31 January 2012

No, that is not a pumpkin under my shirt

It's a baby the size of a pumpkin.  I'm 38 weeks pregnant, and feeling every inch of my 43-inch belly.  Today is my last day of work before I start maternity leave tomorrow, so I'm just finishing up all my Lahash projects, replying to emails and talking to my grandma on the phone.

Our plan for the next few weeks:
Fred has been traveling for work for the past week and is still on the road.  I'm helping him with a grant writing proposal that we're both excited about.  He'll get back mid-day on Thursday (hopefully) and the proposal for a district-wide, community-driven program to care for vulnerable children is due on Friday.  After that gets submitted, I think we'll want to just sit and look at each other for a day or two!  Fred will be wrapping up his work projects and I'll be working on a few more sewing projects, then we'll pack up our baby clothes and get ready to head up to Kenya.

The trip north for the birth will hopefully be far less dramatic than our last trip, but will still take all day.  We'll probably hang out in Nairobi for a day or two, meeting with our American midwife and do some last minute baby shopping.  Then we'll catch the public transport out to Kijabe, about an hour from Nairobi and check into the guest house.  We'll have another appointment with the maternity staff and go over protocol for when I actually go into labor.  We'll be about 100 yards from the hospital reading and watching movies on a laptop waiting for the baby!  I'll probably be doing Facebook status updates, and once the baby arrives, we'll be sure to announce it here.

Please pray for us as we're getting close to meeting our little one.  Pray for our safety as we travel and health for me and for the baby.  I might even go out on a limb and ask you to pray for comfort...not luxury, just comfort.  The uncomfortable buses and having to pee when there's no bathroom and sharing a hotel room with cockroaches or rats make for good blog posts, but I'd much prefer to not have any of those stories at this particular juncture.  (In Fred's defense, the number of hotel rooms I've shared with cockroaches has reduced drastically since getting married.  He takes good care of me.)

Anyway, thanks for following the blog, listening to my crazy stories and praying for us.  Let the Baby Watch officially begin!

16 January 2012

A long post about a long day

Last week Fred and I went up to Nairobi for a pre-natal appointment at the hospital we’d chosen for the birth. It was kind of a dry run for next month (the baby is only a few weeks away!), and, naturally, almost nothing went to plan. After five years of using public transit here, I’ve experienced a lot in the way of inconvenience and discomfort, but this trip to Nairobi was probably top three in my list of difficult travel experiences.
It started at five in the morning on Wednesday, when we woke up to do final packing and get on the road, hoping to reach Nairobi by mid-afternoon. I ate some toast and coffee, and we walked to town to find a car to take us to Tarime. It’s only a three or four minute walk, but immediately we could tell something was wrong. Town, which is usually starting to buzz at 5:30am, was nearly deserted. There were no buses, no cars, no motorbikes. Fred found out that the police had set up a roadblock between Shirati and Tarime and were turning back all public vehicles whose drivers didn’t have a “new” driver’s license (whatever that is). Usually these roadblocks are just a bribe collection point, but the drivers weren’t risking it, so no vehicles were moving until that roadblock had been taken down. Without leaving immediately, we wouldn’t make it to the border in time to catch the 8am buses to Nairobi, so we had no option but to go back home and take a nap. We were both frustrated that our impeccably planned day had already been derailed, and I said a little prayer that God would be in charge of the rest of the day.
We tried again at 8am, and this time we had success finding a car going to Tarime, which, if you remember from before, is the Wild West junction where I got chased around by a guy yelling about me being a pregnant white woman. Fortunately this time we didn’t have to wait around at all, and just jumped in a car headed for the border. Passing through immigration was similarly painless. (I cut in front of a bunch of safari tourists who were filling out their forms soooo slowly.)
When we reached the Kenyan side of the border, we started looking for a bus to Nairobi. The bus we wanted to take, Transline, was expected at noon, leaving us with about an hour to hang out. Fred parked me in a tea shop, when we found out that there was a Nyamira Express bus leaving shortly, so we bought tickets for that bus, thinking to save ourselves an hour. The bus arrived and it was a piece of trash on wheels, but the ticket guy said there was another bus right behind it, so we should just wait for that one. Sounds good, right? Sigh.
We had great seats, front row right behind the driver with loads of leg room and seats that reclined a bit. So nice to be able to put my feet up and have a little extra belly room, and we hit the road. The bus stopped immediately, before we’d even left the border town, to weld something at the back of the bus. Safety first, right? Sigh.
We sat baking in the sun waiting for the welding to be finished. Then we hit the road…and stopped again. The Tanzanian police weren’t the only ones stopping public vehicles on the road. The Kenyan police were doing random checks for people smuggling marijuana, and there were probably twelve blocks on the road. Fortunately these stops were pretty quick business…until…. We stopped in the town of Kisii for “twenty minutes,” aka eighty minutes, during which time a parade of vendors entered the bus, and every single one of them had exactly the same merchandise, but each one insisted that I must want the lukewarm soda he was selling. Usually I just put in my headphones and stare out the window and they leave me alone. Not in Kisii. The vendors were hitting me on the shoulder to get my attention until I started being rude back. 
Finally the driver and conductor returned and we started out again, having added a bunch of new passengers. It turns out that one of those passengers was being looked for by those Kenyan drug police. Apparently he had a bag full of marijuana under the bus. Of course he did. It took a surprisingly long time for them to send us on our way, considering it took about five minutes for the police to find the drugs and toss the guy in the back of the police truck, probably in part because every other man on the bus took the opportunity to jump off and pee on the side of the road. While we sat there, the noon Transline bus that we were going to save so much time by not waiting for passed us. *Fred shakes fist in frustration.*
We would continue stopping to add passengers at every wide spot in the road between there and Nairobi, making what should have been six hours into about ten hours. At one moment, thinking of all the delays we’d been through so far that day, feeling very fat and rather uncomfortable and needing to pee (not on the side of the road, thankyouverymuch), I was a little low. Then we passed the Transline bus, that very one that we had planned on then passed on then got passed by. The bus had run off the road and was tipped sideways into a ditch missing the front axle. It wasn’t a bad accident as these things go, but what a reality check that our best-laid plans are nothing compared to God’s plan for us.
We had planned to stay at the Mennonite Guest House in Westlands, but by the time we rolled into Nairobi it was about five hours later than our initial plan. We reached the guest house to find out that they weren’t going to let us stay there because the office was closed and we didn’t have reservations. The very nice security guard recommended a nearby guest house, so we walked the quarter-mile to that place at ten o’clock at night, where we were also told they couldn’t help us. As we wandered back to the Mennonite Guest House, Fred started calling our bishop, who gave him the number for the local Mennonite bishop, who said he would call the guest house. By the time we got back, the guard asked if we were “wageni wa kawaida” (common guests), and when he found out we work for the Mennonite church, he invited us in to rest while he sorted something out. I rested on an outside sofa, utterly exhausted, while we waited for the verdict. It was very much our Mary and Joseph moment of “no room at the inn”, but between the bishops and the security guard they found a room for us. (It was not a stable and I did not have the baby that night.) We were so grateful, especially when the security guard found us some peanuts and crisps for dinner.
Oh my. After that looooong day (and looooong story), everything else was great. We ate some good food, got to rest a bit in a really peaceful environment, and had a great experience at the hospital we’re planning to go to for the birth. We bought some baby clothes and a diaper bag and I pretty much ate my weight in ice cream one day (which I then regretted). There were a few disappointments, a few setbacks, but the return trip was virtually eventless. Oh, except for the moment when we were disembarking in Migori to see Innocent at school and as soon as I stood up my skirt dropped to my ankles. As I scrambled to pull up my skirt without losing my slip also or dropping my bag, my sandal snapped. Embarrassing for sure, but I only flashed a few people and Fred got my sandal fixed, and it was the last of our adventures for that trip. We reached home in one piece, found some dinner waiting for us (God bless our new, live-in housegirl Jaki!), and got to rest and recover all day Sunday. Now it’s just a hard push through two more weeks of Lahash work before maternity leave starts!

08 January 2012

A few photos

First of all, sorry these photos are so dark.  I have a terrible camera with no flash on it.  Turns out taking photos of an African child wearing dark colors in a dark room doesn't turn out so well, but oh well...  Here is Innocent on the morning he left for boarding school in his new uniform with all his things safely tucked away in the trunk and his new mattress.  Whenever we added something to his trunk, whether it was soap or socks, he made sure I had written or sewn his name on it.  Fred delivered him to school on Thursday, and got him all settled in.  His first night alone at school was a bit tough, but when Fred checked back in on Saturday, he was doing much better.  He loves the matron, and has told her so many stories about his family already, including his Auntie from America.  (Innocent never calls me a mzungu, bless him.)
The day before Innocent left we got our Christmas package from my family.  Fred got a Kindle from my parents, I got some foods I've been craving from my grandparents and a beautiful nursing nightgown from my parents (there will be no picture modeling that).  My grandma also crocheted a really cute little baby hat, in white, since we still don't know the gender of the baby.  Innocent was so excited to get a set of construction trucks from my parents, along with a book about "Toad Builds a Road".  He now knows the English words "steam roller", "bulldozer" and "hydraulic lift". 
While Fred was delivering Innocent to school I did a few more little sewing projects for the baby, including these booties.  The tops were made from some trousers of Innocent's that I had hemmed into shorts, and the bottoms are from the same cotton sheets that the baby's bedding is made from.  Our friend Brenda just came over and laughed, saying we were training our baby from early age not to go barefooted.  I got a flannel receiving blanket in the package from America, so I'm debating whether to leave it whole or make diapers or burp rags out of it.

Here I fully intended to put a photo of my huge pregnant belly, but I took the photo on my phone instead of the camera, and I can't get my camera connected to the computer, so it'll have to wait.  Suffice to say that I'm at 35 weeks, 44 inches around, and feeling good.  I'm tired of being pregnant, and I'm for sure ready to have the baby.  We're (God willing) going to have an appointment at the hospital we're planning to deliver at in Nairobi.  Hopefully we'll get a nice, clear ultrasound and find out the gender.  Everything else seems to be progressing just fine.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me and for the baby.  If you'd like to send a baby gift, there will be a team coming from Portland to Tanzania in mid-March, and there's room for them to carry some things.  Clothes, especially in the 6 months and older range, are appreciated.  Also, cloth diapers and even just flannel cloth that I can use for sewing things as needed would be great.  (Hand-me-downs are awesome...pretty much all quality baby clothes here are second-hand clothes shipped from the States anyway!) 

We love you guys!