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January, 2010:

Baobab

Success at last? Today we took our guests Roy and Anna in the direction of Bagamoyo. From Bomani Beach Bungalows we dug up a small baobab tree. It has been two years since Hein came up with the idea of planting a baobab in our garden, tomorrow may finally be the day!

5-day workshop

Finished work and preparing to go home later this afternoon. I am now in Kigali where I participated in a 5-day workshop that aimed to develop a method identifying banana-diseases in Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. My role was to advice on where to sample and how many samples to take. The output of the workshop was a questionnaire and a definition of the areas to target. We also went to the Rusizi valley to take a look at one of the diseases and learn how to extract DNA from diseased plants for lab-analysis. Still have a couple of hours to kill. Thinking of paying the pool area a visit.
IITA / FAO workshop

Kindergarten

As far as Tarek is concerned the baby group was a big success, apparently he cried when he had to leave. If he cannot join this group on a more permanent base (that depends on the people hosting it, they may think it’s already a bit big) than we’ll just have to find a commercial playgroup, like the one Hannah goes to every day.

So it goes

Hein’s in Kigali, Cecilia is going home, Leonarda is in the kitchen, Tarek is asleep and I? It’s so hot I don’t know what to do with myself. The best is probably to take off as many clothes as decently possible and crash on a bed. Hein had to leave the house at 3:30 this morning and whenever he takes that flight I have trouble falling back asleep after he gets up. Today is one of those get up at 5:30 days so there wasn’t that much sleep to be had in the first place.
Tomorrow may be the start of a new life for Tarek. If everything works out as planned, Leonarda will take him to a baby group for working mums. Most baby groups I know of are really for mothers, a chance to catch up while the little ones grab other babies’ toys. This baby group, apparently, meets more than once a week and, as all the mothers have a job, the nannies take the kids there and home. Tarek seems to enjoy being at home but I’ve noticed he also really likes to see other children. Of course he sees a lot of Trudpert, but with 7 months the age difference between them is just a little too big. I hope it works out!

How am I doing

As my parents keep pretending they’re too busy to write something for the website, I’ve decided to take things into my own hands. How I’m doing is the most important thing to most readers anyway.

And how am I doing?
As a matter of fact, I’m doing great. I’ve just had a lunch of avocado and chicken salad, some tomato and a piece of rye bread (the bread courtesy of aunt Lide!). My mother was very proud of having made me such a nice lunch and a little disappointed that I didn’t eat all of it. Most of the time I eat loads of many different things. In the morning mom and dad give me weetabix porridge with yoghurt. (If you know my mom you understand that it’s wholegrain weetabix, she drives all over town to find whole grain stuff.) I put up with the porridge, but I really prefer to eat mango, pineapple, watermelon and, my favourite, passion. It makes my face shrivel up with its acidity but I love it! I also love bread (wholegrain is all I get naturally) so if I’m really hungry, which is most mornings, I eat porridge, then fruit and then bread with peanut butter, cream cheese or Dutch appelstroop. After all that I normally drink some breast milk. Not too much and not every day. I like to have my mothers’ milk available at all times. In the afternoon I sometimes pull away her shirt and then her bra to reach her breasts. I don’t know why she is so shocked when I do that. In the evenings I often join them for dinner. I picked up this habit during our trip to Ruaha, when they forgot my food and I was forced to eat their food.
I think other kids and small babies are very interesting. Just a few days ago I saw a 3 month old baby and I really wanted to touch her and wiggle the car seat she was sitting in. My mother kept pulling me away; she said my hands were dirty. They were only a little sandy from crawling on the floor in the doctors’ office. Then I looked at the other kids in the clinic. They were all older then I was. After a while I decided to show off that I can do the same thing they can. I stood up, holding on to a chair and walked to my mother while everyone in the clinic held their breath. I can walk, though most of the time I just chose not to. We went to the doctor so I could get the vaccination against H1N1. Apparently we were lucky there was some available because the clinic has trouble buying it with all these western countries having put in huge orders. The companies that sell it do not care about some small clinic in Dar es Salaam wanting a few vials. Luckily, embassy personnel of countries where they vaccinate on a large scale are given vials for their families and then the leftover doses are donated to the clinic. I didn’t like it that my mother and the nurse held me so tightly I couldn’t move but the needle that went into my arm was very fascinating so I didn’t even cry. In a few weeks I get a second dose. And my mother also discussed with the nurse that it was time for some other injections. I don’t really mind but my dad gets nervous when I’m given vaccinations. Last time he took Leonarda along and waited outside until the needle work was over.
During the day I really enjoy being outside with my friend Trudpert. He runs and I laugh. Our other neighbour got a small cat recently, it’s called Max. Trudpert and I love to shout at the cat. I like to watch birds too. And as I’m now really getting the hang of pointing I point up to the sky as soon as I see a bird. I do a lot of talking but the only word my parents seem to understand is bye bye. They make me say it all the time. If I really want to impress them, I wave my hand at the same time. According to my mother, rest of what I say sounds mostly like dada. She should simply pay more attention; I talk about lots of things.

How are my parents?
My parents are both complaining about work. My mom has just started after her super long break (she has not right to complain at all). She’s just nervous about having to teach history for the first time. I think she is frustrated that there are no teaching materials but I know she’ll be ok. She always thinks of something and then really enjoys the work. My father complains about things like software not working so now he has to use two computers at the same time. But he has two computers, so what’s the worry? Anyway, most of the time when they are not working mom and dad sit around the house reading grandma’s newspaper clippings, playing games or watching a movie after I’ve gone to sleep around seven in the evening. Many of their friends in Dar are starting to return from their various holiday destinations. This afternoon mom and dad are taking me down the road to meet a Malinese-Dutch baby girl that was born in December. I really look forward to reconnecting with my friend Kees, it’s been months since I saw him, I wonder if he’ll recognise me at all. Tomorrow my friend Hannah is coming over, with her baby brother and her parents. Good times ahead!

How are things around the house?
My auntie Marije left a few days ago. It’s a shame she’s gone because she was fun to play with. She also brought her sister Elize who stayed for a few days as well. Especially auntie Marije was really good in peek-a-boo and hide and seek. She also fed me and bathed me and even managed to brush my teeth one night. I normally don’t like having my teeth brushed as I give priority to playing in the bath but auntie Marije was pretty good at it. It’s also fun to be with Cecilia and Leonarda again. It’s nice that everything seems to be back to normal after more than a month of guests, travelling and people going away.
The power has been good recently. Leonarda turned the generator on one afternoon when I took my nap because it gets so hot in my room and I get all sweaty without the fan. Something weird started happening a few days ago. The pressure pump kept working without a tap running. My parents said there must be a leak somewhere. The next day the water from the cold tap was warm. After a few nights mom took a shower in the guest bathroom and felt that the wall was hot. The next morning my parents noticed water dripping from the wall. Now both the fundi and my parents are sighing that the wall will have to be broken. And that while there are new guests arriving by the end of the month. Roy, who worked with my mother in the shop, is coming together with his girlfriend. I heard my mom and dad talk about a trip to Zanzibar when they are here.

What’s happening in the garden?
Today my friend Alfonsi has been replanting things. All three banana plants have made babies and some of those babies have been moved. Alfonsi, the askari and my parents were all very happy to see the first watermelons appear on one of their many watermelon plants. As the monkeys are normally really fast to eat the baby watermelons everyone thought it would be a good idea to put the crow trap over the plant. They thought they were so smart for having found new use for the crow trap, this time as some sort of monkey fence. It took 4 people to move it. They found out quickly that it was actually a pretty bad idea though. A young monkey managed to get into the crow trap and eat the baby fruit. It couldn’t find the exit though. All the other monkeys in the group (3 females, some young ones and Mr Blue Balls the alpha male) were guarding the kid in the crow/monkey trap. Mr Blue Balls even chased my dad when he was leaving in his big car. My mother got all nervous after having been chased into the house by Mr Blue Balls but she should have known that if a monkey is smart enough to come into the trap it will also find a way out. Now my dad and Alfonsi are trying to make the crow trap monkey proof by putting stones all around it so the monkeys can’t get underneath it. As my father keeps hoping to plant a baobab tree in the yard but not finding one to buy, my auntie Marije brought some baobab seeds from Bagamoyo. It’s a seed of a very old baobab, close to the Catholic Museum in Bagamoyo. It was planted in 1863 and it’s huge. It would be very exciting if that sprouts don’t you think?

baobab
Baobab fruit (top), seed (left) and flower (right)

And how about the holidays?
As you know my parents were thinking of driving all the way to Malawi during the Christmas break. We never made it that far as the brakes of the car broke. They had them fixed a little in Iringa and then we drove back in the direction of Dar. Ruaha was great though. My mother keeps bragging about the elephant standing in front of our banda when she wanted to go to bed one night but I didn’t see it, I slept right through. Mom said the elephant was bigger than the banda I was sleeping in but it was dark so how could she tell? She also claims to have seen an elephant on the other side of the camp, when a ranger had just arrived to guard the camp at night. She said he shone his big torch on it and it was massive but I was asleep so I just have to take her word for it. I did see lions though. And zebra and giraffes and many many birds. My parents were very happy to have seen the national bird of Uganda, some kind of crane. We may have gone back to Dar earlier than expected but together with Marije we went on another trip, staying at a lovely little place close to Bagamoyo. We were the only guests there, probably because of the rain. It didn’t really bother us, we had lots of fun anyway. I really enjoyed the sea there even though my mom thought it was too muddy. Silly mom, doesn’t she understand that mud is fun?