I’m sitting in the Nairobi airport, waiting for the check-in counter to open. My flight doesn’t leave for more than 5 hours, but I wanted Fr Kiriti to get out of NBO before dark and back in Naivasha in the early evening. This is the end of year #15. I had thought last year might be my last, but I really wanted to claim 15 summers. Now I’m seriously thinking of #16. Yet a lot can happen in 9 ½ months. I’ll come again if I feel able.
In the past I’ve visited Fr. Kiriti where ever he was stationed at least once, but this year I didn’t leave Naivasha except to pick Julie and Niki at the airport and 2 times to Maasai Market. Nairobi and Nakuru are in opposite directions from Naivasha. So we agreed I would come to visit this past weekend. Hillary would drive me to Nakuru Friday evening and Fr. Kiriti would drive me back on Sunday. Another case of “the best laid plans….” Hillary called me Wednesday to say a favorite cousin had been found murdered in Nairobi—a very good person, who was returning from a university chapel where he regularly attended prayers. He would be buried Friday in an area not near where I wanted to go. My inconvenience was nothing compared to his shock and grief.
Plan B was Saturday morning the kids would walk me to the stage—the place where I could “hop” a matatu. It’s maybe 1/3 mile, something that I would not even have noticed in my “youth”—say 75, but these days I needed both Mary and John to hold my hands. Otherwise I’d be impossibly slow and possibly knocked over by throngs of pedestrians on uneven sidewalks—when sidewalks existed. We arrived at the “Nakuru Direct” sign where a full matatu sat, waiting for the driver. Five minutes, 10 minutes, finally he showed up and that one left. But no other vehicle (as they’re known here) appeared. Ten more minutes. Then I remembered the evening I drove Hillary to the Nakuru stage in a different area. Some probing of the kids revealed that this wasn’t the major stage for Nakuru. It was ½ mile away, through back alleys, unpaved, rutted, rocky, full of obstacles, and the usual careless piki piki drivers. Mary took a firm grip on my hand, John carried my backpack and off we went.
I must admit, schlepping through the back streets is really colorful, so different from anything in my US life. Arriving at the major stage, we found it strangely quiet, compared to the bustling place we’d just left. John went off to make inquiries while Mary and I sat in plastic chairs placed for the comfort of waiting customers outside a hair salon. At some point they told me the problem was that Saturday is not a commute day, so few vehicles. We sit and sit. At last John appears, beckoning. We follow to find a waiting matatu with exactly 1 seat remaining—the one on the very narrow aisle. The seat so narrow, only one cheek is supported. I’m so glad to finally be on the way, I don’t care. I plug myself into the current story on my phone and sit back for a long, cramped, bumpy ride—until I realize I’ve been leaning on the knee of the young man in the seat just behind me. “Oh sorry!” He didn’t seem to mind, but I was embarrassed.
Not only was the seat narrow, but also the young man in the window seat had wide shoulders such that I was a bit torqued. The leg room, also narrow, required my knee to be jammed against the seat in front. Ah, the beauty of public transportation in the developing world. It’s not as if I didn’t know what I was getting into and if I wanted to visit Fr. Kiriti’s new parish, this was my only option. Clearly having my own car to drive has made me quite spoiled
The driver was “aggressive”, often passing long lines on the left (like passing on the right in the US), weaving into the traffic flow from time to time and generally driving like a matatu driver—until we came to the area where crews were working in the highway. Yep, they do that a lot on Saturdays. The jam was 101 on Friday at 5 pm, which is to say, at a standstill. Since Fr. Kiriti was to meet me at the Nakuru stage, I texted him, “In a jam, hope you’re not too hungry” (we were to eat lunch after I arrived). The usual 1 ½ hour trip took 2 ½ hours, but at last we arrived the stage, which was a total jam, making me wonder what it was like on a commute day.
We walked another ½ mile or so to the sports club, which he has joined to be sure he stays in shape, had a nice lunch and chat, then drove off to see St. Monica parish, his new home base.
The house reminded me of a mini Winchester Mystery House, no rhyme nor reason to the design, but pleasant and comfortable. His part includes a sitting room with the usual way-too-large furniture and 2 bedrooms. It was one of the first opportunities we’d had to talk without rushing. He told me about beginning of his new job, supervising the construction of a retirement home for the Nakuru diocese. He really loves to do that work, having directed the construction of SFG as well as completing the ½ built church he’d inherited upon arrival in Naivasha in 2004. However, he’s been assigned to assist in St. Monica, under a rather cranky parish priest. “For 27 years I’ve been in charge—it’s hard not to be in charge.”
Driving back to Naivasha the next day we talked about my summer, how I see things at SFG, what some of the Mji kids are doing now and how it has been, being at Mji with Mary and John. I had to admit it was really fun to have them staying with me and being so helpful. They loved the food, in particular the hamburgers (no, cheeseburgers, with pickles when we could find them at the Naivas) and more importantly, the pizza.
Because my visitors, Mary Fitzgerald earlier in the summer, as well as Julie and Niki, had brought back to much of the crafts I’d bought, getting myself packed up and out of the house was much easier. It isn’t just packing my things, I always have to pack up all the things I’d borrowed from Fr. Kiriti’s house, pack a suitcase of crafts for him to bring when he comes, pack up my own things that I don’t leave in the house, now that I know that it’s used by other visitors in my absence. I’ve come back to too many broken or missing items. Mary, wrapped up all the glasses and big mugs that I’ve purchased over the years to put in a big metal trunk I’d bought. It’s full of stuff, little things like a brush to clean out the small holes in the shower head. They get clogged by the high mineral content of the water here. Less water coming through the instant hot system makes it very hot. Hence a regular brushing out is needed.
This morning, Hillary arrived bright and early. He took one load to Fr. Kiriti’s house, about 20 minutes away, came back, by which time I was ready to go. We took my metal trunk, water dispenser, toaster, coat trees Judy had had made years ago, bedding, stools etc. Amazing how many things I’ve bought over 15 years in an attempt to make living a bit more convenient. I left my shampoo and conditioner to Mary and the rest of the Arnica to Margaret, whose facial rash responded well to it, invited the 3 of them to divide up the remaining foodstuffs, taken the “left-behinds” from math camp to the parish office in hopes some child would remember where he/she had left that calculator or text book. Hillary got the remains of my digestive aids, having had almost instant relief from an attack of dyspepsia one day. I said my good byes to the parish staff, all of whom are always so welcoming and so willing to ease my daily life and to Mary and Margaret, both very grateful for the pay I’d given them for being my babysitters.
John was doing some yard work for Fr. Kiriti, so I had a chance to say good bye, thank him and give him his pay as well. And then, we were off to Nairobi. Each year parting gets harder. Each year I wonder whether I’ll ever be back. I’m feeling much more hopeful for 2020, but life has a way of making plans without consulting me. We’ll see.
On the road, we stopped at a road-side café and gas station. To my surprise Fr. Kiriti suggested pizza—he rarely eats cheese, although he loves it. Surprised again, when I took my first bite of Hawaiian Chicken pizza to find it quite good.
Finally at the airport I was more than a bit dismayed to learn my flight from Amsterdam to SFO had been canceled and I’d been rerouted for a 2ndstopover in Heathrow. ARGH!!!! I’ve been there twice in my early years and I’ve very carefully avoided it ever since. I refused, insisting they put me on another airline. I waited and waited. Then they wanted to route me through Amsterdam and Seattle, arriving SFO 5 hours later than originally scheduled. In the end I agreed to go through London but asked for a wheelchair to change terminals. I recall the last time was a very long trek through a very large and confusing series of seemingly miles of corridors, trams, not finding the right gate area. I used to pride myself on being able to cope with all that jazz, but now find myself perfectly willing to let someone else guide me. Must be getting old. It wasn’t until my young seat mate mentioned a computer gremlin had lost all the data that I learned the cause of the disruption. I wish I’d been told. Might have been more understanding.
Nairobi to Amsterdam
Now I’m in the air somewhere between Kenya and the Netherlands, 4:33 am (but not sure whether that’s Nairobi time or whether my computer is self-correcting as we fly. Doesn’t matter. I just wish I were sleepy. Must have been that really chocolaty dessert I couldn’t resist. Yet another bit of proof that somehow we pay for our sins!
As it turned out, I didn’t use a wheelchair. Maybe it was the return to sea level that energized me, but I walked the interminable corridors, grateful for the “people movers”, not finding signs very helpful so asking questions. All went well until just before the security line, a rather curt lady, dispensing plastic bags for liquids and cosmetics enumerated all the things that must be in the bag. I’ve not put anything in a ziplock for years and nowhere have I been required to do it on this trip—except here. I pulled my toothpaste and face oil out and stepped in line. I was a bit nervous about the nursing scissors I’d carelessly packed in my carry on. I was briefly stopped in Nairobi, but allowed to keep them after I mentioned they don’t have sharp points—and he look at my face. In London, my carryon passed right through, but my purse was stopped! Huh? Oh, RATS!!! Curt lady had listed lipstick!!! ARGH I had not only lipstick but also lip balm.
I’ve never seen such a slow, thorough, search of bags and mine was about 10 back. I began to calculate whether I’d make my plane—and get irritated that an 83-year old could be held up for nearly 45 minutes for LIPSTICK!!!! Remind me never to go through Heathrow again.
London to SFO
On my last leg of this @#$!%$^%^@ series of flights. This time I’m on Virgin Atlantic and fascinated by the arrangement of seats in business class. It’s the most efficient use of space I’ve seen yet. Haven’t done business very often, only to Kenya and back, but I give this designer A+.
Arrived home Tuesday, exhausted but happy to be met by son, Mark, who had made a casserole for us to share. What a guy! However, I was NOT happy to find 7 loads of sheets to be washed, no clean ones to put on my bed, refrigerator full of renter’s food, cupboard likewise and “stuff” left in every room. Not only that, my kitties were nowhere to be seen. I was sure they’d come in when night fell, but no. They always sleep on my bed, but no, I was all alone that night—in which I slept from 8:30 pm to 8 am (when wakened by a phone call). Opened an unused bedroom door and 2 sets pf pointy ears popped up. They had been so traumatized they’d been under that bed all day. After some initial hesitation, we are buddies again, slowly I’m getting the laundry done, house in order and refrigerator/cupboards emptied
Tutored my first student last evening. I guess I’m home. Summer 2019 is now history, recorded in these blogs. Sigh