Thursday, March 29, 2012

Shots we can get away with - for now

So, here I am at a nice cafe/restaurant ('The Blue Heron') while the rest of the gang hikes around Lake Duluti ... a very nice but challenging walk around a local lake.  They will see (perhaps) some monitor lizards (big ones!), monkeys, owls, birds, etc. but no crocodiles or anything threatening.  Leslie and John have been asking for a good walk and I think they will enjoy this one today ...
So, here are a few random fun shots 'that we can get away with' for now (at their age ... tolerance with their parents!!!!) ...
Kaia yesterday on our side porch ... it was raining and she decided to be creative with the umbrella on the porch ... and with her ponies of course!  Cute!
Not sure who exactly is most responsible here?!  Theo will enjoy this one with age no?  (among many ...)  Sort of look like some strange super-hero duo no?
Got a ways to go here Theo ... but you'll get there!
This shot was from a few weeks back ... but too cute not to post ... this is our cat-carrier! - nice hide out from parents as well ....
Kaia loves her swimsuits, and give her credit - she can share them with her brother too!
This is a familiar bath time (just before bed) shot each day for us ... they love getting on their bellies and flip-flopping in the tub ... a couple of real 'guppies' here ...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Leslie and John come back to us!

Yep - Leslie and John came back to us on Tuesday afternoon ... lots of excitement and pics from their safari to Ngorogoro Crater and the Serengetti.  I'm sure we'll share more soon about that but they were both a bit 'beat' and ready for a day of rest ... and Kaia and Theo were ready to POUNCE on their Aunt and Uncle!  A day of rest ? - with us?  Hahaha!  Here is our front porch, usual place where we eat some dinner .... on Tuesday eve.

It seems that almost every day that Leslie and John are with us, Leslie is wandering down from their room with yet another gift from home!  Roxanne and Lindy were yet again so generous and thoughtful to send a nice top for PJ (hopefully picture soon?), some nice pants for Theo, a really cozy sweatshirt/hoodie for Kaia with some funny bands ... here are the funny bands anyway on Kaia's wrist!  Thanks Roxanne and family!!!! XXXXOOOOO
John and Leslie planned on Wednesday being productive and restful - again - Haha!  Kaia and Theo were in with John at many points trying to 'help' with his washing of clothes ... poor John.
We did have a nice afternoon outing to a local coffee lodge where they have great food, a swimming pool, park, etc. (and GREAT coffee of course!) - here is PJ swamped with our children in the pool - it never stopped ... don't know where she finds the patience and energy!  
Theo did eventually settle down enough to have a nap at the lodge ... this was just after a refreshing nap!  

and Daddy did alright for his first outing ... not great but not bad ... a little awkward but it was well enough documented!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hospitals - Tanzania style

So!  Here we are ... Day 3 of being back home from the hospital and all going well.  Not easy, that's for sure but better than I expected.  At the start I worried about getting out of bed, going to the bathroom by myself, going down a step in the house, all fine ... today's goal? - bath!  It's been almost a week so I am due!  Phew!  Here is a pic of the ground floor bedroom set up for me for my return ... how nice is that?!
Everyone of course asks about how the whole hospital experience went here ... it was a bit of a doozy but generally quite fine and positive.  A few highlights/lowlights ...
-    check in!  Yikes … took approx. 6 hours of waiting waiting waiting … now I know why they wanted me to check in the day before … I had a nice nap in the lobby as I waited … another clinic visit for my vitals and any history that was relevant … waiting waiting waiting … finally walked up to my room and given a bed that looked like they had hardly changed the sheets!
-    Roomates!  Mostly good here … don’t get me wrong – two other men in the room with similar orthopaedic situations.  Jackson – a 45 year old man who had a bad traffic accident in October 2010.  Left leg amputated right away and similar to mine.  Right leg crushed in several places, and still being operated on with maybe more to come, maybe another amputation of this leg as well.  In fact, the morning that I left (Friday) he was being operated on again for that leg.  He was remarkably upbeat, very helpful to me the entire time, spoke English very well and enjoyed reading my principal theory books!  Very nice to have in the room, a government worker of some capacity I was not sure of but his insurance covered the medical attention he needs except for a prosthesis – not sure what he is going to do there.  Lye – a 19 year old Masaai who developed some sort of cancer in his leg and they amputated above the knee 2 months ago.  His village ‘doesn’t want him anymore’ and his family has basically ‘disowned’ him – fearing this cancer will spread!  He has been in the hospital 2 months now and the director of the hospital is trying to find him a home.  He is learning how to walk with a walker and crutch.  Again, remarkably strong/upbeat individual who was a bit tough to interact with given his age and lack of English.  I found so much inspiration in these two men.
-    Visitors!  Well, I had my share as well with school staff and of course my family coming and that was very nice … but wow – the visitors that Jackson especially got were basically nonstop hour by hour – family, cousins, neighbors, church memebers, it goes on and on …. Again – you have to respect this culture for it’s community support!  It was annoying at times for privacy and for rest but wow …
-    Care!  This lacked somewhat … but is typical and what I kinda heard going in … Nurses came often but were not very helpful – they were very social but often forgot requests and came at weird hours or concentrated within a few minutes, then we would not see them again for many hours.  Jackson’s brother was there almost the whole time and he helped out so much … helping me with going to the bathroom, helping me with my meals, putting the bed up/down, etc.
-    Meals!  Errrgh!  No coffee, ever!  Tea most mornings but never beyond breakfast time.  You had to buy your own water.  And the meal for lunch and dinner was basically the same every day … white rice, small bit of potato stew with some beef and carrot, 2 cucumber slices, and if you were lucky – a small slice of fruit.  Breakfast one day was a sausage and an egg.  2 hard boiled eggs the next day.  One scrambled egg the next day.  One day I could not eat in advance of the sugery …
-    Surgery!  They took me around Noon Wednesday.  Started the procedure around 1:30 PM.  Epidural (spinal aneasthesia) that numbed my entire lower half, but I was still awake and able to move my arms, head, etc.  Weird sensation!  I could sometimes seem them lifting up my leg (painting iodine) and it felt so ‘other worldly’!  I asked them if I could be propped up to watch the operation but they advised not.  I could see some details (fuzzy) in the reflective ceiling though.  Kinda cool!  Before they started the operation everyone said a prayer – nice.  Very little pain afterwards overall … I am still on Ibuprofen every 8 hours but that mostly helps with my lower back aches from lying down too long (ie. overnight) – knee feels pretty good generally. 
-    CheckOut!  Well, I was supposed to be checked out by 12 Noon Friday but PJ and John (who picked me up) had a few hoops to jump through … and waiting … waiting … waiting … so by 4:30 PM we were driving away.  Oh, but to load me in the car! – took  a stretcher and approx. 6 hospital staff and approx. 20 onlookers.  What a scene!  OK, but keep in mind that this entire surgery, medication, etc. cost approx. 400 US dollars.  Bargain no?  Here is a pic of what my leg looks like now in the cast ...
I think this is more than enough for one entry … sorry I blathered on a while … but I enjoy/will enjoy reading this narrative … ahh life abroad …

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Ok, so I know it has been a while, but if there is any occasion to drag me out of my blogging hiatus... this is it. Very exciting day.

 Leslie and John should have summited Mt. Meru today.  We were able to see the peak (and waved to them profusely) for a long time this morning so we are hoping they had a beautiful and clear view.  It has been raining on and off the past few days and we hear they have encountered quite a bit of rain so far so they deserve it.

 Carl had surgery on his knee today.
3 months ago he fell off a swing.
2.5 months ago an xray showed a tiny bone fragment that doctors werent worried about.
2 months ago an MRI showed 30% of the tendons had been torn from the knee cap.  Doctors suggested waiting, continuing physio, and re-evaluating in 6 months.
Since then little has changed
2 weeks ago the physio said there was no more he could do.

Last weekend we heard there were two Dutch orthopedic surgeons in for 2 weeks at ALMC where Theo was born AND another Canadian orthopedic surgeon in Moshi for a week or so.  What luck!!  He coresponded with the Canadian who recommended immediate surgery as the tendons would just continue to retract further from the knee cap.  He scheduled surgery in Moshi for Friday.  How fortunate!!

On Monday the Dutch surgeons cleared time to meet him and agreed.  They scheduled him for surgery in Arusha today.  How incredibly fortunate!!  Not only in town but to be operated by two very well respected Dutch surgeons.  This is best case scenario!!  They predict an 80% overall recovery.  That wasn't the best news but good enough and it is certainly better than how he is doing now.

His surgery was at noon today.  He had to go to the hospital by noon yesterday!!  I guess in general here they don't expect people to show up on time or to starve themselves before surgery.  No problem.  Carl left confident with only a few normal pre-surgery jitters.  The surgery only took about half an hour.  Carl was awake for the whole thing.  Weird huh!!  

When they got his knee opened they found that 99.9% of the tendons were actually torn from the knee cap!!!  99.9%!!!  I am still in shock about it.  How he as able to walk at all, manage physio for the past 3 months, get himself to Nairobi for an MRI, and do all the stuff around the house that he has been doing is a mystery!   And... if he has been working off of 0.1% of his tendons, then 80% now feels like a fantastic prognosis!!  Also the tendons had not retracted so they were easy to reattach.  All great news.

And I have to say that while I have struggled and felt discouraged about his leg at times over the past few months, Carl has hardly ever.  He has been so strong and handled this with so much optimism and strength.  I really don't have any idea how he does it.  He is truly my hero and I am so proud of him and so happy for him that we are really on the road to recovery now.  And I have no doubt that he will continue with all that strength and optimism until the day he is fine again.  I am so proud of him!!

He will probably be in the hospital tonight and Thursday night as well.  The first night will probably be the worst.  He has his phone but not internet.  We hope to visit him tomorrow and bring him home on Friday. What a surprise to Leslie and John... when they left just a few days ago to hike the mountain Carl hadn't even met with the doctors yet!!  Great turn around time.  Can't wait to get him home again.

And on a much lighter note... to add a little Africa into the blog.  This is the chicken head that I confiscated from Kaia tonight.  Saidi the night guard gave it to her to nibble on.  YU-U-UCK!!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Leslie and John arrive!

Yep!   They are here!
Arrived safe and sound on Friday night ... and doing fine, even doing well with 10 hours jetlag!
In fact, they are doing so well ... they are off to climb Mt. Meru today!  (4th largest mountain in Africa!)  Good luck ... they seemed winded climbing up our 3 flights of stairs to their bedroom!
Kaia and Mommy woke up around 11 or so to come down and chat the first night .... Kaia warmed up pretty darn quick and now Leslie can't shake her off her ankles!
Theo and John have hit it off pretty well too ... Theo was certainly a bit shy and hesitant here the first morning but he has warmed up considerably since ....
Sunday was spent at Melanie and Stefan's house ... primary objective?  Beer tasting!  oh, no - of course fun times for the kids to spend together (Clea, Kaia and Theo ...)
 - beer tasting was waaaaay down the priority list?  Right John?  (have never seen him smile so wide ...)
wow, great couple shots huh?  Too bad there are so many beer bottles in front yeah?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The 'Castle' - Ground floor

So ... yes, it has been quite a while since the last regular blogs ...
and most of that has to do with settling in to the new place here!
Theo and Kaia seem very happy with everything - lots to explore and places to hide from Mommy and Daddy!
The house is 7 min. from school so that is a major convenience for all of us.
We have some friends on this side of town, but not as many as the Njiro side.
The house is all rooms, bathrooms and stairs!
Tia Leslie and Uncle John visit us starting tomorrow and poor them! - they'll be sleeping on the top floor a few stories up!  Lots of exercise!!!  (these are the top flights of stairs in the house up to the guest room)
The mosquitos have slowly gotten better too - far fewer these days ...
The garden is a wonderful work in progress ... PJ has done some very creative gardening but more on that another day ...

So now, to finish off a bit about our new place here ...
Here are a few pics of the ground floor ...
One of the most bizarre aspects of this place is the switches (here, there, everywhere!) - there is a switch outside for our hot water on the ground floor ... (not pictured) - and this switch here (groan! - also outside ...) pumps the water up to the 2nd floor (cold or hot!)  BIZARRE!!!!
and a switch at the bottom of the stairs on the ground floor - for the 2nd floor hot water!  What the heck?!
Here is our living room ... a strange small-ish corner of the ground floor ... not the greatest of pics, does not do the big / soft / comfy leather couches justice!
Here, another odd little corner of the ground floor, is our dining room area ... fancy/nice wood table with a sink nearby just in case ... sort of in the middle/on the way between kitchen and living room ...
and lastly, for today ... a strange oven/water boiler/stove outside of our kitchen ... close to maid's quarters ... have not used this yet ... for a rainy day ... or maybe we'll fire it up for Leslie and John!  (not sure why/how!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Party Party Party

So, here we are ... another Saturday and another toddler/small child party to go to!
They really can be a 'hoot', although now that we live the other side of town, the ones that used to be sooooo easy to get to are sometimes now a 40 min. drive!  ie. our good friends Jenny and Richard
 Here is a shot of the party crew celebrating Rachel's birthday in the pool - Kaia and Melanie front and center ... and BTW - Rachel turned 2 this day
 Here is a nice shot of the the elaborate cake that Jenny made this day.  She is slightly famous for her cakes, and this baby cake looks great huh?  You can even eat the baby!  No ... not really ... that wouldn't be right now would it?  Again ... Kaia ... front and center! 
and lastly, here is a shot of Bro and Sis saying goodbye in the post party outfits - wait a sec'!  They are naked again!?!  Well mostly anyway ... Oh man ... we can't keep clothes on these kids!  and now they are starting to rub off on others too!  (their friend Leandra! - though you can't tell from this pic)