Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bein' Bugged

Four days later and you’re thinking “Well…. WELL??”

Bug bites.
The official verdict, after much hmmming and generally looking at a total loss, is bed bugs. Not Bed Bugs, aka blood-sucking, egg-laying mites, but some other sort of vermin in the kids’ mattresses. I’ve taken a look at the mattresses and box springs. Nothing is obviously visible, but that doesn’t mean anything. So now we wait. Either the mattresses will get a heavy fumigating all their own or we’ll get new ones. Rumor has it there are two new twin mattresses coming our way, but we haven’t seen anything come of that. And no sign of fumigators either. In case you think we’re lax parents letting the kids sleep on their beds anyway… they’ve been camping out in their sleeping bags on the living room floor. A fun thing for the first two nights. Now that we’ve had day three and looking at day four unless someone comes today, suddenly it’s not so much fun anymore. The mosquito nets and frames are being put up as I type so once we can keep the crawly no-see-ums off the kids, they’ll be guarded from the flying no-see-ums too. Until then, they stay on the floor. The huge ants that come into our house thankfully die soon after making their way in. Gross for cleaning up purposes, but little chance of them making it to where the kids are too.
But they’re all getting better. With bacitracin on the spots and a Hibiclens soak in the tub, the spots are fading without new appearances, so all is good there.
Yesterday, I was at the school library. The elementary section is up and running, now I’m on to the older kids section. The one with the most recent encyclopedia set dating 1994, and the half dozen other sets happily living out the 1980s and yes, the 1970s. The atlases go back as far as 1964.
Sure, in this day and age most information can be found via the WWW. Some wonder about the value of paper encyclopedias at all anymore. Listen. We’re in Togo, the land of flickering electricity, doubtful internet connectivity and a school with one truly functioning computer (in the Principal’s office). The computer lab has 6 stations, one without a working monitor, two without functioning hard drives, and all more useful as virus breeders than work stations with their pirated software and passed around disks.
So I asked the woman who’s been handling the library around her ESL teaching, how often are the encyclopedias cracked open anway? The middle schoolers do every once in a while. High school, never. Don’t these kids do research? Write papers? The sad truth, most of the kids in the school don’t know how a library actually functions or what its purpose is. I’m determined to set it straight, and that will most likely include scrapping most of the reference materials in there.
There has been some progress. Ian is looking into what can be purchased to bring the school computers up to a decent functioning level. He’s also asked the Principal to cancel their web/computer “tech” guy and will volunteer his time for the next two years. Actually, once the computers are working, I’ll see what I can do about building the school’s website. I’d like to provide something that can be easily updated by someone on the premises.
In the library, I’m checking out 2005 or even 2004 encyclopedia sets. Notices will go up in the library to keep the windows and door shut, that the A/C can be on while kids are having class in there and on Fridays I will be in the library to teach the kids how it works when they take out books. It’s all pretty basic, right? It’s all an uphill battle.
Tonight, Dr. Carney from the Office of Overseas Schools arrives in Lomé, for a weekend of meetings and school visits. As a board member, Ian is at AISL this morning for last minute preparations.
Me, I’m at home with mosquito net guys and distiller fixing guy, waiting for GSO warehouse storage guys (they’re using our extra buildings for Embassy furniture storage… don’t ask), waiting for mattress delivery guys (wishing, waiting, hoping) and fighting off my second UTI in 9 days. Which is quite a problem without a working distiller. I can boil water as easily as the next person. It’ll kill the bugs and germs, but the tap water so close to the beach is salty… ew. That’s not encouraging for the 2+ liters I should be drinking.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hunting and Gathering

So, since we're still carless, it's a real pain getting food. We have to send a memo to get a motorpool car to go grocery shopping, so I do some shopping while I'm here at work.

You see, we at the Embassy surrounded on all sides by the city Marché. The Grand Marché is down the street, but there are tons of stalls on both sides of the street for blocks and blocks around. It's not just a security nightmare, but a traffic one as well. Every morning, cabs and motorbikes are dropping people and their goods off to sell. When it rains, as it did a couple of days ago, the already terrible roads get worse with huge puddles.
However, down the street from the Embassy is the only respectable butcher in town, Marox. So, for the second time, I walked down there this morning to get meat. They have a pretty good selection... I picked up some chicken breasts, steaks, and two types of sausages. There's a white sausage, which looks like bratwurst but really isn't, that we've tried before and liked. Then I got a package of "saucisse au curry," which doesn't really say anything at all about the sausage, other than it's probably spicy. Anyway, I got what I needed and went to pay.
One of the two cashiers is run by a nice French lady, who, since she's the only white face is the place, probably runs the store. It's not a nice generalization to make, but unfortunately it's usually true. I'd love to find a store actually run by some Togolese, or even regional Africans, but it's all Lebanese or French. She rang up my stuff, then I asked here where I could find some fish or shrimp. It went like this:
"Avez-vous du poissons, ou des crevettes" (Got fish or shrimp?)
"Desolé. Mais il y a une poissonerie la-bas. Elle peut la preparer aussi." (Sorry. But there's a fishmonger over there. She can prepare it too.)
"Ou? C'est loin?" (Where? Is it far?)
"Non, c'est peut-etre 50 metres. Tout-droit, a gauche, dans le marché." (No, it's maybe 50 meters. Straight ahead, to the left, in the market.)
[-- At that point I was thinking about going. Thinking, sure, I could do this. I could buy fish. Then, as I'm leaving, she says to me... --]
"Ne laissez pas la femme vous tromper!" (Don't let the woman fool you.)
So that's what I had in my head as I walked out, went toward the Embassy to where she said to turn left, and saw the writhing sea of marchandeuses in the muddy, puddle-filled market.
So I chickened out. We can go without fish for a while longer. I didn't feel all that cool about wading into the market alone. Much less after a warning that they'd test my fish-picking skills.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

2:30-3:00 a.m.

I can’t sleep.

I could simply blame mefloquine for my racing brain, but I won’t. I could blame the air conditioner in our room that doesn’t actually cool the room, but I won’t. I could blame a too small bed, but I won’t.

So, at 2:30 in the morning I’m up and about. My eyes are heavy, I really do want to sleep, but if I lay down it’s seconds before my eyes pop open and I’m reduced to tossing and turning, adjusting covers, checking the a/c, staring at the ceiling, all while thinking thinking thinking.
Most of what’s causing my insomnia relates to the kids. Three of the four have a large number of red spots on their lower abdomen. A few of the spots are sprinkled further up on Katherine, a dozen or so are on the upper legs of Rebecca and Jonathon. A few of them hurt, most are the size of pencil erasers with some quite a bit bigger, a scattered few quite a bit smaller, and many have a hard white dot in the middle.
I’ve looked up shingles/chicken pox, schistosomiasis, Tumbu fly myiasis and boils. Doing a search for “red spots” doesn’t come up with too much useful, but even so, nothing matches what they have, and absolutely nothing matches to the specific location. I thought, maybe I did something weird in that wash cycle since the spots are just about all covered by underwear. But only the front side? And if it’s to blame on the wash, why isn’t the same thing happening on feet or backs, since I wash underwear, socks and t-shirts all together. And why not all six of us since I wash all our clothes together? I recently washed the girls’ sheets, but I didn’t do Jonathon’s at the same time. The only thing the three of them have in common is the placement of their beds with Rebecca by the outside door and the other two by windows. Could something be creeping in, climbing under the covers and PJs, straight to their tummy? Seems unlikely. Last week they asked for a bath. Jonathon, Nicholas and Katherine shared one, followed by Rebecca. We were at the beach last week. Could it have been something in the water? No one laid in the sand, and the kids promptly showered off and changed back into dry clothes, and they all used dry towels. Could it be something from touching the puppies? They didn’t have puppies on their stomachs. And wouldn’t there be something on their hands instead?
And the biggest question of all, why does this stuff always creep up on the weekends?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Nous parlons...

Is there anything cuter in the world than hearing a 4yo singing to himself down the hallway…

La tête…
La jambe
Les pieds
La jambe!
Les pieds!
Don’t ask me why they didn’t teach knees instead of leg. Maybe “le genou” just has too many syllables.
So, Jonathon comes up to me while I’m sitting on the couch.
“Mom, this *points to back* is “le dos.” And this *points to eyes* are “les yeux.” And this is “la bouche” *pointing to mouth*. And “l’oreille” *ear pointing*. And nose is “le nez.” We are learning the 5 senses. Eyes, ears, nose, mouth….”
“And?” I ask.
He wiggles his fingers, “and hands!”
Then he bops away to start tormenting someone or other, not knowing he just floored me.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Des Animaux

We all slept well last night. Amazing. No nightmares for Nicholas, a solid night’s sleep for me. Rebecca said she slept well too. We woke up feeling good.

With some sleep behind us, I’d like to say a little something about animals.

In the past few days, we’ve dealt with another lizard, disposed of a worm, seen a pig and monkeys and puppies.
The lizard… another male fell out of the palm tree and was sitting on the bottom of the pool. He was pretty too, bright yellow head, red and green tail. One time when I can sit outside quietly by myself, I’ll take the camera and snap some photos of them. The big ones grow to about 8 inches long.
After a mad dash through the Leader Price grocery on Friday (they close at 1 instead of the standard 12:30, but more than that, they stock puppy food!), Ian purchased a pile of tomatoes from a lady walking by the car. I diligently soaked them in a diluted bleach solution to clean them (Clorox is a great cleaner, even for vegetables, because the residue is plain salt) and when I rinsed in distilled water a worm floated in the pot. The tomato with the worm hole was summarily tossed.
Saturday we walked to the Coin Chaud bakery to purchase baguettes and some pastries. On the return trip, we passed a woman and her car filled with campfire wood. She was in the process of tying the legs of a shrieking pig before tossing it in the trunk with the wood. I know what was cooking last night.
Today we went back to the Coco Beach resort (story about that later) and next to the wall is a small grove of trees. Two long-tailed monkeys were playing on the rooftops and tree branches. They were actually kind of cute.
Since we were there, we checked on the puppies again. They’ve graduated to mobile sausages. Snuffling, peeing, roly-poly sausages.
So, we didn’t actually intend on going to Coco Beach today. Not too far away is Lomé Rivage, a nicer beach but with rougher waves since it doesn’t have that old road playing the role of breakwater. We mentioned our destination to the Embassy Driver and he was surprised we wanted to go there. The story… someone was pulled out to sea, and the resort was destroyed.
We went to find out the real scoop.
The resort was indeed closed. The place wasn’t destroyed by waves or storm, it had been torn apart by the military just last week. The someone who was swept away was related to the President. The story from the resort was about Eyadema’s niece. Later we heard it was the current President’s nephew. Whomever it was, apparently it was the resort’s fault that Mother Nature has given the Togolese coast a wicked undertow, and it was the resort’s fault that he or she went swimming in it. And so, one of the two successful beach businesses was intentionally destroyed. Seems a natural consequence doesn’t it?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

How the work's going...

thought I might give an update from work on how we're settling in.

One of the biggest things I've noticed here is how thankful I am for going from a big Post where everything ran right, to here. Even after two weeks on the job, I still get daily heart attacks when I notice how things are done (or not done), or how long it's been since a database was updated, why the wall next to me is sticky...
Yes, it's an old Embassy. But it's also run-down, humid, musty and just generally unpleasant. This is, not surprisingly, the worst part of the building. It's like a cave down here. I keep reminding myself that the new Embassy opens in a year.
It's also suffered from untold years of brand-shiny-new Consular Officers fresh out of Washington who are here for all of one year, then move on to allow another newbie step in. Sure, the Post may be relatively sleepy, but I can't stand the lack of order. That's how I'm spending my days, bringing order from chaos. Since I'm only doing about 30 visas a day instead of the 100 or so in Manila, at least I have some free time for that.
I'm also not sleeping well, although everyone here also thinks it has to do with the Mefloquine. They say it gets better, but it's never quite good. But I just can't fathom having the whole family down a pill every day, which would be the alternative to taking Mefloquine.
I think things will improve. I certainly hope they will. This transition has already been many times more difficult than it was to Manila. We figured it would be harder, but I don't think we anticipated this. Yet again, I don't know how we could have made it better, since the basics (no stuff, no car, little infrastructure, lack of sleep) are out of our control. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Out and About

Our temporary Ambassador departed last Thursday now that the new DCM/Chargé has had a few weeks to settle in.

The Embassy Americans gathered last Tuesday at the Baracouda Restaurant on Beach Road to bid farewell to Ambassador Twining, and all told we took up 32 seats. A far cry from Embassy gatherings in Manila, to be sure.
Ambassador Twining sat opposite me, so we had the opportunity to chat over dinner. He raised his children in West Africa and spent time in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. I asked him which years he spent there as DCM, and learned that from 86-89 his boys attended ISO. I was in Niamey, Niger from 86-88 and had traveled to Ouaga for swim meets. When Carol Beckwith spoke at ASN, he and his family came to Niamey. Later I asked my dad if he remembered DCM Twining, and wouldn’t you know…
The world is so very small. Or maybe it’s just the world in this line of work.
On Thursday night, we walked over to the school for Open House. The school is a 10 minute jaunt from our house on relatively safe streets. I wouldn’t do it by myself, and I had reservations about walking back in the dark, but the streets are busy and we felt OK. Not meandering, mind you, but getting where we needed to go.
The Open House was actually informative. Rebecca and Nicholas have Emily Gilkinson an “independent learning” teacher. She arrived on August 18th and really worked to get her room together so that it’s bright and busy, full of books and hands-on materials. She’s is on top of the differing needs of each of the 7 kids in her class. She sent home a handwriting workbook for Nicholas to do at his own pace, and except for being able to read, he is doing several areas of first grade work. I’ve also asked her to send home worksheets for Jonathon to do. He can do most Kindergarten work and right now he’s bugging the other kids when they’re trying to do their homework. He’s excited about getting his own papers to do.
Mr. Naylor, Katherine’s teacher, has a long way to go with getting his room together. At the moment it’s a gray and bland classroom. I worry about Katherine’s education over all with the “fun” teacher who gives Create Your Own Word Search as a homework assignment, but once we receive our belongings I’ll take on a much bigger portion of her schooling. AISL will be good for French class, Art, Music, P.E. and friends, but she is well beyond the assignments she’s currently bringing home.
Tomorrow I’ll be at the school all day to check out the library, make notes, and dive in with reorganizing and filtering out ancient books. Should be fun.
Saturday, we walked down the street the opposite direction to a restaurant called L’Okavango. It’s a charming outdoor establishment with an aviary in the center and a small herd of deer that roam around. The tables are tucked under thatched roof cabanas with a view of the aviary. The food was pretty good too, and they even have a child entrée of chicken and fries.
It’s best to stay away from beef here. Not a lot of cows around.
On Sunday after church, we returned to Coco Beach to check on the puppies and let the kids play in the sand and shallows. The pups have grown quite a bit, as puppies do, but are still blind little sausages. We’ll go back in a couple weeks and check in on them again. The search is on now to find puppy food and supplies for when we bring one of the rascals home. It seems the overwhelming recommendation to choose a female, for the slightly smaller size and less aggressive/alpha tendencies.
Nicholas didn’t last long in the water. He has very sensitive skin and something keeps causing odd rashes here and there, so the water and sand irritated him too much to stay in. The others had a good time splashing around with the dogs and finding shells.
For lunch, I had avocat crevette again. So yummy and reminds me so much of the shrimp dip my dad used to make, and it really is the perfect beachside lunch. Rebecca and Jonathon shared quiche lorraine and Katherine and Nicholas shared grilled gambas. I could get used to this. Oh wait, already am.
As an aside, we took our mefloquine on Saturday again, no problem. But it seems that some of us are experiencing side effects. Nicholas is having nightmares, which he never had before, and I cannot sleep. I wake time and again at night, knowing I should be tired, but my mind races. Today I tried to take a nap, but couldn’t. I just keep thinking and thinking, about nonsense mostly, and then when I do doze I have vivid emotional dreams. I’m tired, I know I’m tired, but have no desire to sleep.
Oh, and our consumables? They were shipped… today. We set the order in July and told them our departure date of 29 August. Why was it shipped… today?

Monday, September 5, 2005

Getting in the Groove

Our second week on Mefloquine/Larium seems to be OK. All the kids took their pills without trouble; Jonathon was very proud of himself, as he should be.

The effects do seem to be stronger the first few days, the boys wake more often with reports of nightmares or just wanting to sleep with us. Last night was odd. Nicholas came into the den, which is clear on the other side of the house from his bedroom, around 10 p.m. He still wakes up nightly to use the bathroom so that wasn’t unusual, but last night he came in with no PJs or underwear on, took a blanket from the chair and left the room. I followed him to find his bedroom light on, his bed made, his PJs on the floor and Jonathon still sleeping. He hadn’t used the toilet yet, so once he was done I put him back to bed where he asked for his bottoms again, curled up, and was instantly asleep. I don’t think he was ever actually awake.
The girls and parents aren’t exhibiting any side effects yet, but we still have another couple weeks before we really know.
We still don’t have a routine for bedtime/wake-up. The alarm rings between 6:15 and 6:30 a.m., so our current bedtime of 7:30 p.m. leaves us with a lot of tired little bodies. The worst part is waking up Jonathon. I looked at him this morning in his fuzzy footy dinosaur PJs and realized that he really is too small yet to have to get up and go to “school” like this. I have half a mind to withdraw him. Half days would work, but I don’t have a car to pick him up, and once I do have a car my plan is to go to the school anyway to do what can be done for the library. So if I’m going to be at the school regularly in a couple months anyway, it makes sense to have Jonathon there in the preK room, right? But what I really want to do is let him sleep. Nicholas too, to be honest.
Of course, this is their 4th day of school and it’s still an adjustment for everyone.
Aside from not having a car, cash and groceries are our other two hurdles. 500CFA = ~$1. To get CFA, Ian cashes $ cheques at the Embassy Cashier. The Embassy Cashier gives out money in 5000CFA and 10,000CFA notes. Bakery bread, street food, snack items in the school cost less than 500CFA, some as little as 25CFA (like the muffins we bought last week). Expecting change from 5000CFA is unreasonable, and it’s never wise to walk around with large bills anyway.
When we were home, I knew that food would be the biggest of my stressors here. Can someone tell me why it takes two months for consumables to arrive? All I want right now are some baguettes. And some fruit. We have a mango tree in the yard, but the mangoes have just started growing. I could take a taxi to SupeRamco, but… I don’t trust taxis and there’s that cash issue again. A typical (haggled) fare is 1000CFA and not having the exact amount is never a good thing.
Mental note: Next time we go to a consumables post, order from Netgrocer 3 weeks prior to arrival, and mail several boxes of assorted dried goods 2 weeks prior to arrival. Especially kid lunch foods, and spices/flavorings/sauces.
Enough whining.
AFN is what we watch on TV. Ian insists he wants cable as well. I don’t see the point, AFN has news, TV shows, movies, sports, what more does anyone need? The other day they showed five football games at the same time, flipping between them. We also have Netflix. I don’t see how South African TV will be of any benefit, aside from Togo’s imminent last step towards the World Cup. If Togo did make it to Germany, it would be fun to watch them play. One of the kids at AISL is the daughter of a futboler.
What’s on the news nearly 24/7 is Katrina disaster updates. Absolutely devastating. I learned yesterday that my great-aunt is currently safe in Georgia. Her house in Biloxi, MS was destroyed. Jeff’s sister is safe with neighbors in their Louisiana town. Ian’s mom in Mobile, AL is also safe.
If we could only get Geraldo off the screen. *shudder*

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Bet you didn’t expect to hear this so soon...

I have to send out a huge Thank You to all the people (and there are lots of you) who have sent us encouraging e-mail over the past couple days.

I know that the first few entries to our Lome’ Adventure sound frazzled and depressed… they are true to how we (ok, I) was coping the first couple days. I’m happy to let you all know that today was a great day. Our sponsors took care of us, meeting us at the Franciscan church for Mass then taking us to Coco Beach for some playtime in the sand and a yummy lunch before we came home to swim in the pool. (As an aside, so far I’m unimpressed with desserts here, but I’ve been told I haven’t been to the good places. But you know, if dessert is my biggest complaint at the moment… life could be a whole lot worse.)
First off, I have a question for those of you who know what I’m talking about. Here in subSahel Africa, there’s an issue with line drying clothes. Some rather obnoxious flies like to lay eggs on wet material and when you later wear the dry clothes, the larvae burrow under your skin. It’s as gross as it sounds. In our Embassy “handbook” it says to iron dress shirts that have been hung to dry, and some folks we knew in Ghana said they wouldn’t even use a towel at the pool that had already been wet. So here’s my question: Is this only for items dried outdoors? What about swimsuits that are rinsed and hung to dry in bathrooms? Or towels used after a shower? In our welcome kit we have 2 adult towels and 2 kid towels, that’s it. We don’t even bring towels out to the pool, just drip back to the house. What if I took a dress shirt out of the washer and hung it to dry in our bathroom? Should towels be dried in the dryer after every use? How about kitchen hand towels? What if you happen to be wearing wet clothes, like the boys did at the beach today, is there a risk? You see my dilemma.
If no one knows the answer, that’s OK. We have an appointment at the Clinic on Wednesday and I’ll ask there.
On to our day. Eight a.m. Mass is too early. The church is nice but basic, the kneelers and seats are really hard, the choir is very loud (African choirs tend to be) and most of it was quite familiar. As I’d spent quite a bit of time in church in Zaire when I was very young, the music and words are quite ingrained. There was one unique aspect to the service. On the first Sunday of every month, the offertory is completed in 8 sections. Birth days are extremely important to the Togolese and naming children after their day of birth is rampant, reducing name variations here quite a bit. But because of this, on the first Sunday the collection is taken up by birth day. Basket #1: Dimanche… everyone born on a Sunday go up and drop their coins in the basket. Then basket #2: Lundi… everyone born on a Monday gives their offering. And so on. Thankfully I do know the birth days of each child and myself. Ian will have to look his up. Today though, we did not join in as we still are using cash from the Embassy Cashier and haven’t broken many bills down.
The sand at Coco was surprisingly nice. And while there is a quick drop in the water, the waves are broken by a nearby breakwater. Not a true breakwater as it turns out, but a washed out road, built by the Germans about 100 years ago and now out in the ocean as the waves have worn away the beach. Plenty of shells to collect and two very friendly golden labs romped around in the water and out. And then…
And then we learned that the female had given birth to 10 puppies a couple days ago. The kids were smitten with the furry blind pups and you know how the rest of our time was spent. I wish I had brought a camera, both for beach pictures and for the dogs, because chances are we’ll be adopting one in a couple months (NOT two, Ian, just one). They almost look pureblood, and if the parents are any indication, they’ll be friendly, well-mannered and most importantly carry a resonating bark. They’re awfully cute too. Our sponsors adopted a dog a couple months back and have a vet, but I don’t know about dog food yet. Table scraps won’t cut it for a healthy pet.
News on that as it develops.
Back at home, Ian discovered the switch for the pool pump and flipped it on. After Thursday’s dip, Rebecca had itchy red patches she figures came from the water, which wouldn’t surprise me so hopefully the pump will fix that problem. The kids and dad played in the water to wash off leftover sand and work off remaining energy.
Tomorrow is Labor Day and a holiday for Ian, but not for the kids. It's an American School without any American holidays but Thanksgiving... hmmm. We'll drop the kids off then walk our way back. Have heard tell there's a great bakery along the way.
Yeah, we’re all more upbeat now. It’s not home yet, and won’t be until our belongings arrive, but maybe I don’t need to make that countdown chart just yet.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

It's not just Bienvenue around here...

Bon Arrivee! (one day I'll figure out correct spelling and how to put in accents)

29-30 AUGUST 2005 – Boo to Air France
They sold us a seat with bad electrical wiring so it didn’t recline, forgot to give me my dinner and then woke me up way too early for breakfast. The last was Ian’s fault, but I’ll still blame the airline. On the second flight they shifted people around for takeoff and landing in order to have an adult with every child. Uh… we’ve never done that before.
The cheese plates stank. Literally.
On the other hand, Jonathon slept all but 20 minutes of the first leg and I got sleep in a properly reclining chair in the second. Katherine was my seat partner and she was busy with Sudoku.
But I guess the most important thing is that we made it to Togo, along with our luggage. Our sponsors, the Corrao family, were there and prepared to get us home. Our house is way too big so I know that, like goldfish, we’ll expand and fill it with more crap than any family ought to have. Our den is actually a 4th bedroom, so when our bed comes we’ll stick it in there along with the TV and computer. We’ll have so few guests that having a duel purpose room should be no problem.
1 SEPTEMBER 2005 – So Very Tired
I don’t know if it’s jet lag, staying up until midnight or stress (most likely all three) but I’m really out of sorts. It’ll get better, I know it will. But we’re not in a compound anymore, we’re not in the States anymore, we’re in a former Ambassador’s house that’s right on a main road, with no full-time guard.
I know that in the grand scheme of things, we are safe. But it’s so hard to accept that when we’re running on adrenaline, surrounded by people we don’t know who speak a language that’s foreign. Oh, soon I’ll be able to hit the grocery store with no problem, but I’ll never be comfortable taking a taxi there, nor am I comfortable with the security here in general. Once we have “stuff” and a car, we’ll get a daytime guard. But then, how do you trust someone to watch your family and your belongings? The worst offenders of threat and theft seem to be those hired to prevent exactly those things. I have a hard time trusting anyone to begin with, this is really going to test my boundaries.
And the kids. Our poor kids. They were brought to school, unknown to them that it would be for the whole day. I’ll be surprised if Nicholas wants to go back tomorrow. He doesn’t deal well with change at all. Katherine was on the verge of tears but kept strong. Rebecca wasn’t sure she wanted to go to school at all. Jonathon barely noticed we left. This morning we’d prepped the kids for a quick visit to the school to meet their teachers and see their classrooms. They didn’t even bring backpacks because I had no food in the house to make lunches. Come to find out that the school offers hot lunch each day and today was lasagna, so without further ado, the kids joined their classes.
The school is small. So very very small. I hope they’ll be happy there. Katherine is in a combined 3/4/5 class, while Rebecca and Nicholas are in a combined K/1/2 class. Jonathon is one of 7 kids in the preschool 2/3/4yo class. The older kids have new teachers and the rooms aren’t set up well yet, so I know they felt really lost.
The one good thing that pops right up is that the school is very close to home. Once we get our car it will be no big deal to get there or pick them up. I’ll let the Embassy van drive them to school in the morning since Ian will be with them, but then I can get them at the end of the day, or arrive myself in the afternoon to spend time in the library or the classrooms, whatever needs to be done.
The Embassy is small. The compound is poorly designed, the hallways are tight, the rooms are cluttered. It’s no Manila. You don’t appreciate a lovely Chancery until you don’t have one anymore. And the Grand Marche really does butt right up against the compound. The longest travel time is the street before the entrance. I can’t wait to see the new building. It’s farther out, nearer to the British School (which is in a “gated” community), so we’ll have to see what our school plans are for next year. Everything depends on how this year goes. There is a good mix of nationalities (no Americans but ours), so at least they aren’t the only white kids.
Would it be a negative project to do a countdown chart? We’re down a day, only 700+ more to go.
Yeah, we’ve already asked ourselves what drove us to move here.
Everything will look better once the kids feel comfortable at school, we have our car (I –hate- not having my own transportation, even if it’s just to go to the school 5 minutes away), our consumables come (groceries, what a nightmare at this moment) and we’ve had a weekend to just enjoy being here, all together. Yesterday was our first day and Ian had a full day of work while the kids and I unpacked our UAB from Arlington. It was a productive day and each day will hopefully just get better.
I want my kids home though, I imagine they will be completely worn out this afternoon. I want them home for them and for me. I don’t like being alone and I really hate the people who ring the bell and then ask for the guard. We don’t have a day guard so when I say that I feel like I’m being sized up. The more people here, the better… I should have homeschooled, then we’d always be home. Ok, now I’m letting it get to me.
I just know that if I call home, I’ll cry. Tired, jet lag, stress. All three.
2 SEPTEMBER 2005 – Glorious sleep
It’s amazing what a little bit of sleep does for the psyche. Today was a much better day. In fact, once the kids returned home from school yesterday, everything got better. They went for a swim in the pool, after we scooped out a lizard from the bottom which had apparently fallen in from an overhanging tree branch. The lizards here are way cool, just like I remember them from Niamey. The pool is small and very deep, nearly 5’ in the shallow end.
The school is small, but the kids came home happy yesterday. Seeing them happy lifted me out of my glum hole. Nicholas gave a big hug and said “French is hard.” French kids don’t learn print, do they? Nicholas was writing cursive small As and today came home saying French was better because cursive small Rs aren’t as difficult. Katherine has done art, next week the kids start music and P.E. and I have my fingers crossed that this will be good. For everyone.
The house was bug sprayed this afternoon, so once Ian came home from his half-day (yay Friday!) and the kids were picked up from school, we went next door to the hotel to have some drinks. At 6 p.m. we walked to the Lebanese grocery store down the street that thankfully has a little of everything and plenty of spices, before going to dinner at La Nuit de l’Orient directly across from our gate. Pizzas all around, personal thin crust pizza. I had the crepes for dessert while the kids had ice cream and ian had a pastry. The crepes, sadly tasted like they’d been cooked in the same pan as some smoked fish.
We haven’t been careful with our food consumption. Ian purchased a handful of soft maize cakes, off the top of a passing woman’s head. With our dinner we had ice in the drinks and ate raw vegetables from the platter. If we’re sick in the morning, everyone will know why.
I did our laundry which wasn’t as cumbersome as I’d anticipated since I brought one load out at a time. The washer and dryer are housed in a separate building in our yard. Tomorrow we’re going to a Labor Day party and perhaps the Marine House. Sunday, the Corrao’s are meeting us as church then we’re going to Cocoa Beach for lunch. Monday is a holiday for Ian but not for the kids, so hopefully it’ll be a quiet day at home. I thought it would be a quiet weekend, but Ian filled it up with Schtuff.
Tonight we’ll call home. I did yesterday and talked to mom at work, tonight the kids can talk too.