Tag Archives: kids

A shopper’s paradise

I love West Africa. For hundreds of reasons.  One of them being the shopping.

Actually, to be more precise, what I dearly love is the bargaining – the game of it. And the well-practiced dance I get to do, with the owners of the goods. I like to pretend to be offended at a high price, and watch the man, woman, or child, return the exact same expression when I answer back with a ridiculously low offer.  I love finally coming to an agreed price, where both of us feel we’re getting a good deal. Exchanged names. And made a connection. That guarantees me a smile, and an even better deal, when I stop by the next time.

I’d happily buy something I don’t need, just for the joy of the game.  And indeed, I’ve done just that. Many times.

So, in case you like to bargain, or just to shop, here are some great places to check out if you’re ever in Conakry, Guinea.

This is a drive-up shop of bespoke, leather, hand-made, women’s bags/purses. I have to admit I’ve never seen anything like it before. They’re stunning. Just be sure to walk carefully over the little ramp, so you don’t drop your new bag into the sewer ditch.

Equivalent to a Men’s Warehouse, but you can have a suit tailor-made, for under $10/7.6 EUR. And the shoes are already broken in for you.

European car & motorbike repair shop, that will sell you a Mercedes for $3K/2,300 EUR.

Just like an Ace Hardware store. Only better. And without any sales tax.

This is a personal favorite–I am, after all, a shoe-lovin’ girl.  Look at all the colorful, high-heeled sandals.  You can grab a pair when picking up your fruit for the day. Very handy.

This place is kind-of a cross between Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Linens ‘N Things. But with more customers.

This shop reminds me of World Market, but as it’s all local art (and great quality), it’s more similar to one of those fancy mall stores that sell all the touristy stuff, from ‘famous’ local artisans.  I tried to snap a picture of all the anatomically correct statues, particularly of old ladies (who’ve fed a lot of babies), but the car was moving too fast. You’re welcome.

And, in case you should move here, there’s no need to make a special trip to a furniture store, to get your home set up.  You can just do a little drive-by-shopping on your way through town, and tie it to the roof of your car.

While I truly love all the locally-made textiles, I’ve noticed piles of imported, well-used, bags and shoes from world-class designers.  Come to find out, what doesn’t sell from charity shops in other parts of the world, is sent here. By the container-full. While it provides me a guilt-free means of buying the large, classic, quilted, Chanel I’ve always wanted, it makes me sad. For one, could someone please send over some that are only ‘gently’ used? And more importantly, it’s embarrassing.  I’m doing some questioning, and some thinking. And so far, not liking the results. But, will save the deep thoughts for another post, when I’m more informed.

All for now,

H

xoxo

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Filed under October 2012

The adventure has begun

Rather than simply change planes in Brussels, we decided to spend a few days there, to adjust a bit to the time difference, and have a family break before starting life in Guinea. This picture sums up our five days in Brussels.

We had such a wonderful family time, to decompress, eat, drink, and be silly.

The flight to Conakry, was a deep (and LOUD) dive into local culture! The man a few rows ahead, traveling with his two young daughters, had his hands full. When he couldn’t get one of them to shush, either someone sitting within the sound barrier (eight rows front, back, and either side), or someone within arm’s reach, would take one of the girls.

Sometimes the man would raise a daughter up over his seat and hand her to an unwitting (but apparently not unwilling) passenger.  Sometimes it was initiated by the fellow passenger.  All of these were strangers.

And, strangely enough, each of them tried their hand at quieting the child.  Some were men, some were women.  They each succeeded in getting the girls to sleep. And then they would quietly pass the angelic, and finally quiet, girls back to their dad.

I think Peanut knew he was going to be handed over if he fussed, and was suspiciously quiet the entire seven hours. 

Our cabin on board the Africa Mercy has been a pleasant surprise!  It’s 10% of the size of our house, (it’s still our house–the sale fell through) but much bigger than we anticipated.  We’ve got Peanut’s stroller and backpack shoved behind the end of the couch, but we’re in!

The kids’ room has a bunk bed for the older two, and Peanut sleeps in a pack n’ play at the foot of their bed.  The room is just wide enough for him to reach over the side of his crib, open either of his siblings’ closets, and dump all their contents on the floor.  He’s greatly amused.  They’re campaigning for me to pay them in TV-time, every time they have to clean up one of his messes. I like the idea of paying for chores with something other than cash, but not sure TV-time is the winning currency.

Our “Master Bedroom” (had to say that - it makes me snort and giggle) is cozy. I love that Dreamboat and I literally brush past each other a dozen times an hour. Small spaces make for lots of contact. Can’t beat that.

Hmmm…I’m thinking that in the next house, we should switch the master bedroom with the closet. That’s a much better use of space.

Speaking of closets, I brought ALL the wrong clothes. This is a Moslem part of Africa. No ‘kneevage’ allowed. I’m looking at my knees with new eyes!

During breakfast, early one morning, (and, I do mean EARLY.  There are mandatory meetings that start at 7:45 am, and Dreamboat had left at 4:00am for a screening of potential patients with DOUBLE cataracts.) Miss O was telling me that I don’t understand how hard it is to be my daughter. Had I shown more sympathy to her plight, we might have avoided the incident that followed. But, I didn’t. And here’s what did.

Miss O, quite dramatically left to use the restroom. When closing the bathroom door, which is about three inches from the kitchen sink,  she was making a point. Firmly. And she locked it.

Now, the room we’re staying in isn’t used often. And, it was once the showcase cabin while the ship was being retrofit. And the keys to the rest of the ship don’t work here. And our doors are solid metal.

Without knowing any of this, Miss O shortly tried to leave the bathroom. The door would not unlock.  I have to admit I wasn’t feeling my MOST charitable, so I let G try to help her for a minute. Then, I tried pulling the door while she tried the lock. Then pushing the door. Then we tried passing things like coins under the door, to see if she could use them to unscrew something. Anything.  G tried passing his math under the door.  I think perhaps he had ulterior motives for that one.  But, I didn’t think it was serious. For Pete’s sake, if she locked the door, she could eventually unlock it. Right? So, while I tidied up from breakfast, we continued to encourage her through the locked door, and her voice stopped quivering and took on more of an annoyed tone. Again. I chalked it up to all the adjusting we’re doing, and continued trying to help.

After thirty minutes, I sheepishly called Reception, told them of our situation, and asked if there’s a master key.  Within minutes the Duty Officer arrived.  He called the First Officer. Who called the Captain. They worked for TWO AND A HALF HOURS.

While we waited, I took advantage of the forced halt to the day, ran Peanut up to Preschool (a thirty-second-commute), and made coffee to share with the Captain. We had a great chat and the officers provided emotional support to Miss O, asking her how she was doing every minute or two. I kept her supplied with reading material.

Finally, several drill bits later, and after trying several other options, including a crowbar to the frame, they drilled through the lock.

I’m grateful for the perceived lack of my empathy, as there was a great life-lesson for my girl.

I will also be grateful when a blank plate is placed over the gaping hole in the bathroom door.

There’s not enough bandwidth to upload the fifteen pictures I had planned to include. You can use your imaginations.

 

We all, truly, love the adventure so far.

 

 

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Filed under September 2012

Rollercoaster ride

Lots of people have asked how I’m doing. What I’m feeling, as the departure date looms just around the corner.

“Are you excited?”

“Can you hardly wait?”

“Are you ready to go?”

Although I’m looking forward to this year with great expectations, I have to say the answer to those questions is a resounding “No.”  I’m terrified. I’m overwhelmed. I’m too busy focusing on what has to be done in the next ten minutes, to be able to think about next year. It’s like a rollercoaster ride I can’t get off.

Here’s a random list, in no particular order, and in no way exhaustive, of some of the things taking up my emotional bandwidth, energy, and time.

Trey.  A friend’s 3-year-old just died. From Whooping Cough. He was born a few weeks before Peanut. Although I never met him, I loved him dearly and deeply. Most of the scary stays (‘visit’ sounds much too pleasant–but I guess ‘stay’ doesn’t do it justice either) we had at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Trey and his family were having their own scary stays, usually much longer than ours, at another Children’s Hospital across the country.  In addition to other physical complications, Trey was experiencing many of the same challenges as Peanut. I prayed for him on and off for 3 years and watched him struggle and grow and learn and develop.  Now, as I move from room to room, sorting and packing, each time I pick up Peanut, I think of Trey. The loss of him hits deep down inside. I cry for his Mama who will never again feel the delicious weight of him in her arms, or smell his hair as he snuggles close. I cry with gratitude that I have my Peanut and can kiss his sweet cheeks. And there’s a feeling, less strong than guilt, similar to uneasiness, that my life goes on. That my life is all about looking forward and adventure.  And I keep looking at video’s and pictures of Trey, and then I can’t stop the waterworks and can’t focus on packing. And then I’m completely derailed from whatever task was at hand.

Logisitics. To not frighten away anyone who might be considering making a similar life change to follow your dreams, I’m going to quickly smooth over the nightmare of tangled details required to get this family of five out the door. Read fast…Doctors appointments by the dozens. Countless house showings, always at the most inopportune times. More immunizations and paperwork than I am comfortable with. Flights. Housing. More flights. More housing. Contractors in and out (good idea to keep this one in mind so you don’t inadvertently leave the bathroom door open when you think you’re alone in the house. It’s embarrassing). House sale falling through. Goodbyes for each child, with each of their closest friends, and with their classes. Selling both our cars and coordinating “alternative transportation” (taking offers from kind friends to pick up and drop off, then breaking down and getting rental cars). Listing and selling all our possessions we don’t want to keep, and coordinating the pick-up/delivery for each. Boxing and storing what we do want to keep.  Getting the children to do the same. Changing our mailing address on everything. Getting the electronics and entertainment (music, books, movies) set up.  Changing insurance for most everything. Writing homeschooling and therapy curriculum. Working full-time and figuring out how/when/who to tell the news (oh, and block them from FB until you do). Figuring out, ordering, and testing eyelash enhancers. And the list goes on. But, I’ve lost interest in writing it and you get the point. We’re busy.

I threw my back out, helping someone carry out an armoire they bought from us. Let’s just say that muscle relaxants don’t help with clarity and focus, and shooting pain isn’t conducive to packing, lifting, and moving.

We’re also trying to be thoughtful parents, and help prepare the kids for what’s to come, and to help ease some of their fears as they watch piece after piece of furniture leave through the front door.  FYI, I’m not currently focused on being a great wife. It may partially be because I think I get a pass for these last few days, and just possibly because it isn’t readily apparent that Dreamboat is focused on it either. But it’s possible it’s me and I’m missing the effort.  So, we’re trying to spend some time with each child, making them feel important, and allowing them time to talk through what’s going on inside them. And my heart is heavy for Miss O in particular.  She is struggling with saying goodbye to her best friend. And her best friend is really struggling. And Miss O is very similar to how I was as a child, strong on the outside, but very tender and sensitive and easily bruised on the inside. And this friend is the only person she really talks to. Including me (one of my greatest hopes is that I become her confidante this year).  And we’re also trying to do some ‘normal’ summer activities with the kids, like sports camps, additional therapies, and evenings by the water, enjoying al-fresco dinners at Music In The Park.

Time. With friends. There has been a steady stream of company, staying with us this summer. And, we’re trying to fit in every last opportunity for time with our local friends too. If you’ve heard of the book “Love Languages”, mine is TIME.  I feel loved when people spend/make time for me. That’s how I show love too.  So, in the middle of this craziness, I want to carve out time for everyone I love. Of course I’m driving the family that I love a little crazy too.  I haven’t figured this one out yet…no clear answer or boundaries set. I’m willing for things to be crazy if that means I get one last dinner, or Bunko game, or girls’ night, or sleepover, or coffee, or happy hour, or breakfast, or pedicure, or, or, or….I’m in!

A friend of mine recently returned from an extended visit to Uganda. With their three children who are similar in age to mine. I called to catch up with her and asked for some tips on what to expect.  She told me how one of their kids dealt with the culture shock by withdrawing and going very quiet. The older child showed his struggle by being angry. All the time. The third child couldn’t swallow. And gagged or threw up EVERY morning. It was awful. She hated it. And after twelve months they adjusted, and equalized. And a few months later they moved back. And now they’re going through it All. Again. But, she also said it was all worth it. And she’d do it again. So, I’m mulling it over and wondering how my friends will feel if I’m gagging through our champagne breakfasts upon my return…

And then there’s the fact that I’m going back to Mercy Ships. To where I grew up. It’s like going back to those horrid, awkward feelings of being thirteen. But, more on that another time. I don’t have words yet to describe it. For the ‘hornet’s nest’ to make sense.

So, I hope you’ll understand that although I know I am blessed beyond measure, and that this year will be a highlight for all of us, that I’m not excited right now.  I’ll get there.  Soon.

Miss O saying goodbye to Maisy

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Filed under September 2012

Breaking Their Bubble

I broke open the champagne. Made the kids their favorite smoothies and announced, “We’re celebrating!”  Dreamboat and I had carefully crafted an announcement that would appeal to the little ones (we are darn good marketers after all).

I started with, “Remember our recent family vacation to Asia, and what fun we had?”  I smiled all goofily.  “and remember how you keep asking to visit the Africa Mercy and help all those children get to see again and other people get their surgeries?” Who can resist the emotional pull of being part of little kids getting their eyesight?  Right?

Dreamboat continued with “Well, how about if we go on vacation for a year?”

He rattled off the places we have in mind, and made sure to mention we’re considering a visit to Disney World for the East Coast/RV leg of the trip.

Miss O jumped up and ran to get the globe.  She spun it in circles, rattling off places she wants to visit. That girl is JUST like her mama. G burst into tears and left the dinner table in distress, repeating “I want to stay home and go to school”. He is convinced he will have to start back in 1st grade upon our return. Peanut ignored us all and kept playing with his food. I know they need to adjust and grieve leaving in their own ways, but it wasn’t the fun celebration we’d hoped for.  However, at breakfast the next morning, G announced, “I’ve decided I’ll go to Disney World and then stay home.”  I think he’ll come around :-)

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Filed under July 2012