Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Ticket please

We’ve lived here in Kenya now for almost 14 months.

I’ve been to the different markets here in Thika plenty.  So much so that the locals all know me and I’m old news.  Gone are the days when everyone would turn and stare, call Mazungu, or try to charge me insane prices for items.

But then last week I took the Centre girls out shopping for their babies with some money that was left over from Janet Fraser’s shoe project.

They suggested that we shop on Friday, which was open market day.

Why have I lived here for 14 months and yet no one has told me about “open market”????  

Open market is as close as Kenya can come to g-saling in the states.  While the regular market days boast permanent stalls housed in stone, wood or metal; open market day allows for people to lay out tarps on the ground on which they lay heaps of textile items.  Each vendor sets their own price.   They hawk their wares by yelling as loud as they can the prices of their items:  “Thirty bob, thirty bob, thirty bob!”  Music to my ears.  That’s 30 shillings, which is equivalent to just under 50 cents US.

So, I went with the pregnant girls, all of their babies and their house-mother to the open market.  Oh, and Ameena too.  Tied on African style, with a twist–carried on my front in a kanga.  The Kenyan women didn’t seem to appreciate my style.  Too many comments about Ameena’s head being “too low” or “too crooked”, or my kanga not being tight enough.  At least they’re concerned for Ameena.

So concerned, that once they realized there was a Mazungu baby in there, all mayhem broke loose.

You’d think they’d never seen a white baby before.

Oh wait, they hadn’t.

Here’s the visual picture:  Ameena wrapped up in a brightly colored cloth, as she lays prone across my front side.  She’s tight, like you’d find in an american sling.  She’s sleeping, happily.  

So, I was nice.  I let a few women peek inside the cloth at sleeping Ameena.  And then I turned back to looking at some shoes.  Then I turned around and saw a line of women and children and thought, “What are they waiting for?”

And then the light bulb turned on and I realized that all of those people were waiting for their “peeks” at Ameena.  So I indulged.  And more came. 

And more.

So many viewed Ameena that I seriously thought I should start selling tickets for viewing.  I might have made back what I spent in the market.

We must have made quite an impression because when I went back to the open market yesterday (um, yeh, I’ll probably go every week now) everyone asked “Where is the baby?”  

To which I answered, “With dad”. 

You can’t seriously shop with kids in tow can you???




Ian has always had a special relationship with his hair. 

He won’t admit it though. 

When I met him in college he had long straight hair that went past his shoulders.  I used to watch him mess with it during chapel.  He’d pull it back into a ponytail and flip it up and down when nervous. 

He’s making a lot of jokes these days about the lack of hair on his head.  He definitely knows how to make up for it with hair on his face. 

In his honor, since it’s Father’s Day, I decided to post a sampling of his facial hair adventures: 

This was his beard a few days's shaven now

This was in November...he really was starting to scare the native women here with this beard. I think it made him look too aggressive??? I thought he just looked kind of biblical.

This is Ian's 1st beard ever, in 2006




Ian's a natural trucker

Ian's title on this photo: 6 weeks, I shaved for Anne since she rented the house

Wow. Looks like Lincoln.

Baby Paperwork…..

So, my friend Eve asked if we would have to get a passport for the baby once it is born in order to come back to the US with her.

And yes we will. 

First, we’ll go to the US Embassy with the record of birth given to me by the hospital this sweet little pea is born at.   Ian and I will show our marriage certificate and material demonstrating that we are both US citizens (passports).  From there, the Embassy will issue a Certificate of Birth (DS-1350) and a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (FS-240).  The Consular Report of Birth Abroad document will give all of the details showing that this little girl has acquired US citizenship at birth because both Ian and I are American citizens, despite the fact that she is born in Kenya.  While she won’t have the typical type of birth certificate issued by the State that children born in the US have, these forms will serve for all legal purposes that a US Birth Certificate would serve for.

Does this mean that she will still be a “natural born citizen”?

Yes, For children born abroad, the principle which applies is jus sanguinis, or “rule of the blood,” rather than jus soli (rule of soil) and the rules can get a bit tricky. If a child is born to two parents who are both American citizens, the case is usually clear, and the parents need only apply for a United States passport on the child’s behalf to ensure that his or her citizenship is formally recognized.

So, we’ll  also apply for her passport, not only to recognize her citizenship, but to travel with her home to the US late summer.  What a world traveler to have a passport at just a month of age!  Some of you have asked if little baby May will have dual citizenship.   The answer is yes, although the US doesn’t really recognize dual citizenship, Kenya does.   She will be considered a citizen of both countries until she comes of age or pursues some avenue legally declaring her allegiance to one country and not the other.   

She can be an American or a waKenyan.  Whichever she decides.

To put it all in perspective….

One of the things I really enjoy about being here at Karibu Centre is taking the women in to the hospital when they are going into labor.

It works out this way because only Ian and I are able to drive the  Centre van, and often, it just seems better to have me walking into the maternity ward at the district hospital (who’s gonna bother this seriously pregnant woman?) than the one white guy in town.  The staff at the hospital are familiar with me and the other Kenyan Centre staff that go there regularly (the house mom for the pregnant girls & our social worker) and they rarely give us problems if it is outside of visiting hours, or if we want to do something (like walk right into the labor ward) that everyone else is prohibited from doing.

Anyhow, a little over a week ago, I went through the normal routine of  taking one of our girls in to the hospital.  And she had a beautiful baby boy, with no complications, on Good Friday.

There was however a wrinkle in the wonderful day.  Another girl gave birth that same day, a wonderful young mom who lived at our Centre for a while, and then voluntarily left to go live in the slum next door with her boyfriend.  After a lot of conversations with staff, this young woman had decided that she preferred her freedom and living with the boyfriend over some of the benefits that could be afforded by living here at the Centre (good nutrition, vocational training, medical care etc). 

This mom gave birth to a wonderful baby boy.   With a malformed head.

Staff came and reported this to me, and couldn’t really explain the difficulty, so when we went to pick up our mom and her little one, I asked the hospital staff if I might see the baby.

These are the instances when I experience white privilege.  I’m not proud of this privilege that is afforded to me….for no reason other than the color of my skin or my perceived socioeconomic status.  But, I’m not gonna lie either, I take advantage of this privilege when it allows me to help out these young women and children.

The baby was being kept in the nursery (our equivalent would be ICU), and the nurse wanted to know what relation I was to the baby.  I explained that this young mom used to stay at our Centre, that she was on her own now, and would need help to give this baby medical treatment if it needed it, and that help was me.  I was let right in.  Unfortunately, money talks.

What I saw broke my heart.  A beautiful baby boy, seemingly perfect in every way except for the 3 inch diameter dent around the frontal lobe of his head.  When I questioned the nurse, she was adamant that it was a congenital defect and not birth related trauma.  She had me feel the dent, and true to what she said, I could not feel any skull there.    I thanked her for letting me see the baby, and she let me know that they would keep him there for about 4 more days to see if there were any other complications…and to take a xray.

I went back in to see the young mom, who was sitting on her bed (with the 3 other women who shared it) with her boyfriend next to her.  She is fortunate, there are so many young mothers here facing pregnancy and birth alone, without the monetary or emotional support of the baby’s father or family around.  I gave her a hug, assured her we would figure it all out, and told her what a beautiful boy she had.

As I walked out of the ward, with the usual crowd of very pregnant Kenyan women watching me (ok, gawking really), I had to wonder why of all the 12 or so mothers’ we’ve taken to the hospital, and who have all had routine healthy deliveries……why  the one mom who left before delivering had this complication?  Ian and I thought it over and decided that maybe in his wisdom, God was protecting the Centre from any possible liability, while allowing me to help this woman personally.  But we also know that God does not engineer tragedy, that it is a tool of Satan, and that we can be assured that God helps us work through the evil things of this world to bring glory to Him in the end.

So, with a heart laden with joy over the new healthy boy  and mom the Centre was bringing home, and sadness over the mom we were leaving at the hospital I came home to contemplate what our further involvement might look like.

Part 2 tomorrow.

Blog grabbing

Here in Kenya, if you use the term “land grabbing” pretty much anyone knows what you mean.  It’s the process of people taking land that isn’t theirs to sell.  They might represent themselves as real estate agents and sell you a land deed or title (that later turns out to be false), or it could be a person that just decides to put up a house on someone elses property etc.  You’ll see signs all over the place that read:

“This land is NOT FOR SALE!”

Warning people to not be tricked into buying a title or deed for the property from some enterprising individual a.k.a. criminal.

Well, I’m gonna do a little “blog-grabbing” from my Nairobi friend, Naoma.   Are you reading this right now?

I loved her most recent post on the life and sights of  Nairobi so much, and really….couldn’t top it if I tried, so I wanted to share it all with you.  She also brings a different perspective of life in Kenya that you all might enjoy….I know I do!

Go here, to check it out!

Thanks Naoma!!!

I’ve been demoted

Eli’s newest deal is to threaten me with things like,

“You won’t be my mom any more.”  ”

I won’t love you, if you don’t…” and so on. 

I don’t generally respond to his threats except to shrug my shoulders and say something like, “That’s too bad”.

Tonight, he again said that I was no longer his mom.  I said, “Ok.”  He then informed me that Megan was his new mom.  Megan is our Volunteer Coordinator at Karibu Centre, also from Portland, Oregon.

I responded with, “Great, then you can go wake Megan up at 6:30 everry morning.”

“No” replied Eli, “I’ll still wake you up, you’re the househelp.”

Of course I love that  I’ve just been demoted by a 4 year old.   My only question is, if I’m currently the mom, then where in the world is MY househelp that is supposedly getting up currently with the kids at 6:30 am every day???  Cause as far as I know, and I’ve been here since May, I haven’t had househelp that hang out with my kids at 6:30 am so I can sleep….

DeJa Vu

Today Ian and I had a conversation that I am almost positive we had before Eli was born.

It has to do with the baby’s sleeping arrangements.

Before Eli was born, I had THE most difficult time justifying why we needed a cradle (borrowed) for him.  Ian was empathic that we could just use a drawer from the dresser, or even a tub.  He’s really a practical guy, and most of the time I appreciate this about him, but not today.

Today, we had that conversation all over again….pretty much 5 years later to the day.

It went a little something like this:

Ian-“Why can’t the baby sleep in bed with you?”

Me-“Because I don’t sleep with a baby in bed with me.  I have nightmares that I’m going to squish it, or that it will get caught in the mosquito net”  (Yes, we have the added bonus of having to consider real functional netting at night for me and the baby so we don’t get The Malaria).

Ian-somewhat jokingly, but not quite enough, “And why would you want to deprive the baby of that nurturing?”

Anne- “Because I don’t sleep with a baby on me all night and I don’t think you all want me that *itchy from not sleeping”

Ian-“It’s just 2 months.”


Ian-“Where are you going to put the cradle?”

Anne-“There (pointing at the end of our bedroom where my desk currently is, but won’t be) or maybe in the guest room.

We journey to the  guest room.

Ian- “And where will it go in here?”

Mind you, I am a spatial planner and I have been planning this arrangement of new baby furniture since the 2nd ultrasound confirming this baby’s viability (so for 5 months now).

Anyhow….the conversation continued…with a lot of back and forth and Ian ending with:  “So why can’t we just prop up this bed and then the baby lies on one side and you use the other side as a changing area?”

To which I replied, “Hey, if I have to have a baby in Africa, don’t go ruining the small amount of pleasure I might get from having a cradle made, and buying a used changing table.”

Ian-“Don’t I get a say?”

Me-“Not really, cause I’m the one getting up to feed it and change it in the middle of the night.”

Ian-“But I can’t breast feed it.”

Me-“That’s my point.”

So, I think this conversation will die like the one did before Eli was born….and when Ian comes back from his 4 year amnesia of what it is like to go without sustained night sleep for months on end because of a fussing baby.

In that spirit, I’m going to take this picture to the local carpenter in the market to see if he can make this, or something close in approximation:
Allegro Cradle

I’ll keep you updated on the “arrangement”.