Friday, September 26, 2008

chupis, a table, & goggles: a big day for Annikah

Chupi is a great Kiswahili word. I am recommending that you adopt it and use it with fevor! It means underwear and since longtime readers of this blog know my aversion to the p-word for underwear in English I am so excited to have a fun new word and want to share the wealth!!
On Wednesday we picked two fabulous parcels from Grammy Rohrback and they were full of fun stuff for Annikah and us. Included inside were two packages of brand spanking new chupis. And not just any chupis but girly Elmo chupis. Annikah screamed with joy and ran around in circles after seeing them. She even made it wearing them without an accident for about 2 hours last night. We are hoping they will inspire some peeing in the potty around these parts and I am pretty tired of lefting her 28 pound butt up to change her.
It was a big day for Miss Annikah as we also picked up her handmade table that we had made with generous birthday funds from Grandparents and Uncle Rob and Aunt Annie (asante sana-thank you!) It is really adorable and it has already gotten a ton of use. A hand made wood table and 3 chairs made exactly to our specifications in a week for about 35 dollars!! A perfect venue for creating masterpeices of art or having a rafiki around for juice.

So after the excietment of the table Anni could hardly believe that when she woke up from her nap we had more fun stuff to open (we did save a few things for surprises later but I could not resist opening most things). Grammy also sent some new swimsuits and a pair of Finding Nemo goggles that Anni refused to take off ("like Papas"). Since I learned a long time ago to pick my battles carefully she was allowed to eat her entire dinner wearing them: no harm there right? Just a weird kid.
I do not know who was more excited Annikah or Jason when he saw his W Cub's shirt (the Cubs win flag). Jason will proudly wear it to support the Cubbies, you can take the boy out of Chicago but you can never take the Chicago out of the boy!!

A video of Anni enjoying her two favorite items from the package: Thanks Grammy!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

more misadventures....

Well, we all knew there would be more but who knew so soon? The stupid Mzungus strike again except this time I am pleased to announce it was not me. My only role was watching the whole ordeal unfold from a front seat window in our house.
Jason borrowed a friend's van to go pick up a table and chairs set that we had made for our house. He and our Mlinzi James unloaded the chairs and brought them in with no problem. The van needed to be moved a bit in order to fit the table out the door. As I watched from the window I seriously thought someone was carjacking it as the van reversed so incredibly fast and smashed right into a concrete railing around a planter in our driveway. When I ran out to see what was happening it was Jason behind the wheel and James who was sitting in the back of the van was wondering what the heck Jason was thinking (as was I). Jason said he thought his foot was on the brake while it was clearly on the gas by the force of the van hitting the cement. There was not enough time for him to react in order to stop the car. It was one of those moments when you wish you could go back 30 seconds in time for a redo. I felt terrible for Jason who has been feeling yucky this week and was running around trying to do so much that day. The accident was a result of a bit of carelessness mixed in with very small and tightly placed car pedals combined with the strangeness of driving a German car in an otherwise British driving land. In the short battle van vs. cement planter the van clearly won which is great because ordering parts for a German van will not be cheap at all. Because the back door was open when he reversed the only damage was a shattered back light. The cement was not so lucky. We have no idea how to fix that.

We dreaded making the phone call to the friend from whom we borrowed the van, and of course offered to pay for the damage, but he was very understanding and had coincidentally already had the exact same part on order in Germany for a friend, which he can bring back down in December after a trip home. So.... the adventures of the stupid Mzungu continue!! Stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

a girl & a beach: a series

I love these pictures of Anni Joy taken by fab friend Julie a few weeks back when we visited a beach an hour away.

Monday, September 22, 2008

weekend seaside escape

We had an absolute blast this weekend! We drove out to the East side of the island with some friends from our team to visit a couple from South Africa that we recently met. They have it rough as they live in a house right on the beach, when it is high tide the water comes right up to their steps!! But, of course there are trade offs: they lose power for a good part of the day every few days, have a hike into town for supplies, and have to pay for water. It was a multicultural gathering as there were Americans (us), an English couple, Germans, and South Africans. It is an amazing blessing to meet so many diverse people here. The girls and Annikah spent the day relaxing and chatting it up while the boys walked out on the coral to fish with spear guns. They had to walk about 3km to reach water deep enough (since it was low tide). The came back about 4 hours later with the fruits of their labor and quickly gutted and cooked them up (it was a testosterone fest! harpooning fish, then gutting, then eating them). Jason and Anni loved the fresh fish in lemon and ginger. They also bought an octopus off some local fisherman and even after the thing was dead it was still changing colors! We spent the whole day out there and the sun, sea air, great food, and time with new friends did us good!

the man folk before they head out on their treacherous journey!

Annikah hangs in her tent to do a little light reading & catch some shade
Jason shows off his catch



Annikah anapenda samaki (anni loves fish!)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

coloring oneself

Annikah and I were in the dining room and she was happily coloring with her markers on constrcution paper while I was studying my language flashcards. I left the room for just about 30 seconds to get some water from the kitchen and I returned to this:

She was very proud of her creation and I let her keep at it knowing a bath was in her near future. She was simply amazed at how cool it is to color oneself. Why had she not thought of this before? After she had colored herself to her contentment I grabbed the camera and started taking pictures. She then said over and over again "show Grandma that." So I had to post a video for both Grammys' as apparently Anni wants to show you her creative self expression.
reaching up to the heavens...oh my work is glorious

Friday, September 19, 2008


I have realized that Annikah is becoming a big girl and I am not sure when this happened or why no one informed me. Jason and I often comment to one another on this phenomena; “look at her she is such a little human person”. We use this phrase when she does something that shocks us like the other day when she grabbed her little bag that she calls “Anni’s beach purse” and started out the front door toward the car to announce that she was off to the beach or when she tries her hand at negotiating when I ask her to pick up her blocks, saying “only two blocks Mama?” or “more heavy book story please” at bedtime.

She knows stuff. Lots of stuff about how the world operates. And she is growing up so fast. And I am not sure when all this happened.

I know that in my own selfishness I make so many mistakes in raising this little girl but truth be told she is resilient and strong along with being emotional and stubborn (wonder where she gets that?). She is carving out for herself who she is and what she is all about. I am privileged to have a front row seat to see this little person develop. In a real way I think the act of participating in the creation of a family is something that can put us in touch with the image of God. We are created in our Father’s image and there is nothing more tangible to understanding this truth than a little human made; for better or worse, in our image. I understand this spiritual concept more now than at any other time. My desire is that one day if and when Annikah reads some of what I have written here she; in addition to being mortified that I openly discussed her pooping habits, will understand more that this journey of parenting has shaped who I am. I hope that she realizes the blessing she is to me and how she has an amazing Father in heaven who has been with her since the beginning.

A few days ago I was folding the clothes we had just taken off the line and I started to head toward Annikah’s room to help her put them away when she said “no help mama, Anni do” and not in the snotty toddler way she says many things these days, ie. “no mama (I do not want to put clothes on or put my seat belt on or insert any other task she simply finds repulsive and thus makes her feelings clearly known) but in a genuine “mama, I don’t need your help, I am perfectly capable of putting my own clothes away.” I froze in the hallway for a moment and watched her traipse down the hall with her bouncy walk, folded clothes pushed against her chest, open her closet door, and pile her clothes on the shelf. It was then that my chest tightened and my eyes welled with tears. This is what I want, what I have been hoping for since she came into my life, a more independent Annikah, capable and self assured, willing to ask for help but also strong and independent. But now that she is actually becoming that little girl I was left feeling bewildered and mystified. After breakfast most days she runs out the front door to play with her rafiki and spends sometimes an hour running around and playing without needing me for anything, except the occasional kiss for a boo-boo. I sometimes watch out the window at them playing babies, searching for bugs and bottle caps, or just laughing at a kiddo inside joke.

I am having this profound and uncommon epiphany: she is no longer my baby, she is a real little girl.

I realize, of course, putting away clothes is not akin to the first day of kindergarten, the day she learns to drive, or going away to college but for me in this time and space it is big. This is too much change all at once, already my body aches sometimes missing home, family, friends, the city, all things familiar and comfortable, not my baby too. She cannot grow up and not need me. She was so overly needy for the last 2 months because the transition really kicked all 3 of us in the butt. I would have crawled on my mama's lap too if she was here. We experienced blessings too numerous to list during that time and although I know it was not nearly as difficult as it could have been, it was still arduous, rougher than the pictures and stories I have shared here tell; hard on our family, on our marriage, on my sense of self. We are learning new roles and new normalcy. Our reality and the routine of life is in many ways starting over. Things we were once proficient at we are now reverted back to the stages of infancy. It is difficult to explain, because I am still processing everything, still searching for a new ordinary amidst so much change. A few weeks back Jason wrote on our whiteboard (the only thing in one of our rooms beside a few empty packing crates) a list of items we need. At the top of his scribbled list was “sanity” followed by a list of items we were trying to remember to get; a voltage regulator, basic tool set, a desk, etc. I laughed when I saw it but in a real way that is what we are searching for right now. I read somewhere that “patience can be formed only in the crucible of frustration” and I have a new understanding of the author’s meaning. Patience with others, with things different from our perceived normal, with Annikah, with Jason, and most of all with myself is what God is teaching me. I have a new appreciation for how patient God is with me in all my mess as I struggle to have patience with others and with my own faults. As I feel so stretched I simultaneously have this amazing sense of peace, that we are here and this is exactly where we are supposed to be. Change is birth of newness, it is painful but can be holy and refining if we experience it and let it teach and guide us, let it in to our very selves. I am desperately grasping at doing just that.
I think this change with Annikah must be one of the hardest things of parenthood, knowing that as she grows she will not need me, at least not in the same ways. My role as her Mama is to teach and guide and discipline and love myself out of a job, or at least an every second job. I hope and pray I will always have a place in her life but as I now realize in a real way it will change and this is by His design. Some days I want to swirl her little ringlets of dirty blond hair in my fingertips for hours or feel her chubby arms around my neck forever and some days when she will not share with her friend or is having the twelfth meltdown in a row I long for the days before I had a child when having alone time was simpler and more readily available. Neither longing is reality, my existence is somewhere in between. I suppose this is the great irony of parenting, you are always longing in part for something different but when a stage or moment passes you experience a sense of mourning. I am so thankful God trusts us enough to let us experience all of this, that He wants us to feel deeply and love and weep through change. So, as I watch my little girl become who she is becoming I am reminded that parenting is a long walk. I am grateful we get to travel the road as a family.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The amazing & incredible adventures of the stupid Mzungu!

I decided I need to start chronicling the amazingly stupid things I do. Now, no doubt I do many such things and anyone who has read more then five entries on this blog know that I usually report such amazing feats of stupidity with tout de suite but these days these idiotic happenings are made even funnier because of their cross cultural flair.

Yesterday I had one such adventure.

A friend stopped by and Jason decided he wanted to run out with said friend to meet some people on the island but he needed to get something out of the car and then hand the car keys off to me so I quickly slipped on my flip flops and walked out the front door to prevent Jason from having to make a trip back inside (aren't I such a nice wife? I need points here people). I did this without checking to see if the door was locked (now here is where I would like insert partial justification for my stupidity by blaming it on Jason; something I do often and usually makes me feel better). I did not think to check if the door was set to lock upon closing it as I never leave it on this setting during the day because we are constantly going in and out so why bother? But Jason in his wisdom decided that since Annikah was napping and he was going out it should be locked (ok, maybe here is where I give my hubby credit for always thinking of our safety. NOTE: this does not mean he is not still to blame for what obviously occurred next). I walk out onto the porch and shut the door behind me to prevent the dudu (bug) army that is constantly and eagerly assembling outside awaiting entry from storming the house. It is then that I hear the click of the lock locking us out. I quickly tell Jason "J, I need the keys the door is locked" (notice how I promptly made it anyone's problem but mine). He quickly responded with a short "they are inside." Si nzuri (not good).
So here is the situation: we are all locked outside with Annikah sleeping inside. I have done this before in the states but usually I just climbed through a window which is a no-go here since the windows have bars. Next thought: wake up Anni by yelling into her window and have her open the door, another no-go as she is too short to reach the latch and even if she could reach her fine motor skills would probably be lacking in being able to pull the heavy latch open (not to mention the obvious that she would awaken and probably realize that we were stuck outside and either A. eat every snack in the house and do something naughty but oh so irresistible like unroll any TP in the joint or B. be scared that she has such idiots for parents and cry making an already stressful situation even more so. So what next? Our friend had grown up in Tanzania and he was not at all phased by the situation and quickly retrieved some tools from his car. We started hatching various scenarios, what window can we break? what about the back door? what about the roof? Seriously, maybe I have been watching too many 24 episodes but it was hilarious as we tried to figure of what we were going to do to achieve our objective. No one thought it was funnier than our Mlinzi's wife who was outside watching the whole torrid affair play out. She was laughing so hard at the Mzungus locked outside of their house with no clue as to how to get in. In fact, her and I were immediately seeing the humor in the situation while Jason was clearly a bit more concerned. From what I could understand she was telling me that Annikah would have to cook her own food but that Jason and I were welcome to sleep on the floor in her kitchen tonight. Very considerate offer but no thanks, I think we will try to get in.
After trying to break down the front door thinking we would just have to replace the brand new lock we had just put in we decided on the more sneaky, less obvious, and risky Jack Bauer approach of ripping through one of the mosquito screens on a window and then finding something long enough to put through the window to unlatch the door with the mad skills of a secret agent (ok, if it was really Jack Bauer-like we would have shot everyone else in the head first). We cut down a skinny tree-like bush thing and tried our plan. No-go: the branch was too thin toward the end and broke off inside the house. Our Mlinzi's wife; now cracking up so much that she has to bend over because she is laughing so hard, helped our pathetic selves by finding some old wires and then our friend suggested elongating our crude prodding stick with our outside broom (it has a sturdy wooden handle). We tied them together and after one attempt it was still a bit short but after one more attempt Jason manage to unclick our way to an open door. I quickly started cheering and dancing (giving more fodder for her to laugh at me but at this point why not go for broke, right?) and Jason immediately said "we need to hide a key outside." The whole ordeal probably only took about 20 minutes and Miss Annikah missed out on the entire adventure as she was blissfully asleep in her room. At least I add humor to the lives of many through my amazing & incredible adventures of the stupid Mzungu! (more to come I am sure)

*the following pictures are recreations (obviously since the whole problem was that we were NOT able to get in the house) taken after the event to document our stealth and savvy.
NOTE: Jason is only smiling because we did eventually get in.

Jason attempts to show off his awesome balance & coordination

the tree that sacrificed it's life for our safe return to our nyumbani (house)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

beans & belly laughs

Here is more video proof that Annikah is indeed enamoured with her Papa. He was helping me sort beans the other night (you have to pick out all the rocks, dead bugs, and twigs before soaking and cooking them- I know fun stuff!!). We discovered that Anni thought it was hilarious every time Jason dropped a bean, which he did quite frequently, and we both cracked up at her laughing. Jason lost his voice due to a nasty cold so no he is not trying to sound sexy :) & maragwe means beans in Kiswahili. Hope you have some belly laughs today!

Wapi Papa?

Wapi Papa? means where is papa and it is a familiar phrase around here these days. One of Annikah's favorite things about moving to Africa in my estimation is having both of her parents around. In the states some days she saw Jason for maybe 1 hour after he arrived home from work but here she gets to see him a ton. She is definitely a Papa's girl and she has loved spending more time with him and we love being together as a family. It has taken some adjustment as our roles here are so different and our spheres that were very separate at home have been blurred. But overall it has been a blessing and I think one of the reasons Annikah is adjusting so well. Her favorite activities with Papa as of late are reading the "heavy book," so named by Annikah because it is a rather large and hard to carry collection of children's stories that she loves to read mostly because they are arduously long and enable her in her craftiness to draw out bedtime stories as much as humanly possible until we have to cut her off, going to the beach for a swim and a seashell hunt, going for walks in our neighborhood to greet our neighbors and her many rafikis, and running errands around town. I realize that Anni is so blessed to have two parents, even if they are us with our flaws and faults. I am grateful we are in this together; for better or worse. She gets to intimately know both of us and we get to work together on the hardest gig on earth; parenting.

Monday, September 15, 2008

millions in cool cash

We have a ride! Jason has been looking at used car after used car for a few weeks now. We initially thought we may be able to get by without a car but it is basically impossible to run any errands or meet with people without one given how rediculously crowded and slow the dala-dalas (public buses) are here. We still walk as much as possible and Jason will ride his bike for errands closer to our house but having a car will really help us in getting around the island since everything is rather spread out. Once he found a couple used cars we thought would survive the harsh road conditions necessary to get around here and ones that seemed as though they were not about to spontaneously combust he started the negotiation process. A friend here who is a bit of a gearhead also helped look at the engines because lets be honest Jason is no auto mechanic. Cars here are very expensive as they are imported on shipping containers from Dubai which more then doubles their cost. The good news is that cars hold their value here or potentially appreciate with a few years of use. So after the initial sticker shock we knew it was a worthy investment.

The car is a 1996 Escudo. It sat in our driveway for a week while Jason made payments to the owner. The owner kept the keys until we paid the full amount but since we can only withdrawal 1 million Tsh a day from ATM's we had to go everyday and wait until we had the full amount. Who ever thought we would pay for a car in cash that cost over a million! We pray that the car will treat us well and that we can also explore with a bit more freedom now. I secretly think Jason really felt partial to this car because he feels James Bond-ish with the red flames across the side, like maybe the next time we get partially submerged in water (a story for another time) a scuba snorkel will immediately ascend from hood and the wheels would give way to secret, hidden paddles (can't you smell the testosterone?). Ok, maybe not. There are also Liverpool football team seat covers and stickers inside and outside which is particularly hilarious as we know absolutely nothing about football except that stateside we call it soccer.

I am excited as well as terrified to learn how to drive here. Jason has been driving a friend's car for a few weeeks but I have yet to beef up my courage to drive as the traffic rules (or lack there of), opposite side of the car steering, and opposite side of the road driving have pretty much kept me happily sitting in the back seat with Anni. I am itching for some freedom and wanting to learn how to get around here and since my usual directless self still gets lost in Chicago after living there 7 years I figure I better start now.

Here is Jason right before paying off the car with loads of cash, 7.7 million Tsh to be exact. Really Jason rarely has loads of cash in hand and is not a money hungry gangsta despite what this previous pic suggests. Maybe that is why we feel compelled to document these events, we simply cannot believe that we have in hand this much cash and are not fleeing the country for illicit behavior (at least not yet :). So our big news for the week is we have a gari (car) and the Wzungus are about to hit the roads! Watch out!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

language acquisition & other things you can do while running amok

Yesterday I was sitting outside trying to study my language using Rosetta Stone (a really great software program to helps you learn language) and I was getting frustrated because I could not figure out why to make some words plural you add an M but to others you add W (this program is all immersion, no explanation and at that moment I wanted someone to tell me why). I decided to take a break and go back to it later as my brain was on overload. I went inside to check on some bread that was baking and as I am in the kitchen with Martha we hear knocks at the back door and Annikah saying "Hodi?" Her rafiki then laughed hysterically and they both start yelling "Hodi?" Hodi is what you say when you arrive at some one's home and are greeting them as well as asking to be welcomed in. Martha was very amused and we both said "Karibu" meaning "you are welcome." They wanted us to respond to their "Hodis" by opening the door and although way too many bugs were let in in the process (about 10 minutes of Hodi, Karibu) it was too cute to ignore.

It is pretty amazing to me that Annikah has only been here a few months but already, without being taught or studying anything, knows when to use certain phrases. Something that at times is so difficult and arduous for me is so simple and natural to her. She just listens, observes, and mimics. When she sees mosquitoes or flies she says "go away dudus" (dudus being the word for bugs). She also now dances whenever we say "ancheza ngoma" meaning to dance and I could not resist getting some video of Annikah and her rafiki Ungooray in action. This is pretty much what they do everyday, run amok around the house. Annikah is reminding me for the need to do more language learning just while hanging with my new rafikis.
Annikah & Ungooray pushing Zawadee (means gift in Kiswahili) in Anni's doll stroller,
not the safest thing in the world but I had to snap one quick pic before rescuing Zawadee

Warning: the following video is so darn cute it may cause uncontrollable smiling:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

we got 'em....

You know how fun it is to get mail? Ok, well not bills and junk mail but real mail....the stuff with handwriting you recognize? envelopes with bright colored hues from dear friends? the kind that you start to open before you hit your front door? and how much better is it when it is a package (or parcel as our Brit teammates call it :)? It is like a present!!! I hope in our age of Internet communication we never lose the simple yet amazing value of actually mailing something. Snail mail here is definitely such, more like snail-after-he-got-run-over-by-a-dala-dala-yet-keeps-limpin'-on. No complaints from me because we got mail; nothing stolen, broken or damaged (except a few melted candies)!! Despite the lack of speed in getting mail we got 3 packages since arriving here (the last one arriving today (well, Friday, we think but we picked it up today) and I had to post this occasion for a couple reasons A.) to thank the amazing peeps that went out of their way to gather, buy, package, & ship them & B.) as a shameless & unabashed plug for others to send us mail as we LOVE it as it reminds us that we have amazing family & friends! Jason did have to spend some time negotiating how much we had to pay to pick them up but he is pretty good at bargaining (must be our cheapness) so it was virtually painless to get them and they were full of amazing & random goodies....dresses for Annikah, a shower curtain, animal crackers, ziplock bags, splenda and crystal lite (I am on diet-coke withdrawal), candy, canned chicken, new sheets for our bed, almond & maple extract (cannot get here and this morning we had homemade maple syrup- yum!!), a data cable Jason needed, some yummy seasoning packets, sun dried tomatoes, tortilla soup mix, cards, notes, an O magazine :), pudding, fruit snacks, Swedish Fish, and many other special gifts. It was so exciting to rip into them and I about wet myself when I saw chocolate chips and M&M's (it is really weird how much you miss things you never really thought you loved but now cannot get)! And Beck, those wasabi pee's rock my world! Thanks Anstees, Grandma Ronnie, & Grandma Rhoda- you made the thousands of miles feel a lot less vast. We shared some of our treats with our guard and his family and our house helper and they laughed at how excited we were to have them, the rest will be rationed and savoured!! Asante sana!

Monday, September 8, 2008

some time to listen, learn, & just be

I am sure many of you who generously give toward us being here are starting to say...."the beach again?" First, let me explain that this month it is Ramadan so the vast majority of people here are fasting. It is taken so seriously here that it is actually illegal to eat or drink at all in public until sundown each day and there is a huge difference in the amount of activity this month (many schools are closed, people only work half days, etc). The no eating rule can be pretty tough given the heat and humidity so we have been careful; unsure as if we would really be arrested but also not interested in finding out. Of course, we also want to be sensitive to the culture so we have been eating and drinking indoors (this does not apply to small children so Annikah can drink water, etc when we are out). Since we arrived it feels like we have been moving nonstop, getting a house set up, learning language, practicing language, meeting people, and relearning basic tasks in this new culture. We have also had lots of opportunities to meet our neighbors and other locals as well as hanging out with our team members. We are slowly learning the social "rules" of this culture. For example, people stop by randomly and unannounced ALL THE TIME! This is a great as we want to get to know people and it really is a blessing that they feel welcome and comfortable in our home. It also forces us to practice language which is always helpful. I must be honest; though, my Western self sometimes cringes a bit when I hear someone yell "Hoody?" (meaning "Hello, I'm here, may I come in?" loose translation) from our gate as I was just sitting down to read or preparing to do laundry but I am learning that people are more important than tasks. One of the woman from our neighborhood came by the other day with her baby and I invited her in. After all the greetings and small talk I know we sat in silence for about 10 minutes (which although makes my skin crawl did not seem to make her uncomfortable at all). I then began to show her my kitchen and the things I like to cook. We both laughed at my Kiswahili (or lack there of) and then I remembered that I think I am supposed to offer her food (again, this is SOO different, you would never show up to some one's place in the states unannounced and expect food to be served to you but here that is totally normal, in fact many times we have been invited in to people's homes just as we walked past on the road and been served food). Luckily I had some leftovers that I had made the night before of lentils and coconut milk so I quickly offered to heat it up (she is not fasting because she has a newborn). She communicated that she wanted to take more of it home to her family so I found some Tupperware and newspaper to wrap some chapatis in and a bag to put everything in and about 30 minutes later she was on her way home. It is such a stretch to relearn social context but at the same time so many things are universal. Because I cannot speak the language yet it has forced me to just listen, something that, if I am honest, does not come naturally for me, but this experience has been so enriching as I learn to just be with people, to listen to them, and learn from everything I am surrounded by.

We have kept busy and realized after some reflection that we still need to maintain sabbath and rest even though we are in a vastly different place. We decided that each Saturday and Sunday we are going to do something fun as a family; hang out with friends, go to the beach, check out the tons of touristy stuff around the island, basically just recharge and experience the creation around us. After all it would be a sin to miss out on all the amazing things there are to do here because we are so focused on "getting things done." This is a problem that did not originate here, it followed us from home, our need to be task orientated. While this is great as it helps us work hard and accomplish important goals we also are learning balance between work and rest.
Our teammates let us tag along with them yesterday to a private beach they know about about 45 minutes away (we decided to explore this beach because we can a. swim and b. eat in the open). The drive was hilarious as we went off-roading like I have never done (read here branches breaking off and flying into the car window- Annikah thought is was a blast and kept saying "more bumps"!!). We had faith we would eventually emerge onto the beach as we could see a sneak peak of the crystal blue water through the trees every once in a while. We arrived and it was beautiful, in fact that word does not do it justice, it was amazing, stunning, and a place to just be. After a fabulous day we feel refreshed and ready to learn more this week. The milk is about to boil over in the kitchen so I gotta run but just wanted to update everyone on the busyness & the bliss.

Anni & Jason explore the cliffs

Annikah gets over her sand aversion (the Keens help:)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

strange, bizarre, and smile inducing sights around Africa

There are so many sights that I wished I would have had my camera for but here are a few when I did: This is right in the middle of town, I met the guy in charge and he said since we are from Obama's home town we are guests of honor at the results party they are having for the election :) They love Obama becuase his heritage is African (Kenyan)

check out the dark blue -shirt in the middle... I showed this sighting to Jason and all he said was "oh, Outback, steak, yum" (I think i also spotted a bit of drool on his chin) see shirt directly to the right

This one was actually taken in Nairobi but I could not help laugh at the name of the libido product....
unfortunately not the Target we know & love... (oh, Target, I drool a bit too I must be honest)

Friday, September 5, 2008

the beach redeemed

As I posted earlier we have been taking trips to the beach for a bit of sanity. As many of you Chi-towners know we did this at least once a day in Chicago all summer (I say "at least" because in reality some times on the weekend it was 3 times a day, what can we say we love the beach!). The beach represents grit and renewal, busyness and calm, and I think God meant for us to frequent it often to gain perspective. And we thought Annikah agreed with us as well until we moved halfway across the world where you can (in fact you must) go to the beach to cool off year round and then she decided she hates it. We thought, hmmmm? weird phase? She will get over it but alas every time we took her she would scream about the sand being "yuck!" on her feet. I was heard more than a few times mumbling "kid you picked the wrong time to be scared of getting dirty, we just moved to Africa" but her protests continued despite my lack of sympathy. This was unexceptable to us, we cannot have a kid that dislikes the beach in our family! Well, I am pleased to announce due to our persistence Annikah has decided while she still prefers sitting on a kanga while on the sand she does love swimming in the water (we are working our way up). She especially loves watching Papa and his friend swim all the way out to a dock and then jump off. She had a great time and our friends also brought their newly acquired (we think someone threw it over their gate) puppy that Anni loved holding. I even got a chance to swim as it was a resort-ish beach where Mzungu frequent so I could actually don a swim suit (which I must say feels sooo weird after only seeing people completely covered all the time). It was nurturing to my soul, ahh the beach.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

rafiki ki zuri

A good friend. There was no possible way I could decide which picture I liked the best so I had to post them all (and thanks to Jason's tireless efforts to get the Internet I think we are now in business although I fear speaking ....errr typing too soon but for now we are on-line). Thank you all for your comments, you really have no idea how encouraging it is to felt connected through this screen and box of wires even though we are so far from home and all things familiar. Asante Sana!! Many have asked what a typical day is like and I will soon post more details (as soon as we have a typical day :) but I wanted to share a few adorable things that happened yesterday.
Lest anyone think we are working tirelessly on language and house set up and team stuff let me assure you we have also taken breaks, a few trips to swim at the beach, and yesterday Jason hung his hammock (although in the afternoon sun we realized that spot will simply not do unless we want to develop skin cancer and overheat everyday). These pictures are of Anni and her rafiki testing out the hammock. They are truly friends and I am amazed at how they are learning from one another each day. Yesterday Annikah came in the house from playing outside and went right up to Martha (our house helper) and said "wapi papa?" (wapi means where in Kiswahili). We all about fell out laughing as she has obviously been soaking up some language. Her friend has also been learning a bit of English as they play as I heard her yelling "more" just like Anni always does when she wants to play hide and seek again. She also started saying "cheese" when I take out the camera getting her cue from Annikah. This added vocab is particularly hilarious as it really makes no sense even in English as to why we say cheese, I guess except that it produces the desired facial expression for a Kodak moment. They do not even really have a word for cheese in Kiswahili since no locals eat it (a real tragedy I think:)). So, we are learning and although our efforts at language are a bit more directed, guided, and goal orientated Annikah has definitely showed us that learning a language does not have to be so serious.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Turning two-a few continents away

Annikah turned two on Sunday, we realized in African time she actually turned two on Monday. We knew this would be the first major milestone in our family's life here and we wanted it to be special. I love parties, crazy, loud, eat way too much, fun with friends parties and I prayed that Annikah's second birthday would be special especially we are feeling homesick and miss our family and friends. The day turned out to be an amazing blessing as we were surrounded by new friends to celebrate Miss A's b-day.
We decided we needed to have a party and invited our teammates, Iddy's family, the family we stayed with a few weeks back, and then some of our neighbors. Of course we really had no idea who would come as our verbal invites were usually in broken Kiswahili but we tried to explain that we were having cakes, coffee, and tea to celebrate Annikah’s big day and they were welcome to come celebrate with us. I spent all day Saturday (about 6 hours) baking various treats. I wanted to make sure we had enough cakes and cookies in case everyone we invited came and Annikah has been saying for weeks “two cakes” when we talk about her birthday ( I guess she thinks how old you are corresponds to how many cakes you get and I am willing to maybe indulge that for one more year tops). It is always a bit stressful hosting a party but I think there was an added element of living in a different culture; What are birthday parties like here? Do they celebrate them at all? What would people expect when they come? Would anyone come? How would we communicate? We did our best to prepare and knew God would have to take care of the rest. I mean, it is not that deep right; just a kid’s birthday party.

During my baking escapades I was frustrated that because of our oven's uneven heat I ruined two of the cakes I had made; completely charred the top while the bottom was still goo. This would not have been so terrible if it was a matter of buying a quick bagged mix but I shredded the carrots, mixed all the ingredients and made the frosting. Argh! I pressed on but I must say I was not joyful about it. In the end it was worth it as we had a nice spread; carrot and pineapple cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting, gluten-free chocolate cake with cherry icing (one of the kids coming is allergic to gluten), lemon bars, sugar cookies, mandazis (bought from a woman on our street), and tons of fruit. On Sunday morning I finished the frosting and we cleaned and decorated a bit while Anni took her nap. We found some balloons and a Happy Birthday banner in town for a couple dollars and hung them along with a few homemade signs. Then it was 4pm and we waited to see who would come. Despite the difference in this culture as to the value of time the first guest to arrive was actually an African; our house helper Martha. Soon after that some of our teammates arrived and Iddy came by bike (his Mother came by Dala-Dala later and brought Annikah some homemade peanuts and chips). Then we waited for about a half an hour wondering if anyone else would show. We had given Annikah two presents that morning and she LOVED the stroller from Aislin (thanks Beck!) and happily pushed her baby around in it while we waited. I had also made some baby’s clothes to match the adorable dresses Grandma Rhoda had made her. She loved that her baby and her had matching outfits and would tell everyone that would listen that “Anni baby dress.” About an hour after the party really started as the guests rolled in. It was crazy! Probably about 20 more people came; our other team mates, a friend Jason had met down the street, his wife and their adorable 3 month old son, Baba’s family (he even brought the twins!), the Duka owner and her family from our street, and about 20 kids from the neighborhood accompanied by their older siblings and some of their mothers and fathers. Our Mlinzi and his family were here and also joined in on the festivities. It really was amazing how many people came, we have only been here a few weeks and yet we felt so blessed to know this many people. The kids were all decked out; the girls all had party dresses. With everyone in our front room it was packed so many of the men were outside with Jason. After a while we asked everyone to come in and after Jason prayed for Annikah and thanked God for all these new friends we sang and Anni blew out her candles (actually Jason did as she just wanted to “eat cake papa” and had no interest in our silly tradition). We then cut into the treats and began to pass out cake and ice cream to everyone. The amazing thing to me was how well behaved the kids were, they all sat and waited until we had passed out everything and although there was definitely a mess left in their wake it was not nearly as bad as I would have thought (I have plenty of experience in cleaning up kid’s messes back stateside). They helped the younger kids and waited until the adults had cakes as well before digging in. I am so thankful I had planned a few activities to keep kids busy as we then moved everything outside and I showed the kids how to make a bubble machine with a paper cup, straws, and a solution of dish washing liquid and water. They laughed at my acting out “do not drink, only blow” but seemed to understand and quickly were blowing bubble everywhere! The only kid that drank the bubbles was an American (one of our team mate’s daughter- sorry!)
In the midst of all the excitement poor Anni threw up. The culprit was a combination of a nasty cough she developed the night before and her over indulgence in ice cream and sugar. It was so sad but obviously caused by her cough so we quickly took her in and cleaned her up and she was ready to party hard again. I also brought out some colored pasta I had bought in town and some laundry line to make necklaces (so old school I know!) but the kids seemed to like it. Many of the kids also brought Anni small gifts. The gifts were mostly sweets, pencils, packaged cookies, baby powder, and some local snacks wrapped in newspaper. She even got a few Mars bars: I doubt Anni will ever taste those by Papa’s reaction to seeing them opened. I must say it was a completely exhilarating and overwhelming experience. In the craziness of everything I forgot to hand out the favors I had made (pieces of candy wrapped in newspaper and tied with pink and purple ribbon I brought from home) but we learned how to say “thank you for coming to Annikah’s party” and are going to walk around and hand them out later today. Annikah really enjoyed having so many people around, although occasionally she was clinging to our legs, she seemed to have a blast! I wonder what the heck was going on in her little brain as she watched all the action. I hope she felt loved and cherished and celebrated as that was the spirit of the day.
We asked some of the Africans how the party compared to a local party and we were told twice that it was very similar except that apparently we were supposed to have loud music so the kids could dance, opps! no radio and Jason’s Zune has been busted since the flight over, a real tragedy as Annikah could have busted out her moves. The party could only be summed up by blessed chaos! We were overwhelmed with how many of our neighbors and friends came to celebrate Annikah’s big day.
pre-party..showing off her stroller & matching baby dress!

Annikah loves her cakes, the cherry chocolate was her fav!
the spread of cakes & treats!

Some of Annikah's rafikis from the neighborhood that celebrated with us

me & the kids (watoto) making pasta necklaces (that is the side of our house)
showing off their necklaces
Blowing bubbles
some of Anni's gifts