Perhaps the thing we didn't expect quite so much was that Aya fell completely in love with Martin!  Even now, a few weeks after they have gone, she still asks almost every day, "Where's Martin? Where's Farmor?"  When you tell her, "they had to go back to Denmark," she says, "Ohhhhh, Denmark!"  

We were not so great at taking pictures, admittedly, but had a lot of great moments with our guests.  Kristoffer and I took Kirsten and Martin to Indian Bingo and to an Ethiopian restaurant for some new kinds of food.  We visited both IST swimming pools and the Dar Yacht Club a few times for pizza and breakfast, swimming and kayaking.   Unfortunately, as the tide was coming in a big wave  landed Kristoffer, Grace and Martin in a bed of sea urchins when the kayak flipped over.  Grace got a bit scared and had a few small thorns in her foot from the sea urchins, but luckily we got them out just fine.  Kristoffer managed to get one bad cut (which he later learned should probably have had a stitch!) and a couple of thorns, also which came out without too much trouble.  But poor Martin, just having arrived in Tanzania, managed to get MANY big thorns in the bottom of his foot, and had to have them sort of dug out by a doctor as they were becoming infected (note that this is VERY painful!).  And then he had to take a week of antibiotics!   We felt horrible! 
Idenify that foot!

Their visit to Dar happened to coincide with "Language Week" at Grace's school...which was a week full of activities to celebrate and embrace the language diversity at IST.  In Grace's class of 22 students alone, there are 15 different languages spoken!

Farmor was a greatly appreciated grandparent volunteer on two different days that week, doing some Danish language activities with the native Danish speakers (pictured below) as well as all first grade students (mostly not Danish speakers).  Many teachers noted that she was wonderful and clearly a teacher herself, and the kids loved their "lesson" with Grace's Farmor (who also brought them Danish candy!).  Grace was super proud of her Farmor...what great timing!

Should you be interested, here is a slide show highlighting IST's language week:

Kirsten and Martin did the Afriroots city bike tour through different parts of Dar es Salaam, to give them a feeling and understanding of everyday life for regular Tanzanians (not the expat bubble we live in!).   They did a bit of shopping around Dar and sampling of our nicer lunch/coffee spots, and they did a day trip to one of the small islands just off the coast of Dar.  Given Martin's teenager-ness, he also did his fair share of "sleeping in" as well, and playing with the kids and driving around picking people up from school (story of my life).  

We attempted to take them on a safari and were partially successful.  Saadani is a small national park straight north of Dar es Salaam that is uniquely located right on the coast.  So we planned to drive up (only 4 hours and possible in a non-4x4 vehicle) and spend 3 nights enjoying both the beach and the wildlife.  We had many great moments together on that trip - but there were also quite a few mishaps, in typical "Welsiens-on-holiday" style.  Our mishaps included:

  • The bridge you normally drive to cross a river to get to this park was flooded/damaged and impassable.  So we had to drive around an extra 2 hours.  2 extra hours in the car with kids (toddler included) is always fun!
  • Kirsten got stung by a jellyfish of some kind!
  • Our beautiful, lovely rooms on the ocean had no A/C, which we knew, but also NO FANS, which we didn't know.  The first night was so unbelievably hot with no breeze...nobody could sleep well...and Aya, wearing nothing but a diaper, was a slippery eel when you picked her up. It was a horrible night!
  • The park itself is very small and doesn't have so much game to see.  We knew that it was not as populated as the bigger parks, but we did not know how few the animals were.  Shame on us, we had not done our homework properly.
  • On our second game drive - only Martin, Grace and me with our guide! - our 4x4 vehicle broke down just before sunset.  They were not able to fix it or get us another vehicle for our final day (2 more game drives), so we went home one day early.  Bummer!
  • Noah began to be sick with tonsilitis and Grace was fighting a virus, so on the last night and morning, both of them had fevers and Noah generally felt bad.  Of course! He always get sick when we go anywhere!
So that all makes it sound worse than it was, because we did have some great moments as well - captured below.  I will say that both the food and the customer service where we stayed were excellent.  And in our experience, it is pretty rare for the food to be excellent at a lodge in Tanzania!  Martin, Grace and I got to see a lot of elephants...we just wish he had been able to see more "big" game!

Our 4x4
A school group also touring the park...
Welcome drinks at our lodge...
A private, beautiful beach!

We had two of these "rooms"...lots of stairs, but otherwise super cool!
The view from our room...

Waiting for dinner just before sunset.
And some game.  Baboons...more skittish than we're used to.
Water buck.  A beautiful antelope for sure.


Warthogs.  AKA Pumbas.
Reed buck, I believe.
Giraffe! Always a fave ;)


(My memory is fading but I think the baby elephant was less than 2 months old and was absolutely adorable!)

There are 6 wildebeest in Saadani, and we saw all of them!  A rarity!

Martin...super cool and brave to get out of the truck when it broke down.
Grace and I enjoying our quiet moment in the park.  She was super happy that we had not found any lions before the 4x4 broke down.  Luckily, we were rescued before it got dark so she didn't get too scared.
An early morning walk on the beach...

We absolutely loved having Farmor and Martin with us...we know it wasn't a "perfect" trip, but we hope they enjoyed it.  At least they excaped a few weeks of cold Danish winter, and Martin did go home with both of his feet, so that was a relief!