eight days and counting…

I cannot tell you how many times I check my phone daily to count the days until our next R&R. It feels like a lifetime ago that we were walking the streets of Greece with my parents, enjoying good coffee and eating as much greek salad as we could shovel in our mouths. The last several weeks have been extremely trying. Both K and I have been sick. (I am just now getting my appetite back after weeks of just crackers and 7UP) We also had to say goodbye to a good friend, who was heading home after a year and a half in South Sudan. Life here feels a bit empty without her, I keep waiting for her to come into my office with some crazy story or a weird food combination for me to try. I am laughing less these days without her, its been rough. So needless to say that we are more than ready for a break.

This little one wanted to give me a dirty rag... and then all the kids laughed.

This little one wanted to give me a dirty rag… and then all the kids laughed.

There have been some high points in the last several weeks as well. K has been battling with the elements (literally) to get supplies up to a remote field site. He loaded a large truck with supplies and day after day he tracked their progress (or lack of) and heard about delays due to weather, mechanic trouble, flat tires, and communities physically delaying the truck, you name it and it has delayed this truck. When it looked like the truck just wasn’t going to make it K chartered a flight to fly in supplies to this field site. (This is the man you want in charge of getting you supplies!) So he chartered this flight and bought all new supplies to send and loaded the plane. Can you believe that the chartered flight and the truck arrived with in hours of each other to this field site? You have to laugh, honestly more supplies at this field site is a win for everyone. It was a ton of work and coordination, but worth it… right K?

This little one was super happy to see her reflection. I couldn't help but smile.

This little one was super happy to see her reflection. I couldn’t help but smile.

I have been battling donors, project reports, and new proposals. A few weeks ago I was successful getting one of the proposals that I wrote accepted by a new donor. Its short term funding, but will really help bridge a funding gap in our programming. It was a really great feeling to have this proposal accepted. I felt like I might actually be good at my job! When sharing the news with my brother he kindly reminded me that even if it wasn’t accepted I was still good at my job. Love that guy.

Another reflection lover.

Another reflection lover.

I was able to spend a few days out at a field site, which I loved every minute of it. I was able to attend a community meeting and inter-act with the local community. I had so many memories of being in communities in Zimbabwe. It was a great trip to see our field teams in action. I did not see any scorpions during my visit which was a bit of a let down, but cause I was on high alert for these little creatures. But I did have a lovely wake up call by a baby bat, so not all was lost.

Little man super bored during a community meeting was pretending he was driving a motorcycle. It was awesome.

Little man super bored during a community meeting was pretending he was driving a motorcycle. It was awesome.

We are both tired and ready for some time just the two of us in Nairobi. (K has booked us a trip to the spa for my birthday!) And we are super pumped to meet up with our friends Nicole and Josue in Zanzibar and live on the beach. I can’t wait to take deep breaths of ocean air. It’s going to be amazing.

And Birdie keeps growing. I love that K is wearing the same shirt in both pictures.

And Birdie keeps growing. I love that K is wearing the same shirt in both pictures.

But for the eight remaining days I going to enjoy every moment of turning on our bathroom sink tap and have the shower turn on… don’t even ask because I have no idea.

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rough week…

Just in case you think that all K and I do is fun and exciting I’ll share with you this last week’s challenges. Monday I woke up with red blotchy spots on the right side of my chest, underarm and up my shoulder. The spots were sensitive to the touch and super scary looking. But other than the discomfort of the spots I felt fine so I did what any good Vetter does, I went to work and didn’t think about it. Finally by Tuesday afternoon I was in a lot of pain and K convinced me to go to the clinic. At the clinic I was diagnosed with a staph infection and given antibiotics. Before sending me on my way the Dr. googled staph infections and showed me pictures of staph and what I should look for if it got worse, it was horrifying.

Now I pride myself on being a clean person and was totally disgusted with myself for having contracted a staph infection. I was embarrassed to tell K what I had and did not want to tell any of my friends and colleagues. I was super diligent in the medication regiment; it was four pills a day that you take on an empty stomach. So either an hour before you eat or two hours after; it sounds simple but it becomes a bit complicated and very structured. Not only did the medication make me feel like I was coming down with the flu but it also gave me wicked heartburn like I have never experienced. But still I carried on.

By Friday there had been no change in the spots and I was still struggling with the discomfort. I decided to return to the clinic for a follow up, hoping for a change in medication. However, on this visit a different Dr. introduced me to the Nairobi Fly and told me that I must have had a run in with one. He explained that while the Nairobi Fly does not bite or sting, if you come into contact with their internal guts it would leave a burn on your skin similar to an acid burn. Its best to flick them off your person instead of slap them or squish. I must have felt something on my shoulder or chest and rubbed it instead of flicking it off, hence all the burns on my skin. I was given burn cream, told to stop the antibiotics and sent on my way. The burn cream worked like a charm and I was feeling relief within the first application. I was also feeling so much cleaner to know that I did not in fact have a staph infection. Things were looking up.

K and I went about our weekend, had dinner out with friends and attended what was called “the party of the year” (which it totally was not) but near the end of our Saturday evening K began to feel a bit sick and went to the car to lay down. By the time we reached home he was burning up with a fever and feeling nauseated. It was a long night of cold sweats, losing his dinner and high fever delusions. In the midst of a high fever delusion K made me sweat that I wouldn’t use the fire extinguisher, he was extremely adamant. By 8am the next morning I was on the phone to the clinic to see if there was someone who could see K as it was a Sunday morning and the clinic does not have office hours on Sundays. Unfortunately, the clinic staff was up all night with a patient who had to be medically evacuated to Nairobi, so they were busy until 11am, but told us we could come then. So we waited out the morning. 15 minutes before we had to leave I noticed that there was a flat tire on the only remaining vehicle at our house, so I rallied some help in changing the tire (thank you Paul and Stanley) and finally drove to the clinic with the help of a good friend (Sarah Almari you are the very best there is). K was admitted to the clinic and given a shot to reduce the headache and fever. He was tested for malaria and several other common issues seen in Juba. All the tests came back negative, but the Dr. was convinced that with his symptoms that it was malaria. Often in the beginning stages of malaria a person will test negative. Its a tricky disease that malaria. K also had a chest infection, which gives him a nasty cough and could also contribute to the headache and fever. Pretty much he was a mess. We loaded up on medication to treat the malaria and chest infection and drove home totally exhausted.

We sequestered ourselves to our room, slept/watched movies and shows all day and it was lights out before 9:45pm. Although we had a better night we are still slow going. K will stay home for a few days to make sure that he kicks the malaria and chest infection. I am trudging through, but definitely slowly. Its been a rough week.

birthdays in Africa cont….

I started this story a few days ago, if you want to catch the beginning start here.

 

I placed both trays of cake batter on a metal sheet and then the head baker carefully set the tray in the opening of the oven. He took a long pole and pushed it back into the oven into “the spot”. It took him a moment or two to find it, but he seemed to be looking for this perfect spot in the oven to bake. He then covered the opening with another metal tray with some kind of contraption that I cannot begin to explain.

 

I then began waiting on the sidelines of the bakery, to just watch the bakery production. I was in heaven. After a few minutes of standing aganist the wall a plastic chair that was missing its back was brought in for me to sit on. I was really flattered but felt super silly that I was sitting doing nothing, while all the bakers were working so very hard in a very hot bakery. Just sitting in the bakery was enough to make sweat pour down my back. After a few minutes I asked if it was okay if I took a few pictures, and they agreed. I got a bit braver a few minutes later and asked if they would be willing to teach me how to make mendazi and to my great joy, they told me to come back any time and they would be happy to teach me. (there was a small discussion before they agreed about wether I was strong or not, but after I lifted a few trays full of dough I seemed to satisify their doubt) After 25 minutes I asked to take a look at the cake, and the baker brought out his long pole and carefully pulled out the tray with my two cakes on it. I was extremely happy to see that both cakes turned out beautifully. When I looked up from inspecting the cake I realized that everyone in the bakery was huddled around to see what I had asked to bake. A few asked what I called it, and I responded “chocolate cake”. It seemed that most had not heard of chocolate cake, but then they asked me if I could teach them how to make one. I am more than excited to swap skills with my bakery friends in the near future. How great would it be to get my first bakery experience in Juba?!

 

I told everyone at NP that we would be having cake and drinks around 8:30-9pm that evening and everyone gathered together to celebrate K’s birthday. We were also able to find some whipping cream for icing on the cake. After about a half hour of hand whipping the cream was ready to go on the cake. And the party began. K introduced everyone to a few episodes of Portlandia and a few of his favorite SNL sketches… he was in heaven. The cake turned out better than I had imagined and even K was impressed. By the end of the day I was exhausted, but so glad that K had a special day. A little creativity and adventure paid off in the end. Happy 30th K, I am so happy that you decided to join me in the 30’s.

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baking solves all problems…

Well except maybe weigh gain, but come on being chubby around the edges just means you are happy. Right?! Well that’s what I tell myself. This last month I’ve been working hard to get my little well rehabilitation project up and running. And for the most part things have been running smoothly. The materials have been delivered and well locations have been selected.

 

The plan is to rehabilitated 7 existing wells that have fallen into some state of disrepair. We are providing the new pump materials and working together with the District Development Fund (DDF) a local government program who  will provide the labor and expertise to repair the wells.

 

Many of the wells are over 60 meters deep and the length of the pipes that will be replaced are each 3 meters long. So when you do the math… like me all month long (because the plan has changed several times, not due to my poor math skills) you have to order 139 pipes. And when you replace pipes you also replace the rods inside. So that’s also an order of 139 rods.

 

The supply truck that brought all the materials wouldn’t fit in our long drive way, so K led a great team of guys to load up our little trucks and ferry materials from the large truck on the street in front of the house to our garage for temporary storage before it goes out into the field. They worked hard but had a little fun too.

 

The above picture is one of the wells we intend to rehabilitate. As you can see the cement around the well, which protects the water in the well from any kind of harmful element leaking in is in horrible condition. The well still pumps water but only barely. The head of DDF told me he thinks something is disconnected which is making pumping water much harder than is should be. This well is located inside a school yard and is used mostly by school children. They are having to work ridiculously hard to get a small amount of water. We plan to change that.

 

The project was supposed to begin on Tuesday… but there was a flat tire and other complications. And so I went to join the DDF team on Wednesday, but they didn’t show due to other complications. So instead of sitting around and wasting a day we,  my coworker Washington and I worked along side the community gathering stones. Hey, don’t kid yourself its a lot of work. But I had a blast chatting with the wife of the community leader and other community members. The wife of the community leader was quite the woman. She is the one in the blue skirt in the picture above. Her first question for me was to ask me how many children I have. When I said none so far she asked why? Come to find out she has eight children… so yeah she wanted to know why I didn’t even have one.

 

I also taught… or better yet attempted to teach the group of boys who helped collect stones the game Red Light Green Light. Its a good game if you have limited language skills. However, the concept of freezing when I turned around didn’t really work out too well. Most of the boys ran so fast, there was no way to stop in time. So it was like the longest game ever… each time I saw every boy still moving, so they all had to start at the beginning again. But I think they enjoyed it… I loved every minute of it.

And so now I’m hoping the DDF team made it to the first site today. I plan to go out on Friday to assess the progress and or to come up with a plan B. In the mean time I baked… just to keep the stress away and because when working on something that isn’t coming together the way I would have planned I like to bake. I like the satisfaction of finishing something and having the end result turn out well. Its something I started in grad school and I’ve continued it, because it works for me.

 

Of course I needed help eating the goods that I baked, and I’ve got the greatest team to offer up their services.

 

I think the team secretly loves when my projects go a little off track… perhaps I should look into whether these delays aren’t being caused by someone inside my office. 🙂

 

Nope, I’ll just keep baking.

 

friends on a walk….

I went for a walk today. I wanted to check out a place I saw a few days ago where I thought I could ride horses. Its about a 15 minute walk from the house so I planned to take a walk in the early afternoon to check it out. As I was closing the gate to the house I was greeted by two large German Shepards. Both dogs came straight for me and I greeted them with little to no fear. I mean there are dogs wandering the streets all the time so I didn’t really think anything of it. Most dogs stay out of your way and keep to themselves as they wonder. These two however stayed with me as I began to walk down the street. They were curious in sniffing around and checking out things on and off the street but kept up with my pace. At first I figured that they would wonder off and become interested in something else, but as I turned onto a more main street and they followed I began to wonder.

Between 5 and 10 minutes into my walk I began to notice that both dogs would wait for me to cross the street and checked in on me regularly by coming along side and brushing up against my leg. I continued on walking because I didn’t really know what to do, I mean they are two massive dogs and I wanted to maintain a good relationship with them. I was out numbered and shooing them didn’t seem like a good plan. S0 we continued to walk. I received many looks from people passing by. Its not often that you see a white girl and two large dogs walking down the street together. Each time the dogs would wonder off to sniff something I would think, ok they have gone, but then they both would turn and head back to me. I don’t think they ever got more than 30 feet from me without coming back to check on me.

As we neared my destination I also began to wonder what they would do. I walked through the gate of the equestrian center and along came my two friends. Turns out there is a bar at the equestrian center and at 2:15pm on a Saturday afternoon it is the place to be. There were at least 25-30 men sitting around drinking and socializing. Normally, I would have been a bit intimidated to approach a group like this as a woman by myself, but then again I wasn’t by myself. The three of us walked right up to the group and I asked if there was someone I could talk to about going horseback riding. I wish I could have videoed the response I received. Men stood up and began asking who was in charge and telling others that there is a madam who is looking to ride a horse. I was quickly directed to a man who took me back to the stable to speak with someone else. He asked me on the way if my dogs would bite him. I responded by saying “I don’t think so” and laughing it off. But honestly I had no idea myself. We had to go through another gate and I chose to leave the dogs behind. I turned to them and said stay and walked through the gate. 5 minutes later I returned through the gate and there they both were, waiting for me. And so we walked home together.

As we turned onto my street I saw a man coming toward us. The dogs maintained their pace with me and we met this man on the road a few houses away from mine. Turns out the dogs were his… I told him what happened and we both marveled that his dogs stayed with me the whole time. He thanked me for taking his dogs for a walk and took both dogs home, which happens to be two doors down from my house.

Such a strange encounter, but I can’t say that I wasn’t grateful for the dog’s presents at the equestrian center. I felt like I could go anywhere and do anything with those two by myside. With all the crazy stories to be had who wouldn’t want to come to Zimbabwe!

large and small adventures…

We survived moving day. Well, just barely. Poor K made it up the driveway to our new house in Bulawayo right before he passed out. Well not literally passed out but he certainly pushed it more than someone with strep-throat should. K slept most of the day on Thursday while I tried my best to direct the movers with the rest of our team. I’m pretty sure he has had a fever for the last several days. If fact funny story. We left Friday for our visa trip to South Africa and normally fly out of the Harare airport to Johannesburg (Joburg). However, now that we are living in Bulawayo we are now flying out of the Bulawayo airport, which is a converted airplane hanger. Needless to say its a very small airport and security is pretty minimal. In fact I left my leathermen in my carry-0n and it was discovered in the x-ray scanner, no big deal I was allowed to take my knife into a room with all the checked luggage and slip it into my bag. Simple.

After than minor knife debacle it was smooth sailing until we landed in Joburg. We dis-embarked (I love that term) the plane and quickly got into the non-African residence line to go through customs. We’ve done this four times now so it’s not really anything we think too much about. However, this month at the front of the line there was a man standing behind this camera asking everyone to take off their glasses to have their faces scanned. No biggie I thought, things are always changing and you just have to roll with the punches. I got scanned no problem. K got scanned and the man politely asked to speak with him in private. Ok… not really that bad right? K came back in line and I inquired as to the conversation the two shared. K looks at me totally serious and says that he needs to go with the man to the airport clinic after he is cleared through customs. The camera which the man was standing behind was a heat sensor camera and it detected that K was running a fever. So in my not-thinking insensitive way I say “Well that sounds exciting.”  Little did I know that K had already gone to defcon 1 (which is the highest deacon, not 5), imagining quarantines and anal probes. His response was not so light hearted.

We were quickly cleared through customs and ushered to the airport clinic. K was directed to fill out some paperwork and then the woman behind the desk took his temperature with an ear thermometer. She acknowledged that he did in fact have a fever and that he was experiencing flu like symptoms, but okayed him free to go. We were in and out of the clinic in 5 minutes and to the luggage carrousel in no time. K turns to me once we were on our own again and says “That was close I was almost quarantined.” I in turn said “I know it was kind of exciting.”

Ah the adventures we have. I’m pretty sure our mom’s are doing some deep breathing exercises right now. Don’t worry Moms we are good. I currently am sitting at our favorite coffee shop in Joburg enjoying a beautiful coconut latte and loving free unlimited wifi. Life is good.

We are going on a big 8 day road trip through Swaziland and down to the coast for snorkeling beginning on Monday, but for now we are resting and loving our king size bed. K is on the mend and I’m loving every adventure large or small.

moving day…

Wednesday is moving day. We are moving six hours outside of Harare to Bulawayo. We still haven’t heard for sure about funding for our next project but we are moving anyways.

Our whole team is driving the six hours to our new home tomorrow after the moving truck is loaded. We are taking six cars… yes that means I’ll be driving. Driving a standard… across the country… awesome.

I’m hoping my truck is slightly less full than the above picture… but come on its great use of space. Of course you have to be pretty trusting of the driver not to stall out or jerk to a stop… like I said my car will be slightly less full.

This will be K and my third move in the last six months… I wish it was as easy has just lifting up a house and putting it on a truck. It looks like a lot of work but I swear packing in boxes and organizing it all takes more effort.

I should have thought to just grab a few close friends to help with the move. I could have ordered pizza and played music… it would have been a party. I’ll carry the pizza and radio and everyone can grab a corner. (Someone has to be responsible for the pizza and music and as the host of this moving party it falls to me.)

Send us your love tomorrow as we move… oh and I forgot to mention that Kris has Strep Throat… can’t talk… he is organizing this move in totally silence. Awesome. When it rains it pours. Happy Moving Day!