Saturday, September 22, 2012


That's what it has been over the past couple weeks since leaving the US and coming here -- in a good way; so many new experiences and things to learn - not a dull minute!

I haven't posted since before we left, so I have to acknowledge the unbelievable send-off we received from our friends in Nyack. What a powerful and strong evening it was - it will be in our memory forever. Thanks so much to Tom and Lisa for organizing and for all who made it so special.  When we come back in a year or two or three, we hope we can reciprocate. 

That was the Friday night before we left.  The next 48 hours were a blur, as so many things were going through our minds.  We did get to enjoy Stu's performance and last minute goodbyes to Nana and Papa and Oma and Opa.  One of the most memorable things was packing a suitcase full of just random toys... My dad must have thought we lost it (mentally) ... Most of the things in there were just small random objects, but the kids have such an imagination that I am pretty sure they have used every single knick knack we brought (highlighter pens as hockey sticks, etc).
playing birthday party pinata with
all the random objects we brought

Thanks to Oma and Opa for bringing us all the way to JFK.  We had to caravan in two cars since we had so many suitcases!  Flight was great - it was quite memorable to fly over the Alps, down the Adriatic just west of Greece, and then many hours over the vast brown expanse of the Sahara.  Finally, right before dark, we spotted the Nile and I think Khartoum.  Then it got dark, and about an hour later at 8pm local time we landed.  We collected our luggage and visas and got scooped up by drivers from Rhonda's work and whisked to our temporary apartment here in Nairobi.

We like our temporary home.  It's fairly basic, but we are all comfortable.  The maid comes every day to clean (I keep telling Rhonda - you don't have to do the dishes!).  We get to the pool most days, and Matthew has become an unbelievable swimmer.  Despite the pool water being maybe 60 degrees, he just jumps right in!

Our first week was fairly straight forward. We laid low the first day - just venturing to the local shopping center to get some key supplies.  The rest of the week we visited some schools and made lots of local taxi drivers happy with our frequent trips all around.   As mentioned on an earlier post, we had Shabbat dinner that first Friday with an American family who has made us feel very welcome.  Then Saturday night we went to a get-together with some of Rhonda's work colleagues, which was also great to make us feel even more welcome.  Sunday we got to feed monkeys in a local park - the kids loved it and we even saw a mommy monkey carrying a baby monkey.  Thanks to Rhonda's Director for showing us that. 
mommy and baby
The next Monday, Sept 3rd, Rhonda started work and the kids and I began our ceaseless search for schools and housing.  At this point, I feel like an expert in both the housing supply in Westlands (our neighborhood in Nairobi) and pre-k and elementary schools for expat kids.  Most interestingly for housing, there is no central database for what's available - no real Craigslist.  There are a couple of sites, but nothing has a comprehensive list. Some of the most promising places we have seen have come from just calling "To Let" signs and looking at postings on bulletin boards in the shopping centers (talk about pre-internet - this is pre-newspaper!).  Then for schools, we found a couple of nice possibilities for Ruby that we hadn't even discovered during web searches - just from networking.  It turns out Ruby is going to the German School, which we identified back in the states, but the lesson learned is that nothing compares with being on the ground and just searching things out physically.

playing -- replicating Nairobi's traffic
It’s been a great bonding experience with the kids for a couple of weeks.  Naturally there were lots of complaints about seeing "another apartment", but for the most part we’ve been a tightly functioning team, always leaving a bit time for the pool, football / baseball practice in the complex's parking lot, and free play in the apartment.  This phase is coming to an end, however.

first day of school
Ruby started school on Tuesday and is even taking the bus! (thanks to Mr. Matthew for the great videography!)   God bless her - this morning was tough for her, crying desperately when getting on the bus because she didn't want to leave mommy, but later she still said she likes it.  What a trooper that little girl!  How many other American 4 year olds are riding the bus - let alone through Nairobi! (I should mention it’s not like an typical 30 seat American yellow school bus, it is actually a much smaller scale bus with a dedicated driver AND a second grown-up to help and watch over the kids.)

On Monday, Matthew will start the local American school.  He CAN NOT WAIT!  Got the call yesterday that it is a go, and he didn't understand why he couldn't start today!

crossing the highway
Yesterday and today, he and I really started to explore our local area.  Of course, at first we were kind of nervous to go out and about with all the security issues we hear about, but, as we expected, gradually you acclimate.  Even in one of the guide books it says mzungu aren't out walkin' the streets. BS– they are out there in force.  So, with confidence, we started to pound the pavement (I use that term loosely), and we ventured forth from the apartment, across the huge highway that separates us from the main shopping area and basically tried to be with the people.  Matthew couldn't understand why we weren't taking taxis anymore, but I think he really started to dig all the crazy sights, smells, and characters.  It's not that we saw anything in particular, we just were making our way to the market, post office, real estate posting, etc., but it is great to feel a part of the rhythm of the city.  Next we need to figure out the matatus, so we can venture further afield!

That might have to wait though -- the other big news this week is that Rhonda got access to a car (actually a totally tank size pick-up truck that could swallow our old Subaru in one bite).  She was amazing on the first day she got the vehicle, darting in and out of traffic to get us to a cub scout meeting... remember the driving is on the other side of the road and it is a stick shift, so since the driver’s side is on the other side she also had to shift with her left hand... Safari here we come!

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