Monday, March 29, 2010


Today I saw a man with no arms and no legs. My friends and I used to tell jokes that start like this ("What do you call a man with no arms and no legs...") and end with some situation (..."in a hole?" or ..."in a lake?") with the punch line being some man's name that fits the question (i.e. Phil or Bob). These were slightly amusing to tell, I suppose...perhaps more amusing to create...but we told them anyway.

Today was no joke. This man was being pushed in his wheelchair in (what would be) the bike lane (if there were such a thing here) on the busiest street in all of Arusha in the blazing hot 1:00 pm sun. At some point this afternoon/evening, this man will return to his (assuredly, since this is how a great majority of the people live) one-room cement or mud house which he shares with any number of people (2, 4, 7- these are all plausible).

Yesterday I was complaining (to myself, my parents, anyone who would listen) that it's the rainy season and "there are no children's or science museums to take Eleanor to and woe is me what ever am I going to do in the rain?!"

Even living here, I have an incredible number of resources at my fingertips. When I leave Africa, I get to go home: a place where there is reliable power; where I have a nice car to drive to the Co-Op to buy my locally grown organic food; where I have an amazing amount of education which makes me very upwardly mobile. Life in Africa is difficult enough as it is, and as I sat there, in my air conditioned car, watching this man with no limbs navigating through it I thought, "What the hell are you complaining about?"

This is not to say that I won't have any more "down on Tanzania days" or that there will be no more posts with me complaining about not having lightening fast internet, but for the time being I call a man with no arms and no legs "perspective".

Friday, March 26, 2010


I've been feeling more homesick than usual lately. The feeling is a nice one, because it forces me to reflect on all the things I love and miss about home (and it never lasts too long, so it's bearable). As I was making a list of these things in my head, I realized it would be good to share them with you. We write a lot about life here, but don't often reflect (on paper) on how much about life at home, with you [reader], we appreciate and look forward to having again. We think of you all, everyday. And you provide comfort, support, and laughter even from afar. Thank you. So here's a list of just some of the things we miss, in no particular order.
- kjd

(PS- I couldn't find photos of everyone...and everything...that I wanted, so your absence on this list is not an absence from our hearts. Aw.)
Bundling up for walks.





Red and yellow bell peppers (and quinoa, and almond butter, and...)

Friends (Eleanor)...

...and Kiyah and Tim.


Music tables.

Weaver St.

Having a winning team...and watching the games with B12.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What color is the orange?

Eleanor and I have been working on colors lately:

"Do you want to pick an orange flower, Eleanor?"

"Look at that green coffee bean you just pulled off the bush."
"Where is the dog's yellow tennis ball?"

She doesn't repeat the colors back to me, but I figure it's good to keep those neurons firing. The other day I was going to use our fruit bowl to help her explore the color wheel, but soon realized that wouldn't be much fun. Can you pick out which is the the orange, lemon, and lime?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Learning to listen to myself

Three weeks ago we hired a nanny. Her name is Asina. She's a lovely woman, coming highly recommended by a teacher from the International School who has since returned to Canada. She looks after Eleanor three days a week for five hours each day. She takes Eleanor outside to look at the trees and flowers, to play in the grass and with the dogs. She brings her to all the other house staff to say good morning. She laughs when Eleanor smiles, or giggles. To us she seems great.

But for the past three weeks, when with her, Eleanor has CRIED nonstop. If there's one thing my mom has always said to me it's that I have good instincts and when my child behaves this way my instincts tell me that something is wrong. That something needs to be changed. That my child needs me. My instincts tell me to listen to myself.

Then I think about the fact that if it weren't for modern medicine Eleanor and/or I might not be here (breech, virtually no amniotic fluid) and if that's evolution trying to tell me anything maybe my instincts are wrong (if I wouldn't have survived childbirth, I wouldn't be able to follow my [bad] instincts). It's silly maybe...but maybe not.

When I think about this, I question myself.

Then I listen to the voices that are outside my head. They tell me that she's willful, and that if I give into this behavior now that I will be in trouble down the line; that I will instill in her a sense of power of which she will learn to take advantage. They tell me that it's normal for a child her age to experience separation anxiety and I should just "pat her on the head, say goodbye, and leave. She will cry, oh she will cry, but children must learn that they cannot have everything they want." They tell me that I need a nanny because that's what you do when you live in a foreign country and you can afford one. They tell me that I need to have a life outside my child, that I need to work, that I need to make money, that I need to be able to meet friends for lunch (okay, this one I actually agree with).  They tell me that I probably am just doing what's best for me, not what's best for her.

When I listen to them, I question myself.

There is probably some truth to all these statements, but trying to decipher how much is true and where that truth lies seems an impossible task for me. I feel that I am always doing what's best for her, that I always have her best interest at heart (my family's next) but maybe I have become so close to her that I can no longer see the true boundaries of our needs. Maybe I mistake my needs for hers. Maybe all those external voices are right.

I know that I am not the first mother to experience this, and I know that I won't be the last. Somehow that's not as comforting as I would hope. In the end, what I do know is true, is that learning to listen to myself is considerably harder than I thought it would be.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Going on safari is so depressing

This weekend we ventured out to Tarangire National Park for the day. For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of the area, this is the park that boarders Tim's field sites, which lay to the eastern side of the park boundary. So unofficially, we were doing research: getting to know the park a little better and collecting seasonal "data" on water levels in the river (that is to say, finding one spot where Tim can return three other times throughout the year to take a photo of the river). Officially we were just going on safari.

Tarangire is the place in Tanzania to see elephants, which we were excited about since we hadn't seen any on our previous trips, but it provided so much more. In the first hour past the park gate we saw: a Vervet monkey, baboon, two lions (one in a tree, which is very unusual), bush buck, antelope, giraffe, warthog, a leopard tortoise, water buffalo, and elephants. Boy, did we see elephants. It was thrilling.

As we drove into town, the three of us grew increasingly quiet. I felt sluggish, tired, and anxious and these feelings became weightier as the traffic, people, buildings, exhaust and noise became denser. I soon recognized the feeling as the same one that greets me each time we return to the city from the bush.

Too bad going on safari is ends up being so depressing.

 Enjoying the ride.

Bull elephant.


Tim and elephant.

Eleanor watching the elephants.


More clouds.

From her viewing perch.

More elephants.

Boabab tree, clouds.

Eleanor sees another baby.

Two young bulls at play.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I'm no Angelina Jolie

During our latest trip to Siminjero Tim was able to conduct some interviews. (Finally, some permission letters delivered!) This meant that for an hour and a half, Eleanor and I were free to explore the village. I use the term 'explore' loosely, however, because the sun made it too hot (because of the BLAZING high-noon heat) and dangerous (because of the BLAZING high-noon heat) to venture much further than the (roughly) three feet of shade that fell around the village's administrative offices.

In Lobersoit we were lucky enough the have the gravel front yard of Tim's field assistant Isaya's house to help shade and entertain us. (Have I written yet about how much Eleanor loves playing with rocks?) Joined by several neighborhood children we sat in front of his three room cement home, sorting, counting (with the children teaching me how to count in Kiswahili), and filling (and emptying) plastic containers with rocks.

At 3:30 hundreds of children, recently released from the primary school just around the corner, passed by the driveway to see Eleanor and I happily engaged with out new friends, and suddenly our little gathering was not so intimate. At first they stood staring from the end of the driveway, probably 30 feet away. When the bravest of the group moved to the back of the Land Cruiser, the whole group joined him, and before I knew it I was standing with by back flat against the house hemmed in by a sea of curious onlookers. Had I been a celebrity I would have started signing autographs, but I'm no Angelina Jolie. I froze, and like them, stared.

Consistently, Eleanor has proven much more willing to engage this kind of behavior with mutual curiosity, smiles, and laughter. Maybe it's because she doesn't feel the limitations of the language barrier the way that I do or maybe it's because she doesn't have a one-year old that she feels the need to protect. What ever the reason, Eleanor continues to make friends where ever so goes, and I continue to admire her ability to do so.
- kjd

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Should we give her the test?"

Yesterday, Eleanor's temp went up to 99.9 and each time we tried to give her acetaminophen she threw-up.  I tore through the bathroom looking for the Malaria test kit and pediatric medicine.  Listless and moaning, wearing only a diaper and clinging to Kiyah, she shrieked when the prick went into her big toe.  Blood into the small hole, 5 drops of the buffer in the big hole... and then we had to wait for 15 minutes.

One bar means negative.  

The weight of the day was lifted at midnight.  She awoke as we crawled into bed with her and shrieked again... this time with joy. Time to play.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

How time flies

My computer shuffles through archived photos. Occasionally one catches my eye, and I enlarge it. This time it was one of Eleanor, 6 months old. She is becoming such a little person...

The day before, watching Duke vs. UNC with dear friends.

The morning of her arrival.

Hours old.

2 months.

3 months.

5 months.

6 months.

7 months.

8 months.

9 months.

10 months.

11 months.

1 year.