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One of D’s biggest disappointments was that his position is no longer considered a language-designated assignment. Some of D’s predecessors received up to 6 months of Swahili classes at FSI, but by the time D entered training, knowing Swahili was no longer judged essential for this job. Kenya has two official languages, and since almost everyone speaks English, the State Department decided to remove the Swahili language designation. Of course, knowing Swahili would still be extremely useful, especially considering the fact that Ambo speaks it fluently. S started taking classes shortly after we arrived in Nairobi but D was initially too swamped with work to find the time – never mind the energy – for lessons. Fortunately, S’s teacher, who had been giving private lessons to Embassy employees for five years, was recently hired to give regular classes at the Embassy. This proved to be the impetus D needed to carve an hour out of his day to join S in taking Swahili lessons.

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not your average adoption

Last weekend we took our social sponsoree to the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and the nearby Giraffe Center. The latter is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike a petting zoo. Rather than have cages or enclosures for the animals, it has a feeding station with a food dispenser. A sign boldly announces that the giraffes are on a diet, so each visitor is only allowed to feed them two handfuls of food pellets. The giraffes had no qualms about bending down and taking the pellets straight from our hands with their long, bristly tongues. After they were sated, the animals wandered off into the wild, leaving our hands covered in giraffe saliva.

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the joys of social sponsoring

Though it sounds vaguely reminiscent of addiction support groups, social sponsoring is actually a way for foreign services officers, who are picking up their lives every two years to move to another corner of the world, to feel at home when they arrive in a new place. Having settled in and gotten a good feel for Nairobi, we decided to volunteer to be social sponsors for one of the newly arriving FSOs. This entailed emailing with him to answer questions before arrival, stocking his house with groceries and a home cooked meal, showing him around town, taking him grocery shopping, and helping him navigate the Embassy systems when questions arise. Social sponsoring also afforded us a good opportunity to check out what Nairobi has to offer in the way of tourism.

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rebellious canine


Emmie is relatively well behaved at home. She understands sit, down, stay, and also recently learned leave it. Unfortunately, she does not always listen. And if she realizes that no treat is forthcoming, she takes her sweet time obeying our commands. As she has adapted to her new home, she has also grown a bit willful, which prompted us to enroll her in obedience classes.

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one by one

While S continues her permanent job search, she accepted an opportunity to contract with One by One, a Seattle-based non-profit where she worked as a volunteer in 2008-9. Established in 2005, One by One was founded with the singular mission of contributing to the elimination of fistula worldwide. Obstetric fistula is a birth injury that most often occurs as a result of prolonged labor, where the protracted compression of the baby’s head against the soft tissue of the uterus causes a hole between the uterus and the bladder or rectum, or both. As a result, women leak urine or feces uncontrollably, which as you can imagine has devastating psycho-social ramifications. The first fistula hospital was founded in 1855 in New York City. It closed its doors at the end of the 19th century and the site is now home to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue. Now virtually unheard of in most of the world, fistula is unfortunately still a reality in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

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