Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Our Backyard

The Sounds of Malawi

This should probably be titled "The Sounds of our Yard" because that is the pretty much I have seen and heard so far. Everyplace has a different sound to it. Texas sounded of mockingbirds, doves, children playing and the muted drone of traffic in the distance. Jakarta sounded of traffic, car horns, scratchy brooms sweeping, and kaki lima drivers calling to attract business. Frankfurt sounded of the maintenance crews working, people walking, the baby downstairs crying, and the couple that always stopped by our window to talk on the way home from the bar every flipping weekend. Malawi is totally different.

Our yard is big enough that there is a strange feeling of living out in the country rather than in a city of half a million. We have a fair amount of wildlife running around the yard, mostly birds, frogs, and lizards. So far no monkeys or snakes, thank goodness! You might think this sounds peaceful. You would be wrong. It is loud! In strange way it's louder than the traffic, louder than the baby crying, almost louder than the couple on the way home from the bar.

The birds wake us up at first light just before six by sitting outside our window singing "twee twee TWEET twee twee TWEET twee...." apparently this bird doesn't need to breathe because he can keep singing without a break for more than 30 minutes. I don't know which bird sings this song but I wonder if it is big enough to bake into a pot pie. The big pied crows make loud cawing sounds as they fly over. There are loads of small colorful birds that twitter and chirp all day as they flit through the trees. Oh and we can't forget that one of the neighbors has a rooster that cock-a-doodle-doos in the morning. No we will not be getting a rooster, one on the neighborhood is plenty!

The lizards are blessedly quiet except for the peeping that geckos make, but that is pretty easy to ignore. The frogs on the other hand are loud loud loud. I am pretty sure that the Budweiser frogs have retired to my backyard pond and brought all their friends and relatives with them. If you think about that old commercial where the frogs are sitting on a log croaking BUD-WEIS-ER then you have a pretty good idea of what the frogs sound like. Except that there are dozens of frogs out there not just three. And trust me they are all looking for their Bud. There is also a higher pitch sound that could be some sort of bug or maybe little tree frogs. It doesn't matter though, the big frogs are enough to keep us awake.

There is one more sound that surrounds us on a daily basis. Just after dark the dogs start barking. I don't mean one or two dogs I mean it sounds like there are kennels full of dogs all barking. At first I thought that one of our neighbors had WAY too many dogs, but Friday we came home after dark and there were packs of mangy looking dogs roaming up and down the streets outside the walls that surround all the houses. They are scary enough that I will not be walking anywhere outside our walls after dark! I do kinda of wonder where they go during the daytime. Hmmm....

You might be thinking about now that we should just close the windows and turn the air conditioner up to drown out the noise. The are two problems with that idea. First it is still in the 50's at night so the air conditioner is out. The bigger problem is that the windows don't really close. We have old louvered windows like you might see on a original mid-century house. Really these things should never be used for anything but a screened porch, never never never for your windows in your bedroom. There is no way to get a good seal to stop drafts and sounds and wonderful stench of smoke from coming right into the house.

I wish I could show a picture of the windows or of the birds and frogs but I can't upload pictures during the day (the internet is too slow) I will try to get some pictures of the windows and the yard up for Wordless Wednesday tomorrow.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Things Kids Say

"I did a beautiful hot fart Mom right towards you and it smells good."

This uttered at the breakfast table this morning while I was still sucking down that first cup of coffee. Why? Boys are so gross.

*Side note: Just in case you wondered -- No it didn't smell good at all, in fact it resulted in me leaving the table rather abruptly. I don't have much of a sense of humor before sufficient coffee intake.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hey Momma

David and I went grocery shopping yesterday. In Lilongwe that means going to several stores and to the produce market. The produce market is an outdoor affair with rows of stalls or mats on the ground, lots of people, and plenty of dust. Since there is no way we are going to blend in we attracted a lot of attention. People called out to us from all sides wanting us to buy their apples or tomatoes. David they called Boss. "Hey Boss, tomatoes Boss. Hey Boss avocados Boss."

Boss sounds good. Sounds strong. It even sounds important. So what do I get called? In Indonesia it was "Misses" or "bule" (boo-lay) or even "Ibu" (ee-boo). I am fine with all of those. What do I get called here in Malawi? I'll tell you what I get called....Mamma! "Hey Mamma! Strawberries Mamma!"

My first thought was "Seriously....MOMMA??" followed closely by "I ain't your mamma" but even I have more of a filter on my mouth than that. I just smiled and bought some apples and stuck pretty close to Boss. I just hope that title doesn't go to his head. Boss and Mamma...Sheez!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

We Have Internet

We have internet, sort of. During the day it is slower than slow, during the day it is limited bandwidth 32K, after 7 at night we get our full bandwidth of maybe as fast as dial-up. It is a whole lot better than nothing. It will take me a few days to get caught up on blogging. I can't wait to see what everyone has been up to.

We are settling in to Malawi. I am not impressed yet. So far the electricity has gone out every day, many times a day. We do have generator back up but we still end up with several seconds of darkness, usually during dinner. We have run out of water, twice. Apparently the water main to our house was cut sometime back and now we are using water from a water tank. No idea when or if that will be fixed. We were excited to see asparagus just coming up in the garden and told the gardeners to leave the asparagus alone hoping to be able to pick enough for a meal or two, the next day all the asparagus was gone. The cook is driving me absolutely freaking crazy but everyone else seems to love him. But the topper for me is the smoke. The approved method of dealing with trash/leaves/whatever is to burn it. The smoke is ever present, even worse than Jakarta, at times turning the sun to a dark red. My throat feels raw all the time. I am hoping it gets better soon.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Well We Made It

*Let's start with a little dislaimer here: I am using the computer at the CLO's office to check e-mail and get a post up lest you think I have dropped off the face of the Earth. Therefore there will be no pictures and there are most likely a whole lotta typos in today's post. Sorry about that! Fingers crossed for home internet soon.

We are here in Malawi. The flights and connections were remarkably smooth, no delays, no lost luggage, and mercifully no barfing. Our HHE was delivered today beating our UAB which is in country just not at our house. We will be spending the rest of the week/month/year trying to unpack all those boxes and put it away.

So far our house seems OK. Like most FS housing it is reasonably spacious but certainly not what I would want if I were looking to buy a house. The yard is a whole different matter. It is huge and well maintained and has an absolutly gorgeous water feature as well as a vegetable plot that already had a few veggies growing and when our UAB shows up I will be out there planting seeds. That should drive the gardeners nuts.

I will spare you my first impressions of Malawi other than to say Yep it is a 3rd world country. I am not a good person to ask about first impressions of anywhere anyway. You know that handy little chart that floats around diagramming the stages of accepance at a new post? If you are not FS it goes something like this: honeymoon, depression, resigned acceptance, happiness. Well I compeletly skip the honeymoon period everytime. By the time we get to the house from the airport I am fighting tears and everything looks bleak. Well this time is no exception. I am surviving. I am not thrilled about it, but I am sure I will get there. Eventually.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The next time you hear from me...

I will be in Lilongwe, Malawi. I am hopeful that we will be able to get some blog posts up fairly quickly even if I have to go into the CLO's office to do so. We will be able to move right into our house and David says our shipments are already in country waiting for us. The kids start school Monday and they still have to take placement tests. Of course I will need to figure out where the grocery store is and get some shopping done so we can eat. It will be a busy few weeks settling in, but at least I shouldn't have too much time to get homesick.

Wordless Wednesday - United States Botanic Garden

He's a Little Confused

Grayson has provided our sound track as we toured around DC the last week or so. He really likes to sing, loudly. He doesn't really care if he has the words right, if he can't remember the words he just makes it up as he goes along. Lately his favorite song is American Pie but he also likes the Weird Al Yankovic version The Saga Begins. Rather than choose he just combines the two song and belts it out everywhere we go. Here is Grayson's own special nonsensical version:

Bye bye Mr. Anikan Guy,
May be Vader some day later
'Cept we have a small fly
Good boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing that will be the day that I die.

Repeat ad nauseam at increasingly loud volumes as you wander about the tourist sights. Guaranteed to bring some baffled stares.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More Fun at David's Expense

I hate cockroaches. As far I am concerned if you are married it is the man's job to kill any and all roaches. They are horrible disgusting critters. The only problem is that David is even more afraid if roaches than I am.*

The other day Dakota and I took the kids to the Natural History Museum while David was at the office. Dakota and I split up, he took Grayson and I took Alonzo and Colin, then after a while we switched. Later when I was looking through the pictures Dakota took I found this:

Yep that is one of my kids with a giant hissing roach crawling all over him. *Shudder* I am so glad Dakota did that with them, they all seem to love everything creepy crawly. It is really cool that they got to see the bug exhibit at the Smithsonian. It is even cooler that I didn't have to. Instead I go to see the fossil exhibit, twice. Which is just fine with me.

That brings us to tonight, and this is the point at which I get to make fun of David (again). Walking home from the Metro with the kids tonight it was already dark. Not surprising a few roaches ran out on the sidewalk in front of us. The big ugly ones we call water-bugs in Texas. I squeaked. I do that when I am near something yucky - it isn't a scream, it is a squeak, a scream would be louder. Then I moved so that David was between me and the roaches. I don't care if that is mean, roaches are a husbands job to deal with, it is is the vows somewhere, I am sure of it.

Grayson thought the roaches were pretty cool and started following them around as they scuttled along. This just proves to me that even among the very young testosterone causes brain damage. He told Dave that he got to hold one at the museum and wanted to know if he could hold these too. I yelled "NO!" and moved a little farther away just in case. David sucked it up and went along with Gray talking to him about how fast they move, how the antennae wiggle around, how they can survive for days without a head. Further proof they are unnatural evil things.

Things were going along pretty well when David got a bit too close and the roaches decided it was time to fly.** David gave short scream (you know a bit louder than a squeak) and started jumping up and down waving his arms all over the place. I wanted to be supportive but it was funny all I could do was laugh. It was one of those moments that I wished I had a video camera it would have been priceless! Well, maybe not priceless, but worth at least $10,000 on America's Funniest Home Videos.

*Dave says that he isn't afraid of roaches. He just doesn't like them. They give him the heebie jeebies. They terrify him. Yeah I know terrify is synonymous with afraid, but he doesn't seem to think so.
**Flying cockroaches! Ugggh! Aren't they horrible enough without the power of flight? And they always make such a nasty noise when they fly. Sort of like a demonic helicopter.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Poor David. He spent the entire day convinced that he left his cell phone at the Washington Monument. When we went up to the top this morning they told us to put all cell phones, cameras and other electronic equipment in the basket to be x-rayed. He picked up his backpack from the basket and forgot his phone. We were at Arlington Cemetery before he remembered about the phone. He ransacked his backpack and then my backpack. Finally he used my phone to call his hoping it was in some pocket in his pack that he missed. No ringing from his bag and no one answered the phone where ever it was. So on the way home he got off the Metro at the Smithsonian to stop at the Monument and retrieve his phone while the rest of us went on to the hotel. The park staff told him that there was no phone. He insisted he had left his phone there this morning and they needed to check again. Finally he pulled out my phone and called his phone fully expecting to have the phone ring inside the screening area of the monument. Instead all he heard was his giggling wife calling him a dork. I found the phone ringing on the end table in our suite just as I walked into our suite. David had the fun of apologizing to the park staff for insisting they had his phone. Good thing he can laugh at himself!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Only Me

So yesterday we took a long walk around the mall. Today I have what appears to be poison ivy. I walked all around Hematite Lake in Kentucky which was covered in poison ivy and poison oak and managed not to get any. I walk around the national mall looking at monuments and end with a doozy of a case. Since it is only on the back of my legs I can only assume I sat in something when we stopped by the reflecting pool to eat some ice cream. None of the boys or Dave have anything. Only me!

Tired Feet and Happy Tummy

Right now I feel a lot better about all the food I have been shoveling in this summer. Today we walked from our hotel (which is three blocks directly behind the National Musuem of the American Indian) to the Jefferson Memorial, then to the FDR memorial, and the Korean War Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial with all those steps, then the Vietnam Memorial. Grayson wanted to see "Obama's house" so we walked over and peered through the fence at the White House. We were headed back to the hotel when a guy gave us a flier with a coupon to Harry's Restaurant so we walked a few more blocks and stopped to eat. I am glad we did. I had the open face roast turkey sandwich, it was like Thanksgiving on a plate. Perfect. Then we walked down Pennsylvania until we got to 4th street then we crossed over the mall and finally made it home to our hotel suite. My feet are tired. My feet feel like it was a 100 miles, Alonzo is swearing it was at least 30. Google maps puts it at roughly 6 and half miles. With 4 kids. That is worth at least a hundred miles. There will be pictures later. For now I am going to eat my baklava and drink a cup of hot tea completely guilt free.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

DC Time

Sorry for the blog silence but every time I tried to get on the web in Kentucky it crashed the wireless at Teri's house. No idea why, I guess her system just doesn't like apples. Anyway we made it to DC a just over 2 hours ago. Dave is tucking the kids in and I am enjoying having my computer again. Over the next few days I will try to get a few catch-up posts up on this sadly neglected blog.

Today was crazy busy. Dave got his hair cut this morning, then he mailed some stuff we bought that wouldn't fit into the suitcases, we all took the kids for a goodbye lunch with Aunt Teri and cousin Jorden at Chuck E. Cheese's House of Torture--OK it is really a pizza place but it is loud and chaotic, of course the kids had a blast. By two we were at the tiny airport in Paducah where we checked in, made it through security and onto the plane without too much problem but then we sat and sat waiting to take off. We didn't have much time to make our connecting flight in Chicago and now we were more than 20 minutes late. As soon as we hit the ground in Chicago we sprinted from one terminal to the next and barely made our flight. Side note: I REALLY need to start exercising, even Grayson beat me to the gate and I was the only one wheezing like a geriatric bulldog as we got onto the connecting flight. We were sure that our luggage would be left behind, the gates closed and the plane started moving within minutes of our boarding. We arrived in DC and made our way to the baggage collection and even from across the room I could see the kids bright orange suitcases waiting for us. Incredibly not only did our luggage make it to DC with us but that is the fastest we have ever managed to collect out luggage. Nice!
In our hotel rooms Dave opened a couple of bags to get the kids pj's out and noticed that both bags had been searched by TSA, so he started opened all the bags and of our 8 bags 7 of them had been searched. It is good to know TSA is keeping the nation safe from the threat of diplomats with kids traveling on orders, but somehow they missed a bag.

Tomorrow Dave is off to consultations and the rest of us are off to tour some museums. The kids have been planning this week for months, they want to visit all their favorite museums: air and space, natural history, air and space, botanical gardens, air and space, natural history, and did I mention air and space? Wish me luck!