When I met Kristoffer in 2003, it was clear to me even then that Africa was his dream. For some reason, he had a thing about Kenya. He made some good decisions and took some risks and was very persistent, until he got his UN WFP job in Nairobi in December of 2007. He rode that JPO train (which means funded by his government but working for an international organization) longer and farther than anyone else. Most people are a JPO for 2 years, maybe 3 if they're lucky. He was a JPO for 4 years. That was largely in part to the WFP global hiring freeze after the recession: he could not be hired to stay at WFP, anywhere in the world actually, once his Danish funding expired. So when it was clear that he really couldn't be a JPO any longer, and actually was quite ready for a professional promotion, he started looking elsewhere and found the World Bank job in Dar (also donor funded!). Going back to his roots! After all, his first job out of graduate school was as an unpaid intern at the World Bank in DC (his part time job was riding the Vamoose Bus to NYC on weekends to visit his then-girlfriend). When it became clear that his initial position in Dar was not exactly a great fit for him, he sought a lot of advice from other World Bank staff (past and present) and began to position himself to do work he absolutely loved in a way that would keep him around Dar for awhile. His planning worked out very well.
I think that was all a very roundabout way of saying that one thing I admire very much about Kristoffer is the way he can assess a situation, identify what needs to change, and then make decisions for that change to happen. He does a great job in the present, while also making a path to the future.
So he got his Africa wish - 8 1/2 years of it, in fact, but he was increasingly wanting to leave. So our departure from Dar was just the next thing he was ready for. He is really good at goodbyes - I might even suggest that he is TOO good at goodbyes. We were in a long distance relationship for 4 years until we the day we got married, and I can't tell you how many times I'd be at an airport sobbing to say goodbye to him, and he would just be hugging me, smiling, and waving me off, knowing we wouldn't see each other for months. So while I was preparing all the small people for our move, in our final weeks in Dar he was at the World Bank, working really hard.
When our transfer to the US was approved, it didn't change the scope of his work. His job is still there. So he works here in DC, but has traveled back to Kenya/Tanzania four times in the last year. One trip was three weeks long - that was almost torture for all of us - and since then his trips have been two weeks long each. When we said goodbye to Dar, he was literally just saying, 'see you soon', because he knew he would. When he goes back it is not a vacation - he works and works and works - but he is still there. Sometimes he gets to see a few friends or bring us some presents from our favorite Dar shops. His life is mostly here, but a little bit there. So our experiences of our transition have been very different.
The World Bank in Dar often has an "end of the [fiscal] year" party in June for staff and their families to get together and have some fun. It serves as a goodbye party for those staff who are departing, and is usually held at a big beach hotel. Kristoffer was one of four colleagues leaving last June, and the celebration was lovely.
For me the highlight of this day was when his colleagues got to say a few words about him. It was a proud moment to hear his Tanzanian colleagues express appreciation for his positive outlook and friendliness, his genuine effort to understand and respect both their language and their culture, and his sincerity in helping the people of Tanzania in his work. They have a name for him in their office (I say present tense, because he's there often enough that they probably still use it!) that basically means "the white black guy" because he fit in so well with his Tanzanian colleagues. People were crying to say goodbye to him and I was truly touched by how many people thanked me for him!
On the last day of school, we went to the DYC for what was probably our last sundowner G&T.
And then it was time to leave.
Kristoffer has taken to our American life really well (politics aside, that is). He loves our house and he loves to be doing projects on or for or around it. He likes mowing our (small) lawn. He likes his 7 minute bike ride to the metro to get to work and doesn't have a terrible commute. He is thrilled any time we visit Montgomery County's amazing parks and playgrounds for playing or hiking. Biking with the kids to a playground, playing soccer in the yard, and playing basketball in the driveway are activities he loves to do here. Like me, he has been impressed with the friendliness of our neighbors and the kindness of the very interesting people who live around us. The work trips are hard - yes. He feels extremely disconnected from home life during those weeks, with good reason. But they are temporary, and they allow us to be living here even though his work is there. Each trip gets a little bit easier in terms of how well everyone handles the separation.
To say he is busy at work these days is an understatement. He is now at a level with a lot of responsibility, but is still close enough to the work on the ground to appreciate the impact he can have on the people of Tanzania. He is an expert on the use of solar energy for rural water supply, and is preparing to launch a ground-breaking solar program in Tanzania. He is also preparing a $250 million program on rural water supply in Tanzania. His work is, literally, never done!
Click here for a video describing a bit about what Kristoffer does.
And on the home front, here are some of the highlights of his first year here in Maryland...
He had the spontaneous idea to go to a Springsteen concert last summer!
His birthday was in September, but he was in Dar,
so we celebrated when he came home in October:
(Grace's birthday party)
Being greeted after a long trip away:
For Christmas, my parents gave him a Tesla :)
There was not much snow there, but he helped them make the most of it!
Last weekend, on Father's Day, we did a small hike (Aya walked on her own!).
I hope he knows how much these three love their Far.
Last night, we went to the U2 concert at FedEx Field. It was an amazing show - despite our party bus (with friends and their friends) breaking down on the side of the Beltway on our way there. We waited and transferred to another bus and still got there in plenty of time. The Lumineers were an excellent opening act, but U2 was just amazing. As when we saw them 2 years ago, they delivered an inspiring show and we LOVED hearing The Joshua Tree album live. (It was also sweet to be kid-free on a Tuesday from 4-12! Next week is the 14th anniversary of when we met!)
With our tenth wedding anniversary just a couple of weeks away, it is certainly interesting and nostalgic to look back and reflect on this very big decade we've had. Like every other couple, we've had ups and downs, celebrations and challenges, laughter and tears. And as much of a romantic as I am...and, oh yes, you know I am...being married to someone is more than just romance. It is more than just friendship. It is more than just love. It is a choice, to get through life together. I remain grateful that Kristoffer and I are choosing each other and choosing this life together. Wherever we are in the world, be it Kenya, Tanzania, Denmark, America, or wherever else life may take us, I know we are together. Pamoja.