Tomorrow (Saturday) is our big Mji Wa Neema reunion, which Margaret and I have been planning for several weeks. You may recall I bought a goat several weeks ago, only to discover he was a sheep. ARGH! The kids didn’t care. I was the only one and that was because a goat will eat garbage that a sheep won’t eat—though he has been gobbling the potato peelings as big Mary and Evelyn prepared them for tonight’s dinner. Here he is, eating his last supper.
Notice he has turn up his nose to the cabbage leaves I gave him. A goat would scarf them right up and come looking for more.
This afternoon Margaret and I went to the big outdoor market for produce and the Naivas to buy chickens and ice cream. Chickens because a Kenyan feast isn’t a feast with only one kind of meat and ice cream, because we are continuing the tradition begun by Judy so long ago.
As we were getting out of the car at the Naivas my phone rang—an unfamiliar number. “Hello?” “Pardon me, madam. I just sent you ksh 6500 ($65) by mistake. I put in the wrong number by 1 digit. Will you please check your messages and reimburse that for me?” I check my messages and sure enough, there is a notification that I’ve been sent ksh 6500 by mpesa. I call him back. “Yes, I see I have that message, but I’m in the middle of something right now. I’ll take care of it, but it won’t be for an hour or so.” “How much do you have in your mpesa account?” I didn’t actually know and hadn’t checked the balance, but I said, “I don’t think that’s any of your business.” If I’d checked the balance, I’d have known something was fishy because I didn’t have that much in my account. When he asked for my balance, it did ring my chimes a bit. “But madam, I need to use that money. Will you please refund it to me immediately?” “No, I’m busy and I’m not the one who made the mistake. I will do it, but not for about 1 hour.”
The minute I told Margaret about it, she said, “Margo, that’s a con. If you send him the money, he’ll take everything in your account.” I think my balance was about $21, but of course I didn’t want him to have anything. Margaret and I proceeded to the outdoor market and my phone rang (unanswered) and rang. Six times he called, even changing to a different number, but I didn’t answer. I wanted to talk to Mungai, who worked in an mpesa office 2 summers ago during the school holiday and would know all about cons. Sure enough, when we got back he confirmed it was an attempted con and showed me the difference in the number from a con vs that from mpesa. I should have known that. I did notice it was a different type of number. While we talked the phone rang again. “Mungai, you answer it and tell the guy off.” “Hello. I’m fine. I know you are a con, don’t call this number again!” Evidently the guy is arguing with Mungai. “You are a con!!! Don’t ever call this number again!!!” No calls since. Thank God for those kids. I might have fallen for it—but of course I couldn’t have reimbursed his ksh 6500 because I didn’t have that much in the account. At that I would have smelled a rat (I hope).
In the market, we encountered Margaret’s grandmother and aunt, who sell carrots and maize. Alas, I didn’t have my camera in my purse. We bought our carrots from them, then went on to buy garlic, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage and cilantro. We deposited all that in the car and went to the Naivas to buy the ice cream, chickens, some spices, some mayo (my contribution to the feast is the cold slaw I made with the carrots and apples and mayo.) We are feeding more than 30 people—and you may recall I’ve written about the incredible amounts of food that Kenyans can eat. We bought a lot of stuff!
I now have a freezer full of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, a big tray full of defrosting chickens, and 2 huge cabbages I must slice very thin for the cold slaw tomorrow. But it’s so fun to have all of them here! Only 2 have not arrived, John Dirangu, whose behavior several years ago was such that he was sent away from the home to live with his uncle, whether his uncle wanted him or not, and Monica, whose nursing school schedule may not free her up to come. I told her last night we couldn’t have the reunion without her. She’s an important member of the family and we are still hoping she can find someone who will cover her shift. (later) Monica called to say I must call Sr. Josephine, CEO of St. Luke’s Nursing School for permission. Sr. Josephine listened politely while I explained my connection to Monica and Mji as well as the importance of this particularly reunion. It may be the last one in this home. They will always get together, but the fate of the home is still uncertain.
I think I’ve written about Ruth, one of the oldest here. She was sent to a rehab and training institute to learn knitting. That took 2 years, because she is quite limited in her abilities. Now she has finished her training and is looking for a job. She’s very proud that she “completed”, a term for “graduated”. She remembers the big deal when Mungai finished his medical training back in June and many of us attended a party in his honor (but not the graduation.) See post #7 if you’ve forgotten. For tomorrow, I’ve ordered a large cake with the inscription, Congratulations to Ruth!. I hope she feels properly acclaimed. I also hope someone finds her a job. She so wants to be like everyone else. At the time she finished primary school, at about age 16 or 17, she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t go to high school like all the others. Her KCPE score was about 135 (of 500). Since that exam is multiple choice (guess?) it means essentially she knew nothing. She can read, but it’s not clear that she can process what she reads. She’s good natured, a hard worker, a pretty girl (except for her brown stained Naivasha teeth from the natural fluoride in the water) and she’s very persistent. So sad.
The official election results were to be announced at 2 pm. The kids gathered in front of the TV, watching officials milling about Bomas of Kenya, from which the announcement was to come. It was one of those times that must drive TV producers mad. Nothing going on, but they can’t leave, lest the announcement come. Here are the Mji kids” Tylon is adjusting the picture. “Big” Mary, in the hat covering a very elaborate braid coiffure, Kamau, “Big” Patrick, Cynthia, Cyrus, in the Nanook of the North parka, and Ruth. On the back table Evelyn, “Small” Mary, Margaret, Wekesa, Marion and Beatrice. I believe all here are over 18, so voted for the first time.
They waited all afternoon and into the evening. At about 10:30 pm, the whole town seemed to erupt in shouts of joy. Evidently Naivasha is a strong Uhuru area. It was still going on when I turned off my light and blotted out the noise with an ipod book. By morning, when I walked down to get the paper, it was very quiet for a Saturday.
Next summer we will be celebrating Cyrus’s completion of pharmacy school and Monica’s completion of nursing. More and more of the Mji kids are moving into the post-secondary pipeline, which means big money for a few years, but then it will slow down as they, too complete. Lucas will finish high school in 2020 and Joseph in 2023 (2027 for university!!!). By that time, the ETW alums will be covering those costs and more—we hope!!!
It’s wonderful to have met the 35 kids when they were really kids, back in 2005 and to have watched each one mature and find his or her way into the world. Some may not set the world on fire, but all are greatly better off for our efforts. I am so grateful to the many of you who have contributed to this wonderful program. In the big picture, it’s not a big deal, but to 35 kids, it has made their lives!!!
Pix tomorrow of our reunion.