I’ve been here 2 ½ days, this being Saturday night in California and Sunday morning here. I am still staying at Fr. Kiriti’s house in Naivasha, although he is in Nakuru, attending to his masses, probably back later today. Toleo and Sarah were fetched by a friend, Espedita this morning, for mass, but I stayed back. As is always the case, the time adjustment, trying to convince my body and brain to instantly move forward 11 hours is a bit much, but combining that with an altitude increase from about 60 feet to 6000 ft is major. Combine all that with total exhaustion and you will understand why I didn’t even get dressed yesterday, napped several times and went to bed early. Finally, this morning I’ve gathered the energy to shower and shampoo—first time since I left Wednesday morning from Menlo Park. That tells you a lot about my energy. It will come and for now I’m thoroughly enjoying being what my husband termed a lazy lunk.
Toleo and Sarah, both age 13 and in class 8, are very shy around me. I hardly get eye contact and they speak so quietly I have to ask for repeats often. However, yesterday afternoon I convinced Sarah to bring me her math materials, she having confessed that math was her academic downfall. We sat side-by-each, talking through the questions on a multiple choice practice exam. It turns out there were a few very basic ideas she had not understood. In addition, like most other kids she didn’t know how to attack a fairly complicated question of a type commonly found on exams. As we worked, a bit of magic happened. She must have decided I was OK after all, not someone to be feared. It was wonderful to see the transformation on her face as she began to understand more of the work. Toleo had been preparing the dinner, so we had to stop, but before we put it away, we agreed she would re-do all the questions that she now thought she understood. She circled the numbers on her sheet and this morning when I asked whether she had redone them (she had) and was she able to do them correctly (she was) she looked very happy.
After dinner I sat between the 2 of them, talking through an English exam. All the national exams at this level are multiple choice and one might think a native speaker, reasonably well-spoken would find them a breeze, but no. We read together a short essay, then dug into the questions. The differences in the choices were really subtle and when I said as much, I had to define “subtle” for them. By then I was literally falling asleep as we talked, to I packed myself off to bed, promising we would work more today.
Now I am alone and it’s very quiet here. When I was at Mji Wa Neema I was always wakened very early by the kids getting ready for school and by birds with a very distinctive call. I never figured out which birds they were because I would close my windows and go back to sleep. I haven’t heard that bird here yet.
This is so very different from all my other visits when I went directly to Mji. Of necessity I had to unpack all my household items so I could prepare food, and take myself off to the Naivas (local supermarket) to buy it. I had no “lazy lunk” time. Up until about 4 years ago Julia, the matron, was there along with lots of kids. Now I believe it is abandoned, closed because the priests who came after Fr Kiriti didn’t want to bring in more orphans. It’s not as if there are no children here needing a home, a bed, 3 meals a day and a loving “Mom” as all the kids called her, to wake them, feed them breakfast and send them off to school, to hear their stories, to encouraged them, teach them, love them. Somehow I’d thought it would always be here, she would always be Mom and there would always be a passel of shaved heads, knocking at my door, “Margo, do you have? “Margo, can I borrow?”, “Margo, will you help me with my math?” But that era is over. My sadness is not and there is no time to build a new era. This really is my last full summer. Maybe I’ll be able to come for August in the future, to continue the “tuitioning”, now termed “Math Camp” because tuitioning is now illegal. Kenyans are crafty. A law is passed banning something, so they call it something else!
Whatever the future holds, coming to Kenya for 15 summers has been the most incredibly moving, rewarding and wonderful experience. Watching the growth of St. Francis Secondary School for Girls (SFG), meeting literally hundreds of wonderful people (and a few not-wonderful folks), seeing the Mji kids grow into responsible adults, slowly coming to understand a culture at once tribal and at the same time full of western influences—all this and more have so enriched my life!!!!! It has truly been a gift and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!