Friday, August 31, 2012

Day In the Life

It's been a couple years since I chronicled an average day. This was yesterday:

3:32am  Wake up coughing (between dust and charcoal smoke this isn't uncommon).

3:45am  Almost back to sleep when 2 shots ring out on main street a few blocks away. Probably the police keeping order.

4:02am Dive bombed by a stealthy mosquito who snuck into our net somehow. I zap him with my bug racket and try to go back to sleep. Again.

4:28am  Our mosque next door calls everyone to wake up at top volume. I think he has new speakers. At least he only takes about 2 minutes (unlike the patterns of last month!)

4:44am  He shouts it out again. I'm beginning to give up on the idea of any more sleep.

5:00am Finally back to sleep for one last hour before the day begins.

6:30am Dressed, up, meeting with employees. They want to work early today and leave early to fight long lines of parents trying to sign their kids up for school by next week.

7:30am Fried eggs and papaya made for breakfast. Headscarf donned to head out to my choir rehearsal (which 'starts' at 7:30, but I usually go around 8).

8:30am Walking and greeting my way down slick muddy streets stepping over the discarded plastics of the world. Finally get to church to find that no one is rehearsing today. I surmise it is not rained out, but probably they are traveling to sing for some event somewhere.

9:00am Back home to see that the kids get their schoolwork started. Katie, the wonder teacher arrives to help. Anna needs to finish a subject or two before leaving for her art class. Joel and James dig into school at home. James learns to cross-multiply fractions while Joel takes 30 minutes coloring elaborate pictures on his Greek mythology assignment.

9:30am Anna and I head over the muddy roads in our car. It's about a mile away, but roads aren't safe over 15 mph. The parking lot is small and full, so we pull into the weeds right outside the gate. We arrive just in time for art class.

11:00am Anna enjoys a magazine-collage decorated box project, which doubles as a game she can play with her brothers. She loves the sandbox at recess and the little toy horses she brought along for the occasion. Next to 3 preschoolers, she looks pretty big these days.

12:30pm We drive home for lunch, hear about the boys' day, and enjoy homemade bread and soup before a busy afternoon.

2:00pm The boys head next door to deliver invitations to their friends to come to a last weekend of summer party tomorrow. They stay and play with friends, building shapes and toys out of local clay.

2:30pm Anna and her bff Brooke learn cool French ballet terms in the living room with their fabulous weekly ballet lesson by Jennings.

3:30pm A colleague and friend, Maryanne, arrives to help us print, copy and collate 22 books that are 200-pages long! James has fun calculating how many pages we will need. The power has been off for 2 days and isn't likely to return. Given that Kent's class starts Monday, we need to use our own generator and printer to get the books ready in time. We think we can do it in about an hour.

4:30pm What were we thinking? Piles of paper are strewn all over our living and dining room. Four of us are working non-stop and an hour later we have barely finished 25% of the book!

6:30pm That big pot of beans is perfect to feed extra workers tonight! We all dish up a bowl of beans and top it with sauerkraut, cheese and yogurt while we keep working on the books. The table is too full, so we let the kids have a 'picnic' on the floor.

7:30pm No power also means no hot water. So between sorting papers, I heat water for the kids' bucket baths and they finish chores in time to read some Dr. Suess and Narnia before bedtime. After they are all tucked in and asleep, Kent drives our friends home. It's rainy and muddy for walking and not very safe to be out alone at night.

8:00pm While he's out, I dish up the food and tea for our night guards and feed the dogs their dinner. One last glance at Email adds two more urgent requests to the morning's work. But that's tomorrow.

8:30pm Our generator has now been running for 12 straight hours (on ONE tank of diesel). It is fabulous. We finally let it rest and turn off electronics and extras overnight, leaving only the fridge and security lights for the batteries to manage all night. Kent and I debrief the day and watch a few minutes of Downton Abbey Season 1. I'm so tired I barely hear the mice outside our bedroom window.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Celebrating Joel

Joel has always loved that his birthday usually coincides with summer vacation! He spent his 1st, 2nd and 5th birthdays at the Kenyan coast, and was thrilled to get to spend his 8th there too! After all, 1+2+5 = 8.

The day started quietly. Our family tradition is that on their 8th birthday each kid gets a full-sized Bible of their own. Here Joel reads the dedication Kent wrote to him in the front:

The morning was spent at a sort of Vacation Bible School with lots of friends. Perfect birthday for our social Joel, or what? :) He planned out his travel wardrobe to save the blue Lego Star Wars shirt for the big day!

The hotel surprised us with a small cake at teatime. We ordered a large one at lunch to share with his friends, specially made without flour or sugar, so it was disappointing to have a surprise cake we couldn't eat. But he took it all in stride, and didn't mind having more people sing to him!

 At lunchtime we ordered up a big pile of 'hedgehogs' (what we always called at home 'criss-cross mangoes'), which is Joel's favorite fruit. We flew in a few small boxes of 100% juice and added that to the blue-colored club soda to make a 'Blue Splash soda' without the Sprite (corn syrup) - more about foods later!
He ate to his heart's content:


Then the singing, clanging began and the floral chair and special-order cake arrived! It was gorgeous chocolate banana-peanut honey cake covered in honey-vanilla whipped cream and decorated with 8 sticks of mango chunks and Enjoy Life GF Mega chunks. The best part is the huge grin on his face:

As a bonus, it was the best cake I had eaten at this hotel in several years. They are not famous for desserts... So many people asked for the recipe and wanted a bite! The hotel felt bad about our food restrictions and only charged us about $8, half what you pay for the smaller, less tasty cakes! Here's the inside view:

No kids seemed to mind a less-sweet cake. And it might have been the first birthday party where no one left with a sugar high!
His friends lined up with plates right away! :)

We brought out the presents after the cake and singing. This one had been carried across the world to Congo and then back across Uganda and Kenya in the suitcases of two other MAF friends just to be there for him on his special day. Transformers!


This is one of several presents smuggled into the suitcases of colleagues all the way from Grandma and Grandpa's house. The most anticipated was his Star Wars Lego set of Ewoks, but I didn't get any stellar shots of that...

Super Joel, we love you and
had so much fun celebrating your first 8 years!