#20 Elephant Orphanage, Boys Will Be Boys, Scarves, Judy July 15, 2015
Sunday morning Ron and Carol wanted to visit the elephant orphanage in Nairobi and generously invited Cyrus and me to go along. Since Ben was driving them and had to return anyway, it was an easy decision. The orphanage is open to the public just 1 hour per day, at the time they feed the babies. They want them to live as natural a life as possible without their mothers, most of whom have been victims of ivory poachers. We got a bit lost so didn’t arrive at the opening time, but we saw 2 groups, each if which had maybe 15-20. A wheel barrow full of large bottles arrived and each baby was given 1 or 2. Older ones chewed, somewhat ineffectively, on tree limbs. A very knowledgeable attendant introduced each one by name and told us why he/she was there. Some had been abandoned, probably because it was too young to keep up with the herd, which may have been on the move to avoid poachers.
The goal is to get them back into the wild, which can take some months or even years. They move into the forest and find a herd, but it takes time for the herd to accept a new member. Eventually they will, but until that time the young one will return to the orphanage from time to time.
As you see, some ostriches also live there as well as rhino babies, but they are not on display. Here they are leaving the enclosure and heading back into their natural habitat.
Monday afternoon we had a bit of a kerfuffle with my readers. Some bad blood had developed between 2 of the guys, I’ll call them A and B. A had some grudge against B (he had told me B was giving away my books, but they had grabbed the books and returned them to me.) A had kicked B on the way to my house. This was dutifully reported to me. I took each boy aside, talked to B about being responsible and respecting the privilege of having the little library to use and to A about no hitting etc. is allowed. I told A he would need to resolve his issue with B and apologize for kicking. It was then I discovered A has a very short fuse. Not only did he refuse to apologize, but also he was angry with me. As he stalked away he said, “I’m never coming to this place again!” “I’m sorry to hear that because I like you and you enjoyed reading the books, didn’t you.” (He’s an avid reader). (Now stubborn) “No, I didn’t like the books and I’m never coming back!” “I’m sorry you feel that way and if you change your mind, you can come back, but you must apologize. Come back when you are ready.” A stomped off, presumably to home, but in fact he lay in wait for B and punched him hard in the stomach, then ran off.
Next day while the boys were in selecting their books, I saw A out on the teeter-totter. I slowly walked over (thinking about how I would handle it) and could see he was unrepentant, but wanted another book. I told him he now owed me an apology, in addition to B, that he had been rude and he’d hurt my feelings. “You can come back when you are ready, but until then, you’ll have to leave the children’s home compound.” Later I saw him peeking around my door, I but didn’t go out for a few minutes, again thinking about how to approach him. I wanted it to be a lesson in admitting he was wrong, expressing his sorrow and seeing that all that can happen without his being physically hurt. I know that small children are routinely beaten here and I suspect A has had more than his share, which may explain the short fuse. When I looked out again, I saw a sight that really pleased me. Lucas, our 7th grader, stood with A on one side and B on the other. Gone was the angry sullen look on A’s face and shortly the two shook hands. A didn’t come in, though, until all the others had left. Then he quietly slipped in. I invited him into the kitchen to sit down. It was a mumbled apology, but maybe it was a brand new experience for him. I thanked him and reiterated that I would not tolerate hitting. Then I asked for a hug, which I received and he went out to the hallway to choose a book, while I quietly breathed a sigh of relief. I wasn’t at all sure how it would all play out. While I’m under no illusion that A is “fixed” I know it was a good lesson for all the boys. They saw I would hold steady to my beliefs and there were consequences for misbehavior, yet I was ready to forgive and to welcome back any stray sinner. I hope they’ll think about it, but who knows.
Today they were all back again, thick as thieves. I was tutoring Miriam at the kitchen table. After she left, I suddenly found myself surrounded by 7 boys who wanted help with math. Who would have dreamed it? We talked about radius, diameter and circumference of circles and the difference between complementary and supplementary angles. I’d had a long day and was exhausted, so eventually I sent them home, but promised to do more math with them tomorrow. If I’m not careful I may have to slip 6 or 7 little boys in my suitcases!!!
Soon after my 6th graders left, in came Kantai and Monica, both out of high school and getting ready for the next step in their education. Kantai wants to be Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel! He’s a great kid, but not an academic type at all. He’s really eager to drive those big earth movers. Since Kenya is building road like crazy, he has a good chance for a job, but first has to take a course. Monica is in nursing school, but on holiday right now. Judy and I have known both of them since they were little kids – 11 years ago they were 7 or 8. We promised a long time ago that all the orphans at Mji Wa Neema could have as much education as they were capable of, and now that so many have finished high school, we’re scrambling to fulfill that promise.
Kantai began talking about how much he missed Judy and how much he loves her. Judy was closer to the kids growing up than I. She raised money for new shoes for them, took them on great outings – many had never left Naivasha – and always had a special dinner for them. The year she brought chopsticks and fixed a reasonable facsimile of a Chinese dinner, really set the tone. They now eat any special dinner with the chopsticks. Some have become quite adept. Kantai asked whether Judy and I skyped, but no, it’s pricey because here you pay by the minute. Calling the US, however, is cheap, so we dialed up Judy. I didn’t tell her who was here, just “There are a couple of people here who want to talk to you,” and handed the phone to Kantai, then to Monica.
Here she is talking to Judy. By the time I got to talk to Judy, she was in tears, and I think Kantai got a bit choked up too, although I suspect he’d never admit it.
Today was scarf presentation day, at long last. Anita Dippery’s knitting elves had really outdone themselves to the degree that I had to ask Ron and Carol to bring about ½ the scarves in their luggage. Scarf Day is special for all form 4’s who get to choose a hand-knitted or crocheted scarf. There were as many styles and colors as you could possibly imagine. Since today was the first day of mocks (practice exams for KCSE) they were tired, some tense and we had to wait for ½ hour in the library for a geography exam to end. No matter how I try to keep a semblance of order, it is always chaos. Today was no different, but they all got scarves.
The new staff members also get one, but that must wait until tomorrow because we ended after 5 and most teachers had gone home.