Monday, May 29, 2006

Ew, sickies

I'm home today (when am I not home?) with Katherine and a sick Jonathon. He threw up last night and again this morning. He's running a slight temp, but I'm not too concerned since between throwing up sessions he's acting normal. He'll do school with us today. We've read French stories while Katherine did Rosetta Stone. Now, he's getting a little exercise though I've nixed his swimming plans.

The half cracker he nibbled this morning came right back up, so it should be interesting to get through the day feeding Katherine and withholding from him.

Memorial Day

Ian and Katherine are home today while the other 3 are at school. After a brutal morning of swimming, Dance Dance Revolution and Yahtzee, we took to the streets and walked to...

Al Donald. For lunch. It was relatively clean. It was muggy. Service was slooooow. Food was greasy and questionable. We've all got our fingers crossed we won't be suffering this afternoon.
We tried to get ice cream on the way home, but all the cremeries were closed at noon.
This afternoon we're cooling off while Katherine does some book work and we listen to and watch last night's Memoial Day concert on the Capitol lawn. How we miss home.

Friday, May 26, 2006

When Ian was in Ethiopia...

He mentioned that it's a country with a blooming flower industry. Pun intended. Flowers grown there are sold around the world. He thinks that should be labeled prominently on every bouquet. I'd head towards Ethiopian roses if I knew which ones they were!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Tube

We have AFN. All hail the gods of AFN. There isn't much, 10 channels total that includes one kid channel, two radio channels, a sports channel, two program guide channels (yes... for 10 channels, but one is another radio news channel also and the other is popular music). The other four channels carry actual shows and movies. It's plenty though, really. And it makes our DVD library purposeful.

There's a single hour of (acceptable) kid cartoons in the afternoon, from 4 to 5 p.m. SpongeBob and Fairly Odd Parents. Yeah, we the parents like them both. In fact, Ian admitted last week that Fairly Odd Parents is a really funny cartoon.
What else are we watching on TV now? Well, Amazing Race is done. Survivor is done. American Idol ends this week. CSI, Lost and Battlestar Galactica (you would watch it too if you gave it a chance) are a season behind so we never watch those on air.
I guess we catch Jon Stewart regularly. That's about it.
I'm trying to instill in the kids that just because the TV has channels, does not mean the programs on those channels are worth viewing. I would much rather have them choose a DVD than watch whatever happens to be on. I think they get the idea, but putting it into practice takes some effort. There are days I enter the room only to see them glued to some program they have no clue about. I prefer to watch some episodes with them first before giving them free reign. I am thankful there are only two channels with anything even remotely interesting to them, so they don't have a long list of options to begin with.
This is not to say we don't watch stuff. My parents send DVDs regularly with stuff we like to see from home, Lost, CSI, Dr. Who and other shows that provide entertainment beyond the streaming Pentagon Channels news programs. One of the best parts though (don't shoot me please) are the commercials. Dominoes pizza now has a 30% larger Large for $10? Cool! Snow is in the forecast? Glad we're not there! Pledge has wipes? Those look great! They make a point of recording movies for the kids too: Ice Princess, American Girls Felicity, Dragon Fighter, Santa Clause.
Lately we've been watching less TV than even our normal limited amount. With the drop in temperatures we don't feel as slow and sleepy. Last night the kids went outside to play hide'n'seek in the dark. The It had a flashlight. The It was Nicholas. A dragonfly spooked him with its threatening bzzzzzz. He quit seeking. So we paired the kids up: two to hide together, two to seek together. A bee landed on Katherine and she freaked. The mosquitoes were out in force. The game ended.
Katherine is doing well though. I know she misses being with people, at least more people than just me. But for what she's putting up with at home, she's doing well. Today's topics are genetics and gravity/force, thanks to

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Funny news from Africa.

"Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong admits that Ghana is not a place you would associate with winter sports. Yet the man who is known as Ghana's Snow Leopard is now on a mission to identify, train and recruit the next batch of Ghanaian ski racing stars."

When you figure in that the British School here in Togo takes a group of students to Italy every year to go skiing, it doesn't sound nearly as nutty for Ghana to form a ski team. But there are those flashbacks to the Jamaican bobsled team.


Katherine trimmed my hair last night. Ian helped. I think I look OK? Who knows, I can't see the back of my head anyway.

Today Katherine and I made cornstarch goop and learned that it's odd behavior is from long complicated molecules that can slip past each other when it's moving slowly but get all tangled up when they are pushed to move faster than normal. Cool stuff, that goop. We made it green and will send some along to Rebecca and Nicholas's class tomorrow.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

With the rains...

With the rains come cool weather. Such a blessing, and such a lift to our spirits. It's hard to realize sometimes how much the heat wears us down, how the humidity weighs us down, how the dust makes us feel clouded and worn. When the rains started, the temperatures dropped ten degrees by day and twenty degrees at night. We look around and see lush green plants, the washed streets and the clean air free of smoke and exhaust haze.

We had our friends, Laura and Todd, over for the day. How fun to spend time playing board games and talking about this and that. We broke in a new game for all of us, The Settlers of Cataan, and tried our dual dance pads for Dance, Dance Revolution on the Xbox. The kids had fun playing with their daughter, Cameron, even though swimming was a flop with the cool weather and impending rain. They pulled out Twister, Barbies, and all manner of toys.

Yeah, it was a good day.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Ten years of marriage. How is it possible?

I honestly have no idea where the past 10 years have gone. We've had 4 children, Ian has held 5 jobs, we've had 7 major moves between 4 states and 3 countries. There were ups and downs, and our bond grows stronger every year. He has -always- had my back. He's my support, my rock. When he disagrees with me, or worse when we fight, it's usually because he has a really good reason that doesn't fit with what I Want (afterall, as a kid I never had to share or compromise). But he has helped me grow in both love and understanding, and for that, I thank him.

I can't wait to see what the next 10 years holds for us.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Power power, who's got the power?

"Seasonal rains are flooding the streets of the Togo capital Lome but low water levels at hydro-electric dams across West Africa mean that residents are increasingly without power."

No kidding! It's been raining since Monday. Yesterday afternoon the sun finally cracked through the clouds, last night it poured again, and this morning we have a little sun, but it certainly looks like the clouds could open any moment. Our pool is within an inch or overflowing. This certainly isn't as bad as the Northeast U.S. is facing, that's a good thing about living on sand where water doesn't stand around in puddles or lakes too long. We're enjoying the cooled weather and actually kept the windows open on Monday, the first time since we've been here.

The cool air is certainly making life better at the school, but I do wish the heavy rains were helping the electricity issues so they'd have power when the heat returns.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

We've withdrawn Katherine from AISL

Withdrawing Katherine from school is for the best for her. It will seem silly to some, to pull her now with only 4 weeks of school left. But her teacher had already told me that in his class the last few weeks of the year is geared to fun and games. Katherine is left out of games, which is no fun.

She didn't feel she could talk to her teacher and she was too often bored in class, she felt very uncomfortable with her French teacher, she adamantly disliked her P.E. teacher, and she was ostracized by her classmates. Looking through our journal from the past 9 months, we should have pulled her out over the Christmas break. But we didn't, always waiting for things to get better, for that silver lining to show up. Meanwhile we spoke with her teachers and brought our troubles to the Director. The situation did not improve and we waited long enough, so she's home now. Yes, there is an isolation problem. It's another reason we waited so long to pull her, we figured being in school even with all its problems was better than being at home with no outlets, no kids, no change at all. Unfortunately, it simply became too detrimental to her to leave her where she was. Three major meltdowns in two weeks is uncommon, even for Ms. Emotional.
The biggest calalyst towards this decision was when, two weeks ago, Katherine was having an extremely difficult time in school. She burst into tears that Sunday evening, and finally spilled what had been bugging her. The other girl in her class took Katherine aside to let her know "No one likes you in the class because they think you're bossy, like your dad."
The trickle down effect in action.
We've always told our kids that school isn't always easy. Personalities clash. Work is too hard or too easy sometimes. Teachers are all different. It's a part of life learning to deal with these things, with parent involvement when needed.
We didn't before and we do not now believe that our kids should have to suffer for the decisions we make and what we are involved in. There is quite a bit of bad blood floating around the school about our and the Embassy's involvement with pulling the State Department grant from AISL and about the high visa refusal rate for AISL high school "graduates" (some of these "graduates" are in their 20s, having barely completed 9th grade correspondance high school classes). But when adults decide to share their problems and frustrations with their children or classmates... and those children share the problems with siblings... and those siblings take it out on our daughter...
Aside from calling a town hall meeting and telling everyone to knock it off, what can you do? A small school can breed indifference and animosity, just as easily as it can provide opportunities for growth, tolerance and understanding.
Unfortunatly for us, we didn't find ourselves in the latter.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

How do I love Mother's Day...

Let me count the ways...

1) I didn't have to get up until 7:30
2) Nicholas made and served breakfast: cereal and toast
3) Rebecca created a glittery card that everyone signed, even Ian
4) I got lots of of hugs
5) Katherine made lunch: spaghetti
6) All the kids made dinner: PBJ sandwiches
7) The girls made a cake, all by themselves. The boys added the secret ingredient (love).
8) Ian brought me two gorgeous silver necklaces made in Ethiopia, and a Swarovski crystal necklace that matches my watch
9) Jonathon made me a card and wrote Happy Mother's Day inside
10) Katherine did all the dishes in the sink without being asked
11) No one complained about letter writing or cleaning up or anything really
There was very little bickering all around. In fact at one point I had to go look for the kids because the house was too quiet.
I love my family so much. They are each unique and wonderful and Mother's Day is as much a day for them to remember my role in their lives as for me to remember the same. My primary job responsibility is to love them. After that, everything else falls into place.
And most days, they really do make my job so easy.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

What do....

What do bribery and corruption, WWII, U.S. political and military intervention, schooling, college study habits, becoming a diplomat, women presidents, immigrants and immigration, and the Great Wall of China have in common?

They were all topics in our dinner table discussion tonight. We continued to sit for an hour after dinner was over, discussing why we won't build a wooden wall along our national borders, what the inspector wanted when he asked Ian for a "cadeau" at the airport, to how TIME magazine won't be nearly as boring once they're older.
I think the kids missed dad :)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Yes, I'm fine

Though it did change my plans quite a bit. We had intended to go to those market areas that got bombed, but we (myself and a friend from Manila now serving here) decided not to as soon as the bombings started in the morning. We stayed near the Old Airport area, which includes her house and the international school. There were some traffic jams apparently caused by the bombings and ensuing unrest, but that's as close as we got to the problems. I'm not left with a whole lot of birr, because I didn't get to do shopping.

Ian is fine.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (Reuters) -- Eight explosions tore through the Ethiopian capital on Friday, killing four people and injuring at least 43 in the latest of a series of mysterious blasts to strike Addis Ababa this year.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Conference over

The consular conference is over, and I'm here for another day...

Most people are staying for a few extra days for travel in country. Some went on a city tour this morning; others are doing a city tour, then visiting an underground church about 45 minutes south of Addis. One's staying for a whole other week, and still others are going to make their way north to a city with over 40 distinct churches and on to Eritrea. They're going to have to fly through a third country, because of the ongoing conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
I'm sticking around the hotel for the morning, because in the afternoon I'll be meeting up with a friend from Manila for a tour.
I'm impressed by Addis. It's obviously poor, but there's a lot of money here too. The Sheraton is almost surreal in its relative opulence, and there are a fair number of other tall buildings, and a couple new skyscrapers. Many nice restaurants, but Lome has some too. The difference here is that these are busy.. and not just with expats, but Ethiopians. The division of wealth is no doubt huge, with no real middle class, but there is money coming in. That's a start.
The climate is great.. the sun is strong, but the city is almost 9,000 feet up. It's nice and cool, making it actually comfortable to walk around. There are lots of grocery stores, and the roads are in passable shape. Traffic is bad, but that seems to be an effect of the money coming in. The Embassy is on a large compound that looks like a college campus. Lots of trees, many different buildings, and about 10 houses. There's also houses near the old airport, the new airport, and elsewhere.
Bottom line, I'm trying to keep an open mind about AF -- it all isn't like Togo.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Odds and ends from inside my brain.

I realized this morning that yesterday was exactly three months since my surgery. I'm amazed and all sorts of paranoid about my skin, but mostly relieved that I have healed so well. We received the bills a few weeks ago. Embassy London had picked up the tab while I was in London, sent me the bills which I submitted to my insurance to be reimbursed, then I will turn over the funds to Embassy Lome', who in turn will pass them back to Embassy London. It's confusing and complicated with about a dozen steps where it could all go wrong, but here's hoping it will be a successful process. Anyone want to know what the grand total was for visits, surgery, hospital stay and follow-up? A mere $10,000. Tack on the flights ($2000), the hotel in Accra ($200) and the hotel in London ($2000). I certainly don't see anyone doing medevac for fun.
Ian is still gone, thankfully on a much cheaper trip than mine, and won't be home until sometime on Saturday. I should really ask him when he's supposed to return, huh? While he's been gone, the kids and I have stayed mellow. We played Jumanji and Simply Suspects, read The Day of the Dragon King (Magic Tree House) at bedtime, played too many games of Zuma on the XBox, had french toast for dinner, and started and completed a drawing project for school. The project was given out on Monday by the student council, and due today, Thursday. That isn't much time, but the girls stayed up late last night to finish them, and both pictures turned out great. When they get them back I'll try to remember to scan them. For me, I've been doing hours and hours of scrapping. I'm >< to being finished with our home leave trip from last summer; I don't want to see another beach picture for a long time. Next I'll do Hong Kong 2004 for something totally different. Again, if I remember I'll take pictures when they're done.
I don't want anyone to get the impression we prefer to have Ian gone. Far from it. Several times a day Nicholas says he wishes dad was back, and the other kids keep a daily tab of how many days left to go. We all miss him.
Yesterday quite a storm rolled through. Usually they come at night, but yesterday's started about 1:30 p.m., stayed heavy for a couple hours and dripped for hours after that. Great for the ground, great for the air. When I walked Katherine to a friend's house, the air was clean. No dust, no fish, no exhaust, no pee. Just cool and fresh and wonderful. Today, we're suffering the backlash of standing water and soggy ground. Within minutes of being outside this morning I had an assortment of new mosquito bites. I don't usually spend much time outside in the morning but today I was replacing light bulbs in the yard lamps. I could have waited, but then I get sidetracked.
Seeing as the main topic of the this week's Atupani newsletter is safety during the recent rise of violent crime in Lome', I replaced 4 bulbs out front, tried to replace the one over the front door (someone needs to show me how to take out a pop-in bulb), completed my weekly radio check, spoke with the gardener (more on that next) and locked the doors. We also still have the dog, which is a security measure in itself. I learned today that Labs (and Lab-a-likes) are lousy guard dogs. No kidding, Sable would love someone to death before intentionally hurting them. But in her defense, she is exactly what she needs to be... a dog. Even better, a dog that likes jumping on things. It's a nuisance and a pain for the family, but for strangers and locals and stranger locals, it's great because dogs are not just not well liked, but feared in general. Having a bundle of energy racing towards you and hopping like a bunny is a great deterrent for would-be trouble makers.
Of course that does leave the problem of differentiating between those we don't mind her irritating and those we do. Namely, us. That's where we've introduced the leash, and it really does work by both keeping her at arms length and limiting her range of jumping options. It also keeps us noticeably cleaner. With the rain comes mud, and muddy paws. Yuck.
So while I was with the dog, replacing lights and keeping her on the leash, I spoke with the guardener. This is no smal feat. I spoke to him in French, mangled I'm sure, but understandable. I asked him to purchase new flowers for by the front wall. It is currently scrawny bougainvilla and dirt, but he pointed out that previously there had been trees there and the ground is completely tied up with old roots. He's tried several times to plant things, but they get choked. He showed me a couple plants that will grow, but they are bushy, not little flowers, and we finally agreed to try more of those. Just about all our walls are covered in bushes or climbing plants so this one doesn't have to be different. We'll see what comes of it.
In other news: Katherine is in school (yes, that is news), grades 2 and up are doing assessments, P.E. is the bane of our existence, Jonathon can read and do addition and subtraction, Rebecca is learning multiplication, and life goes on.

Monday, May 8, 2006

Greetings from Ethiopia

As not fun as it was, the Ethiopian Airlines flight did leave Dakar about 18 hours late, stopped in Abidjan, picked me up in Lome, and I'm here at the Sheraton Addis Ababa.

The Addis airport, Bole International, is about 3 years old and very nice looking. It kind of reminds me of Dulles, but a lot smaller. I got my visa on entry, which wasn't as much of a hassle as I expected. I had warned the Embassy that I was late, so their expeditor was there to meet me.
I got to the hotel (which is also the site of the consular conference I'm attending) at about 3:00 pm, so I missed almost the entire first day of the conference. There's a dinner out tonight, so I'm set for that. Changed, got a new stack of money that I don't recognize (Ethiopian Birr, about 8 to the dollar and really tiny. It looks the most like Monopoly money I've seen.)
At the hotel, after being disappointed that my wireless connection didn't find anything, I asked the front desk. They offer their own dial-up, which is good enough for e-mail. Now I'm flipping through channels. I just stopped on Al Jazeera. Their tech guy likes the newest Harry Potter video game.. I never considered that Al Jazeera does "hey look, we're cool too" tech stories like CNN. Then they showed a promo for a story on Guantanamo Bay. It didn't look real positive.
By the way, I wasn't the only person that missed the first day. Somebody else traveling from Embassy Dakar was on the same flight as me, and she started earlier (not to mention stopping in Abidjan and Lome), so I guess it could have been worse. Either way, flying horizontally through Africa just isn't a good idea.

Up up and Away.

Ian is on his way to Ethiopia.

He was picked up Sunday morning about 9:30 a.m. to catch an Ethiopian Air flight to Addis Ababa. The duty driver and expediter brought him to the airport where he checked his bag, received his boarding pass and then was told his flight (coming from Dakar, Senegal with a stop in Abidjan, Ivory Coast) hadn't actually left Dakar yet. The last we heard, the pilot decided there weren't enough people on board and was going to wait for more to show up.
Ian came home.
At 12:15 he was picked up again... there was another flight.
By 2 p.m. he was home again. Sure, there was a plane on the ground, but it was going the other way. And what about rumblings of a flight from Ghana stopping in Lome' before departing to Addis? The pilot decided he didn't want to stop in Lome'.
If you're like us you're wondering about flight plans, and when pilots got the power to decide where and when to stop for passengers, and how many passengers need to be on board before initiating a scheduled flight. Those folks had connecting flights in other countries too, I wonder what they thought waiting around for phantom last minute flyers desperate to get to Ethiopia.
Later yesterday evening, the expediter called and said a flight would leave at 5:30 a.m. this morning. Ian dutifully rose at 4 a.m. and I haven't seen him since.
He's either on his way to Addis or asleep on the luggage carousel.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Decisions Decisions

What to do, what to do. A boring life would be, well, boring. But I'd prefer (wouldn't we all?) if all the "hard" decisions were more along the lines of which airline to fly, or which house to buy, or whether to keep the dog when we leave or... well, you get the idea.

We're going along as though... as though nothing will change. But that couldn't be farther from the truth. Everything is up in the air right now.
Ian wrote an e-mail to the director of the British School asking where it stands. Rumors are spreading like wild fire, and as rumors have a tendency to do, they are getting worse with each retelling. The latest is the school will shut its doors this summer. Getting info right from the director is the only way to clear the air, but that's not entirely sure either. After all, this is his business, his livelihood, and he's not going to want to tell us the nitty gritty truth if it means we'll choose not to enroll our kids, thereby hurting the school more. He'll want to tell us the best possible outcome, right? The biggest issue is the lack of boarding students. The troubles a year ago with the Togolese elections are still being felt and people don't want to send their kids to a boarding school in a potentially unstable country. These parents are from Nigeria though, so I'm not sure how they can consider Togo an unstable country. For whatever their reasons, the boarding students aren't coming in needed numbers and they are the financial staple of the school.
We'll hear from the director when Ian gets back from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, next week.
Without BSL, there are no outside school options (while I realize the French school would be great immersion for the language, I don't agree with the rote and often harsh teaching methods used. We have enough problems with the teaching methods at AISL to ever think of stepping backwards).
Other options? Pull up a chair:
Stay and Homeschool: Pros - We certainly have plenty of materials, the kids would be at home and could all go at their own pace. There would be no new upheaval and we finish our tour like FSOs are supposed to. Cons - Like we aren't isolated enough. There are few places to go for cultural activities or sports activities. Everything homeschoolers do in the States is 20X harder to do here, if it's even available. And if Ian left his position right when he's supposed to transfer to Political, that would leave the Political position empty for the next year.
SMA: SMA=Separate Maintenance Allowance. Ian stays here to finish the tour, the kids and I return to the States for the next school year. You can imagine how far that went in our discussions. But I had to bring it up, because it -is- an option, though not a good one. He would much rather curtail than split the family.
"Boarding School": aka grandma's and grandpa's house. Ian and I and the boys stay here. The girls attend school back home and live with my parents. Pros - We would enroll the boys at AISL since they will both be in Miss Emily's class, a teacher we respect. The girls get a good education in a place they are happy in and are with their grandparents. Cons I would spend all my time at the school making sure my kids get water whenever they need it (yes, an actual concern. The P.E. teacher has been having all the kids -earn- their water, during 45 minutes in the direct Togo sun. Do you know how long it takes a Kindergartener to make 20 baskets? The whole P.E. period). Oh, and have I passed this through either the kids or my parents? No. The biggest Con - See SMA
Curtailing: We all leave Togo early. Pros - There are several positions open this summer for Ian's grade and job position, three in Chennai, India alone. We could find a place much more suitable for our family. The kids wouldn't blink at leaving Togo. Our kids have already learned that anywhere outside of Virginia is home as long as our family is together. Some places will make a greater impression on them than others, but as long as we're together all is good. Cons - My head is reeling with all the complications, not the least of which being that if we curtailed it would have to be in the next 3 months... running into our R&R (would that be canceled? Do we have to go to the States between here and next post?), our consumables (the rest of our order is due, what happens if we go somewhere without a consumables allowance, or worse, if we order and it gets shipped, and we leave before it gets here... etc etc), and didn't we JUST get here and don't I really hate the 1001 logistic problems of moving??
Step #1, once we understand what's going on with the British School, is asking Ian's CDO (career development officer and basic lifeline to the Department back home) what her recommendations are. What are the true pro and con effects to his career with each of our options. What's best for the family may not be best for his career, and vice versa. Though if we could find a middle ground somewhere, that would be great.
I'm thankful none of our problems are life and death issues. That is my silver lining.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Welcome to May

May did not start off well. It has been a very difficult week, centering on Katherine and school.

But until I have any sort of resolution regarding that, I figured it's time to write up our Ghana trip, so here it is.

Since we went over spring break/Easter weekend, the kids were off school and we could leave on our trip as soon as Ian got home from early-release Friday. My biggest worry was getting across the border but Ian handled it like a pro, visiting the half dozen windows and getting stamps x6. We were through the border town Aflao and on our way an hour after we left the house. We passed the huge termite mounds, the Ostrich Farm, the seemingly well-provided for country hospital, the pot market (as in clay pots, not the other kind), through towns with cross walks and speed bumps and too many shake-down spots. Normally a cause for a rush of nerves and a wave of anxiety, but since I’d done this trip once before and our Embassy driver not only drove through them but barely slowed in the process, I told Ian to do the same. The driving was easy. Only one point, where Ian tried to pass an 18-wheeler directly into on-coming traffic, did we have any problem. We slowed to fall back behind the truck but there really wasn’t enough time. We were duly impressed when the folks we were heading towards slowed down also, allowing us the couple extra seconds we needed to get out of their lane. Once we crossed the river bridge at Sogakope, the road changed to a newly paved 4 lane divided highway. It was bliss. While we didn’t reach the 100mph the Embassy drivers seem so fond of, flying along between 60 and 70mph was cleansing.
We used an amazing map, borrowed from the CLO but I’d also paid enough attention during February’s trip to sense if we were heading the right way. With that, combined with proper street signs and working stoplights that were –heeded-, we found our hotel on the Accra beachside with no problem.
The La Palme Beach Hotel is huge, lovely and seemingly well-run. We had 2 adjoining rooms in a separate round bungalow. There were six other rooms in the bungalow for other guests as well. Through a lawn and along the beach was a path to the main resort with its huge sectioned pool and several restaurants. There’s even a gelateria with decent gelato.
It’s only a three hour trip from Lomé to Accra, but the kids were more than ready to go swimming. Cooled off and cleaned up, we were the first to the on-site Japanese Tepanyaki restaurant. At dinnertime there’s nothing kids like more than watching the food preparation, especially when it involves bursts of flames.
The kids went to bed without a problem. Two twins in one room for Ian and I, while the kids shared the king bed laying crosswise like sardines. After the second night they were very ready for their own beds at home, but it worked in a pinch.
Saturday we all went swimming after enjoying a poolside breakfast and before visiting the dentist. The dentist has a home clinic, clean and well-stocked, complete with four assistants. His prices were American, but we feel that the care he offered was worth it. After an x-ray confirmed Katherine’s adult tooth is coming in nicely, her nearly abscessed baby tooth was pulled. She can now where her new Gap shirt. The dentist also discovered the sealant work done in Manila is cracking. When we return in the fall, it will be repaired. Then it was Rebecca’s turn in the chair. The gray line on one tooth was a cracked filling, also from Manila. That too was repaired. Both girls had their teeth cleaned. The boys each had check-ups: Nicholas is doing great, Jonathon needs to brush for longer. That’s where the new Firefly toothbrushes come in. My parents sent some for the boys and I got additional ones for the girls. Press the handle and the toothbrush blinks for a minute telling the kids to keep on brushing. Jonathon was told to press his Firefly twice at each brushing.
While the girls were in the chair, the boys and I played Go Fish, Crazy Eights and I Spy to stay occupied for the 2 ½ hours. It’s not like the assistants said hello, much less offered any sort of diversion. It was almost eery how silent the place was. But we’ll be back during fall break to finish up the work that needs to be done on all of us.
Relieved that Katherine was no longer in pain, though she couldn’t speak well and was a little drooly after the Novocain, we made our way to the Embassy commissary. It’s a spot of paradise in our book with freezers full of US grade meats and ice cream, and shelves of cereals, lunchables, nachos, and M&Ms, the kids were like, well, kids in a candy store. Ian and I were no better. We treated ourselves to a trunk full of treats. Even better, there are discussions going on of forming a Co-op with Embassy Lomé once we’re in the new building. There is commissary space allotted in the compound and we’d put in regular orders from Accra to keep our own store going. Wouldn’t that be sweet? Speaking of food, we’re due to put together the remainder of our consumables order. Our first attempt was more difficult than it should have been that we’re a touch nervous about it. We’ve learned Peapod by Giant no longer does diplomatic orders so we’ll do this one through ELSO and perhaps it will get here the first time and quicker overall.
Well past lunch time, we returned to our hotel with our goodies. All the restaurants but the Ghanaian Village were done with serving lunch, so we sat outside by the beach (well, not by the beach, as there’s a fence and a drop to actually reach the sand, but we could see the waves) and waited what felt like forever for our food. Katherine was stuck with soft foods so she opted for soup. Note to self: peanut soups are always spicy.
We had a rest period in our rooms before joining Simon and Jill (third tour) at their home for a BBQ. Simon had been to our Embassy a few months back on a small exchange, so his family invited us to spend the evening with them. Their two bunnies were the hit of the evening with our kids and the kids also spent a lot of time playing in the toy wonderland of Elizabeth and Henry’s room. The most striking thing about their home is the colors on their walls. Jill has painted just about every room, from deep red in the dining room to the flowers and bugs in the kids’ room. Her work really made the house feel homey and for three years in one place it might well be worth the time and expense. I guess my biggest issue with painting is that typically the Embassy asks for everything to be returned to original white before you leave post.
After a very nice evening commiserating about the difficulties of West Africa (they have water trucked to their home several times a week and the generator works overtime) and sharing some perspective (“Oh, you think that’s bad, we don’t….”) we promised to visit again in the fall. We’ll be bidding from the same list, and it’s always interesting to see which places folks pick and why.
The next day was Easter Sunday, so we dressed up, had our poolside breakfast and attended Mass at the Nunciature, aka the Embassy of the Holy See. The kids and I had missed going to Mass, so it was nice to participate in a low-key, English, familiar service. Ian had the opportunity to chat with the Papal Nuncio after Mass.
Our time in Ghana was done. After a quick poolside lunch, we packed up the car and drove out of town. The drive was uneventful, Jonathon slept most of the way and the border was hassle-free. We weren’t thrilled to re-enter Lomé with its bazillion motos and poor roads, but we were home and having that feeling that we were glad to be back in our house was worth quite a bit. Contentment, no matter how brief, refreshes the mind and soul.
Of course, we’d locked ourselves out of the house (a deadbolt had slipped partway into place) which erased some of the good feeling, but after much sweat and a little cursing, we yanked the door open. The kids had gone swimming during our effort, and once we were inside, all was well and back to normal.