Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Frog Prince

Sadly the garden is getting the best of me this week.  My only short term goal was to thoroughly weed so we could continue with only maintenance weeding.  But everything grows so much in the rainy season and we hadn't weeded in a while.  Then I found a pile of weeds growing in compost, decided to move the compost, thought to transplant some banana trees, started digging some holes for them and found another previous tenants garbage pile.  I am so discouraged.  It is so old, and big, and deep, and has all been burnt, half decayed, so gross.  At least there are no diapers, those are the worst.  We are digging tunnels under the vegetables trying to get at it.  Yuck.  And such slow work.  Can't work while it is raining.  Bright side I guess is that the garden will surely do better if it isn't trying to grow on a garbage pile.  Sigh.

 Yesterday I was lucky enough to be the first car stopped for the President to drive by.  All the cars you see coming towards me were in the entourage, it was enormous and they were traveling way too fast for a small dirt road.  At 900 in the morning I already noticed a very heavy police presence... they seem to be dropped every km or so.  It wasn't until 1230 that he finally came through.  That's a lot of tax dollars!!  I was driving with Fionn's nanny and commented that I had noticed he was very well respected.  With a smile she replied yes and touched her heart. 

 Here is Theo sleeping in this morning.  This is his favorite position, looks totally uncomfortable to me.

 While Kaia was in school we found 3 snails and this huge honkin' frog that I built up the courage to hold so he could see it up close.  He was shockingly unimpressed.  I also cleaned out all the lemon grass today and now I look like a rat attacked me.

 Playgroup for Theo at Kaia's classroom on Wednesdays.  On account of our car it has been a long time since we made it.  Sadly the rain kept most people home.

 And the inside.  After a long day at school Kaia is still keen to show off her classroom.  Where does she learn to stand like that?  Because I didn't teach her.  She was line leader today... she takes attendance, counts the students, some other things, and leads the class wherever they go.  She loves to come home and tell us who got out of line. 

Here Theo helps bring out the dishes for dinner.  He looks so purposeful but don't let it fool you.  Less than 5 steps later the dishes were on the floor and Theo was running down the porch with the spoons.  Ah well.  That's what 'tomorrow' is for.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Clowning Around

I spent all my free time this weekend in the garden hunting grasshoppers and designing a chicken coop.  Judging from all the laughter from inside the house Carl and the kids had a wonderful time together.  They have both missed him.

 Today in the garden we found a chameleon, a frog, and a very sneaky snail who kept making his way back to my hedge.  Here Theo enjoys the view as the chameleon climbs the palm while he eats his breakfast.

 Yesterday Dimples and Honey Bee made their way all the way from Virginia to entertain us at the Blue Heron.  Unfortunately we forgot to charge our camera so this is the best shot we have.

Pray Day.  We had Amy and Pray over for a movie.  As usual they are goofy and love to show it off for the camera.  Amy has found herself a station wagon to rent starting on Wednesday.  Funny picture... her driving her station wagon around Africa :)

 And last night Carl and I went out again, for the third time in 3 weeks!  There was a contemporary dance show at ISM.  It was shockingly short, only 2 solo pieces.  And I didn't really get it.  But there was some beautiful movement by both dancers and it was great to be out under the African stars together.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Grass Blades

We miss Carl.  He has been gone 12 hours a day 5 days a week for as long as I can remember.  Today he is chaperoning a disco and is gone 630am-1100pm.  Thankfully there is a break in 1 1/2 weeks.

Throughout our garden we have huge ugly sunken dirt paths.  Since everything is thriving in the rains what could be a better time to fill them with dirt and plant grass?  To plant grass you literally do it blade by blade and then wait for them to grow together.  

Theo helped.  I rummaged through the garden finding good blades for transplants and Moses planted them in our mud pile.  I asked Theo to bring Moses a blade and he did.  Then I asked him to bring a few in the ice cream bucket and he did while I collected more on the orange plate.  Then on his own Theo started filling the bucket from my plate and bringing full buckets to Moses.  Think he might be gifted.  And certainly helpful.

 Found this grasshopper in the garden today.  At least Moses says it is a grasshopper.  I have never seen one so fat.  He couldn't even jump.  Moses says he eats well in the garden.  Cute.

 Wait a minute.  NOT so cute!!  Is that what is eating everything in my garden.  Light bulb!!!  It is amazing how you can not notice something at all and then see it everywhere.  There are so many grasshoppers in our yard that when you walk through the grass you can see them all jump out of the way.  Hmmm.  Never occurred to me to wonder what they ate.  Still so much more to learn.

As for that grasshopper... Moses put it into a soap container for Kaia.  I don't know why.  After dinner she opened the container in the kitchen and she screamed and screamed as it jumped on her.  Theo stepped on it.  Stereotypes start young.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

1st Haircut

 We made a house today.  It's no tree house but it kept them entertained for quite a while.

 We also found a Black Mamba in the yard today.  At least that is what Moses said it was.  

 'Black mambas are fast, nervous, lethally venomous, and when threatened, highly aggressive. They have been blamed for numerous human deaths, and African myths exaggerate their capabilities to legendary proportions. For these reasons, the black mamba is widely considered the world’s deadliest snake.' ~National Geographic

The local snakes can be VERY dangerous and the locals definitely err on the side of caution which we completely support.  Moses killed him by chopping his head off and was so cautious that he then still moved the body to an empty lot.  When we looked up close it did look a lot like the photos I am finding online but it would have been very young.  Yet again we are eternally grateful to have Moses here every day.

 Kaia has been picking her own clothes for a long time now.  This isn't something I personally would have chosen but somehow she makes it work.

 Here she is cheering 'I have banana'.  It has become the running joke.

Here is Theo trying to do it too.  Actually he started it a few days ago.

But much more importantly you may notice something different about him.  I'll give you a minute to look at the picture and try to figure it out...

YES!!!  That's right!!!  
His hair has been cut.  
Today I asked Alice to keep an eye on the kids for a couple of hours while I helped Moses in the garden and this is what I came back to.  Kaia's defense was that she was trying to help Theo because he had hair in his eyes.  Dearest Lord, I thank you for yet another test of my patience.  The saddest part though is that with his beautiful baby soft bangs he still looked like my baby, but now he suddenly looks like a little boy.  That and it is totally crooked and looks absolutely ridiculous!  I am proud to say that I remained calm.  Carl and I are working on an appropriate consequence.  I said we should cut her hair to match!  Carl said that wasn't appropriate.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  Sigh.  Hopefully it will grow back somewhat by the time we get home to visit.

ETA... also on a side note... Amy rents a car and the owner told her this morning that she needs her car back.  TODAY!!  Dear me.  Poor Amy.  Who does that?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

3x Charm

So as it turns out, the car isn't exactly fixed yet that was just Take 1
That or she is a whiny old woman with a vendetta against us.

 Take 2:  After 2 days of appreciated freedom she just didn't start.  So here is your troubleshooting challenge.  

I turned the key... 
heard a few normal noises... 
then everything went dead... 
the key wouldn't come out of the ignition.  

If you guessed the battery then 10 points for you.  Luckly it happened at ISM (unluckily it happened with a car of kids and mommies ready to go home).  The ISM bus driver pounded the connections with the stone shone above.  No problem to get home as long as I don't stop the engine along the way.  When we got it home Moses screwed them in tighter.

But ON the way home was the most fun of all.  I should also mention that we let our insurance lapse because we didn't want to pay if the car wasn't fixable.  We reinstated it on Monday morning but I had to get home to get the papers in my hands.

I of coarse got stopped by a policeman.  Our driver's window doesn't open so I had to open the door to talk to him.  He wants to see my license.  It is in the glove compartment and for some reason the mechanics locked it.  So I  need to turn off the engine to get the key to open the glove compartment.  Of coarse!!  Think PJ Think!!  The Battery!!  But I don't think of it in time.  The key won't come out of the ignition, I can't get into the glove box to get my license, the car won't start again, AND while he is waiting he notices that our insurance is expired.  I am trying to explain everything to him through my open door.  By this time I am worked up into such a frenzy that he waves me on.  Miraculously the car starts!!  And we are on our way.

 Take 3: Tuesday.  The very next day.  Your next Troubleshooting Challenge.

Car starts normally, put into reverse, it won't turn...
Try forward and reverse... 
definitely broken.

I know, too easy, but if you guessed the steering belt then 10 points for you. While they were fixing it they also found it was too long, and so was the AC belt, so now all the belts are the correct length.  They say the 3rd time is the charm, all we can do is hope.

 Meanwhile we are stuck in the garden again.  Harvesting bananas.  Yum!!

I mean... OH NO!!  This is how much is left from one tree after 2 banana meals, snacks for 3 days, and 5 loaves of banana bread!!!  Another tree has just fallen during the storms.  The kids had just returned to normal skin tone after avocado season, now I fear they are turning slightly yellow.

Also Kaia helped pick the flavors for the banana bread...
plain, cinnamon, walnut, mulberry, and chocolate. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Our Car is back and she's better than before!!
Hey now, Hey now, our Car is back!!!

 So remember when Theo would run up to the camera when I tried to take a picture?  Well today I said 'Smile' and he did.  Then I did too because really, how can a kid be so cute?

 We are settling into the rainy season now.  The nights are rainy, the mornings damp, and the sun comes and goes throughout the day.  It is so beautiful.  Also nice to have an excuse to pull out the dusty sweaters and cuddle up together in bed.  Lots of new creatures out though... here Theo explores his first banana slug.

On Saturday night we left Alice to put the kids down.  Kaia has very cute new jammies.  Sadly she finally outgrew the purple one piece that was so super cute for so super long. 
 Kidless we headed out (in our own car) to a 'Concertos and Coctails' evening at ISM.  It was organized by the mother of one of my tutor students and featured students and teachers from a local music school.  Umoja offers music lessons mainly in stringed instruments and has an extensive outreach program.  It was AMAZING and they raised tons of money.  Besides it is always nice to have an excuse to dress up and play adult for a night.

Mom... the older woman in the middle is Carol Stubbs.  You asked if we knew her family and everyone knows the Stubbs and you can see some of their lives on the Stubbs Family Website.  We don't know them personally but know them through their performances.  They are teaching at a local university and are involved in just about any performance throughout the city.  I find them very interesting because they moved here only a few years ago and I think it is really brave for a family with teenagers to uproot themselves and move to Africa, especially since the youngest daughter has some learning difficulties.  They are all home schooled and are all incredibly talented musically.  I have so much respect for the parents because I could never imagine home schooling high school students, and they are obviously doing an incredible job.  The oldest daughter is the most interesting to me, probably because I have seen her perform the most.  She speaks fluent Swahili and is a chameleon, in her element on stage playing a cello solo or performing a native African dance.  She is only 16 or so but appears to be completely comfortable in her own skin and so open and to the world around her.  

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ya Banana

It's raining!  It's pouring!
Need mops to clean the flooring.
There's a pool in my backyard,
Kaia's swimming with the swiss chard.

Forgot just how much rain comes!  Yesterday around 2 it started raining and hasn't let up since.  Car guy says we might get the car back today and that would  be fantastic because with full on rain and no power we will quickly run out of things to do.  Ironic that we survive on hydro power here but the power almost always goes off when the rain comes.

 Carl came home with flowers for no reason.  11 for me and 1 for Kaia.  Very nice.
Amongst all the weeds we found a potato sort of veggie.  Even Alice had never cooked with them before but we turned one into a nice potato soup yesterday.  

Turns out our 'cook bananas' are only cook bananas if they are green.  Once they turn yellow they are very sweet 'sweet bananas'.  Understanding bananas is turning out to be way more complicated than I had thought it would be.  My present understanding is we have 3 types of bananas on the property...
  1. Sweet bananas... cannot eat green, sweet when yellow
  2. Cook bananas... for cooking when green, sweet when yellow
  3. Fry bananas... will never be sweet, not good for cooking, only good for frying.
I am sure my current understanding will evolve multiple times before I have the truth.  But I don't think that Alice or Moses really know, they just like to have an answer when you ask a question.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Twiga Costume

The long rains are starting.  Great for the garden but that means we are stuck inside.  So we are looking for new and interesting ways to entertain ourselves.

Pray is going to be in a play tomorrow!!  Lion King I think.  Parents are responsible for the costumes and the teacher was hoping for a 'homemade' look.  So with a loving heart and great enthusiasm Amy pinned some material to a t-shirt to make a very homemade looking bird.  Yesterday after dress rehearsal I get a desperate call looking for help... almost all the moms went with the 'store bought' look instead.  Poor Pray.

While the mommies cranked our creative wheels, scratched our heads, cursed the power outages, and stubbed our fingers with sharp pins, the boys played.  

And Wha-laa!   
We turned Pray in to the coolest Twiga (giraffe) this side of the equator.  And Kaia doesn't really need an excuse to dress up... but a photo shoot with Twiga is the best reason ever!

One thing leads to another... the shades and smiles are all coming out now!

My dream was one photo of all 3 of them in shades.  This was the closest we got.  Not bad :)

And Helen... Thanks and I responded to your comments about the garden.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Garden Plan

Maybe a few gardeners out there could give me some feedback.  Dad, Fred, Helen, Tom, Dave, anyone?!?  We have 3 main garden beds and I am trying to plan the garden.  Some plants are already growing and healthy.  Most of our plants are either not doing well or could be doing much better.  We have FINALLY just about cleared out the trash heap/fire pit/ant hill/compost bin that was our 3rd garden and I am so excited to get planting!!  Food for thought...

*We plant and harvest year round
*My primary focus is strengthening what we have rather than adding more (for now)
*We have very hot days and cool nights
*Bolded plants are established and cannot be quickly moved
* / indicates my attempt and companion gardening to benefit both plants

  • Garden Left:  Afternoon sun, Can handle wet climate (tall tree drips water in wet season)  Moses thinks plants that have long lives do well because they can grow from seeds during the dry season and are strong enough to endure extra water as mature plants. 
Carrot/onion, chives, leeks, date palms, chili, beet, eggplant, butternut squash, pumpkin, yams, african green leaf veggie, cook bananas, sweet bananas
  • Garden Middle:  Lots of hot African sun, minimal birds (high traffic area)
spinach/onion, lettuce, tomatoes/basil, cherry tomatoes, green beans, peas, mung beans, beet, sunflower, passion fruit, strawberry, broccoli, cauliflower
  • Garden Right:  Afternoon shade
sweet melons, watermelon, strawberries, pineapple, papaya, yams, sugar cane, fry bananas, cook bananas

And a little something for Grandma... 
Theo fell asleep while I was working in the garden today.

And Kaia was not going to be outdone so she wants to make sure you know she is getting VERY good at climbing trees.  Here she is trying desperately to climb high enough to pick the lowest yellow guava.  No luck today but there is still tomorrow.

Monday, March 14, 2011


I drove the car pool this morning.  Nice to feel like we are back in the groove even if it is only superficially.  We ran late though... it was raining.  Kaia wanted to wear her rain pants, sweatshirt, rain jacket, and rain boots.  Took her forever to get dressed!!  Then she walked 10 meters to the car and started taking it all off again 'because we are getting in the car now'.  Ha Ha!!  Only funny afterward!!
Tonight after dinner Kaia was walking around the house.  
Looking with awe and pointing to the sky.  
'Look I am magical.  I can move the moon.'
Then she tried running to show Theo how fast she could move it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gold Sequins

Our Anniversary this weekend!  4 years since we married.  10 since we started dating.  Hasn't gotten boring yet!  Last year I redecorated Carl's gym room.  This year we sat on the couch trying to remember the date for sure but too lazy to get up and check.  I know you're jealous!

Wonderful friend lent us her car for 4 1/2 days while she is out of town so we feel like normal people again. 

One vital car-requiring errand hanging over our heads was Theo's Yellow Fever vaccination.  He can't enter Canada without it.  Here he is just before the shot.  He handled it pretty well.  Kaia couldn't watch, she ran down the hall to wait it out and came back to give him a stuffed crocodile when it was done.

With Canada on our minds we were wondering today if all our hosts will serve meals on the front porch with a dog to clean up.  

Last night Carl and I went out.  Together.  Like adults.  With adults.  In our own car.  Not for our anniversary but it was a nice coincidence.  It was the birthday of a friend and he hosted a cocktail party.  He was planning on wearing a tux so we decked out too.  I found this at Matoomba the local 2nd hand market.  Kaia LOVED it!!  I would have posed myself but it is so tight and was hard enough to get it on the first time!  It was an outdoor event with no chairs which was perfect because I don't think I could have sat down in it anyway!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Elephant Flag

18 days ago our gear box broke.   The have also fixed a few other minor problems.  Friday they did the final final final test drive and guess what happened... the gear box broke!!   Back to square one. 

Last weekend was International Day at ISM.  A super fun day that draws everyone out.  The central area at ISM is a cafeteria/theater and it hosts performances all day long, everything from Indian Raga to Belly Dancing.  Tents filled with food, clothes, and culture occupy the surrounding space.  This year the North American tent was awesome for kids... bows and arrows, a campfire to roast marshmallows and hot dogs, 3 kid sized tee pees, and craft table to make your own American Indian headdress.  Also noteworthy... this year Israel and the Middle Eastern countries shared a tent and offered fine cuisine, tea, and hennas.

Last year at International Day you could bring a wooden elephant home with you and paint it to represent you and/or  your family.  This year they displayed them.  We are a family of 4 and we have each been born in a different country!  So these are the four countries of our births.  Big flags for mommies and daddies, little flags for wee ones.

This morning Carl started to do the dishes.  Thank goodness it wasn't me, i think my heart would have stopped for a minute.  Poor gecko, he must have been terrified!!

I generally put Kaia down for a nap if she takes one in the afternoon.  Today I completely forgot I had booked a student and she showed up right as I was walking Kaia down the hall.  So I asked her to be a big girl, put herself down for a nap, and that I would come get her when I finished.  I figured she would just play and read stories but when I finished this is what I found :)

You know your kids are living happy healthy lives when... this is what the bath water looks like every day.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Meet Pray

No car but we really are settling in nicely.  Some days we are all in sync and today was one of those days.  I gardened in the morning.  Still digging out the banana trees, trying to level the garden, and digging a hole to store the manure.  Kaia played so nicely with Theo.  When Theo went down for a nap she helped me in the garden.  In the afternoon our friend Amy picked us up and took us to the Blue Heron, it helped to have a nice reward lined up to end the day.

Meet Pray
I thought I would introduce you to some people in our lives.
Pray is 9 months older than Kaia and they are 2 peas in a pod.  His given name is 'Pray God' because his mother tried for a long time to get pregnant and she was very thankful.  Very sadly she died in childbirth.  His father is a polio survivor who isn't able to care for him so he was raised in a local orphanage.  

Enter  Amy.  While in university she came to Africa on a volunteer trip and fell in love with him.  After many visits she left her life at university behind and moved here to start the adoption process.  She was only 24 at the time and had to wait till she was 25 to finalize the process.  She had to jump through so many hurdles and compile piles of paperwork.  That was in November.  She arrived to court with all her paperwork in order, a clean conscious from completing the process without any unethical bribes, an open heart, and a dream of bringing him home to meet her family for Christmas.  The judge was too busy that day to hear her case and sent her away till March.  Devastating.

Since then it seems she has faced a string of problems and postponements.  She lives here indefinitely, with no work permit, and the reoccurring hope that the next date will be THE date.

Selfishly we are happy to have them here and will enjoy their company until they are lucky enough to leave.  Our next hope is that they will be home in time for us to visit them on our road trip this summer.

Here they are climbing the tree at the Blue Heron.  We scored BIG TIME on macadamia nuts today!! 

Theo is starting to understand how the camera works.  But he gets all excited and runs up really really close!!  With our slow delayed flash it is really hard to get a good shot, unless you want a shot of how dirty his nose is.

Ha Ha!  This is exactly what it looks like!!

Carl committed to selling our cat carrier today.  We are at peace with the fact that Sassy will spend the rest of his life here.  He is already a healthy 10 years which is amazing for an Egyptian street cat.  And he is very happy chasing lizards under the African sunshine.

I have saved the best shot for last.  Carl sent me this pic from school because he wants my opinion on it.  So I open the phone lines... let us know what you think!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Gas Oven

Yes.  Still Stranded.  
Something about a connection, another piece, test drives, yadda yadda.

Sorry, I meant... 
Yes!  Still Stranded!

Over the last 2 weeks I have learned A LOT about the garden!!  And I of coarse still have lots more to learrn.  But (for your next trivia event) did you know...
Banana trees grow in clumps like this one.  You plant one baby and as it matures its roots begin to grow more babies.  I think it takes about a year for a tree to mature and bear fruit and a whole lot of water.  Bananas has one of the largest water requirement to fruit ratios.  And each tree will only produce ONE bunch of bananas.  Can you believe!!  Then you have to cut it down and wait for the babies to produce fruit.  Interesting?  Debatable, but it is to me :)

Once upon a time I thought a man would complete me.  Then I thought my children would complete me.  But as it turns out a gas-electric stove was what I needed most.  Imagine this.  The power goes off, you were just in the middle of making dinner, you are dreaming of warm fresh baked bread, the night guard needs a coffee or he will wake us with his snoring, and the water is not warm yet for baths.  No worries babe!!  I don't even care that there is a tremendously dangerous gas can in the smack dab middle of my kitchen.

Super Gardening Ballerina makes her debut!  
She is stronger that Moses 
(or so she insists)
She can climb Mt. Meru in a single leap
(the nickname for the big pile of dirt in the yard)
And she can scarf down a glass of lemonade in record time
(nothing in brackets needed)
She's our super girl!!