# 13 Prize-Giving Day at Ndingi and a Visit with Sr Judy,
Saturday was a big event at Ndingi. Open air tents were set up for parents, students and invited guests, namely teachers from SFG and other schools. The VIPs had special chairs in front, facing the rest. Regardless of my not feeling very special, I am always placed in the latter.
The program began with entertainment, SFG girls danced, followed by Ndingi boys. They all love to dance and are so fun to watch.
It was an overcast day, so the lighting isn’t too good. Sorry.
After the entertainment came the mass, celebrated by Fr Steven Mgubwa, good friend of Fr Kiriti and professor of education at Nairobi U. and after the mass came the speeches and more speeches and more speeches. Kenyans make LONG speeches, making the same point in 5 different ways! I have yet to be at such a function in which the speeches were short and to the point. ACH! So of course the projected end of 1:45 became 3 pm. People were hungry and needing a potty break. Since I was going to Nairobi to be met by Sr Judy, I took a chance and asked Fr Mbugwa whether he was returning today and if so could I hop a ride. He graciously agreed, but he was needing to get back, so we downed out lunch very quickly and piled into his car—his 80-year old mother and a nun.
On the way he told me his mother had lost everything during the post-election violence of 2007. Their house had been burned, their livestock slaughtered or stolen, EVERYTHING was lost. He relocated he to an area just off the Nairobi road, but it has been very hard on her b/c she also lost her support system, dear friends and neighbors whom she had known all her married life. Fr Kiriti had said she “went mad”, but is now coming back. Fr Mbugwa said she had temporarily lost her memory and at one point didn’t know who he was. She’s a very sweet lady who seemed quite sane to me, but this is more that 3 years after the incidents. About ¾ of the way to Nairobi he turned off onto a frontage road and then right for about ½ mile to a gate. The house she now lives in is pretty nice for a rural Kenyan house, tile (not dirt) floor and reasonable size living room. The outhouse in back could accommodate 2 (I used it) and while there is no running water inside, a faucet is right by the front. A cow was penned nearby and he showed us fields in which she is growing all her traditional crops, maize, beans, carrots, onions, tomatoes etc, as well as fruits on very old trees. He has tried to move her to a more urban place where he could have someone care for her, but she insists she wants to continue to farm. What a lady!
We had arranged for Sr Judy to meet me at the basilica in central Nairobi, as that was near where Fr Mbugwa was going. It was a loving meeting, smiles and hugs. Judy and I had become fast friends in past years. She is lively, funny, open and so loving. She used to be stationed here in Naivasha where she worked with HIV+ women, but has now been transferred to Cardinal Maurice Otunga Girls Empowerment Center. It was established to giving training to girls from the Kibera slum in Nairobi—girls who were not able to go to high school, mostly for lack of fees. They come to the center for 2 years, and have a choice of tailoring (sewing) knitting (using machines) or catering and all get computer training. Although they can accommodate 160 in the facility, they have only 68 because they don’t have the money for more.
The buildings were once a retreat center and are very nice—tile floors, large rooms forming a quadrangle surrounding a garden with lovely trees and flowers. The nuns have a spacious apartment, nice kitchen with stove, refrigerator, running water, dining room, living room and large bedrooms upstairs. Mine was almost as large as my whole house here in Naivasha, with its own bathroom (with western toilet, always a +).
Sr Judy and Sr Christine run the school, along with a social worker and several lay teachers. Judy is a bundle of energy and enthusiasm and hardly sits still. “Like spit on a hot griddle” I told her. Sr Christine is more serene, but really a fun person. We all got along like life-long friends, sitting at the dinner table late in the evening, talking and laughing. They just couldn’t leave me alone—“Margo, eat more. You eat too little. More tea? Juice? Have some more stew.” I countered by teasing that they were mothering me too much. Judy is in her 30’s and Christine is maybe in her 40’s. In addition Sr Josephine, in her 60’s was with us as a visitor. She is diabetic and arthritic, so had retired from teaching, but she still has a great wit and twinkle in her eyes.
Sr Christine told me about Jecinta, a 14-year old student who has recently joined the school. I will write about her separately, but in the telling I saw what a wonderful loving heart Sr Christine has for these girls. These are the very fortunate ones. When they finish the 2-year training, they will have marketable skills and have had the loving guidance of these 2 dear nuns.
Sunday morning I slept so late we had to drive to Resurrection Garden Retreat Center for mass, a short 10-minute walk. The center is very large, lovely gardens and small meditation areas spread over maybe 10 acres or so. This is a very lush area with rich brown soil that would make bones grow, it’s so fertile. Although this is winter here, there were still beautiful bougainvillea and many other vines and plants I couldn’t identify. The church is massive, but b/c there were not retreatants, the congregation was confined to students from several schools, all scrubbed up in their uniforms. Sr Judy is the choir director and the girls sang like angels. It was so beautiful and full of life, I couldn’t keep my body from dancing along with the girls who danced in the aisle and in front of the altar. This is traditional here and the dancers were fabulous. Judy was like a dancer herself, graceful as a swan as she led the girls. Later she told me that most of them had not known how to sing when they came.
As we arrived back at the school I saw some of the girls who had danced and asked them to show me how to do the head covers they wore. Immediately I was having my head wrapped, a lesso around my waist and another tied on top.
The girls giggled and laughed as teenagers are wont to do. They then began to clap and sing for me to dance. They cheered and we all laughed.
In the afternoon Judy and I walked back to Resurrection Garden and wandered along a hilly pathway lined with inspirational panels and the stations of the cross, which were tall bronze reliefs—beautiful and very moving.
Back at the school we had tea and donuts produced by the girls who are studying catering. They’re not very sweet, but delicious.
Judy went out to play football with the girls while I talked to Sr Christine more about Jecinta. We called her in so I could talk to here, hear her story and take her picture. I then went out to watch the football game, which was a very lively affair, with Sr Judy on one side and Dominick, the school jack-of-all-trades on the other. Judy was quite a player! She scored 3 goals, while Dominick scored only 1. The final result was 4-1, which Judy announced triumphantly!
I took a short nap and when I came down Judy had prepared a wonderful meal of the tenderest chicken, mashed potatoes stuffed with tomatoes, cabbage and onions, a dish that is at almost all meals here. Again she talked well into the evening, sharing our stories and just enjoying each other’s company.
I confessed that I had thought I would be going to the mother house, had worried about how to address the Mother Superior, and would I do something to offend. This was so relaxed and fun!
This morning I was up early. The shower heater was broken, but Judy had given me a very large heating coil but put in a bucket. Very quickly I had nice warm water which I used in the shower to wash. Going downstairs I found the dining deserted, as they were at work and Sr Josephine, who loves to sleep, was not yet down. I found a plate of avocados on the table and made myself a sandwich. Yum! The avocados here are fabulous!
Soon Judy and Christine arrived, again urging me to eat too much, but I resisted, protesting I’d have to move into a size larger clothes if I stayed there very long.
At 10 Dominick drove us to Nairobi where Sr Judy put me on a matatu to Naivasha and in 1 ½ hours I was back home. I am awaiting the arrival of Anita Dippery, one of the Kenya Help board members, her 16-year old grandson, Riley and her young friend, Christina, who is currently studying in Egypt.
All for now,