#17-2013 Jane Doe and Baby Guinevere Go Home and Other Stuff
This was a lovely morning. I didn’t have to be at SFG until 1:30 to take the official class of 2013 picture. Imagine my surprise looking at my clock when I woke and saw 9:30! What a lazy bum, as we say in our family. My nights are restless, so it was good to sleep late and dawdle away the morning about my house for awhile, as if I hadn’t a care in the world.
Jecinta dropped by to share the latest. I do love chatting with her. She was off to Nakuru to the office of children with disabilities. Her many hats include seeing to the education of those children in the Naivasha area who are blind, deaf, physically or mentally disabled. She had to collect checks for pay school fees for them. Most of the schools are in Nakuru, so in a few days I’ll take her to visit the schools to pay the fees and see how they are doing. Judy went with her on this trek last year, but this time I will drive her.
On my way to school I stopped by the Safaricom shop where David Mungai (second oldest of the Mji Wa Neema kids) works. (Pictured is David in 2012 at Judy’s Chinese dinner, where she gave each kid a scarf) He is on a break now, but will resume his medical school training in September. I needed some phone credit and wanted to see David for a few minutes. His job is boring, but pays him a bit. He is now too old to stay at the children’s home. Kenyan law says no one over 17 can stay here. That means Cyrus, David and David Wekesa can no longer stay at the home where they lived since early childhood. It’s hard for them, but Jecinta has to enforce that rule. If the Children’s Dept found older kids staying here it would be very bad for her. So sad.
On from David to see Alfred Maragia, principal of Ndingi to discuss my plan for “tuitioning” after the schools close. I’ve always offered 2 weeks of free math workshop, using the Ndingi chem. lab, to any local high school student who wanted to come. That’s where I met Kennedy. (Pictured are some form 1 boys from last year)
Now the Kenyan Education Tsar has outlawed tuitioning, a traditional time when form 4 students had to stay 2 weeks into their August break for further preparation for KCSE. Parents were required to cough up extra fees for that, hence “Tuitioning”. Ruth had requested of the local ed office for me to be allowed to use Ndingi again, but the answer was NO! No students are to be allowed within the school compound during school breaks. NONE, NADA, NYET! As usual, my little problem solving brain went to work, and I quickly developed the argument that the dining hall at Mji Wa Neema has a blackboard, it’s a children’s home, not a school, and it isn’t tuitioning b/c I don’t charge a fee. Voila! I asked Fr. Peter for permission to use it. He was OK, as were Jecinta and Julia (matron of MWN). Alfred was pleased by the opportunity for his boys. Ruth is eager to send her own daughter (not a student of SFG) and Mary Fry who sponsors many students from a local elementary school in both SFG and Ndingi indicated she would encourage her kids to attend. If all those kids come it will be SRO. We’ll see.
On the way to Ndingi it occurred to me that I’ve always taken pix of the graduates of SFG, but had never taken the Ndingi boys. ARGH! What a sexist I am. So I will go there on Friday to remedy that omission.
Soon after arriving at SFG, I had a message from Jane Doe that she was being discharged today. ACH! Too soon! Baby arrived only Friday (this is Monday). OK, took the pix of SFG grads, then off to pick Jane, sister and baby Guinevere.
While waiting I thought I might see Cindy Berkland again. She is the nurse, not from Iowa, as I had mis-remembered, but from Ohio. Not too bad, 4 letters both beginning and ending in vowels. That’s how I remember things! Clearly not a foolproof system.
Cindy was there, busily dealing with “challenges”, but took a few minutes to talk. Suddenly she said, “I want to interview Jane.” A Cincinnati TV news show will be featuring her accomplishment later this fall, so she wants to video new moms. Cindy hadn’t thought to bring her video camera, so I offered the one given to SFG by a generous KH donor. She was very pleased, having thought she might have to use her phone. So up to school again to pick the camera, back down, by which time Jane has been discharged, has a wretched headache and wants to go home. In the meantime I discovered not only do I not remember how the camera works (had to read to manual to turn it on – yeah, what a techie!), but also the batteries had not been recharged. I had bought an extra for just such emergencies, but both were out. Promised Cindy I would bring camera tomorrow and left with Jane, Diana and Guinevere. Is she a cutie or what!!!
I felt so bad driving those bumpy roads, knowing how painful it was for Jane. She’s not a moaner and groaner, but I knew. We had to stop at the Naivas for food and pampers, but finally bumped our way to her small one-room house, with loo down the way. I have an environmental prejudice against disposable diapers, but here, where all washing is done by hand after toting water from afar, I can’t truly blame people for using them.
We were greeted by a host of little kids, all wanting to know, “How are you?” and calling “Mzungu”. Cars coming to this poor neighborhood are a novelty, particularly one driven by a mzungu. Neighbors were sitting on a wall chatting and greeting Jane et al. We lugged in the food and all the stuff from the hospital. After struggling to find the key, Diana opened the door and within a minute Jane and baby were settled in bed. Diana had to go to the local shops for charcoal and paraffin, both used for cooking inside the house. So bad for lungs, but it’s what everyone has to do. The consequences of poverty and lack of infrastructure are evident at every turn.
The whole business of mzungu vs. African is very hard. I know I get privileges and exceptions not given locals. I feel bad about it, but confess that I exploit it if I think it benefits others. To refer to this phenomenon I’ve coined the term “mzungu factor” (MF if I may). For example, when I stuck my head in the operating theater (definitely a euphemism) to inquire whether Jane’s baby had been delivered, I was greeted with a smile and with respect. Most locals will agree a Kenyan would have been rudely sent away. Today when I drove to the gate during non-visiting hours to pick Jane, the gateman opened w/o a comment. It’s so unfair, but I was glad I could drive in so Jane had to walk only a short distance to the car. The other side of the MF coin is the automatic price increase of 10% to 100% in any situation where bargaining occurs – like the Maasai market.
One day I walked a short distance to a little shop by SFG where a multitude of items are sold, including geometry tool boxes, needed by everyone, but owned by few. I wanted to buy some to give as “incentives” (aka bribes) I found that my price was ksh 60, whereas Christopher Murimi (SFG math teacher) had just reported he’d bought one for ksh 50. I argued with the proprietor until he backed down, then paid the ksh 60, explaining I didn’t care about the ksh 10 (about $.12), it was the principle. I left him bewildered but grateful for the small bonus.
So much for today.