Posts Tagged ‘Nairobi’

Ameena

Today we celebrate one wonderful year of having Ameena in our lives.  

What a full year this last one has been. 

Being pregnant while living in Africa was interesting.  I felt healthy, but had more physical symptoms than with any of my other children.  Crazy high blood sugar that I monitored much less than I should have—seriously, you think they have glucose meters and testing strips there?  I think the chemist laughed me right out of his pharmacy when I asked about it.  About 4 months into the pregnancy my in-laws were kind enough to bring a meter and strips…and I rationed those babies out til almost a month before the baby was born.   I perfected a pretty good routine of walking a brisk path from our house to the Centre office, around the playground and back to the house…generally before I started dinner as darkness falls quickly and routinely every night there by 7pm.  On some evenings if my sugar was especially high I’d lay on the thin rug covering our concrete floor in the living room and do the “bicycle” like I was escaping town.  I’m sure it looked humorous, but it was pretty effectively in bringing the sugar levels down.

I also dealt with some horrid lower back pain which was in no way helped by the fact that we did all of the washing by hand until mid November.  Unlike our Kenyan househelp who would come twice a week and stoop to do the laundry, I happily seated myself on our little green plastic stool to dunk the clothes in and out of the bin.  The laundry (aka shower room) was my home for good parts of the day.  Sometimes I’d go to stand, and would cry out in pain……it seemed like the only relief would come from going into the child pose.  Many a Kenyan walked into our home in the evenings and found me there in the middle of the room practicing some good ol’ yoga.

I also suffered a great deal more nausea than usual.  This was not helped by the schizophrenic driving conditions we navigated on a daily basis.  One day, when driving with Megan into Nairobi I had to pull over to vomit on the side of the road.  We had just passed through a rural town and I carefully picked the pullover spot to ensure that it would be free from the usual roadside gawkers.  I got out of our car, crossed in front of the car to the side of the road and bent down to vomit.  Out of no where  a group of school kids appeared and in broken English began to ask questions like, “Why the muzungu vomit?”  “Muzungu vomit?!?”  “What wrong pretty lady?” as they pointed at me.  Megan yelled from the car for the kids to go away.  They were unphased.  I quickly signaled for her to take the wheel and climbed into the car hoping to escape their curious stares and prying questions.  A staff member at the Centre later informed me that Kenyan’s have all sorts of beliefs about white people:  1)  We never vomit   2) If we are in the sun too long, our skin might melt  3) We can get anyone into the US and so on.

Even my delivery with Ameena was interesting and so Kenyan.  I was pretty determined to not have to have an epidural during this delivery…I mean I was at a nice hospital, but crazy stuff happens in a 3rd world country and I didn’t want first hand experience.   Having had my first two babies in the US, I was used to nurses coming in and out, checking the vitals, seeing how “far along” things had progressed, bringing in ice chips, wiping down your forehead, fluffing the pillows, telling you what a great job you were doing.  Pretty high standards.  While I did get a visit from my doctor at 9 am, I had labored all morning mostly alone and had walked my room (not a delivery room) wondering when someone might come to check on me.  I parked myself on that labor ball and counted the floor tiles in my room.  There were a good 30 tiles that I could count through on every contraction.

Same position for about 5 hours….and all I could get on t.v. was the election of a new Prime Minister in England. Torture.

Ian finally arrived back from breakfast (it’s never an easy trip in Kenya) at about 10am and after one good look at me went for a nurse.  She came back and decided we better MOVE!  We barely got into that Labor and Delivery room, had me on the ball and in a position to see a good 30 tiles when DANG that pain ramped up.  I started to panic and asked if we might put that sweet bathtub to use.  I’d always wanted to try it during labor.  True to Kenya again, the nurse indicated that it would take a while to get some hot water into it. I was willing to wait.

 
My body wasn’t.  My water popped like a good summer water balloon.  Ian and I later cringed over the thought of that birthing ball rolling over to the corner of the room without a second look from staff.  Gross.
 
I really started to panic.  No hot bath.  Was there anything else I could have?!?  PLEASE?  You know that moment.
 
The nurse started babbling about laughing gas, but that we would need a fetal heart rate first.  She got me up onto the delivery table, strapped that monitor on my belly and started to fiddle with the machine.
 
At that moment, I went a little CRAZY.  The pain was insane.  I starting that horrible writhing around and ripped the belt off of me.  The nurse (Yes, only one) was a little taken aback by my behavior and decided to check me.  “Just 7 cm” she pronounced.  I wanted to kill her.  7 freaking centimeters?  Was she high?
 
She proceeded to get on her cell phone (nope, no landlines, not even in the hospital) to call my doctor on over…..and as she did, I think I made some vulgar comment about either having a major bodily function happen or I was having this baby. 
 
“NO!” everyone (ok the nurse and Ian) yelled.
 
“Whatever” I thought….and you know what?  I pushed that freaking (sorry Ameena) baby out as that darn nurse about had a stroke (trying to hold the phone and put on her dang gloves) while yelling out into the hall and Ian jumped to keep this surprise from dropping on the floor.  The nurse  recovered, and quickly grabbed her goo basin to put at the end of the table and took over for Ian in holding Ameena.  Poor Ian slumped and an additional nurse who had just walked in grabbed his arm and a paper bag for him to breathe into.  Poor  guy.  Too much blood, too much gross, too much baby–all way too fast.
 
Not enough doctor.  She sauntered in 10 minutes later to check everything out.   All I could think was, “Man, I still have to pay her delivery fee and she didn’t even deliver the baby!  But then again, it’s a good thing we don’t pay them for how long they “attend” or some of us would have some ridiculous bills!
 
With all that said, it has been quite a ride Ms. Ameena.  The first 3 months of your life in Kenya have made these last 9 months in the US pale in drama, but I wouldn’t trade a second of it.  You are everything God intended you to be for our family.  Without a doubt I can say that we all adore you and are thankful for the gift that you are to all of us. 
 
Baby, you were worth the wait.
 
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Sleepovers….

….are the best, especially when it’s for your kids at a friend’s house.  Friends from church offered to take the kids this last Friday night and I jumped all over that. 

I got right on the web, and found a weekend special deal at http://www.safaripark-hotel.com/ , a much better deal than I would have found anywhere in town..and this hotel is just a short drive from our friends place where they work at a Children’s Centre run by the Rafiki Foundation. 

Anyhow, Ian and I had a wonderful time, not doing much at all, but enjoying alone time with each other.  We had a wonderful Italian dinner, browsed the 64 acres of lush gardens, a soak in a  bath tub (we don’t have one at our house), and sleeping in til 7:30! 

A wonderful time.  Thank you Doug and Carolyn! 

Our room was spacious and I loved all of the dark wood

 

the view from our patio out onto the Chinese fish pond

 

the landscaping of Safari Park Hotel, an oasis among the chaos of Thika Road

 

a statue without an explanation, but I'm guessing it's fair to say it has to do with fertility? We don't need any of that right about now.....but we thought it was photo worthy

Book me

Not at the police station mind you, I think Ian’s had more than enough interaction with the police for all of us.

No, instead, I am finally getting around to taking my “booking slip” in the hospital today.

I should have done it 3 weeks ago.

But I have to take my wallet with me, and honestly, I haven’t wanted to part with my money quite yet.  That, and I’m really not sure if I can pay on my card or if I actually have to get that much cash.

I’m having this baby at Aga Khan Hospital.  (Huge sigh of relief for anyone who knows the hospital system here……even people from neighboring countries come over to have services done at Aga Khan).

My doctor told me I needed to pay a deposit of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND shillings with my booking.  I don’t care what the conversion rate is 100,000 is a lot of anything!  It actually translates to something like $1300.  That isn’t horrible when all said and done I hope to have this baby for 5 grand, but sheesh, who wants to walk around with that kind of dough?  I’ve done it a few times, and it’s really an uncomfortable feeling.  You’re looking over your shoulder every 30 seconds like there’s a neon sign on your head blinking “MONEY!, MONEY!” and everyone is gonna jump you.

At least my pregnant belly might distract them all.

I’ll let you know if they’ll let me put this “deposit” on my gymboree VISA.  I think I’ve used that card a sum total of 5 times, but this would definitely get me closer to a reward gift card! 

I dreamt last night that the US government was no longer requiring pregnant Americans to travel to Nairobi to have babies OR to have insurance.  I think my subconscious fears of not getting to Nairobi on time to have the baby, and of paying this deposit are starting to surface.

Update:  So, my “booking” went great, except my Gymboree VISA was declined (of course I called the company before I came to Kenya to make sure it would always be ready and available to use, especially in an emergency…which this is not….but it wasn’t “available” either).  But, the nice male booking clerk offered to just let me make a deposit of 50,000 shillings, so out came the debit card and it is done.  He assured me that I could pay the balance of my bill when I was there for the baby.  So kind of him!

An afternoon….

I’m guessing that at times it might be hard to imagine what life over here is like.

At least that’s my guess since I really had very little idea of what to expect before we come over.  I thought I was pretty prepared with my expectations as I’d taken work and witness mission trips in high school and college to less developed countries.

What I wasn’t prepared for (now I think, duh!) was how different everyday life can be from a 1 – 2 week visit to one of these developing countries.

It’s the everyday mundane things we might take for granted in the States that often take up my afternoon….that and work stuff.  So, I thought hey, I’d share what a typical Sunday might look like here in Kenya.

We wake up here daily, without an alarm (which never would happen for me in the States), promptly at 6:30am  every day because the sun rises and sets at the same time, every day of the year when you live this close to the equator.  And, if the sun weren’t enough to rouse me, I have a 3 year old who is happy to stand by my net enclosed bed to alert me that the sun is out and I need to get up.  NOW!  If I am lucky enough to beg off a few minutes, she is promptly back to remind me that my few minutes are more than over…..

On Sunday, we hang around and eat some breakfast until about 8:20 when Ian leaves to take the Centre girls to church in the van.   On some days this can be quite an experience, especially if the dirt road to the Centre from the main road is flooded in about 2 feet of water (as it is now) .  Thank goodness the Centre van has a snorkle on it.  Plenty of gripping on the roof handle still occurs as we plow through the water, along with Centre girls saying all sorts of exclamations in Swahili.  Ian usually arrives home by 8:45 when we need to leave to make the hour trip into Nairobi so we can attend church ourselves.

Church.  Thank goodness it’s only  1 1/2 hours long.  American-style.  Out by 11:30.

When they travel a very short 5 minutes to eat at the mall food court (really people, there aren’t any other choices, and the food court is the highlight of our week).  Usually we are accompanied by friends from church.  1 hour.  Customer service just doesn’t equate to quick or fast food in Kenya.

Leave food court & drive to what is in my opinion, the good  grocery shopping store.  Really, you all know what it’s like to shop in a store with a horrible layout and poor stock.  It’s not even worth the effort.  This drive takes 30 minutes.

Grocery shopping.  1-2 hours.  Check out can last 30 minutes (usual) or longer.  I think that 10 key instruction would revolutionize Kenya…sometimes I just want to hop on over that belt and whip some UPC codes out for those guys.   I’ll take a slow checker or broken scanner though any day over having all of the groceries scanned and packed, and then having the computer (yes they do use a computer system) turn off.   That happened 2 weeks in a row, with cranky kids (and me) in tow and that was enough to ensure that now I carefully investigate the checker technique and speed of each line before lining my cart up.

By the time we leave the grocery store (and this is speedy by most standards because I have a list and Ian and I divy it up) it is either 2 or 3 pm.

We then cram in the car  (generally 3 adults and 2 toddlers in a 5 person sedan)and prepare for the hour or  more drive back to our beloved home of Thika.  This generally involves the following statement, “Kids, go to sleep right this minute or you’ll have to take a nap when we get home.”   Amazingly enough, this is all it usually takes to have them conked out in less than 5 minutes…..because who really needs a 3 year old asking about 20 times where the camel was that she was too slow to see out the side window?

We arrive home by 3:30 or 4pm usually, unload the groceries and put them into the fridge/pantry.  Today I put them into a warm fridge because the power was out again.  Thankfully it came on within the  hour.  It is not unusual for us to have power outages 3-4 times per week for as little as 30 minutes, but also up to an entire day.  You never know.  Thankfully, I’ve relaxed a lot about food in general, and it seems like a lot less gets thrown out here than would at home.  The food police or Terry Goldman are going to need to come and help me when I get back to Portland because I’m sure that I’ll be allowing way too many unsanitary food practices to go on.

Then, I usually end up doing laundry (like all of you at home), but in my  dual drum washer that requires manual filling/emptying and transferring to the spin tub.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love this baby…..it has reduced laundry to a 2 hour chore instead of all day.  Then (like today) I might take a bucket of water out to my front concrete porch to wash off all of the mud that was brought in by the nightly/morning rain.  If you leave it, it gets tracked into the house like no ones business.  Such was the case today, so I washed the concrete floors in the dining/living room and the kitchen too.

By the time that was done, it was 5:30….and dinnertime.

Dinner prep, dinner, dinner clean-up.

Kid clean-up, Bed prep, kids to bed.

Now it’s 8:30, and I am getting ready for me time.

So, I guess that there are many things here in Kenya that are the same as life in Portland, just without the speed and modern conveniences we are accustomed to.  The slowness rather than being invigorating tends to drain the body of energy…..and we have never found ourselves staying up til 11pm like we might at home.  Perhaps it is the heat, or the need to shut the house up from the darn Malaria mosquitos at dusk, the darkness by 7pm, or the inability to go out on the town at night because of safety concerns…..but, I’ll be heading to bed within the hour.

At home I’d “melt” by 10pm and need to be in bed.  In Africa, I feel melted by 8pm.

So with that said, goodnight all, it’s 30 minutes past melting hour.

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, http://leesonthego.blogspot.com/2010/03/this-iskenya.html to check it out!

Thanks Naoma!!!

The bag

I’ve been hunting on etsy for the perfect diaper bag.

I had the same bag for both Eli and Lucy and sold it at  a resale event in Portland before coming to Africa.  I think my line of reasoning went somewhere along the lines of “if I have another baby, it won’t be in Africa, and having another baby will probably happen after we return to the States, so that could be a while, so I better sell this.”    If I remember, I didn’t do so bad either when I resold that Petunia Pickle Bottom bag.

I’ve found a few bags on etsy that I really like.  But then I chicken out and don’t buy them because I run through my mind how much shipping to Africa will add (no, I don’t have one of those sweet embassy postal boxes that get me past the custom taxes added to packages coming into the county) and how long it might take for the bag to get here….and so on.

Then, today, I found it!

A bag that is functional, yet has just enough funk to suit my fancy and not SCREAM “Diaper Bag”!

I found it at Amani Ya Juu (see the link over on the right of this blog).

Here is a picture of it:

Kakuma Bag

 There are quite a few enterprising individuals here in Kenya that have made various items including purses that repurpose old rice sacks, coffee sacks and so on.  This purse, is named after the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya where many refugees fight to survive and provide for their families.  They receive food from relief agencies, including grains and sugars.  The women of Amani have incorporated these empty sacks into their product lines:  thus my diaper bag that is lined and embellished on the outside with parts of a Saudi Sugar bag.  I love that the handles and entire lining are made of this waterproof plastic material, and that it adds durability to it.

The best part?  The price.  I paid $15 US for it, buying it on the spot, the same day I saw it, because in Kenyan if you see it once, you  might never ever see it again….so BUY, BUY, BUY!   Much cheaper than the Etsy bags I’d been eyeing, very Kenyan, and NO shipping or customs taxes! 

It made my day.  If I admit it, there is a tiny bit of American consumer left in me yet.  But not much.

a day in the life of my active child

Last week Ian was able to tag along on a climbing trip up Mt. Kenya. This is one of those things he has hoped to do while we are here, so we both agreed that it wasn’t an opportunity he should pass up. 

It meant that he would be gone for a total of 4 days. The most he’s been gone while we have lived here in Kenya is overnight. I’m pretty ok being by myself here in Kenya now, but the thought of managing house and the work of the Centre was a bit overwhelming. 

The running of the Centre and family proved to be quite manageable, with the help of Megan who is the Volunteer Coordinator at the Centre. She took over a great number of tasks that Ian might generally do, and watched the kids when there were meetings etc. that I needed to be in. 

Just as I was about to pat myself on the back for a job well done on the final night 3 alone of Ian’s trip……drama occurred. 

Drama isn’t unusual in our house though. Especially when it comes in the variety produced by 3 and 4 year olds. 

It started with Eli and Lucy in the shower, taking baths. This is what our shower looks like: 

Lately, bath time has turned into Eli and Lucy crawling around on the tile floor, barking like dogs and taking turns passing under the cold water spigot. It’s a thrilling and cheap experience for them. Kind of like a water park without the park.

Well, Lucy comes out of the shower room yelling and screaming that she slipped and bonked her head. I did a brief inspection of her head, and couldn’t come up with a bump or any redness so I told her to stop her fussing so we could get ready for bed. I think I might have also told both kids to knock off all of the craziness, that bath time was OVER! and to go and get their pajamas to put on. 

I did the regular night time routine, brushing teeth, filled water cups, necessary blankies, books, baby dolls, hugs, kisses, about 20 random questions answered, zipped nets and the whole deal. 

About an hour after falling asleep, Lucy woke up screaming that her head hurt. I gave her some kids Tylenol and laid her back down. She proceeded to wake up every 20 minutes or so for the next 2 hours until I finally decided to lay her down in my bed with me at 10:30 pm. 

Just as I laid her down and opened my AWESOME “Baby and Child A to Z Medical Handbook” courtesy of Paula Smith to head injury and reminded myself of the symptoms…..well….then she proceeded to grace me with the symptoms of vomiting. Everywhere. All over my bed. 

Thus the frantic search for her pediatrician’s phone number (he has like 6 numbers, of which 1 might work at any given time). I made multiple calls, and finally received a call back instructing me to immediately take her into the emergency room of the Children’s Hospital in Nairobi. 

Does anyone recall how long that drive to Nairobi is?? I am certain I have talked in length about the perils of driving the Thika Road highway (yes, Erika, I know you can hardly describe it as a highway or freeway) and how awful it is. And, to mention that we rarely drive at night because of safety issues.  

And here I was staring down the fact that I was alone, with a pretty sick kid, 8 months pregnant, at 10:45 at night getting ready to drive frantically to the hospital in Nairobi a minimum of an hour away. 

I put on my calm hat. 

Called Megan and asked her to come over and stay with Eli (who of course slept through all of the commotion) and changed Lucy into some clean clothes. 

I load her into the car, and get in, and then realize I can’t find my phone. 

As I’m hunting for the phone, I hear Lucy moan from the back of the car, and then she has vomited all over herself and the back seat. 

So out of the car we go again. I stripped her down on the patio, and Megan helped me dress her again. Baby doll, blankie, and her crocs get left because, well, they’re covered in puke. 

I make the drive to Nairobi without any hassle other than a 30 minute traffic jam just outside of town. We arrive to the hospital a bit after midnight, with just one more incident of car puking. A great smell when your closed in, but not that bad when compared to the usual smells of Africa I must admit. 

We were quickly ushered through emergency (we didn’t even have to sit down on a chair), Lucy went through triage, and then the doctor was in to see her within a few minutes with the diagnosis of a concussion and the need for admittance into the hospital for observation for 12-24 hours. 

Then we sat for a while. The typical ER room sit. A good 1 – 1 1/2 hour sit. Then we were checked into a room in the Felicity Ward (which was decorated with a walking purple grape that had eyes and antenna and bright green and purple paint) where I promptly crawled into bed. Lucy refused the “crib” because it was for babies, and crawled in next to me. Food service came in and asked if I wanted dinner. I thought, “Uh, no, it’s 2 am! LET ME SLEEP!” But I politely declined until morning. 

Lucy or perhaps the nurses woke us up at 6 am, and thus our long day of sitting in an empty room on the children’s ward began. For Africa, the hospital was quite nice, but by about 9am, with a restless 3 year old, I was really beginning to question how they couldn’t have a single child’s toy or activity available. It was a children’s hospital after all. I finally scrounged 5 crayons and a piece of paper which bought a good 30 minutes of nap time on my part. I reminded myself that this was how sleep goes with a newborn baby, so this experience was just a good dress rehearsal. 

By 10:30am I broke down and called in emergency reserves and begged a friend who was working clear across town (probably an hour drive) to bring me a coffee. I made sure to call a friend who has trouble saying no. We’ve all got those friends (Eve Stoughton) and love them in moments like these. He kindly obliged and then told me about the cafeteria downstairs in the hospital after he arrived. Whoops on my part, but please, cafeteria coffee (ie a packet of Nescafe) can never compare to real brewed coffee. 

Lucy and I stayed in the hospital the rest of the day and then after a lovely 2 hour discharge process and payment to all of the involved parties, took ourselves on the hour drive home, after stopping off for a celebratory milkshake of course. Who stays in the hospital and doesn’t get an ice cream for goodness sakes? I cheated on my diabetes diet and had one too. I told myself I deserved it. Sorry baby May. I’ll try not to make it a habit. 

And so, my week without Ian ended with a bang, but it was manageable and everyone made it through it, albeit with a few dents and a little puke later.