Friday, 29 August 2008

At The Dispensaire

I thought the dispensaire was like a pharmacy - turns out it is the clinic! It is the first (basic!) choice for baby care here. You can also see the PMI I think or go directly to the pediatrician. We are keeping it simple!

I headed off today with the girls and Baby JoJo for his appointment at 8.30am, not quite sure what to expect. Perhaps it would have been better to find out where it was to begin with! We stood in a cabinet d'infirmière for a while before discovering it was the wrong place and there was still a long walk ahead of us! We finally got there, and discovered the more familar sight of a rather chaotic clinic full of babies and kids running around - I love the french word turbulent for particularly badly behaved children!

We waited. And waited. And waited. The girls got harrassed by some turbulents, so Bertie kindly came and took them home. And then I waited. And waited. And a bit more. Two hours later (!) I finally saw the nurse, who took Baby JoJo's details and discussed England with me - apparently she believes it to be a very hot place, as it was when she visited Basingstoke and Piccaddilly Circus! They measured his length and head circumference and were horrified to hear we don't do this in the UK after birth. But what if there is a problem with his head? she inquired. I could only offer my very best gallic shrug. Then she weighed him. 67cm, 44 cm and 7.7 kg were the figures I think. Then I got sent back out to wait again!

It is quite interesting seeing all the people around - they are not just Guadeloupeans, but also Haitians and Dominicans for whom life is better here. Bertie can recognise them by looking and certainly by their speech but I only worked out who was Dominican by who was speaking some english! On a slight digression, they are not always well-perceived here unfortunately. I had an interesting discussion with my Dominican SIL who understands but never speaks english as she moved here when 7 and there was such a negative attitude towards people from her background that she did all she could to leave it behind. Her attitude has even passed on to her daughter who also dislikes english so will study spanish at uni.

Back to the clinic. Next was the doctor, who didn't seem to understand me, which was a bit frustrating. We discussed the different vaccins - Baby JoJo is perfectly up to date on the UK system but not according to the French. Apparently I have to buy a vaccin for €80 (refundable) which I am not convinced about, plus consider Hep B. Any thoughts? Then she did a thorough check of chest, ears, eyes, mouth, back. I told her this was never done after the 6 week check in the UK and that we don't even visit the doctor unless ill - more horror! Apparently here, you have to take the baby to the doctor every two months, then a bit less often after a year. And if you don't turn up, you get a convocation and into big trouble! I explained our system was much more laisser-faire, and inwardly shuddered at having to repeat this experience every 2 months! In all it took three hours, which seems slightly ridiculous.

On the positive side, Baby JoJo is very well and she said there would be a tooth coming through soon! How exciting! If only I could photo this exciting event!

We have started feeding him baby rice and he is loving it, as he swings around in his Bumbo grasping at the spoon. I have frozen my first batch of puree (apple) and will get going on avocado and banana soon.

Setting Up Home

We spent the last couple of days doing tasks that LissaLou (rightly!) classes as boring things! Boring, but vital nevertheless!

Rather than the NHS, here we have Sécurité Sociale. In order to get any treatment etc, you need to have a number, then you pay and you get reimbursed the appropriate amount afterwards. I still think the NHS is simpler, though Bertie was arguing it out with me on the basis of the quality offered! As you can imagine (we are in the midst of French bureaucrocy, and laid-back West Indies on top of that!), getting a number is quite a lengthy process, which my laid-back husband hasn't yet got round to doing...So it was a with great joy that he discovered a gentleman he sat chatting to most of Sunday afternoon at church turned out to work in the very section of the Sécu that we need! We have handed in our European Insurance cards (formerly known as E111) and just need to hand in bank details, then hey presto!

Re the bank, Bertie decided to open a new account at La Poste. Would you believe, he went along to do so and the lady who opens accounts is on holiday for the month of August!! I love it! In any case, he needed an attestation de résidence so he got his mum to write one out and took it to the police station where he met a former schoolfriend who did it immediately for him. It's all about who you know here...! And apparently I don't need a carte de séjour here which is good.

We are still waiting our cooker. Bertie phones every few days and they say it will be ready for collcetion in a few days and so on... Perhaps they are making it?

In the meantime we keep checking Paruvendudom which is the Loot of Guadeloupe, with extra items included. Still no car, but we saw a possible fridge which we checked out yesterday. It was clean, it worked, we paid! (The fridges we have seen previously have been pretty horrible, including at the place for troquer, where people leave items with a price to haggle and the store takes a fee too.) As a bonus, he was selling a nice kitchen cupboard too! We just need to arrange a trip with Bertie's sister's huge car to get it home, then no more traipsing up and down the stairs or having items mysteriously disappear!

Our neighbours go back to France on Sunday so I am planning how we will spread ourselves over the top floor. My own bedroom beckons! Though we will have Baby JoJo with us for the meantime. It is funny starting from almost scratch again, we have been buying tea towels, measuring jugs, chopping board etc etc.

On the job front, Bertie is applying for the position of English Assistant which is 12 hours a week. Again, a lady at the church on Sunday gave him the details of who to contact, all very helpful!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Our Week

Firstly, catastrophe has struck!

My camera has stopped working. Sniff. Sniff. SNIFF. I understand how you felt now Evs! Is it still under guarantee Dad? Mind you, if you passed me the receipt I have no idea where it is now!

This sad revelation occurred just before church, so it took a lot of prayer to get life back into focus again! We went to a house church run by an American couple from Texas (yay Shannon!) who have been missionaries here for years but are sadly leaving soon. We had a good time there, lots of English speakers, and the Pastor's wife lent me a trilogy by Tracie Peterson so I haven't been good company recently!

Bertie's sister lent us her car so we set off into Basse-Terre on Monday to visit Bertie's uni friend Synethia who works in Guyane. Basse-Terre is beautiful but full of mountains and so you need a lot of confidence in your car to drive there! Plus her house is at the top of a really steep drive - we stalled at the top! But made it, and enjoyed a lovely afternoon with her and her family (they send their love and look forward to seeing you mum!). The highlight was swinging gently on their hammock on the balcony overlooking the Caribbean Sea...ahh!

Yesterday we still had the car so we popped along to the beach at Ste Anne with the kids and they had a marvellous time as ever.

Today the big event was...(apart from me finishing my trilogy and finally being talkative again!)...Baby JoJo has started solids! I figured he was so late we could start before 6 months. He always looks so desperately at our food, it is very sweet! He enjoyed a teaspoon of organic baby rice (happily brought from the UK, no such thing here! In fact, very disappointingly, most baby stuff has lots of sugar) and we look forward to carrying on with it tomorrow.

BTW the yoghurt was delicious from our new yoghurtmaker - I heartily recommend it!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Getting The Troops To Work

We are surrounded by children here, and it all adds up to a lot of cooking, cleaning and washing up! After three days of my washing up twice a day for 13 people, Bertie decided to intervene and get the kids involved. No easy task! In fact, we supervised them each with a task and then gave them an hour of reading and finally made a cake and juice, and it was so exhausting it required a two hour siesta to recover! I certainly didn't have any time for photos! But they enjoyed it mostly and Papy was very pleased to come back to a tidy home. We then hosted our own party in the evening followed least an hour of washing up for me!!

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Random Things

It is pouring with rain today. Very noisy.

LissaLou has just had her hair redone. The excitement is wearing off and her patience is wearing thin for the length of time it takes to do and undo!

We went shopping on Monday and ordered a cooker - very exciting! We just need a fridge now. I am looking forward to taking control of my own cooking. Less salt, less meat, more veg are on the menu! We also bought local bananas for 29cents a kilo, yummy! And just as exciting, we got a yoghurt maker. Mango yoghurt coming up!

I have started a list of price comparison and who sells what to help me in my efforts to shop frugrally and healthily. Leader Price is also a good shop with a great variety of pastas (all the other shops just sell macaroni!) and organic flour! Did I mention that I saw flour for making bread here? It cost €6, or £4! I shall stick to buying bread - especially now I have found that our local baker sells baguette complet (wholemeal).

Bread is sold from a van here, which drives around giving a cute tootle. I shall see if he can deliver my complet when he is back from his holidays.

In view of our forthcoming cooker, Bertie worked hard to clear out the kitchen space yesteday and it looks much improved. We don't have any cupboards though, just a sink.

I saw a tiny lizard and a huge cockroach in my room and am living in fear now...! Of the latter mainly. I have decided lizards are ok as they eat mosquitoes and flies.

The girls are getting much less bitten now which is an answer to prayer (we had it as part of our bedtime prayer for several nights with them!) but they still have lots of scabs and scars.

Today's myth - tickling babies makes them stammer later in life!

Someone in the family died so Bertie's parents went to the wake last night. First time I have ever seen his dad in trousers and shoes! Only the second time he has left the house except to go to Pika.

There was a family meeting two nights ago, discussing issues like land and...their aunty's presence, which has unsurprisingly turned from a few days to over two weeks! We await the next turn of events...

You anti-Olympics folk, how could you fail to marvel at Michael Phelps achievement, especially in the butterfly race where he came from behind and got it by a hundredth! Team GBR have stormed ahead, tee hee to France! I couldn't believe they have BMX racing though!

Enough randomness from me, I am off to make yoghurt!

Another Family Meal

The following day, Bertie told me we were going for lunch at his brother's. I foolishly expected another small family gathering. However, not only were most of his family there, but also many of his partner's family and friends. There were 18 cars there by the time the food was served!
Here is the family, well, some of them anyway!
Their house is a lovely one in quite a remote area. I have to admit to being rather jealous of the nursery...a lovely cot, mosquito net and AIR CON!!!The girls chilled on the terrace whilst waiting for food. They were very patient as it didn't arrive till after 3pm and we had been there a few hours!
As you can see, Baby JoJo loved sleeping in the hi-tech nursery with his cousin.
It was funny to see everyone in Sunday best after the pig-killing BBQ clothes of the previous day!What a cutie! He is so interested in our food now, I am looking forward to weaning him soon.
Here is Bertie's eldest sister who was also celebrating her birthday that day. She is the one whose computer I use - many thanks for this lifeline to the world!

A Quiet Family Gathering?

No such thing in this family!

Saturday saw us at Pika with
- 2 grandparents
- 1 great aunt
- 2 brothers
- 3 sisters
- 2 daughters in law
- 2 sons in law
- 13 grandchildren
- a family friend and son
Bertie's dad looked around in satisfaction and told me, "tu vois ca? c'est meme pas toute ma famille!" Then later went and took refuge in a quieter place!

The following pictures are not for those of a sensitive disposition!

Our aim was to kill one of Papy's pigs. This was done by Bertie, his BIL and the latter's cousin. Our neighbour helped and then butchered it for us.

I didn't see the actual slaughter but they were taking off the hair when I arrived. Normally they use a razor (Gilette perhaps?) but this time the Haitian BIL used his method of putting in the fire then taking off the rest with a knife. The sausagy intestines are used to make boudin - I don't feel any more inclined to eat it! We have been eating pork ever since!
Tee hee, guess who is I mean piggying around! The girls love sucking, chewing and spitting out sugar cane and here they are begging Papy for some.
It takes a pro to cut it up with the machete and still have the fingers intact!
Here is Bertie's auntand his dad...see the family resemblance?!A fine spread had been preparedThis is the nearest I have found to recycling here so far - old fridges are used to store the drinks in, filled with lots of ice!Bertie made a lovely BBQ (chicken...and pig of course)
The bread fruit was boiled on the hob

And we all sat down and enjoyed it
Here are a few of the shots from the day. The adults chatted, the kids played with an old trolley and on the hammock, which was the subject of much dispute.
Here are the cousins enjoying it
And proof that sucking the thumb is genetic...and not from my side of the family! There are at least two other cousins who do, plus Bertie's thirty year old sister!
Having a nice rest
Having a nice swing!
We cleared up and returned home as night fell, with three very tired children. And one tired mummy!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

5 Months!

Our little boy has reached 5 months already! And a delightful child he continues to be! Here he is with an increasingly dirty baby Luke (wearing one of his nappies!) fast asleep, ahh!

He is increasingly rolling around, especially on his bed, and often gets on to his side or tummy to sleep. Unfortunately he can't always get back so he generally wakes me up between 5.30 and 6.30am cos he is stuck on his tummy!
His sleeping and eating is not as routined as it was in the UK - I do tend to feed him more due to the heat and it is quite noisy around here with all the people. I may work on that in September. At the moment I often feed him to sleep or he goes to sleep on someone. But once he goes down at about 9pm he stays asleep all night, hurray!

Breastfeeding in this heat is actually quite hard, as it gets both of us so hot! I see the sweat pouring off his head, poor boy! In the same way, he sweats away in his car seat.

We don't have the luxuries of home like the playmat and bouncy chair, so he spends his time in his Bumbo (Bertie's dad laughs at him waving around like a swimmer in it!) or on our bed/in his cot. We put the animal mobile that Julie gave us for CassCass above his bed right next to the open window and he loves watching it swirl around in the wind. It can be hazardous putting him on the floor as it is so quickly dirty and children tend to come and squash/walk on him!

He loves all the company here and coos and beams at the faces that appear before him.

We are still resisting feeding him despite comments from all around, but I did let him suck on some water melon which he loved!

Healthwise he is fine - he gets the occasional bite but doesn't seem too bothered by it. His BCG exploded and seems to be healing up now. We are going to see the Nurse for a routine check up in a couple weeks. I hope she weighs him...I hope I understand what she says! Bertie saw her yesterday and apparently she started work in 1974, the year he was born! I said he may even have weed on her as baby!!

He loves grasping things and putting them in his mouth so don't leave anything of vaue in his reach! (which is longer than you think!) He likes just chilling out and watching the world around, I often think he must just be soaking in all this newness.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Olympic Fever

The time difference means we have been having plenty of late nights/early mornings watching the happenings in Beijing. Unfortunately the biais is very much in favour of the French team...even more unfortunately they are winning far more medals than the British! You should have seen Bertie leap and whoop for joy when Alain Bernard one the swimming - it even woke his poor dad! Now we are on to the athletics, we will be lucky to see Bertie at all...

BTW it always astonishes me the events they have at these Games. My latest funniest sport is Greco-Roman fighting! That must keep Malc very happy! Bertie is happy too, as two french brothers got gold and bronze in it!

A Lovely Lunch

We lunch at Bertie's sister's on Wednesday and were treated to a meal fit for a king...

Starter - boudin blanc (like black pudding but the blood free version preferred by the protestant Christians here), salad, potato accras
Next - rice and pois kaan (like small kidney beans?); madere, bread fruit, steamed plantain and banane figue in their skins, so yummy
Next - cockerel in a very nice sauce
Next - whole fish (you can see her cooking the 20 kilos of them in the above photo) By this time you can imagine we were getting a bit full but we were instructed that we could only take a full fish, no halves!
Dessert - mango, water melon, pineapple, melon skewers
Next - sorbet des iles - we had corossol, cerise de pays, guava
All washed down with a ti punch (I had a homemade passion fruit one which was so strong it took me the entire 3 hour meal to drink! and plenty of local juice and water

I have put in italics all the ones I don't know in English and my dictionary is still in shipping. Let me know if you find the translations!

Caribbean Girl

Wednesday saw LissaLou transformed into a true Island girl by her Tatie. Plenty of patience was required as plait after plait was formed
Coming on nicely Et voilà! Nearly an hour later...
We hardly recognised her! She should be a lot cooler now and has received lots of compliments for her new look from the family.
No chance of CassCass sitting still that long so she will have to remain a wild child!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Transport En Commun

Given our lack of car, on Tuesday we decided to go off to Pointe à Pitre by bus. This used to be a terrifying prospect, but they have been making improvements to the system so it was quite enjoyable.

Buses here (no trains in our country, sniff!) are coaches and often belong to an individual or family. They follow their own rules and timetables, don't run after about 7pm and are quite unique. In true French style, they also have a tendency to strike - often for months on end! Hence the excessive number of cars on the tiny island.

With the old style, you board either the front or back door, then pay the driver on getting off. The new ones who have been officially registered take payment at the front only (90 cents rather than a euro!) They even give a receipt; we mused over whether ticket inspectors haev arrived in Gudeloupe! The old depend on open windows for air com, the new are full of mod cons such as air con and seat belts.

All coaches have one thing in common though - music blaring out loudly! Tough if you don't like it! Previously, they had pull up seats that meant there was no aisle, a nightmare to get out of if you were unfortunate enough to be in the middle of the bus. Happily for us with three kids and buggy in tow, the aisle has now returned! I still don't think I could do the journey alone though. Buggy friendly buses have not reached the island!

Here is a picture I found on the web of one (We were too busy juggling baby, bag, buggy to take one!)

On the way, Bertie told me that the driver was one who, in his prime and when Bertie was at lycée, a good 15 years ago, all the girls fancied and waited just to take his bus! There is a front seat and a soft middle bit you can sit on if you know the driver and fancy a chat, and apparently this was the goal of his female classmates!

Our mission was to get new flip flops for the girls so we went to rue Frébault. I am not exaggerating when I tell you there were 20, possibly more shoe shops in that one street! It is very long and busy, just think a narrower version of Oxford Street. Many shops have MCs who stand at the door with a mike trying to entice you in!

Letting the girls loose in the shoe shop was like all their Christmasses come at once! Shoe after shoe went on their little feet, each showed off to us and duly admired before the next came on. I can see that being a good place to go on a wet day! The ones we bought were very tame compared to the ones tried!!

We tried to sort out a bank account but unfortunately Bertie's French bank - Crédit Lyonnais - is astonishingly the only one who doesn't have a branch or even partner in Guadeloupe! Then we popped to the market and bought a delicious but heavy water melon, before getting the bus back. The bus station is also new and very organised, with a different lane and sign for each destination. Though you do have to wait a while for it to actually leave. We then got dumped unceremoniously in the middle of the road back home. Definite improvements, but getting the bus is still a somewhat hazardous affair!


I found the portrait button accidentally on my camera so took advantage of it to take these from our trip to the park with the nephew and nieces over from Paris for the summer.

LissaLou took this lovely one of me!
I have just been looking at the gorgeous photos on Sister Evs' blog - beautiful country very well displayed through her lense. Oh for such a talent...!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Our Town

The best time to head down to the playpark is between 5 and 6pm, when the heat of the day is psasing and it hasn't yet turned dark. Our local park is in the square in the town centre (read, a few important buildings and a few shops. That is it.) Here are some shots fom there last Sunday.

The play park is in two parts - this is the baby bit
But of course the girls prefer the big kid bit! No swings sadly - just a scary roundabout that they love and a fireman's pole LissaLou keeps throwing herself off - ouch!

Here is our Mairie
with its Annexe (note the obligtory French flags!)
And the War Memorial
I didn't snap the constant presence of motor bikes and scooters zooming around the place. they also speed along our road and have done something to their exhausts to make them 100 times noisier!
Funnily enough, the parks are often empty, or else have mixed couples there with their kids. We can only imagine these are the visitors from France, as locals don't appear to visit them very much for some reason!

Down By Our Seaside

On Monday late afternoon we walked along the bit of the coast a few minutes from our house to the new port that has been built; people go diving and swimming there but it was too deep for us so we just dipped our feet in.
Here are the cousins on the way - with the ever present Dora of course!
Look who we saw on the way! This boat crashed in autumn 1989 with Hurricane Hugo, which devastated the island and the mangrove along the coast. Not quite sure why they haven't got round to moving it yet!
Our bit of the coast - the sea looks pretty grimy here
Keeping four excited under 6s from falling in was no mean feat!
A lot of effort was put into getting some smiles from Baby JoJo!
Ooer, hold on tight!
Very refreshing to dip our toes into
One more adventurous nephew belly flopped in several times Can you see the splash?!
LissaLou spent her time winding up her cousin and nearly got thrown in for her trouble!
Sun setting +mosquitoes out = time to head home!