Friday, February 25, 2011

Mes Jumeaux Célèbres (My celebrity twins)

Yes, having twins is a double blessing.

Living in Senegal with twins, is like living with celebrity children.

And having twin BOYS, in Senegal, is just about as lucky as you can you get.

In a culture where women are seen as the 'second sex' and entangled with the dominance of Islam, I am lucky enough to have praises and hand shakes from men, as I am a mother of twin boys.

We are known in our neighborhood as 'the toubobs with the twins'. Everywhere we go, the boys are stared at, I am praised, and Rich is treated as a King. Going for a 15-minute walk with the boys, will guarantee at least 10 people stopping to ask if Laird and Dylan are twin boys. (This is NOT an exaggeration).

Just last week, we were invited to the Ambassador of Zimbabwe's house for a 'twins tea play date'.

But today, our Valdmanis celebrity status paid off.

Rich has been away for a week and a half.

It's been a loooooooooong week and half.

I have slept on the floor of the boys' room most nights without a mosquito netting, only to stumble to my room in the middle of the night to escape the relentless mosquito biting. Just last night, I woke up to 25 bites on my legs.

I have dealt with plumbers, electricians, a carpenter, our car mechanic, and have made appointments...IN FRENCH.

Imagine living in a country where another language is spoken and you are trying desperately to communicate. I feel as if I am an adult speaking like a two year old.

Today our wifi stopped working. Desperately needing this contact with the outside world, I decided to take the boys with me to Sonatel to sort out the wifi problem. The fear of having to speak French set in, and I quickly called a friend to ask how to say a few things.

(If you are a mother of multiples, then you will understand my crazy decision-making.) If you are not, then bear with me and you will soon understand.

Going on a short trip in the car with two children who are not yet walking means:
1. Load up both twins in car seats. 2. Take Twin A in car seat downstairs, and leave Twin A at bottom of stairs. 3. Run upstairs while Twin B is crying, and Twin A has started to cry. 4. Take Twin B downstairs and leave with Twin A. (crying usually stops). 5. Run upstairs to get diaper bag, and anything I may need. 6. Go downstairs. 7. Take Twin A out to car and put in car. (He will cry once he realizes he is alone in car). 8. Run inside. (Twin B is screaming inside) 9. Take Twin B out to car. 10. Run inside to get diaper bag, as both twins are in car alone. 11. Get in car.

I won't bore you with details on what happens after we get to a location... but lets just say there is no more 'running to the store for some milk'.

So now, you may understand that it is much easier to load up the twins into a stroller and stroll to a location than to deal with car seats, loading car, unloading car, going into location, leaving location, loading car, unloading car when we get home, etc. etc. etc.

Today I needed to go to Sonatel, which was one mile away. I loaded them into the stroller, grabbed our essentials, and set foot. Looking at my watch and seeing that it was 430 pm, I realized I better get a move on if I wanted to make it there by 5 pm. Not to mention, this errand would probably take an hour to fix the machine.

I ran the entire way: with jeans on (I didn't realize how hot it was), on a 4 lane busy street, with a doublewide stroller (which is quite a unique mode of transportation here), with twins, and holding a phone to my ear.
This was certainly a FREE circus show to see as every car and bus that passed turned their heads to watch us.

As I got to the door, the gate was being pulled down to close the store.
"Please Mr.", I gasped trying to catch my breath. "It's difficult to get here with the twins." (This is what I managed to say in French).

The guard could not take his eyes off Laird and Dylan. Clearly he was in awe.
"As you wish Madam", he said while lifting up the gate and not taking his eyes off the boys for one second. Not only did he lift the gate, but also opened the second door so that I could easily get through with the stroller.

I couldn't believe it.

I strolled in to the lobby, where it was full of people waiting for service. I went straight to the service department, and knocked on the glass to get the man's attention. He came out, looked at me, saw the twins, and again, could not take his eyes off the boys.

"Mr. the wifi is not working. The light is..." (not knowing the word for 'blinking' I had to make a hand motion to signal the 'blinking', however, the man was still looking at the boys.)
"Mr. look at me please," I said. 'The light is ....(and then my hand motion)."

He took the wifi box and set to work, however every minute or so, he would look up and wave at the boys, and tried to make them laugh.

In the meantime, I walked to the cashier to pay our monthly bill. When I returned, there were 5 men in booubous, (today was Friday, a sacred and holy day) hovered around the stroller. They too, could not believe their eyes.

"Madam, may I please take a picture of your sons?' one man asked.
"As you wish." I said.

Immediately all 5 men got out their cell phone cameras and began taking photos of the boys. Laird and Dylan were in awe of the scene as well. They were quiet, wide eyed, and sitting with their ankles crossed.

My wifi was fixed, and before leaving, the Sonatel technician asked if he could have his photo taken with the boys.

I arrived home within 20-minutes of leaving with a fixed wifi box. (BTW, a 20-minute errand for something like this is unheard of. The saying goes in Dakar, 'Make a list of 3 errands you need to do in one day. Cross off two that can wait. The one left, is the one you can do in one days' time in Dakar.)

Thank you Laird and Dylan.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's been awhile...

Sorry about the long absence here. It's been awhile.

A quick update of the goings on here:

Rich got pulled over again 'randomly' and had to bribe the officer, we both got pulled over by a 'fake' officer that we mistakingly gave our documents to and had to 'pay him' to get them back, we are currently going through some of the worst power outages we have ever seen, protests are going on around the city due to power issues, the ex-pat mother of a 7 year old boy who died of malaria has published an article about her sons case...her words resonate within all of us that have read it, 2 Al-Qaeda trucks have blown themselves up on the Senegal Mauritanian border which is a few hundred miles away from Dakar, but getting closer and closer... US embassy sent out this message:

February 10, 2011

Mauritanian authorities on February 5 captured members of Al-Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) near the Senegal/Mauritania border. This occurred following attempted AQIM bombings on February 2 in Nouakchott.

While there is a distinct border between Senegal and Mauritania, the border is porous and the opportunity for such terrorist incidents to occur in that area exists. We warn U.S. Citizens traveling to or residing in the northern region of Senegal, specifically along the Senegal River, which delineates the border between Mauritania and Senegal, to exercise caution and to take appropriate steps to increase their situational awareness.

And the goings on with 'not 3rd world country' related: Laird and Dylan turned 1, the house we purchased in October will have no tenants as of May 1 which is a bit of a financial surprise and a bit of a hassle with overseas living, and the flu is running wild through our house.

We knew that moving here would be difficult, however one cannot prepare for how difficult it truly can be at times. I have yet to mention the language divide, homesickness, and all other things third world.

But, we are seeing and experiencing things we would NEVER have known about living in the US. We are making the most of everyday here and biting our tongue at times, if need be.

And as much as we think we are struggling, we are not. We are the lucky ones. We have a roof over our head, food on our table, electricity and water (ha ha!), employment, vaccinations from polio and other diseases, transportation, etc.

On those tough days of Senegal living, I simply look out my window to remind myself of how lucky we truly are...