#16 How I Celebrated July 4 July 5, 2015
It was Talent Show day, as you may recall. It was also shampooing day, and the day I had not set my alarm, thus a late start. AND I still had to get the balloons. Out to the gate. OH RATS! Big wedding going by, going exactly where I was, but fortunately not stopping. Further delay, but then finally I get to SFG, where the TS was in full progress. Took many pictures, but most weren’t very good, either unfocused or too far away. Here are a few.
These girls are doing a traditional dance. They design the costumes from lessos, which are long strips of cloth, used to protect the clothes, like an apron. As you see, they are very creative in their designs. There were several such dances, all great, full of energy, very lively.
I’ve watched the MC for several years. She has pizazz. Don’t know whether she’s a great student, but she has personality plus, is full of life and never misses a beat.
Below she is approaching the judge’s table. You can see the sparkle in her eye. This girl could go places with the right break.
When there is a break while backstage organizes itself, she dances, sings, apes teachers, cracks jokes and generally amuses the crowd. Sometimes she will call up a teacher to demonstrate his/her dancing skills. They take it good-naturedly and most are good dancers. Below the MC picks is Madam Zita, a real Kenyan beauty who dresses with style. She’s the boarding mistress and I think teaches English.
I couldn’t stay for the whole event, which is always topped by a fashion show and selection of Miss St. Francis Girls. She gets to keep her crown for a whole year and then crowns next year’s queen. Evidently last year’s winner was a form 4, who took her crown and is not coming to give it to this year’s winner. Thus one of Janet’s and my purchases was a new crown.
I had been invited by a friend to come to tea in the afternoon and had accepted, thinking TS would be over by 4. I could see that wasn’t going to happen, so I made my excuses and left. When I arrived at his house, thinking I was having tea with his wife and 7 children, I walked into a very small room with 14 women seated around. Oh, my, what is this? I really didn’t know what to make of it, but sat down on a couch with barely enough space. I always marvel at how many Africans can fit themselves in a very small space. Eventually I asked whether they were a club. “Yes, we are a welfare club. We all work at Panda Flowers. We meet monthly, each donating Ksh 500. When someone has a need she can borrow from our fund.” I had known about welfare clubs. In fact, the St. Francis staff has one, of which I am an honorary member. I contribute when I’m here and always am invited to a big party after school closes in August. I wrote about the party last year in one of my last blogs.
Food was served, a “green gram stew” – much like split peas – with potatoes and chapatis. I had eaten a small lunch at school, but it had been at 2, so by 4:30 I wasn’t very hungry. Everywhere I go people get very upset about how little I eat. I would burst if I tried to eat a normal Kenyan meal! I held firm, but the comments, all good-natured, flew around the room. Then it was time for the meeting. It turned out not to be just an ordinary meeting. It was to honor the 14-year old son of the family, kind of a coming-of-age event. We stood toe-to-toe in that room while the women sang and clapped, dancing in place. I’m amazed at how they can dance all the time, singing and never miss a beat. We sang and clapped inside until it got kind of hot, so all stepped outside for the final part, which was giving the boy the blessing and each woman adding her shillings to the bag. Stephen, who had absented himself, now appeared as part of the ceremony. He congratulated his son and seemed so proud of him.
Just an aside, Stephen’s daughter is in form 3 at Milimani and happened to be in the class I taught on Monday. What a coincidence. I asked whether she had understood the unit circle. “Oh yes.” “Did the others understand?” “Oh yes.” Made me feel so good. I had told the women about the free math classes I will teach at Mji Wa Neema after the schools close. I can do it for only 4 days, before I leave for the US. When I said the word “free” they all got very excited. Middle class parents find teachers to do “tuitioning”, which is forbidden by law. Teachers earn a lot of money doing this, but the poorer classes can’t afford it. Although I have but 4 days, I can help a bit.
Only one catch, I forgot to ask Fr. Mwangi’s permission to use Mji Wa Neema dining hall again this year. He has graciously allowed it in the past. I claim what I do isn’t illegal because tuitioning is paid for and I don’t ask to be paid – thus it’s not tuitioning. I will go see him soon. I hope he is OK with it because I have told many people. It will definitely be awkward if he says “It’s not possible” a common way of saying “no” here. RATS! I wish I’d thought to ask him first.
I’m going to include a number of pix of the event so you can see what it was like.