We have been back stateside a week now and I must say it doesn’t feel that weird or at least as bizarre as I thought it would be. The truth is this is home to us, we know it well, it is familiar, and we have amazing family and friends. When it hits us that we have been absent from here a while is seeing kids that have been born since we left or being overwhelmed by the availability and selection offered here that simply does not exist where we live now. That and we can walk around without sweating every second of every day! here are some random and not so cohesive thoughts on being back….
It is helpful to go through this transition as a family as we are all processing things a bit differently. While Jason and I were looking forward to so many “American” things Anni really only “remembers” things we have talked about or shown her pictures of. Some of her and probably my transferred anxiety about leaving our home came out in London. As we were putting her to bed she started crying and saying “me want to go back to Tanzania, I don’t want to go to Chicago.” It was so sad but a reminder to me to help her and myself feel and work through what it means to live in two different worlds but not really be full members of either. Despite her mini-emotional meltdown (she is MY daughter) she has been amazing!! I seriously think she is still in the “Disney World” mindset about everything here as she keeps saying “WOW! Everything is so nice here!” The entire way home from the airport she rolled her window down (even though it was freezing) and just stared at everything with wide eyes. It really is shocking in comparison to her normal. She definitely does have some of the “weird kid who lives in Africa” things going on but they are precious and I want to record them so I can always remember the Annikah of right now. She still asks why she does not have a mosquito net on her bed because the “dudus are coming.” Her accent is not that of a typical American kid but more of a mix between German, British, and Tanzania and she likes to throw in Kiswahili words and phrases. We are working on understanding that Black people here most likely do not understand Kiswahili:) We are also trying to help her understand that you cannot simply run amok with friends like she does on our island, that we must be able to see her or know where she is going. On the drive up to Lake Geneva she asked if we could stop to search for monkeys in the trees and on a walk through our old ‘hood Rogers Park she pointed and screamed with delight at the antics of a few scroungy city squirrels. Costco and Target were akin to an amusement park and she just wondered the aisles exclaiming “Mama and Bibi, them have so much stuff for kids here!” She was so excited when she got to wear new socks and pick out a pair of closed toes shoes at Target. After getting them on she showed me the new sounds she could make by jumping up and down….small thrills (what girl does not love a new pair of shoes)! My Mom has enjoyed spoiling Anni a bit and Annikah just loves Bibi’s big tubs for baths and starts asking if she can take a bath before dinner is even over. The kid takes a bath in a laundry tub just bigger than her bootay at home and so my Mom’s jacuzzi size tub with bubbles is like a spa!!
My favorite Anni moment came when some kids were acting a bit naughty in the London airport and Anni marched herself over and announced “Nitakuchapa” which translated means “I will smack you” and is a phrase she hears over and over again by our friends on the island towards any and all misbehaving kiddos. On the third day here she looked out the window and told us “Look! Them DO have sun here!” I seriously think she thought that there was no sun in Chicago! Poor kid! Her hair is totally different here as in Tanzania the humidity makes her hair so curly but here it is much straighter. She noted this difference by telling us “Me get new hair when me come to Chicago!” She is a funny kid and a very keen observer!
Since being back we have hit Chicago just for Saturday and Sunday and our awesome friends threw us a small get together and gifted us with generous amounts of clothes for Anni and myself (I have maternity clothes for cold weather now and every morning Anni gets excited about picking out a new outfit from the box:), and stuff for mtoto mchanga as well. People even gifted us with some funds to help replace our laptop and we also now have cell phones thanks to a friend! Amazing! Most of all they blessed us by just being there and reconnecting with us. It was humbling to know how many people think of us, pray for us, and spent time, energy, and resources to help us transition to life here for a bit. We are not lucky; we are blessed!! In this time where through blogs and newsletters we can keep up a bit of each other’s lives I was reminded that although I am very grateful for those things being in the same room as people you love, being able to laugh together, and see their kids play and share with your child is blessing poured out. It was a bit of reverse culture shock that men and women were in the same room, that I could hug my male friends, and that we all hung together as families. I suppose over the last year and a half I have gotten so used to the separate spheres of men and women that I was not prepared for how shocking it would be for me.
I also have had a doctor’s appointment and a scan for growth; both of which went fine. This little girl is still growing and looking great although I still feel crappy. There was some confusion in scheduling the high risk scan at the hospital to recheck the blood flow so that will be on Monday before we head out to Iowa to see Jason’s family and meet Annikah’s 2 new cousins who have made appearances since our departure! Anni also went to the doctor when we suspected she had ring worm and were right (we have gotten pretty good at the self diagnosis thing). Ring worm is not a worm (it is a fungus) but she does have a little ring on her side that we have been applying medicine to everyday. It does not seem to bother her at all and the doctor said as long as we keep it covered she will not give it to me or anyone else. I also got 2 flu shots and although I had to wait almost 2 hours for the second one at least no boat or plane ride was required to get to the doctor! We are enjoying time at my parent’s beautiful house in Lake Geneva and my grandparents and brother came out for 2 days, Jason’s grandparents plan to come out on Friday, and some other friends will join us this weekend as well. My sister is driving out from Champaign on Sunday to take Miss Anni to a pumpkin farm (a MUST for Fall!!) and then we will all take my Dad out for dinner since it is his birthday this coming Tuesday. By far the biggest thing I miss in living in Africa is family and friends and we are basking in the glow right now, just soaking it in.