NOTE: Due to a slow internet connection, I’ll be uploading emails from Margo to this blog
#1 The Trip and Before
I’m sitting in a very nice room in the Dubai Millennium Hotel, waiting to leave tomorrow morning for the last leg—to Nairobi. But before I tell you the vagaries of my trip, let me share what happened even before I left.
On Wednesday, 3 days before departure, Fr Oseso, of the Nakuru Diocese, but based in New York called me to say the bishop of Nakuru was in the US, was coming to the west coast and could we arrange a visit. Wow! The bishop wants to meet me??? I wonder what he wants. We settle on his coming with Fr James Kairu between 12 and 1 on Friday (day before departure). ACH! How does one entertain a bishop? We agree I will serve tea, which means I have to go to the store for milk. Kenyan tea is made by boiling equal parts of milk and water, then adding loose tea and letting it simmer. They also add generous quantities of sugar, but I decided they could sugar it to their own taste—and immediately filled the sugar bowl. Kenyan like sweet tea.
That morning I had breakfast with good friends, appointment with chiropractor, stop at the bank to send a wire transfer of funds and get home to make some lunch—last minute decision. And of course I am beginning to panic—it’s 11:30. I quickly make a salad with raspberries from my garden, mangos, tomatoes and avocados. I grab some bread, slice good sharp cheddar cheese for cheese toast and hope it’s OK. There is no food in my house.
I’m ready by about 12:30, but they are on Kenyan time and arrive at 1:45. And there are 3 priests, instead of the expected 2. Ever calm in crisis, I set another place at the table on the patio and served up the lunch. When I poured the tea all 3 exclaimed. “Oh, your made Kenyan tea!!! Thank you.” Made good points there! The bishop noted I was the first in America to serve them water with no ice. I’ve learned my lessons well. Africans are unused to cold food. That message became patently clear when Fr Kiriti put his ice cream in the microwave!
The bishop is young, handsome and affable as are Fr James and Fr Peter (?)—didn’t quite catch his name. I had had the impression they were coming to request something of me and/or Kenya Help and kept waiting for “the ask”. After an hour of waiting, I said, “So why did you want to come see me?” Subtlety is not my strong suit. Momentarily surprised, the bishop recovered quickly and explained that they are so grateful for all that Kenya Help has done, they just wanted to meet the lady who had started it and who came to Kenya every year. They were very grateful and complementary and I felt like a fool for having suspicions. In my defense, Fr Oseso had asked me some time ago about possibly providing the diocese a presence on the west coast, meaning maybe just an address to use. I thought this meeting was about that, or maybe they’d ask me to build another school—(NOOOOOOO!!!!) But no, they just wanted to meet me. Me? I felt very humbled that the bishop and his assistants took 3 hours of their time just to say thank you. It made me more conscious of what we have done. By all accounts it is am impressive school, possibly the nicest in Kenya and certainly in Bishop Maurice’s diocese.
We discussed the need for educating women. They were already totally on board with that, while also appreciating that KH supports high school boys and girls equally in our scholarship program, believing that there are also poor, bright boys. Having them go to Archbishop Ndingi gives us the opportunity to discuss respect for women. Fr Kiriti brings in special speakers to discuss manhood, fatherhood, and making good decisions.
However, KH’s focus is on young women. Our fledgling scholarship program to send as many as possible of the 17 graduates (first class from St Francis Girls-SFG) is only for girls.
As they prepared to leave I showed them the picture of those 17 girls. Their first reaction was, “Oh, they’re wearing trousers!” Oops, I thought the bishop knew that. He has visited the school, but maybe he didn’t see any for 3 or 4 girls. Forms 1 and 2 wear skirts. So I explained that we are graduating modern young women, prepared to become leaders in their community, and in the country. Modern women wear trousers—said I, wearing my trousers! After their initial shock, they seemed to think it a good idea. Whew!
After they left, I realized I was shaking—not just from nervousness and relief that it had all gone well, but also from drinking the Kenyan tea, which is strong. My body isn’t used to caffeine at that strength! After cleaning up, I sat on the couch and almost immediately fell asleep for 2 hours!
Note to everyone who might consider taking up my suggestion of Emirates Air. There can be glitches. As I was walking through the endless glass, stainless steel and marble terminal in Dubai I suddenly remembered the drill. In SF, you check in at the counter, then you must go to another counter to get your voucher for the hotel in Dubai. ACH!!! I had forgotten. I approached the desk at the Dubai airport, explaining my error. The young woman consulted the reservation sheet and informed me I didn’t have one. “But when I made my flight reservations they assured me the hotel was included.” Bland faced, she explained I had no reservation—as if I hadn’t heard her the first time. We had quite a negotiation during which I was glad I could speak from previous experiences and I wasn’t taking NO for an answer. I’d been cramped in an economy seat for 15 hours and I wanted a BED!!! I was patient, but determined. Finally she said I should take the shuttle to the hotel and speak to the Emirates representtive, Mr Walid, who also explained I had no reservation. My response was that the mistake was with Emirates for not making the process more seamless. I states on the website that anyone with more than 5 hours layover is entitled to a room. We went back and forth with, each restating his/her position, adding new layers of persuasion.
I’m not sure whether it was because he knew I was right, because of my gray hair, or he just wanted to get rid of this insistent American (pleasant though I was), he gave me the room. Lesson, don’t forget to get the room voucher before you depart!!!!!
In the past my room has had a bidet. I think I won’t complain.
All for now. Next stop, Nairobi.