Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Farewell Malawi

Well, we are back in the U.S. now. It is a bit strange, and we are settling in slowly. In the past, I have always had very little trouble adjusting from the slow, scaled-down world that is Africa to the busy, overflowing commercialism of the West. Give me an hour in a Target, and I'm good. But I expected this transition to take a bit longer, as I've been overseas for 2 and a half years now - much longer than my previous contracts.

Funny, now, to think of the U.S. as the busy place...while in Malawi everything is so full of life all the time - the throngs of people walking on the street every day, the noise, the chaos...but still things seem simpler. Everything in America seems designed to just take your money, keep you busy all the time, never let you stop and soak up the world around you.

We were sad to leave Malawi. People kept asking us, "are you excited to be going home?," which we had a difficult time answering, until we realized that it was the "home" word that was tripping us up. For now, Malawi is home. In a year or two, somewhere else will probably be home. But right now, the U.S. is a place we just visit.

The trip was easier than I expected. Actually, I'm finding that throughout this pregnancy, everything has been easier than I've been told. And I realized something: If an American (or European) tells you something is difficult, it is probably much easier than they say. If an African tells you something is easy, it is probably much more difficult than they say. I think this is because westerners want to get more credit than they are due, and African's don't want to upset you by giving you bad news.

So, although my butt was pretty dang sore after 18 hours in an airplane seat (and that was just one leg of the trip) so was everyone else's. Otherwise, the trip went smoothly, albeit with one major snag: our bags still haven't turned up, 2 days later. All four of our filled-to-the-maximum-weight bags. Cross your fingers they show up soon.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Preparing to go

Tomorrow is my last day at work, and therefore my last chance to post before heading back to the U.S. I thought I'd just update you on the preparations to go.

But first, some sad news. The man who has been making his living by jumping off the M1 bridge into the Lilongwe river has reportedly died. The water levels have dropped a lot in the last couple of weeks, after some beautiful sunny weather, but our friend the daredevil was keeping up his act - one dive for 100 Kwacha (about 75 cents). He'd ditched the ladies one-piece in favor of a pair of shorts tied around his waist with rope, but you could still catch him on most days, surrounded by a crowd of people in excitement and disbelief at his daring. Anyway, he took one dive too many, I guess. Cracked his head on a rock and drowned in the river. I was surprised at how sad this news made me. Just another case of how messed up things are in Malawi sometimes.

We are not really ready to go, of course. I have done well in wrapping up at work, although even tomorrow I will still be out on the move, heading to Salima, about an hour away, for a national nutrition meeting. We have found a buyer for our car and will be handing it over on Saturday. We are slowly getting packed up, and eating up the food in the fridge.

Today was my last doctor's prenatal appointment in Malawi. Everything still looks good and normal, so I'm all set to fly on Sunday. We got a good look at the baby's face today, and he looks like a monkey. So he takes after his father.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Belle of the ball

One of the nicer compliments my sister ever paid me was something along the lines of "Oh, Gwyneth, you're not an're more of a...butterfly." Meaning, of course, that I just flit from here to there without always having an evident purpose.

This weekend I definitely felt like a butterfly, but in a good, social, way. The last week was full of activity. It started out with a nice dinner with friends at a very strange new, Chinese-run, restaurant, where every other dish we ordered was met with "oh won't like that one" by the petite little Asian waitress. (We overrided her protestations and were pleasantly surprised with how much we like the food indeed).

Then on Thursday my friend Leslie had her second annual Valentine's Day party. Here is a picture of me posing as Jorge's fallen-from-grace prom date (ooh, and you can see my new haircut as well!):

On Friday we went out again with friends, this time to an Ethiopian restaurant. Mmmm, injera.

Saturday was pretty packed - we drove out to the dam for our last sailing day for a long while. On the way there we rescued a slow-moving chameleon from the road. After crushing Jorge's poor little hopes ("Can we keep it? Pleeease?") we relocated the little guy to the relative luxury of the sailing club, where I learned that Malawians are terrified of chameleons (the poor guide almost turned white). The poor lizard was then taunted for an hour by small children wielding sticks, until he escaped up a tree. I just hope he doesn't have a little lizard wife and kids sitting at home wondering why dad never came home...

That evening there were two parties to attend; yes, yours truly is very much sought-after.

On Sunday we went to church, which was Jorge's idea, so rather surprising, really. He has decided that now we are to become parents, we need to start pretending to be good, moral people, so as to fool the kids for as long as possible. After church we went to brunch at a friend's house, where I think I ate my weight in homemade bagels. Finally, yesterday evening, after Jorge's ultimate frisbee game, a friend threw a little potluck dinner to wish us farewell, which was nice.

Now I am just focusing on getting through one last work-week. I am ready for a break from work!

Monday, February 11, 2008

I give in

So, I try not to write too much about the whole baby thing, because I strongly feel that it's just one of the many interesting things going on in my life. But all it seems anyone ever wants to hear about, or see, or talk to me about, is my pregnancy. The baby seems to have trumped all else.

So here ya' go. Me, pregnant. About 32 weeks along. Woo. hoo.

Personally, I think my belly looks a bit bigger and lumpier than normal in this photo, because I've got two shirts on underneath the dress. But you get the general idea. I am one cute pregnant lady, if you ask me.

At this time, I guess I can answer all the other questions I get on an almost daily basis:

  • I feel fine. No, seriously, I mean it.
  • I am not going to tell you how much weight I have gained.
  • Boy or girl? I dunno.
  • No, we haven't picked out a name yet.
  • And we won't be naming him/her after [insert random family relation, especially those with obscure, guttural Spanish names].
  • I am not craving anything.
  • Nope, I cannot kiss my own stomach (Really, I have been asked this).
  • I am planning on having the baby in Seattle.
  • We will be arriving in the U.S. on February 25th.
  • I get six months' maternity leave, then I am planning on returning to Malawi for another year.
  • Yes, of course we are excited.

Did I miss anything?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Got de baby!

My friend Francisca says that in Guinea, when women are pregnant they say "I got de baby."
It's a tradition in Louisiana to have King Cake, a bready, glazed cake, often filled with cream cheese or praline (or both, my favorite). Inside the cake you put a little plastic baby, and whoever gets the piece of cake with the baby in it has to throw the next party.

So we threw our annual Mardi Gras party on Tuesday and had friends over for jambalaya, king cake, and plenty of tasty blended drinks. When it was time to make the King Cake, we realized we had no baby bead. In stepped our friend Christine, whose parents used to live in New Orleans, and who had, unexpectedly, a stock of Mardi Gras paraphenalia at her house. She shoved the baby somewhere in the cake, then poked lots of holes so we wouldn't know which piece had it.

At the end of the night, we brought out the cake, explained the tradition, and my friend Leslie took over cake-cutting responsibility. I thought the cake was a little light on the filling, so I directed Leslie to give me a slice from the more filled side. She refused. I told her it was my house, and my cake, and I'll have whichever slice I like! And she yelled "No! You just want that piece because you know it has the baby!!"

"Ummm. OK. Well, NOW I know it has the baby." ("You doofus", I wanted to add). Christine actually had to step in and tell Leslie I didn't put the baby in the cake. Seriously, I thought Leslie might just hit me for a second there!

So, turns out not only do I "got de baby," I also got the baby. And now have to throw the next Mardi Gras party. Which I was going to do anyway.