Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Car Talk

Here's my new car!


I love it. They're not sold in the US, but it's a Nissan X-trail. It's a diesel manual, and it gets nearly 48 mpg. I love love love this car. It's the best car I've ever had. It's safe, it's really easy to see all around, and it gets great mileage. No wonder they don't sell it in the US!

I almost got into an accident today. It's the closest I've ever come here (we were within 2" of each other). I was turning left on a two-lane road, with my blinker on, and the truck behind me decided he would try to quickly just pass me. On the left. His front bumper was within 2" of my side door when we both managed to squeal to a stop. People are so so so so so stupid here sometimes. They drive like fools. WHY would he think that was going to have worked? I had Dessi in the car, and also the nanny (we were coming back from French class/ the kiddie park). (BTW, the nanny always "forgets" to put her own seatbelt on. I have to ask her every single time.) I pulled over and cried a little tiny bit, then continued on with my errands. It's just a small, small reminder of how many things are so delicate and so outside of our control. I drive here with my hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel at all times, and I feel like I'm a good driver. I'm always looking around, anticipating things. But sometimes they just come up on you and there's hardly anything you can do. Things like that get me rattled.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dirt Work

We had to fire our gardener. He is an alcoholic. It was a very difficult situation. He was also our guard. When you fire someone in Dakar, where unemployment is either 40% or 60% (I'm not sure which. I've heard both), it's probable that they will not find another job, at least for a while. So it feels really awful to fire someone. He is a nice man, but you cannot have a drunk guard. Still, it was difficult. (Eric had to handle it -- FINALLY my bad French worked in my favor!!)

We have a big yard and garden, and we were a little nervous that we wouldn't be able to keep up with it, but in fact our weekends now usually involve just a few happy hours of replanting, composting, tying up the tomatoes, etc. I also work on it a bit during the week. We really like it. I read Gandhi's autobiography a few months ago (Experiments with Truth), and I was moved by his high regard for taking responsibility for your own food and for manual labor in general. So, I don't know if this looks like manual labor or not -- probably no, huh?





Dessi digs in the dirt and babbles and basically just keeps herself occupied. There just needs to be dirt in a child's life, I think. She likes to pick lettuce, cilantro and tomatoes and put it in our basket, and last week she spent about 40 minutes moving rose petals from one pile to another.



She also recently discovered the worms in the compost piles and took a fancy to squeezing them to death, which had to be stopped but otherwise we give her a lot of room to explore. (Also, do I remember from 9th grade Earth Science class that if you cut an earthworm in half, you get two earthworms? I'll have to Google that.)



I just did. Nope. You get two halves of a dead one, or possibly the head end will live on. The back end is toast, though -- the misconception probably having arisen from the fact that the death spasms of an earthworm outlast the attention spans of most children.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A few things about Dessi

We had a great time in Florida. Absolutely great. Dessi spent her time kissing her cousin Ellis, learning to throw a ball with her grandpa, and dancing in circles and playing games with her grandma. I loved that she had someone to play with or hug and kiss her just about every second of the day. She loved it too, and once again I could see how she just thrives in those situations and really needs a little more than just her mamma day in and out. We're actually going to go check out a nearby preschool next week (I've been waiting for my knee to get better, and it is improving every day). I know she's young, but I think she will really get a lot out of it. I'll be with her the whole time, anyway, so if it doesn't work it's no big deal. She is so social and easygoing.

I have to say, Dessi really is the most unbelievable child. We think she is just the coolest and most amazing person we've ever met. Neither Eric or I can get over it. We are filled not only with love and joy and gratitude that she is our daughter, but also we feel very strongly a respect for her -- for her fortitude and good-naturedness and for her sense of humor and the love and sweetness that are her very essence. She is an absolute light in the world.

She is always making jokes (hide and seek, peekaboo, the scary-noise game, chase, here-do-you-want-this-oops-no-sorry!) and laughing all the time. She wakes up happy, she goes to sleep happy, she plays well, and she truly seems to be bursting with joy and love. She cries almost never. She has always been a kisser, but now she has this thing where she kisses every single thing she likes. So, this plastic box that makes a nice popping noise when she pushes it? Kiss that. Kiss the cat, kiss the dolly's stroller, kiss the books, the stuffed animals, the flowers in the garden, kiss her mama ALL the time (often while patting my cheek and saying, "Mama. Mammee? Maaaama"). Kiss Daddy (and go running open-armed toward the door when Daddy comes home -- he loves that), kiss Tata (her nanny), and blow kisses to every one and every thing else. I half expect some assembly of Tibetans to be at our door one morning to say that Dessi is some famous rinpoche or the Dalai Lama's former teacher or something and they would like to take her back.

There have been three times, however, when I've taken something away from her (twice a pen) and she has become instantly so frustrated that giant balls of tears stream down her face and her mouth opens and both hands go into it as if she would rip out all of her bottom teeth with them. Like she is in anguish. The first time I was completely blown away and scared that she was hurt. The second and third times, I just started laughing at her and then she laughed and then that was that. It's bizarre, though, absolutely -- and probably a sign of what's to come when she is a little older ... she's 17 months now. Two years is coming!!


I welcome them. Still, look how big she is here! Like a little girl now! (This is her in Florida with our little dog, Spikey.) Sometimes it can break my heart a little to see her asleep in her crib and suddenly realize she is already 2/3 of its length, or when I see some of her old dresses -- so tiny! But every day she becomes more able to process and enjoy the world around her -- to dance using every part of her body (including, now, the Ethiopian head roll!), to make jokes and laugh and run around, and even now to sing a few notes in a very identifiable way (the "round and round" part of the Wheels on the Bus).

Every day, we thank our lucky stars for all of this.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Putting my feet up

Still here in Florida; we were supposed to be leaving this afternoon but yesterday got my MRI results back and now will stay another week to have . . . knee surgery. (Meniscus. Two tears. Surgery is straightforward; should be walking in two days. Yoga class two years ago. It's painless unless I move wrong, then it hurts a bit.)

My surgeon is the osteopath for Florida's pro baseball team and I think for another pro team (I can't remember the details), and I feel very secure about the whole thing. I also think it is really time to have it done, as it's been bothering me for two years and last week became suddenly much worse. Of course, if I start to think too hard about it my nervous laughter habit kicks up. So I'm drinking tea and playing muppets with Dessi and eating all this great food you can't get in Senegal, and D will just get even more grandparents love. It's good. This afternoon I'm going to buy the most expensive pyjamas I can find, and prepare for my afternoon off!

Flight is delayed for one week exactly. Wish me luck!!!!