Monday, April 29, 2013

The Mama/Daughter Adventure Begins

"How many days til we go to Minneapolis now, Mama?"... "How many days til we see Nana today, Mama?"  And so the countdown would go for several weeks, then 9 days left, then 8 and on and on.  Ruby was so excited to take the trip back to the U.S. with me, I was honestly a bit surprised.  How could I possibly entertain her as much as her brother could?
Amsterdam Airport

I was excited, too.  But, I don't think I realized as much as Ruby did how special it would be to have this time together - just Mama and Ruby.  Even the 17 hours in the air with a 6 hour lay-over in Amsterdam couldn't spoil Ruby's unbridled joy. She handled that traveling better than any of the grown-ups I've known - happy the whole time. When she was tired, she said, "I'm tired, Mommy," and she rolled over and went to sleep. When the pressure on her ears bothered her - 20 hours into traveling across the world in a middle seat on a packed plane - she told me in a matter-of-fact way that her ears bothered her. Simple as that.

Since landing, she has danced, giggled, skipped with me through the streets of Minneapolis, cut paper happily, relished her toe nails being painted sparkly blue.  She's a ray of light, and most definately one of the coolest people I know.

It all started when I realized I could bring Ruby along for a conference in Minneapolis and build in an extra week (6 days to be exact) in NY/NY (Matthew and Michael have school/work obligations). 
Jetlagged Sunrise over the Mississippi
Otherwise, the maternal grandparents and great grandma wouldn't see EITHER of their grand/great-grandchildren for 14 months.  The key to making it work was having a grandparent willing to watch Ruby while I spent 4 days at a conference. Luckily, Nana obliged.  Later, Papa (my Dad) also agreed to come just for the 2 days ahead of the conference to have some more undivided visiting time.

Schubert Museum
So, once the four of us got our schedules to sync up on sunday morning and into monday, we headed to the Landmark Center and saw a brass band, explored the Schubert Museum, took the bus (not quite as exciting as a boda boda, but definately fun for Miss Ruby) to St. Peter's Cathedral, and completely pooped out Nana and Papa (not to mention Mama) at the Mall of America. The amusement park in the middle was definately the most dramatic, and Ruby enjoyed a few rides, while Nana and Papa took their opportunity to rest on a bench.
St. Peter's Cathedral

Riding the Big Bunny at the Carousel

Sunday, April 28, 2013

out and about around Nairobi

phew! what a day...

started off by visiting a used car market.  of course when trying to get directions to there no one knew what I was talking about until someone said the "car bazaar?"  Yes, yes, that is it.  It's so key to get the terminology down.  Another example is when I had to get a couple gift certificates - but no one had them or knew what they were - that is because they are called gift vouchers.

Anyway, back to our day.  We took a matatu and boda-boda (motorbike taxi) to get to the car market.

The car market was a good place to compare many different vehicles in once place and get an idea of the going rate.  Funny, in Kenya, a car is 'new' if it has not been driven in Kenya before - of course they are usually at least three year old used cars from Japan. 
Matthew was more interested in the loads of fruit being sliced and diced, though.
This was my favorite - and Rhonda thought parking our Hilux was tough.

Then off we went to Sarit and a bookstore so Matthew could use his gift voucher.  Woo-hoo for him, he got the voucher for coming in 2nd place in his grade for his book about birds playing.
 After much deliberation between a book about outer space and a globe he went with the globe. Ahh, a boy after my own heart.

In our travels we ventured through a roadside market
Then we made our way downtown via bus and visited Nairobi's Central Park, not quite the Sheep's Meadow but pleasant nonetheless.
Eventually we found a carnival / festival, but I think it's this way every weekend.
Seems like all of Nairobi was out enjoying the afternoon.

Matthew thought he'd try the swing ride.

Slowly we meandered over to the synagogue for their Lag BaOmer celebration.  In addition to rolling our own pitas and grilling them (yum!) there was a bonfire and bows and arrows. After one too many marshmallows we called it a day...

Follow along on our big fat Nairobi adventure!

Finally found a use for twitter - follow along @schutzbank1 for play by play as we take on big, bad Nairobi!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

On Our Own!

Yes, Rhonda and Ruby have departed for a visit (and work) back to the states.  Ruby has been super excited, counting down the days every morning and night - you can tell by this big smile...

onward and upward!
It will be interesting to see how it goes since the buddies (Matthew and Ruby) haven't been away from each other for this long - I think ever...

I figure the key is keeping Matthew busy.  So while Ruby is gallivanting across the Midwest and East Coast, living it up, I'll have to have plenty of tricks up my sleeve to keep the boy from feeling sullen with the loss of his compaƱero.  First thing I did was plan a long weekend to Dubai - what could be more fun than indoor skiing, huge waterparks, four wheeling over dunes, and sandboarding!  He seems pretty excited, at least 1/2 as excited as me!

But first we have a week and a weekend to go.  Today we started off by visiting his campus and playing a little aerobie
and then we were planning on meeting up with his friend to play some baseball but the pool was too inviting.  Turns out three of his classmates showed up also - so it turned into a four hour swim marathon.  It's very cool to see your kids playing endlessly with some friends without a care in the world.
Wasn't too bad for dad either - got some good down/reading time, chatted with some other dads and tired him out enough that he was passed out asleep by 7:30.  
Now to see what shenanigans we can cook up for tomorrow!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

New Developments

Some strang things are happening lately...

The kids are washing dishes

Matthew enjoys sitting on the couch or laying in bed reading his big, fancy chapter books from the Magic Treehouse series.
and Ruby has been perfecting her dance moves!

Saturday, April 13, 2013


I think it was four weeks ago now that Matthew and I went on a bike ride. We were excited to check out the area surrounding our compound and explore a little.  There was even a big hill around the block that look enticing for a little beginning mountain biking.  Things were going well, Matthew was doing great on just two wheels (we just recently took off the training wheels), I even heard a big wahoo! as he took trip #1 down the hill - but alas on trip #2 things did not go so well.  Unfortunately he hit a rock or a stick and went right over the handlebars. It was pretty bad, his lip was cut up, blood was pouring out, and his big, fancy grown up front tooth was pushed back.  It was very intense, as of course he was screaming for very good reason. Lots of strangers stopped by to offer assistance but there was nothing anyone could do really. Luckily Rhonda was home and she came right over with the truck and we made a beeline to the hospital.  Poor Ruby too, as she was in the middle of a fun play date with her friend from school.

By the time we got to the hospital the bleeding subsided and the crying mellowed out but what would be next?  Could the tooth be saved, would Matthew have a scar forever, would he ever trust Daddy to take him bike riding again? After a look-over at the hospital it was determined Matthew needed to go to another hospital for an special mouth/face x-ray so they could figure out next steps. We got that done and returned to hospital #1 (Gertrude's in case anyone is interested) and waited for a doctor.  The maxillofacial specialist, Dr. Akama, did the examination and he was wonderful - even so much that he and Matthew shared a first name!  That had to be a good omen.  He told us Matthew would need surgery later that day to bond the loose tooth to a stable one and, in order to do the surgery, Matthew would need general anesthesia - eeshh!  All for a stupid bike ride.  Many hours later - probably after 9pm Matthew went into surgery - the whole day since the accident he couldn't even eat or drink anything - I don't know how he did it. It was truly heart wrenching to be sitting outside the theater (that is what they call operating rooms in Kenya) waiting to hear word of how it went.  About 45 minutes later the doctor came out and told us to great relief everything looked good.  We were thankful in so many ways. By then it was probably 11pm and boy were we exhausted - I was still wearing the same blood-stained clothes from the mishap and we all crowded into Matthew's hospital room and tried to get some rest. 

trying to pass time before surgery

The next day Matthew was discharged and we scheduled  follow-up appointments with the doctor for the next couple weeks.  In the meantime Matthew was on four different medicines to prevent infections and relieve pain.  He was such a trooper - but maybe it also helped that he was promised ice cream everyday since that would be a soft food and would go down well.  Now four weeks have passed and Matthew just had his final follow-up visit with the doctor.  Dr. Akama removed the bond between the teeth and pronounced all is well.  What a miracle.  We have such gratitude for the doctor, he was amazing every step of the way, always giving us in-depth information on what he was doing, treating Matthew with respect and courtesy, and even apologizing any time there was even the slightest delay. As horrible as the experience was, he made it as best as could be expected.
final visit to the doctor to remove the bond

Later today it was time for fun and celebration - and what better way to do it than some baseball with a friend and a cub scout pinewood derby!  Yes, we played a little baseball with Matthew's scout mate and then raced his car.  He didn't come in first place - but his car did get the award for most venomous!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Not too bad

Truth be told we are a little bummed that we have not been able to leave Nairobi for the past six or so weeks. Due to Rhonda’s management status at work, she must remain in town even on the weekends due to the uncertainty surrounding the recent election. The fact of the matter is that we would like to go out of town at least once a month to see the countryside – hard to believe but most likely we will only be here for another 16 months and there just seems to be so many fascinating places to visit that already we feel we might be missing out! To top it off, over the past weeks two of them have included four day weekends which would have been perfect for quick weekend trips.

So to try and make lemonade out of lemons, we thought we would try a vacation within Nairobi for this past four day weekend. And as it turns out we had a good time. Friday morning we headed for Nairobi National Park and saw lots of zebras, giraffes, gazelles, buffaloes, etc.
For the afternoon we visited Rolf’s (and crossed over a rope bridge to get there!) for lunch and then walked over to Kitengela Glass.
On Saturday however, most of the morning was spent dealing with bureaucracy at the bank. Sometimes we have to appreciate the red tape for its inherent humor though, like the fact everytime I sign something there they examine my signature against the one they have on file for every little inconsistency. On this bank visit, and this was not the first time, I had to re-sign a document three times before they announced it was acceptable! In evening we met some of Rhonda’s work friends for a night out and ended up at a pulsating night club – no dancing for us but the place was electric.
Rhonda’s director invited us for Easter dinner on Sunday afternoon and the kids had a great time decorating a cake to look like a bunny.
Monday was still a holiday in Kenya, but Rhonda wanted to catch up on work in the morning so we met her later in the day. After some boring food shopping we could not figure out what to do for the rest of the day, but then at the last minute I mentioned I wanted a hair cut and we ventured over to the Indian section of town where I normally go for a trim. It turns out they also give foot massages – so both Rhonda and I signed up. The setting wasn’t the most tranquil, but for $6 for 30 minutes we’ll take it! Seemed to be a little strange as we were both enjoying it while the kids are there with us watching and wondering what was going on! Afterwards, we treated them to some delicious fresh mango and pineapple juice for their patience and understanding - something tells me in coming years buying off their time won't be as easy!  Here’s a picture of Ruby watching as the drinkmeister is making her juice…