Tuesday, March 31, 2009

party like a rockstar...or at least local style

Annikah and I attended another birthday party last night. We got the invite about 1 hour before the party began and quickly put a gift together (thank goodness I still keep a lil' closet full of goodies just in case....the teacher in me pays off again!). The friend who invited us stopped by after she finished school (she is one of only 3 women in a class of over 20 learning to drive- she rocks!) and we all headed to her place since she needed to change clothes before the party. We waited while she ran around to other people's houses apparently looking for a scarf to borrow and then we hoped a dala dala to the party. After walking through crazy winding streets (I was thinking how will I ever find my way home? I am the girl who gets lost in Chicago where the streets are on a grid! Getting lost is sort of my spiritual gift if you will :) we heard blaring loud music and knew we had arrived. We took off our shoes and headed inside to a front room cleared of everything but some mats on the floor. All the kids were dancing to CRAZY loud music. I seriously could not believe any of us had hearing capabilities after the party. The birthday girl was turning 4 and was decked out in super glitzy jeans, jewelry, and even hot pink sparkle eye shadow! All the women were dressed less conservative then they usually are but when the call to prayer came over the loud speakers the music stopped and many covered their heads. After a few minutes the deafening music was started up again and everyone continued to bust a move. Annikah was a bit shy at first but eventually started workin' it out with the other kids. My favorite part was when the Bibi (Grandma) started dancing with everyone (see video). After about 2 hours of dancing the birthday girl and her Mama brought out the cake. They lit candles and she blew them out followed by EVERY single person at the party coming up to feed her a bite of cake. Each family group came to take a picture with her and then scooped up a piece of quickly melting cake and icing to feed her a bite. When it was Miss A's turn she took the fork full of cake and swiftly stuffed it in her own mouth! That is my kid! She had been complaining that she was hungry for over an hour and it was 7pm by this time so I can't say I blame her. This caused quite an uproar of laughter. Since I was told to stand next to her for photo purposes I did not get it on film but did get capture the frosted face after glow. Since our camera in definitely dying a slow death I could not take any pictures (pole sana for me) but did capture some video. After taking the dala dala and walking home in the dark through nasty mud we were exhausted but again we are grateful we have friends that allow us to be a part of their celebrations. This morning Annikah's first request was "Mama, me go to 'nother party." She definitely appreciates a good par-tay!

Monday, March 30, 2009

why I am late even if I leave early

.... today Anni and I took the dala dala into town with a friend and her baby. After we had almost reached our destination our driver turned down a small dirt road I had never seen before, stopped in front of a house (apparently his house), got out, went inside, changed clothes, grabbed something to eat, and greeted all his neighbors while about 8 of us sat waiting. The CTA may have been slow at times but nothing like that......I love Africa!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

blasted bunny peeler

This stupid bunny peeler was the highlight of my day yesterday. Yeah, it was a pretty crappy day. And I wish I was posting because I have learned something or because everything turned out great. I didn't and it hasn't; at least so far. I selfishly am posting to confess my funk to cyberspace and all the dear souls that read my narcissistic rants (blogs really are the ultimate in narcissism) and in hopes that after purging I will somehow feel better, or at least move on. Maybe enlightenment will even come my way.

It started rough because we all got to bed very late the night before due to having an American family over for dinner (YEAH! we met some other Americans and happily shared our ranch dressing with them :). We actually had a great time getting to know them but because several neighbors stopped by we ended up eating late and thus getting to bed very late. An epic mistake that Annikah would not let us forget. Now back stateside Miss A was a rather scheduled child only because when she wasn't we paid the price. But here she has learned; along with us, the fine art of flexibility. You have no choice: you learn it or you are so frustrated you cannot cope. We still try to make sure she gets to bed at around 8pm but it varies a bit depending on visitors or outings. NOTE to self: 10pm is too late to put Annikah to bed! She woke up several times during the night and finally ended up in our bed, a bad habit we are getting a bit too lax about in recent weeks. We awoke very early to a grumpy and whiny kid. Taken to a whole new level. Seriously, everything made her whine and cry. I actually wondered if it is possible for a 2 year old to have PMS? Any parent knows the days like this; you try to get by with said fuss-mistier or at least avoid meltdowns and you count the hours until bedtime. But when this starts at 8am you know you are in for a long day.

Add to Annikah's issues that fact that Jason and I were bickering over stupid stuff. It was like we just couldn't help saying rude things to one another. I hate that. Mostly because I have at least 50% ownership in it. I guess all 3 of us were in a funky mood. We went out for a swim to try to appease Annikah and save our sanity. Now, we all should know from our history classes that appeasement never works (and yes, I did jut compare my sweet child to Hilter...venting remember?) After an hour we returned home to heat up some leftovers only to find the power out and the house wicked hot already. I made some salad for lunch but while peeling vegetables with a knife cut my finger pretty bad. Since this was the second time I had given my self a rather nasty cut I decided it was my new mission to buy a new one (our peeler we brought from home has been MIA for about a week). I think I also managed to blame Jason somehow for my cutting myself. After lunch we attempted to put Annikah in her room for a nap because she was obviously in need of one. Lately she has decided some days she does not need a nap but we always tell her she must have some quiet time in her room to rest and be alone and because we need and treasure those quiet moments. She was having none of it!! She screamed, threw things, and in general was acting despicable. We took turns going in and trying various tactics; reasoning with her, taking away privileges (including family movie night), and finally spanking but she was not dissuaded from her nasty ways. After 2 hours of this we figured it was a lost cause. I ventured out to get a peeler and a few other things we needed as well as stop by a friend's house to drop off a gift and explain why I was not bringing Miss Nasty pants over for a visit. I went to 2 different places I thought would have a peeler and both were closed. Then I stopped off at my friend's place and we chatted. During the course of my trying to explain why Annikah could not come over today she suggested then insisted Anni must be sick and that we should go right now to buy dawa (medicine). Figuring there was no point in arguing in Kiswahili to someone with a vastly different view of what kind of behavior is OK for a child... off we went. We went to the market and after 3 different stores finally got some Tylenol-ish meds that I brought figuring we will certainly need them at some point (and hey, if Annikah did not need them maybe I could drink the little bottle?). I then asked her if she had any insight about where I might find a peeler. I would not accept defeat on this! It was one victory I needed to make this day better. She took me back through the winding streets while I was sweating terribly to the same store I had already been at that was still closed. She explained it was closed for prayer time (duh, I should know these things by now) and so we waited and waited. Finally they reopened but they had no peeler, even though I swear I had seen some there last week. These are the moments I desperately miss Target, or any predictable store. Back to drop off my friend at her home and try the other store again; still closed. On my way home I stopped at one last place and searched everywhere. I described what I needed to the duka owner and he said he did have one and showed me to a dust covered shelf. There it was: a bunny peeler. It looked super cheap but as I said I was not going accept defeat, I bought the stupid thing, and headed outside only to find two cars parked at the craziest angles blocking my car in. The best part: one driver was just sitting in the car chatting away and giving me a subiri kidogo hand motion. Finally, I escaped and headed back home. I stopped off at a veggie stand to grab some tomatoes and out of nowhere heard a voice yelling "Mama Annikah!" I did not recognize the guy but he apparently knew me and asked me to drive his friend home; sure why not? After driving him to first get a phone card and then to his house I finally returned home.

Poor Jason was managing the fort but Anni's reign of terror was still going strong. She had colored on the floor, stuck play dough to some paper and flashcards, and tore apart her room. I quick made some dinner (using the bunny peeler which is so terrible I might as well use a butter knife) and got her in the bath tub. After drying her off I told her to clean up her room (she had apparently taken out some vengeance on her tea sets as they were strewn everywhere). I went to the kitchen to fill her sippy and then outside to grab the laundry off the line only to find completely butt-naked Anni Joy running around outside with only her shoes on. I quickly hollered at her to get inside to which she quickly replied "Mama, me wear my shoes." At least she followed one rule. I asked her why she was being so naughty and after thinking about it she answered "me not know Mama." At least she is honest. After getting PJ's on and reading a few books and more crying about the lack of movie night (sometimes I hate following through, it would be so much "easier" to just give in) we put her in her bed. Exhausted we headed to bed to watch a movie. At least that was our small dream. But Anni ended the day with a bang. Crying and throwing a fit outside our door for another hour and a half. First it was she needed a book, then a new blanket (her was wet with her tears!) , then more water, etc. We realized everything was a manipulation so we decided to go hard core SuperNanny on her and not speak to her at all anymore. Simply get up, put her back into bed and leave. We took turns so as to NOT go absolutely insane until she started saying "me want to say sorry to Papa." Now, I quickly recognized this as another expert way to get attention but Jason was fooled into speaking with her and unleashing another round of Anni versus her bed. It finally ended and there was silence. It was so good, very good.

We were so tired but of course the universe could not let us sleep, that would be too easy, too boring. Instead there was a unbelievably loud storm. I guess the rainy season wanted to make its entrance known. Annikah woke up crying and weaseled her way into our bed again. The most hilarious part was the thunder and rain was so loud our car alarm would go off every few minutes so Jason had to run down the hallway to get the keys to turn the remote off. He could not turn the alarm off completely so every 10 seconds it would reset and go off at the next thunder boom. Anni kept tossing and turning and kicking us. The power then went off and out room heated up so fast it was soon unbearable. Any hopes I had of falling back asleep by 3am were completely gone; car alarm going off every few minutes, getting kicked in the ribs, and laying there sweating I had to just think that the bunny peeler was indeed the highlight of my day; sad. Truly pathetic. Especially since I look at the sardonic little smirk on that bunny's face as it mocks me and my hopes of enjoying my Saturday.

Today has been monumentally better already.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

the safi-est bei

I have the best husband ever. Seriously, he is amazing and thoughtful; and well, he knows what truly speaks to me heart. I came home after Annikah and I did some visiting in our neighborhood today to find this on my kitchen counter ....
I screamed with joy and Jason quickly ran into the kitchen to impart to me the epic saga that allowed him to bring such a dear gift home to me. It started ....."you love me soooo much right now..." (true, very true). It involved him walking everywhere in the market (because many places were closed for afternoon prayer and he needed to check prices for getting business cards and the all important rubber stamp made for our NGO) and finally seeing some guys on the street selling cans of diet coke. The guys on the street are usually yelling out the bei (price) on what we like to call the "item of the week" because it is usually a reduced price, sort of like an African blue light special, only shadier. Now, diet coke on sale? This is too good to be true for those of us who have to ration our purchases of the precious liquid because it is hard to find and at least 4 times as much as any bottled soda. He asked the price...3 cans for 1000 shillings (less than a dollar)!!! He then coined the phrase "safi-est bei" which is my new favorite part Kiswahili and part English word (the best translation is "sweetest price") He bought all he could fit into a worn out rice bag and some newly acquired friends helped him carry his treasure through the crowded streets. He bought all the guys a soda for helping him haul his quickly mounting cargo and for help in finding a guy that can make our stamp for our NGO. People are always so willing to help you here and they all sat together on the side of the road talking and enjoying their pops. After a few more errands he returned home with his precious booty. God is good all the time but some days He is just amazing......a thoughtful husband & 15 cans of diet coke for the safi-est bei; what else could a girl ask for?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kiswahili 101 with Annikah

Here is a little Kiswahili for beginners with Anni Joy. She is getting pretty good at answering some common questions and our neighbors and friends love it. She thinks she is pretty clever and I must agree!

Monday, March 23, 2009

moving up in the world

Around Christmas we received an email that made me cry. Cry because we are so blessed to have friends and family that love us and care for us so dearly. After reading the epic sagas posted here about our friji (or fridge.....one of my fav Kiswahili words ever as like many words it is just a misspelled version of the English word) some of you Chicagoan folks got together and raised some money for us to buy a luxury item; a fridge that actually works! You gave of your time, energy, planning, gifts, and out of your desire to help us out in a tangible way. I can honestly say after living here I will never again take for granted things like power, appliances that work, clean water, and most of all the friends and family that care for us so much. After months of trying to keep our old fridge kicking (including many fundis and prayers....seriously...Jason prayed for the thing everyday) we finally had to admit defeat after 3 times last week we can home or woke up to a fridge full of rotten food. After the thing being at 72 degrees for 2 days we finally broke down and ventured into town to buy a new one. They are extremely expensive here but since we had over half the money from you all we were able to buy one without worrying so much about the money. I cannot tell you how exciting it is to open a fridge that is actually cold. The first day we would open it just for sport and loudly exclaim "baridi tena" (cold still)! I know, easily amused. We are so thankful to have a fridge that works...thank you to everyone that planned & supported the fundraiser! Word got out and a neighbor even stopped by to admire our little friji.
We also have a microwave now! A few weeks ago Jason came home after a busy day with a used microwave. He had been searching for one for a while but the prices were always too high but that day he had found a couple and asked the guys to try it out to prove it worked. This involved the duka owners running around to gather glasses and water to show that the heating mechanism worked. After a REALLY good scrub down our beat up little microwave is still kicking. For almost a week I kept using the stove to reheat leftovers just because I am so used to not having one but after many reminders from Jason I now am loving heating rice in 3 minutes instead of 20! Woohoo!!!

So we are definitely moving up in the world.....modern conveniences and what not.
Although we are still a bit behind our Mlinzi as he bought a used TV yesterday a after a few hours of collecting scrap metal and cutting down some tree branches made a pretty impressive bootleg antennae. He and Jason are now happily watching the news outside as I type this and enjoy some refreshing cold water. Yeah!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

recent pics

Zawadi gets some help learning how to walk
outside our house looked like a bike duka (shop) for a few days

some friends invited us to join them on a boat ride to see some smaller islands
Anni takes a swim off the back of the boat
somersaults in the sand rock!
I love that this door warns of high voltage but has been completely off just sitting next to it for over a week.....so much for warnings!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

cornrows, cakes, & chaos....

If you want to learn about a culture; listen, observe, learn the language, ask questions, sit, eat, celebrate, mourn, and spend time with people doing what they do. At least that has been my approach by default since arriving here. This weekend we made some great memories celebrating with our neighbors here.
A neighbor invited me to accompany her to a local salon on Saturday. She was going twice over the weekend to get two different hair styles for the 2 day wedding she was attending (weddings are a huge deal) and said I had to come with her. I was excited to go as I have wanted to go into a local salon but felt a bit intimidated as well as being unsure if they could "do Wazungu hair" so I was happy to accept the invite to join a friend. She made me promise over and over I would go with her and we planned to meet on Saturday at 1pm. After rushing home from a team day to be home in time I sat and waited and waited. When we first moved here I sometimes would assume people blew me off but now I know better, 9 times out of 10 they are just late. She finally turned up at 4pm and after she changed clothes we headed to the dala dala. Now, if I was 3 hours late I would walk briskly to my destination but we must have greeted at least 6 groups of people on the way (and by greet I men stop and chat with). We finally walked to the dala dala hand in hand (this is another thing I am getting used to.... friends hold hands, men with men and women with women, it is not a sign of romantic involvement at all, in fact husbands and wives NEVER would hold hands in public). After getting off the dala dala and a few more stops ("this where I bought my shoes for the wedding" and "this is where our other neighbor's son lives") we arrived at the salon and after leaving our shoes outside entered barefoot. The women inside seemed pleased I actually turned up and tried to suggest that they dye and cut my hair. After politely turning that down (Yikes! I am adventurous but not that adventurous) we finally compromised on some braids. One of the women ran out of the salon to go buy some hair while another women started greasing me up. I can honestly say I never thought I would be a user of any Nice 'N Lovely product but there is a first time for everything right?

When she returned with what can only be described as dark brown hair we all had a good laugh because that was the lightest color she could find. Before she started I made sure to ask how long it would take since I had to return home to attend a little girl in our neighborhood's birthday party with Anni and Jason later (of course when we were invited they just gave a general time of day jioni "the time before night" so i was not sure exactly when we needed to show up). I was told the braids would take about an hour. When will I learn? 3 1/2 hours later I was still sitting in the chair. I was at the salon about 4 hours and it was definitely an amazing time of cultural learning. First of all, everyone spoke only Kiswahili the entire time so it was great language practice for me as I tried to catch pieces of every conversation and chime in when I could. They talked about husbands, boyfriends, shopping, fashion, their kids, the news, music, who had died, tons of general gossip, and a bit of trash talking as far as I could tell. Not much different than a salon stateside. My favorite moment was when they started talking about a certain type of jewelry. They started to explain that it was something you wear around your hips to attract your husband...when you are wearing nothing else. Everyone started giggling and shhhing each other when a man walked in and they said it was a siri kwa wanawake (secret for women). And apparently my friend did a quick measurement of my waist and hips to make me one. She told me she was wearing hers right now and every married woman should have this little secret. Swahili lingerie...I totally get it! By the time I left I was so late for the party but I was grateful they let me in on their girl time. And this is what I look like these days.....

I had to run to catch a dala dala in the dark and head home to try to make it to the party. Of course my phone was not working and I knew Jason and Anni had already gone to the party I was nervous I would not find it. No worries, as I ran down the street there was so much noise coming from one gate and house it was obviously the place to be. I quickly slipped off my shoes and entered what can only be described as complete and utter chaos. Kids running everywhere, balloons, cups, candy wrappers covering the cement floor, and loud music blaring. I immediately saw Jason and Anni (not hard to spot:) and while Annikah was having a blast Jason seemed a bit overwhelmed. I felt pretty bad because he was the only man for a while until some other brave souls showed up including the birthday girl's father (who we had never met because he lives with his other wife in town). The birthday girl was dressed to the hilt with jewelry and a beautiful white dress. Poor girl even had malaria but was still up for a party. The women from the neighborhood noticed my hair right away and said one of my favorite Kiswahili phrases "Umependeza" (you have made yourself beautiful). If a friend gets henna or a new dress or their hair done everyone notices by saying umependeza. It is a great phrase.

The birthday party was packed out and they had bowls of food for everyone (potato balls with coconut sauce) and juice. They also sang a birthday song followed by all the kids dancing like crazy (Anni liked that part). Then the kids and adults grabbed balloons and popped them (Anni did not like that part). While opening presents the little girl stood there while the aunt and mother opened each present and dumped them into a big pile. It was super fast and all the other kids would laugh at certain presents. They also had one of those cakes with a barbie doll smack in the middle and icing as the skirt. I gotta say the people here know how to throw a party. We each were given snack boxes and a bag full of treats when we left (every event you have here you always send extra food home with your guests). When we left at around 9pm there were still people there and there were kids running everywhere in the neighborhood. You never really know whose kids are whose because of the communal nature of families. Everyone watches out for every one's child. I was so bummed as our camera decided to stop working (the flash is totally busted) so all I have are a couple cell phone pictures but I think they capture the fabulously fun chaos.
Through cornrows & cakes I learned a lot about culture this weekend.

lots of kids & chaos...what every great party needs!!
check out the Barbie cake!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

the art of patience...or how I am learning to subiri kidogo

Patience is not one of my virtues. Nor is it one of Jason's which might explain why we had a rough adjustment our first year of marriage. Well, that and our different family backgrounds and our complete and utter insistence that we are both right, at all times. I digress.

But patience is required in life. At least if one hopes to live one's life without existing in a constant state of annoyance and irritation. God really showed me my need to trust Him and be patient after I had Annikah (be patient with her, with myself, with Jason, and in trusting Him). But I have much more to learn. I think that is one of the many reasons He brought us here.

Yes, God has been teaching us a lot about patience since living in a much less "instant gratification" culture. The thing about patience is that many times it really is a reflection of an inner calm and peaceful spirit. If I am feeling that impatience rise in me my first thought is to look to the outside, to what is the cause of my irritation. Instead, I am learning to ask myself: in this moment what does God require of me? To be kind. To wait. To be humble. To get over myself. To love. Even if the world is "one my last nerve" so to speak. It is almost as if time and time again through various situations God is asking me "can you show kindness?" "can you learn everything is not about you?" "can you laugh at the situation and yourself?" "can you follow my Word and "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe" (Phil 2:14-15). I fail a lot. Especially in the complaining department. I may not always complain with my voice to others but I very often complain in my heart. Again, I am a work in progress, again and again. Always.

There are two recent incidents that served as a lesson in patience... and are too funny to A.) forget or B.) not share.

About a month ago we finally had to apply for our Tanzanian driver's license. We had an international permit from the states that would expire after 6 months. As a side note I do not think international permits should be handed out so easily especially since the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car AND they drive on the opposite side of the road. Our first few weeks of driving here were a bit..... adventurous, shall we say. Driver's license....Our team leader helped us by gathering the necessary documents early which we promptly filled out and brought to the office. Now, by no means is waiting at the DVM stateside my idea of a fabulous afternoon out but at least I have a clue as to what was happening....(ie. this government employee who hates his/her job is irritated and many people are in front of me). But here we had no idea what was happening. We waited in what could never be described as a line. More like a mass, a crowd, a mob. When Jason kindly asked in Kiswahili who was next he got the most bizarre looks. We also suggested we wait one by one to which many people laughed. After about 1 1/2 hours of Jason standing in the blazing sun and me trying to prevent Annikah from running into the traffic meanwhile accomplishing nothing we decided we should give up the battle for the day. But not the war......we returned the next day, this time taking Annikah to school so at least we knew we could wait "as long as it takes." This time we had high hopes because we got into the first office rather quickly and after greeting everyone had a very nice women actually type our information into a computer and take our picture; this was progress! She instructed us to go next door and wait for the license. We were feeling pretty good so we walked next door and attempted to get in the door that was crammed with men waiting. The women who occasionally opened the door to give us a glimmer of hope told us "subiri kidogo" (wait a little). Now this phrase is an often used phrase here that in our experience can mean "wait here for 5 minutes while I check the price for you" or "wait here 2 hours while I see who has cheese today." You never know but I am bolding suggesting a change to the Kiswahili language "subiri for as long as it takes" and then "pole sana." The worker came out periodically to call some one's name from amidst the crowd. Luck. It seemed it did not matter when you arrived and as we sat there trying to search for order in the seeming chaos we were going nuts. Instead we tried to enjoy watching the whole thing unfold and chatting with others while they waited. Then we really had something to laugh about; the power went out. After we had waited over 2 hours no power, no printing the licenses. The outage was followed by about 20 minutes of everyone discussing if it would come back at all, should people come back tomorrow, etc. Again we asked and we were given a"subiri kidogo." Someone came down to start a generator and with a very grinding loud noise it turned on and gave us hope, and then with an equally impressive pop it blew out and stopped working and crushed our dreams. After some more waiting and a fundi coming to fix the generator it seemed as though the power was on and more of the chosen few people were getting called into the "office of love." Hope restored. After some more time we noticed a woman come in and by pass the mob of men standing outside the door. Jason then decided I might be our golden ticket. We pushed past everyone and I asked the women myself about our names. At least this time it seemed as though she checked and said again, "subiri kidogo." So after waiting the entire morning we finally had figured it out. Women get to go first (Jason is very excited about this discovery and gladly will send me on the next government errand). Our licenses were finally given to me and we headed out to the cashier to pay for everything where again, there was no line, just what seemed to us shoving, cutting, and general chatting. Jason elbowed his way in and we were out of there in only a few minutes, licenses in hand. Victory!! We were sure to get the 3 year one so as NOT to have to renew next year.

The next exercise in patience (and chaos) came in trying to take our intermediate language course this month. After taking the beginner back in November we are ready to move forward (even though we are still learning everything from the beginner!). As soon as we returned from our trip to Kenya Jason went over to our school to sign up for the month long class and arrange the details so we would be all ready to go the first Monday of the month. Or so we thought.

Monday morning we had a crazy morning getting out of the house by 7:50am, drove to town and dropped Jason off first (I always am a few minutes late as I have to take Anni to school and we cannot drop her off until 8:15am), I took Annikah to school and drove back to our school only to discover that we cannot attend school because the school now wants all the money up front for both of us for the whole month. Last time around we paid weekly but according to them there was a change in policy (which was never communicated upon registering). Of course, there is no way we had that much money in hand let alone even in our account so Jason had spent almost an hour "discussing" proposed alternatives all which were rejected. We called it a day and tried to come up with the necessary fund-age that night (which included draining our account, borrowing money from team mates, and asking for an advance). The next day we showed up still a bit short but able to at least pay for the entire course for Jason. I headed to drop Annikah off at school again while Jason explained that he would pay all that we could right now and then either return at the end of the week to pay the difference or take the course solo until we had the money for me (in the next couple of days). After I parked and started taking Anni to school my phone rang and Jason said, completely defeated, "just come back with Annikah, we cannot take the course." After I explained to a now sobbing Annikah who wanted to "play with me friends" that she could not go to school even though she was now 20 feet from the door (we have limited days left for her school and need to save them for when we are in school) and returning to town Jason explained to me that it was because we did not have 2 passport size photos of ourselves. Seriously!?! Even though there were 2 pictures of us from a few months ago on the wall of the office. Nope, those would simply not do and we needed new ones and no one can start school without them. The next 1 1/2 hours were a blur as I tried to keep Annikah from destroying the office we were in while discussing with at least 3 teachers and administrators our "dilemma." Finally, at the end of the madness we had agreed to return the next week and take a shortened version (2 weeks) of the intermediate class because we were now starting late and would not finish in March and since the school would be closed in April (again a surprise to us and especially our team members who had been planning to take class in April) we need to finish in the next few weeks. Also, we would not be able to get books since there "are too many mistakes printed in them" and they need to be redone. It almost seemed like they did not want to take our money or teach us. Every new solution we came up with was met with a change in the game. Bizarre. So at the end of a morning spent in serious discussion and negotiations we agreed that we would return the next Monday and start school on time and that we would be the only 2 students in the class. We also made sure to get receipts for everything and ask to see a calendar to make sure no random days off would be taken during our short class, everything seemed sawa (ok) or at least as sawa as it was gonna get at that point.
Jump to this week of school. We do love our teacher, he is kind, helpful, and hilarious (he loves to act out everything which keeps us entertained) and no doubt we are learning a lot and reviewing what we already know. But of course, on Monday he tells us that there will be no school on Tuesday because it is a holiday for him (the prophet's birthday) and everyone on the island gets the day off. Hilarious! Then when we returned to class on Tuesday we were introduced to 2 new students that joined our class! At this point we MUST laugh as it s really our only option. Cannot wait to see what is next for this week....It would be nice if things worked a bit faster, if we understood the reasons behind the policies but then it would not be Africa. At least we can already laugh at these stories, that is a good sign, right? Yes, God is teaching me a lot about patience. Apparently I need it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

another creative package item

We got to open 2 packages this week!! Yippeee!! One had a new swimming suit for me (yeah, thanks Mom, especially considering the one I brought is virtually see through at this point). The other had all the necessary items to make a chalkboard sans the wood of course(thanks Jamie!). I painted a wood board this week and Annikah and her friends LOVE coloring things outside. They always have onlookers that chuckle especially when Miss Anni Joy weaves an epic tale of "this is Mama, then the mchicha (spinach) is there and the the snake come and want to bite" of course followed by dramatic yelling "AHHHH, Mama better run away." The stories this kid comes up with! Of course always made more hilarious by the half English and half Kiswahili.

Annikah does not always draw me in the most flattering ways. Here is my fat head....at least I am getting some hair......and so far no real snake bites. Yeah for creative and fun gifts!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

nimefurahi sana!

(I am very happy!) and I have been telling everyone that will listen, even the guy we buy eggs from at the market that our families are coming!!!! We finally have exact dates from Jason's Mom and Dad and my Mom and sister. Jason's parents are coming in July and My Mom is flying out in June to meet my sister after her study abroad program in South Africa to stop off and visit us before she heads home. Now that the plane tickets are purchased and the dates written on my calendar I am allowing myself to get crazy excited!!
Can I tell you how excited I am? Seriously! We cannot wait to see and laugh and cry and hold our family. Maybe it is also the cool and amazing rainy weather today but I am feeling full of joy. I just cannot stop smiling and I think every neighbor we have knows our families are coming to visit. Soon they will get to experience our new home; to smell the air, to sweat:), to understand our frustrations, see the work of our hands, and appreciate the amazing and beautiful culture we have been welcomed into since our arrival here. They are both sacrificing enormous expense, suffering through some nasty shots, and rearranging their lives for a time to support us in our journey here. They will be a part of this place and for that I am exceedingly grateful.
Everyday Anni asks "Grammy's plane come today?" Explaining a few months to a 2 1/2 year old is a futile effort. So far when asked "what should we show them?"Annikah has planned "me wanna take Bibis (grandmas) to see the monkeys and play in the sand." And she is apparently desperate for Auntie Katy to read her a "mzungu book" (her Disney princess books) because she asks everyday if "Auntie Katy wanna read that to me?" I think it sounds like a plan. We are counting down the days until we get to welcome you to our new home, dear family.

Monday, March 9, 2009

our saturday

This past weekend our fabulous friends from South Africa offered up their beach home again on the East side of the island and we were quick to jump at the opportunity to recharge away from our home. You know, the crazy heat here does have some amazing benefits.....like our Saturday......

Anni went for a swim
and us girls chilled
while Jason tried this.
Annikah made a new friend & they played in the sand
but so much sun can be exhausting.....All in all it was a fabulous day!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

it is going up!!

Our team is still working hard on the school and our team leader has recruited a team of fundis (local experts) that build each day of the week (we are really happy one of our friends was able to get work and has even gotten a raise because he is a great worker! We had no doubts as we built with him in the village when we were here 5 years ago). This week we decided to crash in and get our hands dirty laying some bricks, really big bricks. We did not initially build with the team of fundis because we did not want to make any cultural fop'as but after some discussion we decided it was ok for us to help out and follow their lead. I must say I loved it. Usually my job is to bring chai and mandazi (local doughnuts) for a tea time on Fridays and take pictures of the progress (for communication with those funding the school, grants,etc). Although I enjoy stopping by and asking how the work is going it felt good to actually get dirty and do some "man's work." Even if I had to wear a skirt to do it. And even if Paula and I were a bit slower than the fundis. There is a Kiswahili saying "haraka, haraka haina baraka" (fast, fast there is no blessing) so we we just being culturally relevant, right?:) While we we there on Thursday a coconut tree that may pose a problem in the future had to come down and it was fun to watch the action (see video). Jason hit the site Friday to sweat it up building walls and we hope to be able to help more after we finish a 2 week intermediate language course that begins Monday (ridiculous story on that to come). We are working hard to try to get walls up before the rainy season hits later this month so there is plenty of work to be done. It is going up! Woohoo!!

girls who lay brick rock!!
learning how to use a local plumb bob

Jason and some fundis on the site

chai time, Jason led a prayer for safety on the work site....
(very important especially when everyone wear flip flops)

the progress since last picture

Friday, March 6, 2009

right now..

Annikah is pretty darn entertaining. Of course the two's are a bit rough for at least part of everyday....whining, fussing, emotional outbursts for no apparent reason (hmmm, wonder where she gets that?) but in general we are loving seeing her personality develop and most days she says at least one thing that cracks us up. Here are a few random stories and updates that I want to record lest I ever forget the Anni Joy of right now....

I am pleased to announce that Miss A is now newly improved and Nuk-free (or binky, or pacifier or as our UK friends say dummy). We decided it had to go a few months back but where too lazy to force the issue (we like our sleep). When she was a baby she rarely used a Nuk but around 1 1/2 got pretty attached and "needed" it to sleep. I know that may have bothered some folk but since I have many crutches (that we could go into at length at a future counseling session) I figured let the girl enjoy it at least during sleep times and long car trips, etc. But in recent days it has become more of an addiction. She needs to know where it is and we find her sneaking it especially if we would discipline her or something would stress her out. We made a pack a while back to yank the Nuk after our long trip on the mainland (hey, some silence during a 9 hour car trip is precious). When we got home I followed advice of a Mom I know here and snipped the end of her Nuks. By snipping them I guess that the sucking is no longer is soothing and many kids simply give them up on their own. Not my child. She would bring me the Nuk and say "Mama, it is broken, fix that." But even when I explained that I could not fix it she still wanted it. Plan B. We decided to go for the whole "IF you give up the Nuks....THEN.....you will get a super-duper exciting-make-you-want-to-jump-up-and-down-and wet-you-pants gift." Now some would choose to call this bribery. I am one of those people but we just wanted to sweeten the deal a bit and kick the habit once and for all with minimal dissension in the ranks. So we asked Anni if she wanted to "do the deal" and explained there was no going back. She quickly collected up all her Nuks and placed them in a plastic bag and then came up with the idea on her own that she wanted to give them to baby Joel (our team leader's new baby) which I thought was pretty sweet. She added "baby Joel need them Nuks, me no need them because me a big girl." I agree. Then she got her present; a cheap Dr. Kit we found here a few months back and saved for such an occasion.

no nuks = dr. kit
The best part is that now that it has been over a week I think I can say with certainty operation: bribe the kid was a success. She asked for them for a few days but we reminded her that we gave them to baby Joel and that she did not need them. She even found one Nuk yesterday, a straggler hidden under her bed, and came right to me and said "Mama, this for baby Joel." Her Dr kit is a big hit as well. She loves playing "(insert baby or stuffed animal or Elmo) is sick and me pray for them and them need to go to the doctor." The sweetest part is she always says she wants to pray for them and then after a quick stint in her expert medical care and taking some dawa (medicine) "Mama, look Jesus heal them." I guess with all the sickness we have had here in recent months she is so used to talking about being sick, doctors, and healing. At least her approach seems sound; pray first, then seek medical help, then wait on God.

Annikah is such a girl. She notices things. Things of monumental importance like"oh, my friend wear a dress" or "me like her pretty hair." She also always has to run to Jason after getting her hair done or putting on a dress and say "Papa, say Annikah look pretty?" Every girl loves a compliment. This week she came running into my room while I was getting dressed to tell me of some tragedy against mankind perpetrated on her when she stopped suddenly, stopped whining and said "Mama, me love those new chupis" then added "which Grammy sent that?" To which I replied by busting out laughing that 1. she noticed that I indeed was sporting new chupis and 2. that in her reasoning all new things come in a package from generous Grandmas'. The funniest part is that they were sent in a package (from dear friend Jill- thanks!) since I have not dared to brave the used chupi market as of yet and nicer new ones are pricey. At least Anni is starting young at the fine art of appreciating new chupis.

My favorite Anni story of this week came after she saw me showing a local friend here our wedding video (only the highlight one that is 4 minutes long, I would not even sit through the 6 hour version). My girlfriend wanted to see it after showing me a 3 hour video of a local wedding of her family member on another island. Very insightful and interesting but that is a story for another time. So she came by to see ours which we had burned to our laptop hard drive. Annikah walked in the room and was enthralled. She kept telling me "Mama and Papa get married" and "Annikah was there." I quickly pointed out that she was not only NOT present she was not even thought of at that point. She responded "why me not coming?" as if our not inviting her was some major oversight or harsh cruelty. She now asks to watch the wedding video almost everyday always followed by a statement like "me want to get married and have a movie." When I explained that she needed to wait until she was older and God brought the right man that loves and cherishes her she silently, thought about it and then shouted "me can marry Papa." In her mind he fits the qualifications. We are lucky girls.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

full house

We have had a full house of visitors this week. A great family that lives on the coast as well is crashing our place while here to process some frustrating immigration and work permit paperwork. Pole sana for them! We have loved having some Americans around who appreciate our Starbucks coffee and ranch dressing. Their family has been out in Africa a lot longer so it was so it has been encouraging to hear stories of surviving and thriving here. They have 4 kids so we have been busy keeping the 5 kiddos occupied. Although Miss A has had a few rough moments of sharing-phobia she has loved having 4 friends to create chaos with, she will be sad to see them go home on Saturday. Here are some highlights from the week so far.

yeah for art projects!

dance parties in your chupis rule!

pool party...just how many kids can we fit in there?

Wii free for all

Anni & her friend happened to have matching swimsuits from what all American store? Target! the Mamas

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

when you send Jello....

this is how we roll

Monday, March 2, 2009

walk on the wild side

So I am finally getting around to posting about our amazing trip to the animal orphanage while in Kenya. My motivation for going was that I absolutely refuse to allow a child who lives in Africa for 2 years to NEVER see any animals. Since lizards and monkeys is pretty much as exciting as we get on the island we went to the Nairobi National Park and got a tour with a friend of a friend who works there during our short stint in the city. It is an orphanage for animals that are rescued from various situations all over Eastern Africa. We all loved getting up close and personal with the animals. Here are some of the highlights....

this monkey grabbed our camera, luckily Jason had the wrist strap on :)

Me petting the cheetah...could I smile a little bigger?

A Papa & his little girl

Sunday, March 1, 2009

the thing about a 2 year old is.........

she always has to pee at the most inopportune moments

asante sana kwa marafiki

I think in many ways Annikah is more grateful than I am. At least in the way that she seems to always appreciate the simple things in life. Like for example give the kid a fruit snack and she leaps for joy. Buy her an ice cream cone and she screams in elation.....maybe she is just too motivated by food (wonder where she gets that?). But really most days she has a very thankful heart. Today she looked down at her knee that has a few week old scrape on it and reminded me "Mama, Jesus heal that" and then looked up into the air and said "thank you Jesus heal Annikah's knee." I need to do that more often. Sure, I constantly am reminded about the wonderful blessings in my life but how often do I stop right then and thank God for them? Right in this moment Anni and I are thankful for some great friends we have here. Annikah always thanks Jesus for "Annikah's new friends" when we pray at night and I wanted to post some pics of her chilling with her new marafiki. Thank you Jesus for bringing us friends here. May we bless them they way they bless us!

playing dress up with the daughters of our team leader

(Annikah evens get to learn a bit of German from them)

Naidya and Annikah
Anni shows Sheja what Elmo can do

More wazungus.. Anni loves these girls!
a friend and her son from our neighborhood (this pic cracks me up...1. I am a wet mess b/c Miss Anni was splashing me & 2. Mama Kasim looks like she is miserable but seconds before this was taken she was laughing, I swear! Culturally here they always prefer to be "serious" in pictures. It is so different.)