I had asked my old buddy, Ben, to drive Alison and me to Nairobi for the annual crafts buying event. He was the accountant here in the parish until his ethics clashed with those of a previous (unnamed) priest. Ben left his post rather than compromise his ideals. He has driven me to the market for the past 8 to 10 years and he knows the ropes so well. He’s a great bargainer, and tells the hawkers about why I’m buying things and where the money people donate for them goes—back to Kenya to educate kids. Several of the sellers thanked me and a couple gave me a small gift after I had bought items from them. One lady said she had grown up in a children’s home and was very grateful that her school fees had been paid. I bought a few things I’ve never tried before and all the time was thinking “What would the people of TMC like this year?” Of course there are other opportunities for people to donate for crafts, but the TMC members are so supportive of this work and they love the crafts!
Right before I left I put a newly charged battery in my camera so I could get lots of pix, only when I took my first (and as it turned out, only) pic, the camera indicate the battery was gone. AAAARRRGGHHH!!! Will the gremlin in my life never stop pestering me???? Of course I had picked a battery that had been charged, probably 1 month ago, but they do spontaneously discharge over time. Sorry I couldn’t get more pix, but I think I’ll need to go again, and that time I will check to see the battery level.
Ben used to drive a cab in Nairobi and he knows every road, street, back alley and cow trail. We zipped there pretty fast and went right to the mall. The market used to be outside in the hot sun (or wet rain), but several years ago they arranged for the second-to-the-top floor of the parking structure to be available every Thursday for vendors, none of whom is Maasai, according to Ben. I suspect they are mostly Kikiyu, and those tribe members tend to be self-starters and very good business people (according to a number of my Kikiyu friends, who, of course, could never be biased!) The vendors are pretty aggressive, “Mommy, I have just the right thing for you.” “I am your sister, I’ll give you best price.” “Welcome to my shop” (a spot about 10 X 10 spread with a cloth over the concrete floor). “Please, just come look.” And on and on. I have learned how to convey I’m not stopping at that shop and we headed directly to my friend Joseph Njorogi, from whom I have bought for the past few years. He has very clever items (no, no hints until I get home) and now that he knows what I do with the donations people give for them, he gives me a very low price. Readers of several years may remember 2014, when my granddaughter, Maya, come with me, Njorogi invited us to visit his farm just outside Nairobi, where we saw his family members making the crafts he sells. Much of his materials come from banana leaves and corn husks, along with wire, bits of fabric, rope and a lot of creativity and work of many hands. We all loved being there and of course bought many items.
He has a shop in a little back alley of a place, where we have also bought over the years. Last year I saw a shop with beautifully woven baskets/bowls. She owner wanted very high prices (I call it skin tax), but Njorogi told me he could get them for much less. I told him what I wanted and he found a lot of beautiful bowls for much less that what I would have been charged. He has promised to do the same for me this year.
After shopping, which is incredibly tiring, walking up and down aisles, on concrete floors, being accosted constantly by people, all of whom need to make a living, bending over to view the goods, bargaining and trying not to feel guilty about bargaining too hard. Ben is worth his weight in gold in matters of determining a fair price, all the while lugging my purchases, which we’ve carried in cloth bags (of course!!!). When I finally ran out of energy, money and inspiration, we deposited everything in the car and headed for the restaurant on the ground floor where we always have lunch. Sitting down felt very good!
On the way back, I received a text from Karanja, whom I had asked about getting a goat for the reunion of the children of Mji Wa Neema, which will be sometime in August when most will be on semester break. I had been told that a goat would be a least $70 and could be as much as $110 and I was hoping Karanja, who heads the committee to get MWN recertified so it can take in more children, would give us a fair price. He wanted me to go today to his farm to select the goat. That was about the last thing I would want to do, but I finally agreed. I picked him at the road to the Deliverance Church whose sign is so big it has become a landmark—“I live just up from the Deliverance Church” or “Turn right at the Deliverance Church and proceed 9 houses, then left….” At Alison’s suggestion, we had invited small Joseph to go along to select the goat. He had no school today, their having been closed to honor the ending of Ramadan. Of course he was delighted. He hardly even gets to ride in a car.
Karanja’s farm is just beyond SFG, right on the edge of the highway. He proudly told us he owns 6 acres, the value of which has doubled, tripled, quadrupled many times over the 30 + years he has owned it, but he’s not ready to sell. He raises goats on the land and waits until the inevitable urban sprawl from Naivasha reaches this far south of the town. It will be like all those multimillionaires in Silicon Valley, paving over fertile farm land, ending it’s use forever.
There were several fenced fields, one with a single goat, huge and scary. He was tied, but he lunged and strained, trying to get away. Karanja said he doesn’t like women and tries to attack them—except for lady goats, of course. He’s the breeding male—the big white one in the pic above.
Karanja announces he wants us to have 2 goats. I’d been told that a goat would cost $70 to $100, so I’m not eager to buy 2! “I don’t think I can afford 2 goats.” “I’ll give them to you for ksh 4000 each ($40).” Even at that I wasn’t too sure Julia would want to put up with 2 goats, but he was so kind to make us that offer, I couldn’t refuse. Delivery was promised next. Read # 12 for the end of the story. Well not really the end. That will be when we eat the goats. Oooooh! That sounds so terrible.
Finally we leave (it’s getting dark), we take Karanja home, get back to Mji Wa Neema, report to Julia (she was very happy to be getting TWO goats). Alison and I could hardly stumble into the house, rustle up something for dinner and fall into bed. Big day!
PS In case you are wondering, it is the custom to refer to a man by his last name. Some women are referred to that way, but often they are called by the first name.