Thursday, September 18, 2014

Being Pregnant in Kenya + Maternity Photos

I've been in Georgia for about 2 weeks and I find myself talking about Kenya all the time. These conversations have motivated me to jot down a few things I want to remember about being pregnant in Kenya...

Only a handful of people know I waited until I was 5 months pregnant to see a doctor. I don't know if I was scared or overconfident, it just didn't seem necessary. Those first couple months I really depended on my mom, MIL, and Nat Fairbourne. Between the three of them they've experienced 15 pregnancies, 14 healthy children, mostly natural births, epidurals, and 1 c-section; they were experts in my book. My first appointment with Dr. Mahesh Chudasana reminded me that doctors know their stuff. Within 30 seconds of examining my belly he asked if I was experiencing heartburn and gas. Then it dawned on me, umm duh! the burning sensation I had been feeling all day, every day was heartburn. Yes! My chest and throat are killing me, and the gas is killing Ben! I was shocked he could tell what was "wrong" with me in less than a minute. The medical care and doctors were excellent. I also appreciate the lack of bureaucracy. Every time I called my doctor, he answered; I never dealt with a nurse or waited on hold. I bet he loves all the phone calls he gets from moms-to-be.

There's a reason why you don't see Kenyan restaurants in the USA. The cuisine isn't primo. The lack of choices provoked some serious cravings and emotions towards food. The average small restaurant has the same 6 things on the menu, and if you're lucky variety is added with samosas and chips. The positive side to this, it forced me to take advantage of Kenya's abundant produce and I whipped up the most random meals to satisfy all my cravings. 

A telltale sign you are in a developing country is, no public restrooms. Which is why I see men and children relieving themselves on the side of the road. Asking for a restroom is like saying where is the nearest movie theater? People just shake their head "No restroom. Pole sana." or you walk a mile to a hole in the ground.  The picture speaks for itself. Anyone who has been pregnant knows, you frequent the restroom over 10x a day. Going into town was a real gamble.

WORST thing about being pregnant, these flying insects loved me. I constantly had bites. When I left Kenya I had 6 on my face, 2 on my stomach, and 4 on my shoulder and arms. Some weeks Ben and I will go without a bite, but once one snuck into our apartment it always took us a while to hunt and kill it. I don't know why it took us ELEVEN months to put up a mosquito net but we couldn't take the bites and buzzing around our face anymore.

Baby Attitude
After being in the USA for a week I started to appreciate Kenyan's attitude towards babies and pregnancies. Maybe I am sensitive but I think (in the States) people assume talking about a person's body is a compliment. I love what Kenyans used to say "How's the baby?" "You're carrying that baby well" or "It looks healthy" or "Congratulations" or some people would bless me that I was having twins, even after I'd explain the ultrasound showed one baby. I was never asked about my weight, birth plan or parties. It was all about the health and wellness of the baby, not the woman. This may be a transitional observation but no wonder why women struggle with their bodies here in the USA. Blame it on the media, celebrities, or whatever. But I think from here on out I will try and comment on pregnancy the Kenyan way. It's better to feel good than look good. This attitude acknowledges in pregnancy you do NOT have full control over your body and its a blessing no matter what, especially if you are healthy.

One of the most endearing parts of the culture really got to me. It is customary to greet everyone. You could be in the middle of a conversation or carrying a box of things and people will still expect you to greet them. Let me explain the process. Starts with a handshake, 2-10 second handhold, then the greeting starts. "Jambo," "Habari gani?" and the introduction goes on and on and on. I struggle with the hand hold. If people pick their nose half as much as I do, I definitely do not want to hold anyone's hand. Most of the time people are arriving from somewhere (including me!) which means our hands are moist and sweaty (I add the cringe worthy term moist because that is the sensation). I'd wince and think this is how disease spreads! At church, I go to the extremes of folding my arms or putting my hands on my hips and people will take my hand off my hip, just to greet me. One Sunday, I was sick with a cold, so I tried to warn everyone and the responses varied from offended - "Why don't you greet me?" or "Shaking my hand is a blessing." Looking back I should be thanking my lucky stars I didn't get sick. When I go back to Kenya I'll have to suck it up and sanitize because that is the culture I live in.

And this is why you always set up a tripod and never ask a stranger to take your picture (out of focus). I am so grateful Ben was willing to wake up at 6:00 am to take pictures of us and this bump. My pregnancy has been an awesome experience and I think Ben did an lovely job capturing everything. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

How Pregnancy Prepares Husbands for Children

Pregnancy turns you into a child and husbands know just how to handle it...
  1. Encourages snack time
  2. Knows when to put you down for a nap and bedtime 
  3. Doesn't lose patience with irrational questions, ideas and fears
  4. Packs water bottles for when you are on the go
  5. Comes up with the best nicknames - ratatoots, fatty-bo-batty, big belly geel
  6. Patiently waits for you as you try and keep up - waddle, waddle...
  7. Helps you get ready in the morning - can't bend down!
  8. Knows how to handle a tantrum - enough said. 
  9. Doesn't mind eating the same meals every week - mac n cheese, stroganoff,  pizza, and chicken fingers
  10. Institutes a rewards system for eating vegetables - due to wife's low hemoglobin
  11. Patient with fickleness - I want pizza, no a milkshake, I'm not hungry 
  12. Pushes you to try your hardest - won't carry wife upstairs
*Post NOT inspired by Ben, he carries me everywhere.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Zanzibar - The Spice Island

This is what Zanzibar is all about – beaches and spices. We went to Nungwi on the north coast and beached around the whole time. Normally, we’d feel guilty about lounging in a new place, but not this trip. I’d like to blame it on the being tired, but we both revelled in the pregnancy excuse. 

On the way down to Paje we visited a spice shamba (farm) and a local guy explained the uses of all the spices and fruits. We’ve noticed something funny about the different uses of foods and spices in various cultures, it always comes down to sex. This gets her in the mood, this makes you cold, this make you hot. And of course they added a few things about pregnancy, not because I was pregnant or anything. We found this funny because Haiti has similar fruits but contradictory uses. Plenty of spices like cinnamon, lemongrass, cloves, and more have medicinal uses; but these made up stories are pretty entertaining. I am glad Ben organized visiting a shamba because it's something Mombasa doesn't offer. Also, it helped that the smells and fruits were delicious, I could not stop munching. This pregnancy I'm extra sensitive to the smells of gasoline and exhaust so anything plant-like was glorious.

Zanzibar Dhow
Rambutan - my new favorite fruit
Another one? Don't mind if I do. 
Lipstick fruit - these names are official
I'm convinced! I need a cinnamon tree. You can use the root, bark, leaves, and it smells amazing. 
Spices, snacks, and snacking
Rode bikes to meet up with Kevin in Paje. Our evening went until 10 pm. I will never forget that bike ride back to our hostel, no lights, semi- flat tires, and a huge baby bump. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stone Town, Zanzibar

Z A N Z I B A R  has been #1 on my East African bucket list since we found out we were moving to Kenya. Our time here has flown by and being 30 weeks pregnant, we decided it's now or never. We better embark on our last vacation just the two of us. This trip felt different because the area felt so familiar with the pervasive Swahili culture, climate, and geography. Some people say the truest Kiswahili is spoken in Zanzibar/Tanzania. We spent our first two days in Stone Town, which is basically a bigger, quieter version of our favorite area in Mombasa.  We loved walking around the narrow streets, exploring the markets, and comparing it to Mombasa. Omani (Arab), Indian, Persian influences are a little stronger in Zanzibar, the food has more flavor (duh, spice island), it's more accommodating to tourists, and the island itself was enchanting.
The roof tops of Stone Town
Forodhani Gardens
Mtoni Palace Ruins

The Mtoni Palace was home to Sultan Seyyid Said and his many wives, concubines and children. He moved the capital of his Omani empire from Muscat to Zanzibar during the early 19th century and the palace was abandoned by the late 1890s. 

Swahili Door
Everyone wanted to sell Ben a Taqiyah
Who knew Freddy Mercury was born in Zanzibar? His home above
Prisoner Island
191 year old tortoise

Monday, July 21, 2014

Bamba at Ferry

The past two weeks we’ve been pushing Bamba Water at the ferry and it’s been encouraging. Sales are going up and most people in the area know the product. I am happy to see some of the attitudes of our employees change, too. Change is hard so seeing a positive response over a few days’ time has our employees thinking yes we can! I am also impressed with Ben, I think he is the only manager in Kenya who is willing to work side by side with our employees.

Meet Christian our 18-year old intern for 6 weeks