Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Some Funny Shorts

1. As soon as Rich got home from work, I went to the Casino supermarket. Because most places here do not accept Visa, you must always have cash on hand. Rich told me to grab some money from the desk. I took some colorful bills and went on my way.
At Casino, I loaded up the grocery cart. The total came to 75,000 cfa which is about $150. I handed the cashier a 100 bill... but something was wrong. She kept speaking to me in French. I assumed that I didn't have enough, so I gave her more. She still kept talking. And talking. And then, the manager came over and began talking to me in French. I had no idea what was happening... Until I examined the bill I gave her to pay with... it was money from Rich's trip to Kenya. The wrong countries currency. Ugh.

2. Yvonne asked me how often I shave the boys heads. Yes, she thought I had been shaving their heads all this time as black babies are usually born with lots of hair.

3. I downloaded the new episode of Grey's Anatomy. However, it took 11 hours.

4. Every night, we lose not only the power, but the water as well. Toilets do not flush, dishes can not be done, and showers can not be taken. Hmmmmfff..

5. It is far cheaper to have an outfit made by a tailor than to go shopping for one. Basically it is the cost of the fabric. Same thing with having furniture made...basically the cost of the wood.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Marche Sandaga

As the list on our refrigerator grew and grew of household necessities, Yvonne suggested we go to the Marche Sandaga to pick up the items. Casino, the local ex-pat supermarket, has limited choices for a very high price. I was excited to venture out with Yvonne into the market where the locals do all of their shopping.

The description in the Dakar Women's Group Guidebook of Marche Sandaga says:

Inside and overflowing into the streets, vendors sell anything and everything. Sellers of food, clothes, music, fabric, kitchen supplies, cosmetics, etc. create a lively atmosphere for shoppers. A good place to buy African fabrics, both hand dyed and machine printed. Bargain hard! You should keep a tight grip on your purse to discourage pickpockets. There are many young men who will want to 'help' you find what you are looking for. They will usually call you 'Madame Dakar' and while they usually mean no harm and are just looking for a tip, they can be quite overwhelming. Best to do a pushing back motion and say 'Non, Merci' if you want to be left alone.

Well, I must say that this description is perfect. I stayed as close to Yvonne as possible for fear that I would lose her. Yvonne glided through the streets as she knew the Sandaga like the back of her hand. I watched her bargain... speaking in Wolof, Jola, French, and then translating it all to me in English.

Needless to say, we got everything we needed for a great price. We got tupperware, a kitchen trash can, fabric, laundry baskets, etc. And I got to experience the Sandaga with Yvonne.

I don't think I will ever go without her.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Grandma Yvonne, Monique. and Jerry

A few pics to share...

Grandma Yvonne with Laird (left) and Monique with Dylan

Grandma Yvonne with Laird (left) and Monique with Dylan

Spreading Jerry around... Our car in Africa with a Maine Grateful Dead sticker.

Caught red-handed. Guilty.



Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mending Fences with an Alleged War Criminal

Our neighbor, Hissene Habre, is wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for human rights violations during his rule as President of Chad. (Yes, for real)

He’s also ticked off at Kelly and me for putting garbage into his trash cans.

Last night, when Kelly, I and the boys returned home from sipping sundowners at a seaside bar, we were handed a sealed envelope by our guard.

“This is from Habre’s wife,” said Sonko.

I opened it up and unfolded a handwritten letter:

Dear Sir,

I am writing you to request that you make arrangements to acquire sufficient trash cans for placement in front of your home.

Since you moved here, your house cleaner has routinely put garbage into our trash cans.

My gardener asked her to stop and to tell you to buy your own trash cans.

Up to this day, you have done nothing.

Could you remedy this, at the very least, by giving your house cleaner instructions not to use our trash cans.

Thank you,

Madame Kerin (Habre)

Truth be told, we had indeed been using the Habre houselhold’s trash cans. They have lots of them and they are usually empty, so we didn’t think it would be a problem.

Besides, they have bigger issues to worry about. Habre, who is enjoying the tentative protection of the Senegalese government, has been sentenced to death in absentia in Chad and is a constant target of human rights groups who have called him Africa’s Pinochet, and are demanding his extradition for trial.

But having an angry former dictator as a neighbor isn’t a good thing, so we’re on the case for a new can.

(Note: Trash cans in Dakar are old oil barrels, too heavy to steal but also unavailable at the hardware store. You need to go to a gas station to buy one, bring it to a metal worker to have the top soldered off and transformed into a lid, and then you have to drag it home. We’ll have ours Monday.)

Here are the trash cans that we have been putting garbage in.

We’re also planning to send the Habre’s a note of apology. Maybe a pie.

Here’s a picture of the Habre’s sprawling villa, as seen from our roof. Look closely and you may spot some of his peacocks, or his rotweiler who has been carefully trained not to eat peacocks, just people. And of course… the trash bins.

Even Burp Cloths Get Ironed

Thank goodness we have Yvonne here at our house to teach us about daily living operations here in Senegal. Yvonne is our housekeeper and cook, and is a wonderful loving woman. The boys adore her and she speaks some English; we are able to communicate just fine.

She taught us the proper way to prepare all fruits and vegetables.... After bringing home fruits and produce from the market, you must soak the food in a tub of water with one tablespoon of bleach for 15 minutes. While you do that, you need to boil water (because you cannot drink the water here) and pour the water over the fruits and veggies after they have finished soaking to get rid of any bugs. I think that this is probably the reason why I got so sick here last October; many times I would buy fruit from the fruit stand and bite right into it. Ugh.

Another labor intensive task is laundry. After washing clothes in the washing machine, they are hung outside on a line. Within an hour, the clothes are dry but not ready to be worn. EVERYTHING must be ironed to get rid of bugs...and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING! Even burp cloths. Even undergarments, socks, towels, pajama bottoms, etc. Ironing can take hours.

We are lucky to have Yvonne here. Not just for the dozens of burp cloths she irons daily, but for her patience, her kindness, and her adoration of Laird and Dylan.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Morning I Took This Picture...

...Laird smiled. And it wasn't a 'gas' smile or a sleep smile but a real honest happy smile. I was so happy my heart wanted to burst.

But of course, as soon as he started to smile my camera battery died.

I am not the photographer I used to be. Leaving a camera without a full battery is a no-no.

Laird and Dylan

Laird seconds before smiling.

Content Dylan

Yesterday, we met our new pediatrician in Senegal. His English isn't perfect, but we were able to communicate just fine. He adores children, has his own practice that the Embassy recommends, is the Chief of Pediatric Oncology at the local hospital, and also teaches at the University. He eased my mind about my fear of the boys getting Malaria. He explained that here in Africa, when a child or an adult gets a slight fever, you must call the doctor as soon as possible. When a fever is present, a malaria blood test is given right away. If the test is positive, then medication is started right away and all will be fine. But, if there is a delay in getting on medication, than recovery can be difficult. He said that here in Africa, do not give children tylenol to fight fevers, but to call the doctor right away.

I'm not sure why the United States insists on being different with the rest of the world with the metric system. I am trying to figure out kilograms, litres, centimeters, celsius, etc. Having said that, Laird is now 4.5 kilos or 9 lbs 14 ounces and Dylan is 3.8 kilos or 8 lbs. 5 ounces.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Flight to Senegal

I heart South African Airways.

The flight home to Senegal was smooth thanks to the incredible help from South African Airways staff. At check in and on the flight there were several helping hands making sure that the babies, Rich, and I were comfortable with seating and other issues. The flight was very easy for the boys as they both had bassinette cribs that attached to the wall. The only issue with this was that the boys slept well on the flight, however, were WIDE AWAKE when we got to our home. No chance for Mom and Dad to get some jet lag zzzzzz's.

Rich and Dylan

These are the bassinettes used on international flights.

Dylan getting ready for a snooze.

Laird doing the same.

Laird and I

Monday, March 22, 2010


We are very excited and honored to announce the Godparents for Laird and Dylan.

With much love...

Warren and Kristin Valdmanis
are the Godparents
of Dylan Gundars Valdmanis


Tim and Melinda Nudd
are the Godparents
of Laird Robert Valdmanis

The four of you are so dear to us. We love you so much and are honored that you accepted our wish to have you as Godparents to our sons. xxoo

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First Walk at Higgins

Yesterday was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and warm without a cloud in the sky. After picking up Rich from the airport, we fed the boys and walked down to the beach. On their very first beach walk, Laird kept his eyes on the waves (looking for the perfect set) and Dylan peacefully slept to the sound of the ocean.

Rich and Laird

Rich and Laird

Rich and Laird

And as usual, Rich found a treasure that had washed up along the shore that he dragged back to the cottage. Reuse, recycle.

Dylan and I

The four of us
At night, the boys usually eat every three hours. Somehow I have managed to power through the night time feedings. Would you believe that now that Richard has arrived, the boys only woke once last night to eat? Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
Tomorrow is the big day. We leave for Africa in the morning...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Today is the day...

...that Rich arrives. Rich and I have been separated since my bed rest at Maine Med in October minus a few weeks. I am so grateful that he was able to be around for the delivery of our sweet boys... Shortly after the boys were discharged from the NICU, Rich returned to Africa. He has missed our sons dearly.

I have missed him terribly. I have missed him as my best friend, my husband, and as a father to our sons.

Today is the day Rich arrives. But what I am even more excited about is that today is the day we begin our life together as a family of four.

Sunday we all return to Africa. The adventure continues...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St.Patty's Day!

On St. Patty's Day, the boys hit 9 weeks old. So, in celebration of both events, we headed out with the family for the classic corned beef boiled dinner.

And as usual, the boys slept the entire time.

Cheers to all on this gorgeous St. Patty's Day...especially to Robert Gillespie, my Grampy.

Dylan and Laird

Gramp and Nana

Thank you Rosie's.

Nana and Dylan

Gramp and Laird

Dylan Gundars

Laird Robert

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Up Up and Away!

The million dollar passports have arrived.

$290 for both boys passports to be processed + expedition

$20 for pictures

$100 for Rich to use a notary in Africa

$150 to DHL parent consent form from Africa

= $560 for two passports.

But they finally arrived, which means we will be leaving.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


In less than two months, the Valdmanis clan has expanded.

Laird and Dylan have two new cousins!


Finlay Thompson Valdmanis

Born February 25th

8 lbs. 1 ounce 20 inches


Anna Kellog Valdmanis

Born March 2

6lbs. 11 ounces 18 1/2 inches

Sweet Lizzie and Anna

The I-Man and Anna

Liam with Laird and Dylan

Can't wait for the Fourth of July at Higgins Beach for all the cousins to meet!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chili Fest with the Gillespie's

A beautiful sunny day, good food, and a great family. Laird and Dylan meet the Gillespie clan.

Great Nana with Dylan and Laird

Aunt Jackie with Laird

Nana with Dylan

Lawn Bocce

Maddy and Liam in the pool!

Liam with Uncle Jimmy and Grampy

Dylan (Slept through the entire party)

Liam you look guilty, bud.

My kissing cousins, Sean and Chris.

Uncle Scott, Aunt Darlene, and Uncle Jimmy

Grampy and Liam

Uncle Tim

Uncle Scott getting some vitamin D.

Chris, Laird and Uncle Scott