Today was the last day of un-tuitioning, with 57 kids, if I counted correctly. Felicitas, the math/chemistry teacher from Ndingi couldn’t come, so Patrick took the 3’s and 4’s. Evidently he does a great job, b/c the kids seemed very happy.
Here is Felicitas taking a break yesterday, playing with 2-year old Johnson, son of Esther (older one—there are 2). Johnson screamed when he saw me the first time, terrified, and again the 2nd time, but somewhere along the line he must have decided I wasn’t a ghost, because he gave me a tentative smile and before I knew it we were shaking hands and high-5ing. He’s a darling little guy, very comfortable with the kids here, although, of course he doesn’t live here.
Below that is today’s class with Patrick at the rear, watching a student explain a problem.
I taught 17 1’s and 2’s today. They are not nearly as motivated as the 3’s and 4’s. Particularly the 4’s are suddenly aware that this is the last mile. This is not a test, it’s the real thing in 3 months.
Yesterday I received a text from Regina (former Ndingi math teacher) telling me that Dominic was to be ordained deacon today. I had met Dominic in 2005 when I interviewed 6 students who were being sent home for non-payment of fees and (according to Regina) would not be coming back because the parents couldn’t pay. I asked each of them what were their dreams for the future. Dominic wanted to be a priest. We found a sponsor for him (other 5 too) and he joined the seminary right out of high school. Here he is 11 years ago.
So today I closed up shop early and drove off to Kabati with small Esther (not Johnson’s mom) to show me the way. She warned me about a detour for a bridge repair, but she failed to tell me about the 60° grade into the creek and back up the other side! ARGH! Good thing it’s a RAV4 and very tough.
We arrived late, but it didn’t matter, the event began even later. As I looked at the program, complete with picture and name of the candidate I thought, “This isn’t Dominic,” but Dominic was in the procession. Mmm, Curious. It was well into 4 hours of understanding not one word of Kiswahili that I figured out it was Dominic’s brother who was making his final vows to become a brother. Dominic will be ordained a priest in 3 years! This is the parents presenting their son to the bishop, with Dominic behind (right).
It was cold despite being a bright, sunny day. As I sat trying to ignore my purple toes peeking out my sandals, I spotted a small piece of trash about 1 meter away from where I was sitting. It was right at the edge of the tent shadow. I didn’t know which way the sun was moving, but I was hoping it was coming around so eventually my toes would be in it (as well as the rest of my cold self). Sure enough, soon the trash was totally in the sun and the shadow edge was creeping toward me, but glacially.
I confess that when I’m in a non-comprehension experience my brain goes to all sorts of thoughts and calculations. I wondered how many people were there (LOTS), so I estimated how many under the tent directly across. Hmmmm, 8 people in a row, at least 8 rows, about 60+ people. Four such tents, and many people beyond. My side the same, except there were many more beyond the tents. Conclusion: about 800 +people there. Pretty impressive for this small church very far from Naivasha.
The ceremony was very formal, with blessings, prayers, speeches, incense, candles and of course several opportunities to drop some shillings into a donation baske. At the time the candidate was to prostrate himself before the altar, a mattress was brought out, complete with its plastic covering, tags and labels. After he made his vows and signed a document, there was much celebrating, with each member of the order hugging him, back slapping and general merryiment, except the mother looked like she had just given away her son, which she had!
As I said, it was 4 hours. The sun arrived to warm my toes about 3 ¾ hours into it and eventually I forgot I was cold (so maybe I wasn’t anymore).
There were 2 choirs, each in uniform. Kenyans love having everyone in identical garb. In a way it eliminates the best-dressed contest, which is good, but not every body looks good in the same style/color. Here are the 2 groups.
They both sang beautifully, often accompanying the dancing children that are part of nearly every celebration.
The bishop was resplendent in his full regalia. Notice the lace. He spoke at great length but of course I have no idea what he said. Everyone else seemed captivated by his homily
I had hoped to slip away right after the mass ended, but Dominic grabbed my hand, telling me I was to join the big shots in the rectory for lunch. As we walked across the grass, I stopped to greet the bishop and the parish priest, whom I knew from 2006 and 2007 when he as Fr. Kiriti’s assistant. I hadn’t realized who he was until he had walked to the microphone and I recognized his kind of swaggering body language. He was very surprised to see me and greeted me warmly. (Judy, is was Fr. James) There were other clergy I knew I’d met at some point, but ARGH!!! I can’t remember names after so many years.
As Esther and I entered the living room I was greeted by a tall and substantially build priest, who asked whether I remembered him. That’s the dreaded question, because the answer is usually NO. “Remind me,” is my regular response. “Think about it.” Oh dear! “Osesso!” He said. “Osesso!?” I wouldn’t have recognized him, but I know well who he is. He was in Syracuse, NY for 9 years. He came to visit me in Menlo Park. Good friend of Fr. Kiriti. It’s really embarrassing when I can’t place people nor dredge up names. I think I should wear a permanent sign, “Don’t expect me to remember, I’m 80, you know.”—-except I often failed at names well before I reached 80.
The lunch was a great spread and I was given the “Ladies first” courtesy, right behind the bishop. There was a traditional dish, a mix of mashed potatoes, green peas and maise, rice, stew (probably goat), salad, cabbage chicken, chipattis, all in abundance. Outside the rest of the folks waited in long lines for their food. It’s nice to be considered an honored guest, but it does make me uncomfortable.
Again I tried to slip away, having said my good-byes, but Dominic grabbed me again. I had to meet his parents, who are lovely people, and then Regina, who was responsible for me being there. All the while I’m trying to work my way up the sloping grass to the gate. Regina reminded me that I knew her mother (yes, I did recognize her) and another lady (a teacher) and another lady (another teacher) and ….. Finally I said we needed to go and we hopped in the car, conveniently just outside the gate. The bumpy rutted road was full of people walking back home, so the going was slow. I was anxious to get back, as Julia and I had planned to shop for tomorrow’s food (Mji Wa Neema reunion.)
Off we went to the big outdoor produce market—always an adventure. Fortunately Julia had brought Esther and Mungai along to tote our purchases—4 watermelons, many onions, garlic, ginger, celantro (ugh!) avocado, big bag of cabbages, green peppers, and more. Julia really knows her vendors and sailed through the crowd, with the 3 of us trailing behind.
Mungai and Esther made 3 trips to the car, which was loaded! And then we had to go to Naivas for “just a few things”. $40 later we came out with 3 large tubs of ice cream, milk, “smokies” for the kid’s breakfast, bread, biscuits (aka cookies), rice and a copy of The Saturday Nation. We almost had no space for us in the car!
Tired and ready for a rest, I climbed onto my bed with the paper, ready for the Sudoku, when my phone rang. ARGH! I’d forgotten that Charity’s mother had called in the middle of class this morning and I’d promised to call later. (When was I going to do that????) She was just outside the gate and could she come visit?
Charity was sponsored at SFG, graduating in 2011 (I think). Fr. Kiriti had spotted her when she was young and invited her to train to be an altar girl, back when that was a new thing. She was #1 in her class and is about to complete university in geo-spacial technology (huh?) She has had an attachment (internship) with KenGen (geothermal energy) and hopes to get hired there. Mama Charity (mothers are identified by their daughters in this way) has really struggled to raise her 3 children. I think the father died, but I can’t remember (!) for sure. In any event she finally left Naivasha and moved to Narok where her family had given her a small plot. She does subsistence farming, selling some produce in the market and at least has food. Judy and I used to buy our chickens from her, when she still lived here. She looks great and says she is very happy on her own piece of land. She just wanted to thank Kenya Help for taking her daughter to high school. Because Charity had done so well on the KCSE she qualified for a government student loan. The Kenyan government charges no interest and begins an automatic deduction (not too painfully large) when the student gets a job. Everyone who works has to have a national ID card, so everyone pays back the loan, whether they want to or not. It’s such a humane system. I wish we had it in the US. In our system, the killer is the interest. Kenyans repay over a long period of time, but payments are not back-breaking.
Tomorrow the reunion!