Toby Photo Shoot

Last Saturday I had a good time playing around with our camera and Picasa on the computer.  Toby will be six months on Tuesday and that's around the age when I had formal photos done of Maggie and Ben.  Of course, there are no JC Penney or Sears studios within a few miles of here, so I had to try it myself.  A few blankets, a chair, and a bedsheet in the front yard made up my studio.  Here are the best results:


International Grooming

I think almost any guy would consider it a boast to have pretty minimal trappings when it comes to grooming, and I would say the same.  Yet, it struck me the other day that, simple though it may seem, daily grooming has taken on quite a complex history.

  1.  Showering.  Here in Banga, if there is power (+/- running water), I will take a bucket sponge bath every other morning.  The reason for the power is that I prefer to use one kettle full of boiling water.  Both the shampoo and the kettle are from a Chinese store here in the capital, and it takes a special adapter to plug it into the wall here.  The soap is Burundian.
  2. Brushing teeth.  Tooth care is culturally interesting, and I have come to believe that no one prioritizes it like Americans.  We have a Colgate "herbal" flavored toothpaste we got in Kenya.  The toothbrush is American.  I have a stockpile of American floss that a friend brought out.  Good luck finding reasonably-priced dental floss anywhere else, including Europe.
  3. Deodorant.  Another very cultural thing.  Unthinkable in many parts of the world.  In Kenya, I once found a roll-on stick made by Umbro, the soccer-shorts people, but it didn't last long.  In France, I tried a spray, but the scent left something to be desired (per Rachel).  I thought I would go back to stockpiling American stuff, but found a French store with a good option just before leaving, and that's what I have here in Burundi.
  4. Shaving.  Though shaving cream is hard to come by in Burundi, normally this is not a hard one.  I have cream and razors from France, as well as a set of 220V clippers from France.
  5. Meds.  My allergies flare up in setting of blooming green foliage, which is most of the time here in the equatorial highlands of Africa.  When I got to Kenya, I asked the pharmacy to order some nasal steroids, so I have a stash from Kenya.  A visiting eye doc got me some allergy eye drops, and I'm not sure where they are from, but a lot of there stuff is manufactured in India.

And now, I'm ready to go.  I mean, I can still consider myself a low-maintenance guy, right?  It only takes the USA, France, Kenya, China, Burundi, and possibly India to get me through daily grooming.  Oh yeah, and electricity.


Kindle + Library = Revolution

Yes, we like books.

Yes, we moved to rural Africa (again).

So, what does one do in that setting?

Well, really there are several options.  One can fill a container with books that you got free at a rockin' venue in Baltimore, called the Baltimore Book Thing.  You can also load your Kindle with every free book (published before 1923) that you've ever wanted to read.  Lastly, you can raid the personal library of every anglophone family you encounter.

And we have done all those things.

Yet, there are a few holes.  We like to read some more obscure books, hard to find at cast-off library sales.  And then there are new books.

And then the eBook world met up with the public library world.  All you need is a library card, and you can download library books from the comfort of your own home.  Even if your home is in Burundi.

And part of the beauty of this is that Kindle books are amazingly small, usually less than 500kb, making them downloadable even with really slow connections.  Suddenly new books by favorite authors are available to us.  The latest Newbery winners are available to us.  In short, we have shifted from "what is around to read?" to "what would we like to read?"  Whoa.


Brief Update

Sorry for the long blog silence!  Internet is pretty sketchy here in Burundi (at least, upcountry where we are staying for language study).  I am taking advantage of a Bujumbura weekend to post a few pics.  We are focusing most of our internet efforts on email and the McCropder blog, but thought I'd post a few kid pics (for the grandmas). 

First, Toby has been growing like a weed!  Almost 19 lbs now and I think I can say, officially a sitter.  He has rolled front to back, back to front, and inches a lot by flailing his legs while lying on his back.  Such a sweet kid.  Not a great sleeper, but always cheerful.  We tried him on bananas (which he really enjoyed) but he slept particularly bad those days, and spit up a lot more, so maybe we'll hold off another few weeks before more solids.

Ben is now 2 1/2 and potty training pretty well, actually.  His favorite activity is playing "bad guys."  He is pictured below with his "sword" and "bad guy hat."

Maggie is loving her preschool (with Micah and Abi) and was recently featured in a play about David Livingstone healing a chief's daughter of appendicitis.  She was the tribal chief and was (in my humble opinion) awesome.  Deadpan delivery, didn't forget any lines, classic.  "If she dies, you will die."  I see a future.

 And just for fun, our kiddos loved a friend's slip and slide this weekend in Buja.  It was so hot and sticky, an afternoon in the water was perfect!  Even Toby stuck his feet in.