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February, 2011:

Phases missing … again

I realise this piece of writing is hard to follow. Rereading it, I can hardly understand it myself.

It’s becoming hard to keep track of the black outs. I think we did not have power Friday during the day. So we expected not to have power last night. Except yesterday around midday the power went out. It did come back around the time it normally comes back on (sixish in the evening) but then it also went off again around the time it normally goes off (a little after six). We had a candle light dinner and thought everything in the fridge would last until the power returned around eleven at night. We decided to go to bed early and were sound asleep by the time the power came back on. This time the power came back on with fireworks, so it woke us. With my sleepy head and without glasses I noticed somewhere on the edge of the compound sparks were flying and there was the sound of a series of short cuts. After a while it almost dawned on me that things weren’t quite right just yet. Even though we were now blissfully sleeping with a working fan it was just too dark around us. Worried about the fridge Hein went to check. Hamna umeme in most of the house. As the power had been off for so long Hein went to turn on the generator. This was around midnight and both of us were basically still asleep. With the generator we had power in most of the house but still no outside lights. Hein was the first to be awake enough to realise that the timer for the outside lights was no longer working and that we were having the good old phase problem. 2 Out of 3 phases were not working. We took out our long extension cord, connected the fridge to the socket by the bed, turned off the generator and went back to sleep.

The next morning, walking to a taxi (still no car) we noticed a bunch of burned wires that had come loose from an electricity pole and were lying on the road. Since late afternoon we’re back on 3 phases and it’s now evening and we still have power. It’s hard to keep track of the black outs.

Out of the frying pan

into the waning heat of a Dar es Salaam street.

I’d like to thank Leonarda and Cecilia for putting in more than their share of time to help me through this week. I’d like to thank Hein for moral and practical support. And of course I also want to thank many of you, readers, for your supportive e-mails, facebook posts and concerned comments. And the most important figure to thank is … The Mole:

Since all of you readers are most likely regulars (hoi Willempje!), I don’t have to mention that the weekend was pretty bad. And though it’s never fun if Hein goes off on work trips, this one was to be Monday to Friday only, Tarek was on the mend and the freezer was full of master chef Benedict’s goodies, things should have worked out fine. Except when on Monday we (Tarek, Miko, Leonarda and I) came back from what was to be the first of 4 trips to the clinic there was a bad smell on the compound.

Remember the cockroach entry? Well, that story didn’t end there. The fumigator had warned us more, and more thorough (as in whole compound) fumigation was needed as the infestation was particularly bad. So we suggested as much to the landlord who promptly responded by saying that ‘fumigation would take place in due course, normally once a year, occasionally more than that depending on the news from the compound’. To me it sounded like a typical ‘don’t call us we’ll call you’ kind of answer. So we sent an e-mail which stated ‘this mail contains news from the compound, please fumigate’. Little did we know what in due course meant. It meant: ‘we don’t care if there are 3 small children living on that compound and we don’t care that in the past all tenants have shown concern about the chemical substance that is used for fumigation and we definitely don’t care about what you think about anything at all’. The thing we smelled stepping out of the car was the work of the fumigators who were to spray the whole compound without any forewarning. Hein had already phoned Mr R, the man in the office we normally deal with (and who always seems sensible) but this was out of his hands. Then Hein tried to talk to Mr R’s boss and he got into a fight. Then Mr R tried to talk to the boss and was told off. Then Niko, the uber askari, tried to talk to the boss and was told off. Out neighbour tried to talk to the boss and had a very unpleasant experience. Then I tried to talk to the boss and hung up on him to prevent myself from becoming impolite.

It was time for evacuation. Back into the car we got, Tarek, Miko, Leonarda and I. We had lunch at Jackies, something I had promised Tarek a while ago. Unfortunately Tarek’s fever came back while we were there. I phoned a friend who lives around the corner from there. Unfortunately she wasn’t home. But that didn’t matter. She phoned the lady that works there, told her to crank up the AC and within 5 minutes we were comfy in Mike, Mara and toddler Morgans’ house. Mike was at work, Mara out to lunch and Morgan sound asleep. I breastfed Miko on the couch, Leonarda walked Tarek to sleep. Tarek, feverish as he was, slept for a few hours, which is normally unheard of in a strange house. Miko was her easy going self and I got to chat with Mara. Time flew. Morgan and Tarek, once they were both awake, enjoyed each others company. Before we knew it it was time for the dreaded injection after which we went home. Fortunately, Leonarda was spending the first night with us, that made it much easier to get everything done.

The next morning I got up to find Leonarda sweeping the floor?! Getting up around seven for her (she lives more than an hour away and starts at 7:30) is practically a lie in. The day past without anything outrageous happening. After Tarek’s nap we drove back to Mara and Morgan so the two toddlers could play together again before the dreaded injection. Leonarda went home afterwards, which due to traffic took forever. While I fixed (=heated) dinner Tarek watched television (hence my gratefulness to the mole). After dinner I managed to put to sleep Miko before Tarek so it was no problem to do my required time with both watoto (mtoto = child, watoto = children).
tv tarek
Tarek waiting for dinner

The final shot! In order to give Leonarda a break from the late homecomings Cecilia went with us. Yesterdays entry tells you all. All except… the fact that this night Miko refused to fall asleep before Tarek and Tarek refused to fall asleep without me by his side. This in effect meant that I had to sit on an uncomfortable chair holding a baby while reading Tarek a book and then singing a lullaby. After we finished and I wished him goodnight my back started killing me so I got up to walk around the room and was ordered to sit back down. And breaking your back in an uncomfortable chair might be manageable in milder climates. It is absolutely not doable when the temperature is around 30 degrees centigrade and the fan is pointed away from you.

Today. No visit to the clinic, hurray. 7 Trips in 5 days is more than enough. Time for some fun. Baby group for Miko, and as it was in the same apartment block as Hami lives, Tarek joined. And as 1 pair of eyes simply isn’t enough for 2 watoto, Cecilia went with us. Tarek played in Hami’s house while Miko slept all through baby group. Like she had done all morning, she slept from 9 until 2 in the afternoon, I had to wake her to feed her. She found her thumb, that’s why.
tha thumb
The best pacifier in the world!

Leaving the baby group I had to top up the power steering oil in the car. Driving away, steering became too heavy. I looked under the car and noticed a trail of power steering oil. At this point there are 4 people in the car: Tarek who thinks it’s time to go home and is telling me as much on the top of his lungs. Miko who generally doesn’t like being in a car that goes to slowly (and there are so many such bad traffic jams lately) and is letting me know at the top of her lungs. Cecilia who doesn’t like leaving her son alone and is already running late (she doesn’t need to let me know at the top of her lungs, thank goodness she realised that).  And then there is me. No matter how much time I spend in bed, I cannot seem to get enough sleep. No matter how straight I keep my back I cannot seem to get rid of the pain. No matter how often I tell myself I’m lucky having Leonarda and Cecilia helping me out I still sometimes feel overwhelmed. After the horrible weekend, the fumigation and the numerous trips to the clinic, a broken car on a busy road during rush hour with two wailing children …. this is one of those overwhelming moments. So like a true lady of leisure… I phoned my husband in Rwanda.  Also because I didn’t have the number of the fundi. In order to be rid of wailing Tarek (‘NAAR HUIS! NAAR HUIS!’) I put him and Ceci in a taxi, even negotiating the price, am I  becoming a Tanzanian or what? This made Tarek wail even more cause his idea of NAAR HUIS involved me joining him. The fundi found me and Miko and managed what I couldn’t: steer the car home. He did it single handedly. Tarek back to the Mole, Miko back to sleep and I back to the microwave. After dinner I couldn’t care less about what the literature tells me about opposite sex parental nudity in front of toddler: I had to get in the bath with Tarek and we had a great time playing with water.

And Miko?
Not only did she find her thumb, she also fell asleep as soon as we came home. So she slept. Like she did all morning. Like she did all week and during the weekend actually. Seems like all she does of late is sleep. Very handy I have to admit. And lovely at night too! And even if she doesn’t communicate much, the baby group is a great occasion for her to to show off her wardrobe. And who knows, maybe she does pick up things there? As I was typing up this looooong piece I heard some grunting sounds. Time for milk? No. Time for a nappy change? No. Time for another change. From back to front that is! Another milestone. All the sleeping and pushing with the legs was the prelude to something big. It is time to give my little strawberry her late night feed, lie her down on her back and go to sleep myself. When I wake, Hein will be here – hurray.

strawberry suit
My beautiful strawberry baby!


While Tarek was fighting bacteria, Miko became a fashion model:

kimono miko

It’s over, Hurray!

It was the last time he had to roar like a lion so the doctor could check it’s throat.
It’s clean!
It was the last time a thermometer got poked into his ear to check his temperature.
It’s normal!
It was the last time two people had to hold him down so the nurse could give him a shot.
It’s horrible!
It was, or so I hope, the last time for a while that he had to visit the clinic.
It’s over!

And because I felt so bad for him I bought Tarek a present. I allowed him to open it in the clinic before he could start wailing about the lack of cake. (Cake at the doctors? That’s another story.) ‘And what is that?’ I asked him. ‘Een dierenboek’ he said. Literally. The boy is combining words (dieren and boek) to form new ones. Spoken like a true Dutchman.

animal search book And an animal book it is.

How is he?

He’s much better, Tarek is. One would hope he’s getting better, with 5 visits to the clinic in 3 days. Tarek is actually so much better that Hein went to Rwanda yesterday, he’s giving a presentation as I write this. There is frantic sms traffic going on between us, every little bit of progress in Tarek I duly report to Hein. And the fact that I’ve just managed to have my first cup of coffee in a few days.

The photo on Saturday looked dramatic (see comment) because it was. Tarek had a high temperature when we decided to take him to the doctor. Both of us still believed it was most likely teeth, he was eating and reading and playing like normal. While waiting our turn he seemed ok, just cranky, but the paracetamol was seemingly doing its work. Then a nurse came up to us and wanted to take his temperature, she was worried from looking at him. His temperature had gone back to almost 40 degrees. More paracetamol and more waiting. 5 Minutes later though, Tarek started convulsing, his eyes rolled and Hein rushed him to the operating theatre. The nurses gave Tarek a shot of valium while his lips were turning blue. What you see on Saturdays photo is the nurses using a machine to suck away the saliva to clear his throat. I’m afraid I’m not exaggerating when I say they saved his life. We’re extremely lucky to have the clinic and to have been there while it happened. I was already convinced the doctors at the clinic were good but now I also feel confident that the nurses know their stuff.

And now? In case of him being contagious we’re keeping him from school one more day. Right now Tarek is visiting the neighbour with Leonarda. The neighbour isn’t there but his chickens are and that’s what it’s all about. Tomorrow he can go back to school. Only two more shots of antibiotics to go. His bum looks like he’s fallen of something, all blue and bruised from the shots. I hope the Dutch head of the lab is there this afternoon, yesterday she did a great job of helping me distract Tarek through singing about Little Red Riding Hood while he was given his 3rd dose of antibiotics.

PS while all this was happening, Miko was being her easy going self, wanting milk and the occasional hug and otherwise sleeping like … a baby.