#13 Mwangi’s Come For Dinner July 1, 2015
Two years ago Fr. Kiriti asked me to meet Anastasia and her husband Mwangi, both engineers. Anastasia had been accepted for a seminar for Women in Technology, which brings women from the developing world to San Francisco where they work with mentors in tech companies. It’s a big honor and turned out to be a wonderful program for her. She and Mwangi had a small boy, Raphael, less than 1 year at that time. They wanted Mwangi and Raphael to travel to the US at the end of her seminar, so they could tour a bit before she came back. The US is not very friendly to Kenyans who want to come to visit, assuming they will jump ship and stay beyond the visa. Anastasia holds a management level job with KenGen, the biggest electric company in sub-Saharan Africa and Mwangi owns his own company, although now he also works at KenGen. At that time they were building their home just outside Naivasha town. If anyone would be guaranteed to return to Kenya, it would be they. Nonetheless, it’s important to have all one’s ducks in a row, so would I write a letter of invitation for them to come to my house? I would, they came, although not to visit me, they toured, thoroughly enjoying themselves and returned to Kenya on schedule. Since then we’ve been good friends.
It is their girl-child, Bakita, about whose baptism I wrote earlier this year. On that day we talked briefly about getting together and last night was the night. Last year we met at La Belle Inn, a pretty good eating place here in Naivasha, but this time they wanted me to cook them an American dinner. Well, of course it had to be hamburgers!
I went to the Sky Blue Butchery and again paid an arm and a leg for very lean “minced meat.” While I stood in the queue, I heard a voice, “Margo”. Looking about I saw Catherine paying for her purchase! I’ve hardly laid eyes on her these 3 weeks. Her sister and brother-in-law have been staying with her in Nairobi while they investigate a medical problem. She said she hasn’t even responded to emails although she has read them. She was in Naivasha wearing the Chairperson-of-the-Nakuru-Water-Board hat. She was appointed 2 years ago and spent the first few months cleaning house; like many other boards, there was much corruption. In the past people paid a big fee for water connection but waited many months to be connected (if ever). Now many, I think she said 10,000 connections have occurred since she took over.
We chatted there in the butchery, but then she had to quickly return to Nairobi to be with Laura, her form 4 daughter, who was just home for mid-term break.
I got my very lean minced meat, having already done my other shopping for the evening at the Naivas across the road. While I was there, I met many SFG girls, also going home for break, but first stopping for sodas and other goodies. Their uniforms are very distinctive, so they do stand out in a crowd. Outside the Naivas is a lady who sells Pink Lady apples for ksh 30. Since the conversion rate is close to ksh 100 to the $1 that would be about $.30. They are sweet, unblemished and delicious. I bought 4 for dinner.
Back home, I parked just inside the church gate, grabbed my traditional produce basket and walked across to the street market where I always buy my produce. I can get it at the Naivas, but I love to buy from the women at this roadside market and I’m sure they need my shillings more than the Naivas, which does a BIG business. I bought tomatoes, 3 for 20, 2 avocados at 10 each, carrots at 20 per small bag of 5, a mango for 25, 2 bunches of kale at 10 each and a butternut squash for 25. I even found a cucumber – hadn’t seen one this year. Produce is so cheap here. Imagine avocados for $.10 and mangos for $.25 and they are so good!
After a short rest I began preparing the food. I steamed the butternut (known to many here as pumpkin, they have never seen a pumpkin here), chopped part of an onion and sautéed in butter, while I washed and chopped the kale very fine. Oh my, I’ll have enough for an army, I thought as I combined them in a pot and left them to steam. Next the salad – chop the tomatoes, peel and chop the cucumber (M came by and did that for me, along with shredding the carrots), and added the avocado. I had remembered to buy dressing at the Naivas, but forgot lettuce. I’ve never seen it in the street. Oh well. The butternut steamed and cooled, I pealed it and mashed it in a pot with lots of butter. Yummy!
Next I formed the patties, nice and big, so they would slop over the edge of the almost-like HB buns I’d found, put onion and tomato slices on a plate and got out the cheese and catsup. Table set and everything ready, I sat down to read for a minute, when they knocked my door.
They were very interested in how I prepare the hamburgers. Mwangi told me later he had lived on Big Macs while they were touring the US.
The broiler in my oven works, even though the regular burner doesn’t, so I was able to toast the buns and miracle of miracles, I remembered to check on them at the perfect time, just nicely browned.
I put the fried patties on the buns and yes, they did slop over. Mwangi and I had cheese on ours, but Anastasia, like many Kenyans, doesn’t eat cheese. My army’s worth of kale cooked down to about ¾ cup (RATS!) but was tasty. When I served the “pumpkin” I was reminded that Kenyans see it as food for poor people and babies. Anastasia was having none of it, but Mwangi gamely ate his. The salad over which I had worked so hard had its own problem. I’d bought Caesar dressing. Neither Anastasia nor Mwangi will touch an egg. We noted eggs in the ingredients, so I gave them a small taste. They both said it was OK, but when Mwangi tasted it, he looked crest-fallen. He could taste the egg. I tried it and didn’t like it at all. None of us ate it but the goat loved it this morning!
Despite my errors of judgement, they declared my hamburgers wonderful. I thought so too. I told them about meeting Catherine in the market where she had told me I should plan to cook 6 apiece. We had a good laugh over that because we were all stuffed with just one.
We had a lovely visit, discussing the culture, Naivasha, their children. The only missing link was Fr. Kiriti who is a very close friend to them.
Fr. Kiriti had left for Lodwar where he is visiting his good friend Bishop Dominic, whom I have met several times. In a phone call this morning, Fr. told me how much he is enjoying being there, what a great job Dominic is doing, building schools in a very poor and hot area, much like East Pokot. He said at 10 am was already HOT, 35° C, which is 95° F. Bishop Dominic is a very humble man, large in stature and big in personality and a very hard worker for his people. He is a true priest. I liked him from the very first time I met him in 2006, when he came with Bishop Kairo, previous bishop of Nakuru, for a confirmation in this parish. Afterwards a lovely meal had been served in the rectory where Judy and I were staying (this was before our move to Mji Wa Neema). Judy and I had had to move to another building just across the way to give our rooms to the bishop and to then-Father Dominic. Judy and I were honored to share this meal with a bishop. Bishop Kairo is another wonderful man, humble, quiet and very supportive of the needs of the people. He has now been shifted to another diocese.
After cleaning up I fell into bed at 11, waking this morning at 7:40 to someone knocking my door. It was Margaret, one of the children from here. She attends Naivasha Girls and was on her way to her grandmother, but stopped to say hello. I had set the alarm for 7 and evidently slept through all the 10-minute repeats!
It’s so great to see all these kids whom Judy and I have known for over 10 years. They’ve grown up nicely, bright, hard working, respectful and grateful to us for the support we’ve given them over the years. In turn, we find it such a privilege to know them and to see them develop.
Margaret left and I climbed back into my bed to write #11. When Fr. Kiriti called at 10 he said, “I hope I haven’t gotten you from your class. “ “No you’ve gotten me from my bed!” “Oh, you are a lazy bum!” Yep and I loved every minute of it.
On my way up to school, I hoped to see zebras again, as I had yesterday morning. I used to see them all the time, but more building is driving them back into the hills. Alas there were no zebras. Perhaps they, too, had failed to hear the alarm clock!