Here is a video of last week. After we made shakers with toilet paper tubes and beans we danced!! Fun stuff!!
Monday, September 28, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The Eid celebrations are coming to an end and Wow was it crazy! This year we were busy visiting and attending many of the celebrations here. Here are some photos of our crazy week:
watu wengi (many people)!! we actually had to step over people and kids to walk around! Crazy!
eating meat sticks and chips with friends we took it all in!
The next day we went visiting; a must during Eid!
visiting some friends (the family we stayed with when we first arrived here) we visited our Mama and Baba her on the island and they had brought a local outfit for Jason. Here he shows off his new kanzu (white gown) and kofia (hat). We had a great time chatting with them and they suggested that when the baby is born we name her after the Mama of the house and if the baby is a boy we select the Baba's name. We told them we would take it into consideration but truthfully Fatima may not make our top 2 names list :)
After visiting we headed to the new park in town.
The playground area was finally open! Very exciting!
Anni makes a new friend...look how dressed up the little girls are; jewelry, henna, & fancy dresses
it is amazing how many people come out to celebrate!
Anni & Romy atop the Ferris Wheel
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
So, D-day has come and gone and we are shocked ourselves at our decision. First, I want to thank the many people who weighed in, prayed, and helped support us as this was really tough.
I think although Jason and I did not have a strong feeling about whether to go or stay many circumstances, advice, and wisdom played into our decisions. We both also strongly felt, as I wrote last time, that there was no wrong decision. I believe that. God was not going to zap us, abandon us, or forget about us because we chose to stay here or because we chose to go to the U.S. He is the God of everywhere, He is the Alpha and Omega, He is present and active in our lives no matter where we are. We have certainly learned that over the last year and praise Him for His faithfulness even in our shortcomings.
We will be heading stateside for the delivery and staying for a few months after. This will be our only trip home for a while and it is not at all what we planned. We had thought (as was probably evidence in my last post about this) that we were staying here but after a final email came in from our organization recommending "unanimously" that we return to the states we really had to think and pray. They made the decision based on the fact that many details of Nairobi are unknown or difficult at best right now ie; the guest house we would stay at is closed for 2 weeks around Christmas, we cannot locate a car to rent full time for our stay and while I am a bit hard core I am NOT taking the dala dala in labor:), and the hospitals and medical care is still an unknown for us. They were willing to support us in staying if we really felt led to do that with finding housing, etc but the bottom line was they were unsure of what that would look like and recommended going home. They also said that since the past 6 months have been so emotionally and physically draining that maybe we should consider our need for being with family and having more support that then we would have in a new city in Africa by ourselves. We had to reread the email twice because honestly we were shocked. We had thought that they were strongly in favor of us staying here and it was one reason we were trying to make it work. So there we were with almost everyone we knew saying we should consider returning to the states and us feeling like we wanted to stay. It was a bizarre place to be. Jason crunched the numbers given that we would go to Nairobi twice (once soon to have another scan and see the doctor, hospital, etc then again for the delivery) and adding in our best estimation on renting a car or using taxis, food, and a place to stay and the cost was just the same as returning to the US (where we are hoping our families will take pity on us and house us:).
So, we go. And we are processing that and all it means.
The ironic thing is that when I really wanted to go home and begged for a way out; when I was sicker than I have ever been, day after day lying in my bed throwing up and unable to do much but moan and complain watching Jason do everything God answered our prayers and at that time said no, you stay. You survive, you learn that in your weakness I will be be your strength and I will sustain your body, baby, mind, family. And He did and does and I already see the wisdom in that as I was not in a happy place and coming back here would be much more difficult given the way I was feeling emotionally at the time.
Now, that I am doing better and able to participate in life again we want to stay. We are seeing so much happen right now, our team is together and doing well, the school is going up fast, the computer lab needs to be set up, the curriculum needs to be decided and planned, guests are coming to spend time helping our team, we are feeling great about language, and we are at a place where; crazy enough this place feels more like home.
A friend shared a great word that maybe now it is about saying "where ever you want us we will go" Maybe it is that we can never hold on tight to any notion of what we think will happen. Not easy for someone who likes to be in control, for someone who likes to plan, for me.
I think I realized that while many of the reasons we wanted to stay are legitimate many are based in fear or pride. These are some of the swirls of thoughts that kept me up last night (well, that and the little girl kicking my ribs).........I am afraid that I am different, That we are changed. That we will be "weird" (ok, weird-er than before:). That we no longer will "fit in" at home. We both know we do not return to the "same Chicago" we left; our friends, our home, our former lives are all different now. Our life is vastly different and life there has gone on without us. That is scary.
I also don't like to admit I need rest or am hurting. I like to "power through" but as a girlfriend shared with me (who also has this gift/curse of needing to power thru) maybe I need rest and that is not bad. That is listening to God sometimes. And maybe accepting help will help me as I transition to become a Mama of two.
I feared that coming home was failing or giving up but I think the reality was that fear of coming home and fear of failure ws blinding me from even seeing that as an option. What a crazy flaw in my thinking..... assuming I will succeed more than I will fail. Always I fail more than I suceed at anything but God uses those failures as transformative in my life, He again shows His power in my weakness because He knows in my strength I am more likely to take credit than to give it. Failure forces me to return to Him again and again everyday and always when I think I have something figured out it changes.
Once again, I am reminded that I am not as important as I often think I am. I think we will leave a small gap here in our work but things will go on without us just fine. We will be able to reconnect with our friends and neighbors when we return. We will lose some of our Kiswahili but we will work hard when we get back. God will have a place for us, He has prepared the work ahead of us and we need not to worry so much about "doing" everything but concern ourselves with being about what He is about. And maybe after a recharge and some quality family time maybe we will be better able to do our work here.
Through this decision we are still seeking peace.
So I will be the tall, tan :), and chubby white girl with traces of henna on her hands, who has not had a haircut in over 8 months and will get off the plane wearing an all-you-can-eat-dress (or maybe a pair of pants that no longer buttons or zips:).......look for me to arrive in mid October. I am a changed person but it helps to remember that everything at home is changed too. And that is ok. Good even as we can share our trials, successes, families, challenges, joys, celebrations, and the stuff of life. We are learning to exist in the between spaces and that is ok. It is our place, our journey, and our call for now.
I think this home coming will offer healing, quality time, chaos, busyness, rest, connection, lots of eating :), quiet, noise, the familiar, and hopefully peace.
The moon indicates the end of Ramadan and it is over which means tons of celebrating. New clothes, sharing food with friends and family, visiting, and partying is going on. The official day of sikuku (special day) was this past Sunday and we had our first visitor before 8am! After that it was a stream of neighbors and friends stopping by to bring zawadis (gifts). Anni and went around with the beans and banana muffins the night before for the last breaking the fast meal. We were invited in to several homes to see the crazy preparations for sikuku. One house there were about 8 women sitting on the floor making various treats for the next day of celebration. They had cracked about 4 dozen eggs for cakes!! Our cake pan was in high demand and well as my electric beater:) The pan traveled from neighbor to neighbor and eventually made it back to our place. At one neighbor's house the Mama asked why we had not gotten or henna yet and quickly escorted Anni and I into another room where about 15 women and little girls were all getting their henna for Eid. Even girls as small as two get henna all over their hands and feet and they even sit still waiting for it to dry for an hour!! They asked Anni if she wanted some and once she saw all the other little girls getting attention she quickly volunteered. Now Anni has never sat still for more than 3 minutes and as soon as they finished one of her hands she promptly wiped her face!! The collective gasp in the room was hilarious as she now had the dye on her face! It was hilarious!! But she learned and sat still for the next hand and adored all the "umependeza" (you have made your self beautiful) comments she quickly elicited from all the women.
The entire day friends and neighbors came by to offer food and greeings. This is seen as a time for a lot of baraka (blessing) and people share and are very generous during this special time of year. We were humbled by all the gifts we received and were grateful we got to participate in the exchange of gifts and learn more about the culture.
yummy coconut bread and a coconut to drink
Monday, September 21, 2009
This weekend was the end of Ramadan and we wanted to share in the celebrations by sharing food and spending time with our friends and neighbors. I made some maharagwe wa nazi (beans with coconut) as it is very popular here and I know how to make it (the real deciding factor). I thought I should document the process since it is pretty amazing. The process is longer and involves some interesting kitchen items that we do not have back home but the women here are always happy to teach a clueless Mzungu how to cook Swahili food. They were shocked that someone my age could survive in the world this long with knowing how to scrape coconut. Different skill sets needed here for sure. Here is a bit of the process:
First you crack the coconut open and get rid of the water inside
the goat teeth at work!! Those suckers are sharp!!
I offer a couple of sliced hands the first few times I tried as proof!
1-2 small onions
1-2 fresh hot peppers (if you like)
1-2 cups coconut milk
Tsp. salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of any of the following: cumin, turmeric, or coriander
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Breaking the fast with friends.
It is a busy and festive time here on our island! The end of Ramadan means that big evening meals to break the fast are soon coming to an end. Many people invite each other over to eat this last week and we received several invites to join in on the feasting. It is a time of celebration, of anticipation, and of spending time together. Jason went by himself sometimes because I was feeling terrible and it is usually a late night for Annikah but we also wanted to go as a family when a friend invited us to his mother's home for futari (breaking the fast).
It is an honor to visit people here and to bring your children is expected. The afternoon we were supposed to go I was feeling very sick and throwing up a ton. I told Jason we may have to cancel because I was worried I would not be able to eat and thus disrespect them but since we really wanted to go I prayed that I would be ok and although did not want to go I would go. It was an awesome blessing because as soon as we got there I felt better. I was able to talk, help set out all the food, walk around the neighborhood, and eat a few things. Yeah!
We arrived and greeted everyone (a long process) and as always we attracted a group of children who wanted to inquire about what the Wazungus were up to. Again, we were reminded how welcoming and inviting people in this culture are as they were very happy to receive us and as we arrived quickly searched for seats for us as guests. The Mama of the house came out with a couple wooden stools and one old computer desktop case for a seat! Not the most comfortable seat but I love Africa! At least it is re purposed here, in the states it would end up in a landfill! The Mama was busy sewing some amazing smelling flowers together as a gift for Annikah. She explained to me that she sews kofia(the hats worn by most men here) and sells them in market and showed off some of her work to me, very detailed and difficult and it takes so long to complete. After talking a while they informed us that it was time to swap food. We then followed our friend around to different neighbors homes where we or he would bring a small plastic bowl filled with viasi (sweet potatoes) and the neighbors would then disappear into their home and reemerge with another small bowl of something they had prepared. The food during the time of Ramadan is different to the foods eaten daily here (sort of like the foods we only enjoy on Thanksgiving of Christmas). At each house this continued until they had an amazing variety of food!! We felt privileged to be a part of this time of community. I could not help but think if we did this stateside maybe the holidays would not be so stressful on many who prepare everything themselves! I shared this thought with Jason who quickly pointed out that NO ONE can make crescent rolls like his Mom:) True.
After swapping food and greeting many people we headed back to the home where the women washed and prepared for the feast while the men we to the mosque for the last prayer before the evening meal. They invited Jason along and he went with them (although no one who is not a Muslim can enter a mosque here so he waited outside for them). While the men folk were out I helped the women set out the large mat and then all the various foods, chupas of chai, water, and juice. It was an amazing spread!! While I was helping Annikah was running amok with some new rafikis. I was trying to keep an eye on her but she disappeared into a neighbors house and when I called for her another Mama responded "mtoto mzungu ameingia" (the white kid entered here) after retrieving her from a neighbor's house I was pleased that she had at least used the proper request to enter!! She has only been here a little over a year but I think of all she has learned in that year; all the ways her perspective on the world has changed, and how she has learned to explore this world, to make friends and to be happy here. It makes me proud to be her mama.
The men arrived back home and we all sat down to eat. We dug in!! It was an amazing feast!! Annikah devoured any samaki (fish) put in front of her and we got to try many new foods. We talked with the extended family that was there and learned a ton about this time of year as they explained the traditions. They asked about our marriage and we got to tell the story of Jason asking my parents for my hand and his proposal to me. They asked about what Chicago is like and we described the buildings, weather, and sites a bit. After a while of talking and eating the power went out and it was pitch black. The kids were running around like fools while everyone looked for a flashlight or a kerosene burner. Just as they emerged with one the power went back on. This process repeated 2 more times before we decided that Anni was exhausted, dirty, and needed to get home to bed. We thanked everyone who then followed us to where our car was parked and again we thanked everyone and invited them to come over soon. We were full; of food and of gratefulness that people are so kind to welcome us into their families, their homes, and their lives.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
We just arrived back home after a less that 24 hour trip to the mainland for another ultrasound and check up with the doctor. This one was ordered after our scan at 20 weeks showed a uterine blood cord resistance that can indicate the possibility of stress on the umbilical cord later in the pregnancy so we were eager to find out what it showed. It was a whirlwind trip. I am tired. Traveling is exhausting and worrying and waiting is even more tiring. But the news is great!! We are so thankful that everything looked healthily with mtoto mchanga. She is right on target for growth (50%) and there are no signs of added stress on the placenta, me, or the baby as of now. The uterine blood cord issue, once detected remains a concern throughout the pregnancy and therefore we are not "in the clear" and will need additional scans along with monitoring my urine for protein and blood pressure; not too crazy, just the normal concerns of pregnancy in a day where we can detect every little thing. I often ponder that not knowing may be better than all the info we receive with the medical technology. Of course we are grateful we can take it all in to make the best decision for our family but it is hard to feel the weight of decisions like this. The doctor helped us work through all the options and no clear choice emerged. It is complicated and many factors and "what-ifs"are involved.
So we continue to seek what is the best decision for our family. It may sound like "just come back home" is an easy choice but it is far from true. While that would be more "known" we still have no doctor there and it would also mean that this would be our only trip home for a while. This is a huge decision as we were planning to come home next summer to spend time with friends, family, those that support our work here, as well as do some things that recharge us to preparation for coming back to the island. Everything here is very busy and we are gearing up to open the school and our entire team is here and working together well. Mentally it is a tough switch to make; through all that has happened this year we have always thought and set our minds that we will be here until then and thus to change this is really hard. It has spoken so much to our friends here that we have stayed as they saw how sick Jason was with malaria and denge fever and then me as I struggle with HG. They know it has been hard for us but they have helped so much and we also get to speak about the peace we have even in the midst of trials. We also are feeling really good about language and Jason is having some great times in bonding with his friends. The problem is we cannot come home for just 6 weeks...we would need to fly no later than 31 weeks (the doula and doctor said with the history of this pregnancy) and then we would want to stay until the baby was at least 6 weeks (to get the check ups (for me and the baby), passport, etc.). So that would mean mid October until at least February or March. A long time!! Not to mention it will the WINTER in Chicago, we have nothing for winter weather and honestly when I lived in Chicago I was always trying to find ways to escape the cold and gloom. For me I just dread the winter time so I worry that we will not feel recharged the way I have hoped. I am still too sick to do all the things I would want to do and I worry with the chaos of having a baby,the holidays, etc we would overlook some of the important things we want to do when we get home.
Now, of course if the doctor saw more signs of stress we had already decided to come home NO QUESTIONS because we know my health and the baby's is hugely important but now it seems that He is saying "you decide" which is REALLY DIFFICULT. We are praying through everything. We also were encouraged that staying here would be a good experience after some friends introduced us to a great doula in Nairobi that was trained in the states and attended over 200 births here in Africa. She does not charge but rather donates her work based on what each family can give: Amazing! Some friends from Canada had her attend their birth a few months back and said she was great and knows everything about the hospitals, etc which is huge for us as the unknowns are the stressful part. She has already been very encouraging and if we decide to stay here I think I will fly up alone in mid October to meet her, discuss birthing options, see the hospital, have the next ultrasound, and just to feel more peace about everything. And we still are waiting this week to see what options there are for housing and renting a car, etc and after that we will have a clearer picture of what staying here would look like.
So we have given ourselves a "D-day" by which we will make a decision; next Monday. The biggest stress is not knowing so I feel good about deciding. Sometimes God makes things very clear for us but other times in my life I have felt Him say "you decide." As long as we make this decision together I think it will be the right one for our family. I will keep updating as we decide but for now if you are of the praying sort say a few for us; for health, wisdom, and plans.
We celebrated the great news of mtoto mchanga being healthy with lunch at our fav Western restaurant in Dar. It is a South African chain and Annikah LOVES the play area. We also love it as the "friends" as Anni calls them, or workers keep her amused an happy for the entire time allowing us to enjoy a semi-date. That combined with me actually keeping down all my food made for a fabulous time!
We all flew back together since the puke boat is still not an option for me who threw up multiple times just riding in the car through bumpy streets. When we arrived at the airport one company offered us the opportunity to leave "sasa" (right now) which is one of our favorite Kiswahili words as it sometimes means right now but it can also mean "like 2 hours from now." One of the many cultural differences reflected in the language. Jason cracks me up because he now asks in Kiswahili "do you mean sasa like an Mzungu or sasa like an Mswahili?" to which everyone laughs but always knows exactly what he means. Well, this guy meant "sasa" as in right now. We quickly paid and were running through the small airport after the guy as he was trying to find change for us (the epic problem of an all cash society where NO ONE ever has change is a story for another post). After getting us our pesa he grabbed our 2 small bags and we followed him to the runway. We kept walking past the small planes we usually take until we reached a 4 seater!! Us and the pilot and a co pilot and that was it! The inside was smaller than our car...crazy!! Anni was super excited while we were a bit nervous. It took about 10 minutes longer than the usual flights and the landing and take off were a bit bumpy but we made it safely home. I included a little video of our flight...how many 3 year olds get to fly a 4 seater over Africa?
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Annikah has been an only child for 3 years. That is a long time, like her whole life. We planned to have kids closer together but life happens and planning does not always work out the way you think it will. We try hard to not spoil her and to teach her what God wants for all of us; to be kind, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to share, to be generous, to be humble, to set aside our wants for those of others, to love. But I am not very good at any of those things, at least if I am really honest. And she is a kid. In kid world it matters if someone touches your baby or takes the last sticker. Like really matters. But real soon she is going to get a crash course in sharing; her Mama, her Papa, her stuff, our home, our space, our time. Some days I am worried a bit about this adjustment, like the moments she wallops Zawadi for touching one of her toys. But then there are other moments I think she will be the best big sister ever, like when she gets a package in the mail full of treats and immediately wants to share them with her friends here.
What is most likely and I have observed and experienced first hand is that Annikah and her baby sister will float between moments of being best friends and mortal enemies. I guess my job will be to let them sort it out and occasionally be the warden, but mostly to help them realize the amazing blessing they will have in each other. Me. A Mama of two..I need advice and help and I am a bit scared. And; like Annikah, I am about to get a crash course.
We were praying for the baby today and she said "Mama, when you tummy get bigger and bigger and the baby come out me gonna put that baby to nap and hold her and kiss her, ok?" Yep, Annikah sounds great to me.
practicing holding our friend's new baby
Anni and Romy...sisterly love
the kids all loved that their tongues changed color!
Anni & Zawadi: Anni makes it her business to boss Zawadi around but also is pretty good at sharing...even her beloved swings...hold on Zawadi!!!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
some of the classrooms (from inside the courtyard area) will be used for English and as reception and office areas