Maya’s Experiences part II
Fr. Makarios’ home, St. Teresia; Archbishop Ndingi, and Marcus’ KCC slum school
I’m home now, but before I write about that, I still need to write about the last three places I visited before Kositei. In my last email, I wrote about the workshop in Nairobi that made nativity scenes out of maize and banana products. Later that day, Granny and I decided to visit a center started by the priest who had celebrated mass that week and was one of Granny’s many friends. We started out on the road out of Naivasha and ended up on a highway. The highways don’t seem to be any bigger than normal roads, most of them are just one lane in each direction, and they all look the same. 95% of a highway passes dirt, grass, and trees – no shops, few people, scattered herds of livestock here and there. There are occasional signs for a business or plant or school or something but no directional signs (ex: Kenya Highway, 17 North, 38 kilometers to Nakuru).
For this reason, Granny was unsure whether she was going the right way or not. Fr. Makarios’ center is south of Naivasha, towards Mai Mahu. The other direction is north, towards Nakuru. I told her to keep driving in that direction until we were positive that it was the wrong way. I can’t remember a single time (except that time) when I thought I was going the wrong direction, turned around, and was right. I can, however, recall several occasions when I drove for a while, turned around, drove for a while longer, realized I had been correct to begin with, and turned back around.
So we’re driving, and the sun is glaring in my eyes. Kenyan cars have the driver on the right, so I was sitting on the left and the sun was coming in my window. It was 5:30 pm, and since the sun sets in the west, the west was to our left, meaning we were heading north. Grumbling, Granny pulled off the road and turned around. Before getting back on the road, she confirmed with the driver of a nearby stopped lorrie that this road led to Nakuru. (Lorries are big trucks that carry 3x the weight that they should be carrying and therefore can only go about 25mph. They’re used for transporting materials like coal, stuff that we use railroads for.)
This unfortunate waste of time actually turned out to have a bright side. Having turned around, we were driving on the other side of the road, and saw several brightly striped zebras. This time, we were close enough to slow down and take pictures. I’d never seen a zebra up close before, so the extra 30 minutes of driving were worth it for me, the one not paying for petrol. J
We drove back into Naivasha, double checked the direction with another man, saw a sign that pointed us towards Mai Mahu, and drove out the other side of Naivasha. Even with all of the reassurance, Granny was still unsure of the way. Clearly, the lorrie driver whose job it was to drive that route, the friendly local, the only official-looking sign I’d seen that showed Mai Mahu being that direction, and the scientifically proven and universally accepted fact that the sun sets in the west in 99.9999999% of the world wasn’t convincing enough for Granny. It wasn’t until we were at Fr. Makarios’ gate that she was sure.
Fr. Makarios is a friendly, light-skinned man with a puzzling accent. His family is from Egypt where he was born, but he grew up in Ireland and also lived in Canada for a long time. I’m not sure if that makes him a mzungu, since technically he’s African, but it doesn’t really matter. He admitted to Granny that for months, he took the wrong road up to his school too! Then he explained about the kids and what his center does. There are 30-something children living currently living there, all between the ages of 6 and 12, except for four special cases who are three years old. All of the kids have suffered abuse, largely physical and sexual. The children are brought to Fr. M by relatives who want to help and are treated with professional one-on-one counseling and lots of love. They have school in the mornings and afternoons and play time in the evenings. They begin to reconnect with their family after one year in the program by scheduling visits at the center and at the child’s home. At the end of two years, the kids leave and live with their relatives. He reminded me that in Kenya, everyone has relatives.
The school is beautiful by US standards, and a royal palace by Kenyan standards. We got a tour of the large girls’ and boys’ dorms with attached rooms for volunteers and a look at the kitchen and dining room. All over the walls are sweet little messages about kindness, friendship, love, happiness, and other uplifting words. It even has a washing machine and dryer- the only ones I saw during my whole trip. They’re only used for sheets, but I was still impressed. The children wash their own clothes by hand like everyone else; the home must prepare them for the rest of their life, not spoil them. Speaking from personal experience, not knowing how to do chores like that in Kenya makes life a struggle.
We were introduced to the children during their playtime. He warned us that one of the kids had been burned all over his face and hands, so we should make sure not to stare. They were sitting in groups of about 6 kids, arranged around two volunteers in the center explaining a game. They listened patiently until the end, when Fr. M took me to each of the groups to say hello. As soon as we reached the first group, the kids broke out into a rehearsed chant that went something like,
“Welcome to St. Teresia something something something something something something feel at home!” It was absolutely adorable and said perfectly in unison. I concluded that this place must get tons of visitors because each child in every group knew it by heart. I’m not surprised, it has the most impressive architecture out of anywhere I visited and an amazing mission. If I come back next summer (which I would love to do), I’m definitely considering volunteering there.
The next day, I visited the school I’ve been hearing about since Granny’s first trip to Kenya, Archbishop Ndingi. (If you want a description of the campus, I’m sure there’s one somewhere in one of Granny’s emails.) We got up bright and early to arrive by piki-piki at 9. The piki-piki drivers charged us each ksh 40, but Granny insisted she wouldn’t pay more because we’re mzungus and that they both knew the real price was ksh 30. Surprised by her firm and uncompromising tone, they accepted the money and timidly rode off. Later, Jecinta informed us that the price actually was ksh 40, and we laughed about after all the times mzungus have been ripped off, we’ve finally gotten a discount. Oops.
Granny introduced me to the principal, a very kind and welcoming man, who then lead us around for a tour. I couldn’t help but giggle when I saw the boys’ dorm, and when he couldn’t see anything unusual to laugh about, he looked at me for an explanation. I didn’t want to offend him or the school, but the boys’ beds having the same pink sheets as the St. Francis girls is really pretty funny.
After seeing the school, we went to the staff room to greet the math teacher, Madam Elizabeth. She was very sweet and smiley and kind of reminds me of my last math teacher at home, except a little quieter. At 9:30, she led us to the form 3A classroom where Granny familiarized the students with factoring and FOIL (the opposite). They’ve been taught a way to factor and expand, but it’s not as efficient. They picked it up pretty well, and I got to go around and check their math and answer any questions.
After the short 40-minute period, there was tea break. Since many of the boys had asked that I greet them, I decided to go into the dining hall to say a quick “Hi” to all of them at once. This proved to be harder than I’d thought. By the time I got to the dining hall, many students had already finished and were pushing their way out. Of course then they saw Granny and I, they had to turn around and push back in, so there was quite a little jam at the door. After I entered, I realized the stage was on the other side of the hall and I’d have to walk through the whole crowded isle to get there. After 50 “excuse me’s”, we got to the front and turned to face the school.
The kids that had sat down to let me pass we standing again and people were pushing, chatting, laughing, shouting, slurping tea, scraping chairs, and SSSSSSSSS!-ing each other. In Kenya people say “ssss” instead of “shhh”. Granny and I just stood there, looking at the crowd and waiting for the noise level to decrease. Three minutes later, it was quiet enough for us each to say a few words. I escaped as quickly as I could, declining the offers for tea and to join a table, but Granny stopped in the middle to scold two boys shoving one another and watched them shake hands before walking out.
Although the next class we went to was form 4, we taught the same material and the students didn’t pick it up as quickly. Elizabeth explained that the A and B streams separate the fast and slow learners, instead of being random like at St. Francis. We’d gotten the fast form 3 class, but the slower form 4 one. I like this separation because at my school, PALY, we have five math lanes, and even my middle school, Jordan, had two. Having been in each lane for a year in middle school, I know how differently they’re taught in the interest of the pace of the students. Having more than one level gives more people a chance to be personally challenged and feel comfortable asking questions.
At 11:30, we said goodbye to the Ndingi students and headed to MH for a quick snack. Twenty minutes later, we picked up Jecinta and headed out on the highway (in the right direction) to visit the last school on our list. Like St. Teresia, it was founded by an immigrant, is free, and half of its staff is volunteers. It’s named after its location in the KCC slum, which is named after the KCC milk factory right next to it, which is named after the KCC brand milk it produces, which is really tasty. The school was created by a New Zealander named Marcus who came to Kenya and saw the need for a school for slum children. He built one from scratch with the help of donations, many of which came from people who saw his page on Facebook, and the school has been running for a few years.
The kids are, of course, adorable and seemed to be learning exactly the same stuff that I was learning at that age. There are two classes right now, one for kids pre-school aged and one for kindergarten age, give or take. The rooms are in the process of being upgraded from metal sheets and sticks to real buildings, with painted walls and everything. The construction is the opposite of St. Teresia, but what this school has is perfect for its purpose. Marcus also showed us his huge garden, about 10x the size of the school, that will soon produce large quantities of produce that will hopefully bring in revenue for the school. He is really doing everything that he can to help these children and it definitely seems to be working!
I loved visiting all three of these schools and will definitely visit them again in the future. The stories behind the first and last ones are truly inspiring. I’ll try to write soon about coming home, but I still have tons going on with cheer camp starting tomorrow and a family bike trip the week after, so who knows.