Due to Popular Demand - An Update
I've had a lot of requests lately for a proper update letter for my friends and family. Now that I have some non-friends and family readers (thanks Mom-101 otherwise known as Liz) I am hesitant to write a X-mas letter type blog entry. But, since the demand seems high, I will start to do an update blog once-per-month - and here is the first one.
Jaden, Rowan and I have now been here for a little over a month - although it feels like a year - but in a good way.
At 5 weeks in I am happier and healthier than I could have imagined back in mid-May (when I thought I'd probably be depressed for the first 6 months until I make friends and start to feel like I know my way around). I can't explain it. It is just the way it is. We have settled into our new home, our new life, and my new job well - but not without some bumps in the road. And please don't take this to mean that we don't miss you terribly - because we do. But we are here for two years and I intend to make the best of it.
The Kids - Jaden and Rowan are the center of all life here. They have an infinite number of people to attend to their every need. And in fact, I'm more concerned with making sure that they don't get their every single need met (e.g. never learn to clean up after themselves) . The first few weeks in the hotel were hard. And it was particularly difficult just after my mother left. Every single day Rowan asked to go to the airport - incessantly. And the first few mornings she cried for her grandmother - lying on the floor - until she got tired and finally completed her comfort circuit (thumb in mouth, finger from other hand in belly button). I think that it didn't help that we moved into the new house on the same day my mother left. It was just too much change for her. Jaden was also pretty whinny at first.
They started going to school pretty much right away. They are going to a great pre-school run by a former IST (International School of Tanzania) teacher. There are kids of every color and creed in their school - and in fact at their end-of-the-year party I was surprised to find myself being the only American (or the only American who showed up). They feel in love with the person who runs the school - just in time for school to end. As of last week, they are going to a summer camp/school which happens to be literally across the street from us. They seem to like it. These people have a huge playground. For me, I'm just enjoying getting out and crossing the street. Until last week, I had never walked outside my gate - a terrible side-effect of compound living. And trust me - it is safe out there. It's just that no ex-pats do it. In fact, I've been trying to figure out how to meet the two American families that also live across the street from me. But they are in Embassy houses which are guarded by a special police force. I would essentially have to stand outside their gates and wait for them to drive by me in order to meet them - and that hardly seems worth it. But back to the kids...
What a difference a few weeks makes. After a tough few weeks they are now happier than I've ever seen them. They adore their nanny, Secunda. Secunda is an amazing person. She worked for an Embassy family several years ago. These people took her back to the US for 9 months while they did their language training and so Secunda speaks nearly perfect English and has great nanny instincts and way more patience than me. She can get the kids to do things I can't. And they have really taken to her. Perhaps it is also because Secunda makes them their favorite meal in the world - macaroni and cheese - at least twice a week. Secunda moved into the "servants" quarters on our compound and so now she is always just a yelp away. She has sworn off men - after watching her sister and her sister's baby die from AIDS brought home by her husband.
The kids were also very happy when our air shipment came with all their big wheels and other games.
They ask about all of you from time-to-time. We are waiting for you to call us on Skype or MS Messenger so we can talk by video!
Me - What is there to say? I was sent here to take over a non-performing unit, but I arrived to find an amazing group of professionals that I'm very happy to call my team. The project I'm working on has two main tasks. First, we work with pharmaceutical companies (yes - Dad - you heard that right) to bring to the market products that are in the public health interest. Right now we have a male condom (Dume - which means Bull) and a female condom. We also have pills and we are in the middle of developing an injectable contraceptive, oral rehydration solution and zinc. The second goal of the project is to develop communications initiatives that support healthy behaviors in the area of HIV, reproductive health, malaria and child survival. We are right now working on a big campaign to promote partner reduction (see my blog about being Jewish here) and another one to promote condom use. We have a radio soap opera focusing on contraceptives and are working on the island of Zanzibar to eradicate malaria. And soon, you'll be hearing from me all about how we are communicating around diarrhea. I can't wait :)
I'm lucky because I made some friends on earlier visits to Tanzania. But also, this place is kind of like the anti-Washington in that people make friends easily. And the people you befriend you invite over often and socialize at home and out-and-about. The challenge for me is to make certain that I make Tanzanian friends, as well as ex-pat friends. So far, so good. We spent a big piece of this weekend with Vicky Chewa and her family. Vicky is a young woman who worked for FHI 10 years ago when I first came here to Tanzania and is now at USAID. She and I spent a month back then traveling around the country. Now she has a kid a few months older than J&R and we have been getting together for playdates and socializing. Sunday we took the kids to a local country/golf club where they are putting together a toddler soccer league. We drank on the balcony while we watched the kids and their nannies play ball. Ah... the life.
But in addition to having more time for the kids and enjoying my work I'm also trying to make more time for me. The last few weekends I've gotten out for pedicures - this last time in a salon overlooking the beautiful Indian Ocean. I have a very strict plan of pedicures, massages and beach trips ahead of me.
The House - Our small but very pleasant house is just fine and getting lovelier. When we moved in there was no green space at all. Now we are in the middle of having a garden built just in front of the front door. At the moment it is all mud and manure. But within a week or two it will be morphed into a tropical paradise. When we moved in there was a stairway to the roof, but nothing protecting a child from falling off the roof. The landlord agreed to build a railing around the roof, which has now become a bigger project in that we are building a roof for the roof so that it will be pleasant to socialize up there - even in the heat of day and the rain. This is going to be a very pleasant outdoor area once I buy some roadside furniture. On the way home from a meeting last week I stopped at a stand along the road where some people were carving beautiful Zanzibar-style furniture and I bought a carved bench and table. I'm expecting them to be delivered next week.
My only complaint is that it would be nice to have a little bit larger indoor space. AND it would be nice to not be without electricity every-other-day. Seriously. The generator makes a racket. So much, that it is not pleasant to be in the pool area when the darn thing is running. And right now it is not such a big deal because the weather is beautiful - in the 70s and not humid. But in another month or two the humidity and the god-awful heat will be back and I will depend on that generator for my life. Seriously. I'm just a nice Jewish girl from NY. I need my amenities.
Other Random Thoughts - Come visit us! We will take you on safari and to the beach. And if your hair is like mine or Rowan's hair you will love it here. I can't explain it - but we've both never been so fabulously curly :) I am in the middle of planning a safari for when my parents come next month. And the kids, Secunda and I are headed to the beach this weekend because it is a long holiday weekend here. I'm really looking forward to it. I'm told that the ocean just south of here is pristine.
I've got to go. Lunch time is over and there is work to do. I start Swahili lessons tonight, but first J&R and I are going to make an appearance at a 4th of July party.
Are you still with me?
We love you.