Friday, July 30, 2010

required reading

I love how much Eleanor loves her books. We brought many with us, bought a few from bookstores here, and my parents (via Tim's parents' suitcases) delivered numerous others. There are three shelves in our living room on which her books sit- at just the right height for her to carefully choose the ones she wants to read each day (usually starting around 6 am). I thought I'd give you a taste of her required reading.

Bookshelves, early morning.

Two recent favorites:

Colors. in particular Green and Purple (see video sidebar, "Reading" as proof).

Books with moving parts
(the little lion is a finger puppet, who also gets kissed fairly regularly).

And a reminder of home.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Asina, nanny extraordinaire

Remember when I was writing about how much I hated leaving Eleanor with the nanny?  Remember how I told you that Eleanor would heave and sob every time she left my arms and that I was left wondering if perhaps the problem was Asina? Do you remember how I agonized over leaving my child with someone that wasn't me, and that I felt like I was doing irreperable damage to Eleanor, to myself, and to our relationship?

Turns out that was just Eleanor's giardia talking.

Asina is amazing. And each day I am increasingly grateful to have her as a part of our lives. Not only because it gives me the littlest of breaks (some time alone, which, in addition to having some daylight hours to work, has meant that I've been able to finally start exercising again) but primarily because I see how much fun Eleanor has with her. And I think that Eleanor appreciates the break from mom too- especially when Tim's in the field and it's just she and I 24 hours a day. Asina takes her out into the village where they visit children and can actually talk to them; where they are invited into peoples' homes; where they see the chickens and just born kittens, or the cow that is being milked.

One morning Asina and Eleanor returned from playing outside carrying the match box that I had given them to return to Eleanor's friend, Manca (Manca had given it to her the day before while playing outside and I didn't mean for us to take it home). "We couldn't find Manca, "Asina said, "so we had to just make our own matches."

Monday, July 26, 2010

the little yellow leaf

Eleanor has a childrens' story, The Little Yellow Leaf, by Carin Berger, that I love to read to her. It's a beautifully illustrated book with a simple yet poignant message about the power of companionship in facing the unknown. It is, of course, way over Eleanor's head. But I read it to her anyway.

Lately I find myself really identifying with the little yellow leaf. To say that Tim has been busy with work in the last two months is a huge understatement. Even when he is physically here, in Arusha or at home, he is often mentally a million miles away- thinking about the last trip or planning for the next. My one real friend here, who has a daughter the same age and whom I communicate with on at least a daily basis, has gone back to the US for a month. I exercise alone. I work alone. My landlords chat, but I can't identify with them. Nor they with me. Eleanor is fantastic company- a pleasure to be around- but she's my child and that's different.

What makes this feeling so palpable lately is the fact that I feel completely lost in the work that's required of me. I have the beginning of ideas of things that I would like to do in the future, but those things are the scary unknown and I don't want to let go of the great oak tree. I can't clearly see the way forward, and that leaves me feeling paralyzed.

I knew there would be times like this; times when Tim was extremely busy and gone for a large portion of any given month; times when Arusha felt the way it did when we first arrived and didn't know anyone; times when work felt heavier than I was able to bear and when I longed for someone to talk with, face-to-face; times when I just wanted, someone to show me the way. I just didn't expect those times to feel like this; to feel so lonely.

Friday, July 23, 2010

please feed the animals

A couple of days ago Eleanor and I were invited for a walk on the property of friends of a friend. They have a large plot of land boarding a coffee plantation and the invitation included the promise of "apples and lemonade from the garden." How could we turn it down?

The friend that invited me, Lisa, has three young children herself and a husband who does a fair bit of traveling with his job (he is one of two people in the Nature Conservancy's Africa office). On this particular Sunday we both had husbands who had been gone the better part of the week, and were looking for a reprieve from our children (or maybe it was the kids who wanted a break from us). I was so thankful to the older kids (6, 4 and 2) for being as patient and gentle and entertaining with Eleanor as they were- they really seemed to enjoy her, and I know that she enjoyed them.

The walk was beautiful, taking us above the airport where we had a stunning view of the mountain (Mount Meru) and could see the whole of downtown Arusha. The kids thrilled at watching the planes take off and the adults relaxed in the shade. Turns out that apples and lemonade and peaceful forest hikes were not all this property had to offer. Four years ago two zebra followed the cows home from their day of grazing, and they have been tagging along ever since. Each day they leave with the cows to wonder in the nearby fields, and every night they see the cows home. The zebra are not fenced, but they also do not leave.

As we rounded the last part of the driveway toward the house, there they where. Lisa pulled out a bag of bread. "Please," she said "feed the animals." 

Just one of the girls: Eleanor with Tierney (left) and Ashlyn.

Feeding the zebra.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

and the results are in

We have a fruit fly problem. (How many different "animals" is this now?) I am baffled by their continued appearance in both the kitchen and bathroom as I have emptied the house of fruit and am careful to clean every crumb and scrap of food that might possibly serve as a feeding ground. And still they come. Every morning. They are there.

The big can of "DOOM" (bug spray) that was left under our kitchen sink seems to have no effect on them and pouring bleach down the drains wasn't helping either, so in a desperate attempt to rid my house of these pests I turned to the internet. One site listed several possible fruit fly traps and, good scientist that I am, I decided to test the efficacy of two of them:

1) A peeled banana and wine (to quote the website "...peeled fruit and wine or balsamic vinegar. Think about what you'd like to have for dinner...") were placed in a bowl and tightly covered with plastic wrap. Small holes were poked in the wrap with a fork.

2) A bowl of beer (again, to quote "you'd be surprised how many fruit flies you can catch with beer.")

After just a few days we have a clear winner, and my fruit fly problem is improving.

Beginning the experiment with beer (front) and banana and wine (back).

Three days later.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Arusha's City Streets

Months ago I started a blog post titled "general specifics" in which I intended to describe Arusha, since I suspect that most people don't have a good idea what life in the city is all about (I certainly didn't before arriving). I was going to provide a lovely map, give information about population size and major industries, then describe the sights, sounds, and smells of the city and surrounding villages.

Notice everything is in past tense. Every time I sat down to write this post it ended up feeling completely inadequate. I just couldn't do justice to the experience of Arusha. I needed images. So, for several days now the camera has been our (secret) companion on outings to town and we have collected images (again, on the sly) of Arusha. Now if only I could also bottle the smell and record the sounds, then we'd be in business.

A few images from Arusha (again, captions proceed the images):

Our road, during the long rains...

and a week or two post long-rains.

Driving the Nairobi-Moshi Road, runs north of the city center.

Furniture for sale, on the side of Nairobi-Moshi Road.

People moving cars.

Our driver.

Billboards at one of the main roundabouts.

Radio salesman, downtown.


 Building downtown.
Pulling into traffic, main road running through the center of town.

Mkoko tenes, the main method by which things (every and anything) 
are moved around the city;

 including small car parts (that's what you can't see in this one),


and food (here, bags of potatoes).

Vendors, downtown.

Not an uncommon site; misjudged the turn, slid into a ditch.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

being adaptable

Last night a friend, who's staying in the guest house downstairs and eating his meals with us upstairs, made pineapple upside down cake for dessert as his contribution to dinner. He found a delicious recipe, but needed to make a few changes. For example, you cannot get hard-pack brown sugar here, so we used raw brown sugar instead; butter does not come in sticks- rather in large blocks- so measuring "1.5 sticks" was done largely by estimation; and our oven is so small that there's no way a cast-iron skillet was fitting inside (we don't have one either) so the prepared batter went into a 9X9 inch pan instead. The cake maybe didn't look as beautiful as the picture on, but it tasted fantastic.

Being adaptable is the way of life here- a necessity- not just an advantageous character trait. I have had to alter countless recipes to accommodate missing ingredients, our tiny oven, or inability to determine cooking temperature; [insert food here] might be available Tuesday but not Thursday (and then never seen again); the diapers that Eleanor has been wearing since we arrived in Tanzania have suddenly disappeared from every grocery store in Arusha so we now have to buy an entirely different (and more expensive) brand; electricity is fickle and unreliable and the generator is only turned on during certain hours of the day; stores close without warning, and reopen (or open for the first time) the same way.

In the past few days I have wondered if our return to reliable [insert anything here- internet, traffic patterns/road rules, food resources, hot water ....] will make us more or less frustrated when those things suddenly become unreliable. When I know that I can get quinoa anytime I want it, will I still be able to say "Well, I guess I'll have to use barley instead" when the bulk bins at Whole Foods and Weaver St. are empty or will I slip and let loose a few choice expletives?  I hope it's the former, but only time will tell.

For now, I'm proving my adaptability by not eating oatmeal for breakfast and just enjoying the leftovers.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Images from our days

I decided to keep this one simple. Here are some images from our days- so that you can see what life is like, and so that we don't forget once we're home. For those of you requesting more photos of Tim and I, we're trying to remember to turn the camera on ourselves every now and again. We just think Eleanor is so damn cute.

For this post, captions proceed the photos.

Roasted almonds, for (an attempt at) homemade almond butter

Eleanor playing with the dogs' water bowl...

showing how she can lift it...

then realizing that she doesn't want to.

The aftermath.

Driving in Arusha.

Cleaning the kitchen after dinner.

Drinking water.

Our wall of words (Eleanor's contribution is at the bottom).

Quinoa (ahhhhhhh....)



Eating (?) corn in the car.

"This is my mom."

Eleanor after dinner.

And my pants after Eleanor's dinner.

  Playing in the sandbox.

Floor art with a rose.