I wouldn’t be sitting here if I hadn’t finished the packing. Fr. Kiriti had wanted to leave Naivasha at 2 pm and it was exactly 2 pm when I tearfully said good-bye to Hillary, Margaret, Josephat and Cyrus. It has always been hard to leave, but this time, all I could think of was, “Is this the last time I will see this place?” I’m having a mental duel, “Of course you’ll come back!” vs “Get real, Margo. This is the end of a wonderful chapter in your life, but it’s over!” Which side will win? Only time will tell, but as we drove out of the compound and up the road, I looked and wondered. “Will I be back?”
As I think about all the stuff I had packed up to be left at Fr. Kiriti’s house, it looks like yes. I left nothing in my Mji quarters. Fr. Ngaruiya assured me I was welcome to stay next year, but if there are no kids there, I can’t stay by myself—too lonesome and I would not feel secure. Catherine has invited me to stay with her, but 2 ½ months might be a stretch for her. I could stay at Fr. Kiriti’s house, but that’s far away and again, I would be lonesome by myself, even though it would be secure. I hate the uncertainty of it all.
But enough of the sadness. I need to write about the last 2 ½ days. Saturday night was the last night I would be eating dinner with the kids. I had bought chicken and enlisted Marion and Jecinta to help me chop the coleslaw, which all the kids, even Joseph, loved. They rarely eat uncooked vegetables here, so I was more than a bit surprised to see how the scarfed it down. We had our ceremonial last talk and I then returned to my packing.
Sunday I am a bit lazy and leave my house late to walk the 200 feet to the church. I think 2 masses this summer actually began at 8:30—and this was #3! Oops! I was one of perhaps 50 sluggards, all waiting for a break in the readings to make our way to a pew. I braved the scorn of those who had been prompt and went all the way down the main aisle to the 5th row back—Jim’s pew. The celebrant was new to me. But he kept good time and gave us a good sermon. I was out on time and after walking down to the gate to collect my newspaper, was soon eating my bran flakes and doing the Sudoku. My favorite kind of Sunday morning. BUT—-Regina, math teacher friend from 2005 had said she was coming to say good bye, arriving at noon. When Cyrus and Mukomi came in to say I had to go with them to approve her new digs and take up a load of her things, I did a quick time calculation and agreed. “It’ll take only 15 minutes.” Why do I fall for that? It’s never just 15 minutes!!
I’ve had to fork over ksh 10,000 ($100) to cover the deposit and first month’s rent, further depleting my rapidly diminishing cash supply. It will be covered by ETW, except it’s Sunday, Hillary is off, and besides he has no cash until Fr. Kiriti and Alice sign some checks. Mukomi must report to school on Monday. We gotta do this.
Her “house” is one room in a compound of about 10, each opening on a common courtyard. The manager opens the door and I am dumbfounded. It is a MESS!!! Dirt and sand all over the floor, no bulb in the light fixture, the loo is filthy, there’s a big bite taken out of the wall at a corner. We refuse to pay anything until it’s in rentable condition. Mukomi recognizes a girl living on the 2nd floor and decides to leave her things in that apartment. I get back to find Regina in my kitchen, happily reading the paper. We chat and exchange the usual pleasantries, but I keep thinking about all those last-minute things. I need to pack up my personal kitchen items, there are some crafts yet to be loaded up, dishes to be washed and more fires to put out. Most of the kids are leaving that day and I need to spend a few minutes with each one—conscious that it could be a “last hug.” Over and over. Finally, I find a few minutes and try to find some space on my bed among the suitcases and piles of stuff, to take a quick nap. I’m wakened by Fr. Kiriti, coming from Nakuru and in a big traffic jam. We’ve planned he will take some of my things to his house and have dinner together. Wide awake, I realize I need to say good bye to Fr. Ngaruiya. He and I have a nice friendship—teasing, argumentative but with mutual respect. We chat, I taking my last opportunity to nag him about Mji, a social worker for the parish, stuff at SFG, and he to tell me A, B, C about why I’m wrong! It has always been like that.
Before I know it, Fr. Kiriti is at the rectory door to collect me and of course comes in to greet his colleague. He invites Fr. N to join us for dinner (he accepts), Kiriti and I load up his car with the items I have ready to go to his place and we hop into Ngaruiya’s car, heading for the Buffalo Mall, where a not-too-fancy restaurant has opened. It’s a fun evening, lots of laughs and very little agreed on, but I think some of my requests will be honored.
Back home, more last minute items, then climb into my bed for my last night under that damned mosquito net (I won’t miss that) and write for an hour (#24 post). Slept like a log, awakened to tweak # 24 when suddenly the electricity goes off. Oops, shoulda’ taken my shower first. Oh well, we’re not leaving until 2. Finish tweaking, go into the kitchen where I’ve left some dirty dishes in the sink. “I’ll just wash them up while I’m waiting for the hot water to boil on the stove.” OH @#$@#!$@$%^@$ No Water! What have I done to deserve this? Plastic pitcher in hand I go into the guest bathroom for water from the spigot there. “Oh dear, the flusher must not work, as the toilet needs attention. Must remember to bring in the bucket.” Fill the pitcher, begin washing cups and mugs, water boils, and suddenly there is water from the faucet. Begin eating my breakfast, doing the Sudoku, when Cyrus and Mukomi bring in another fire. She is moving in today but has no way to cook. She needs a gas cylinder and the gadget that fits on top to put the pots on. @!@#!$!#^@%$%^* I call Espedita, who has recently opened a shop selling gas canisters. Can she help us? Oh, she is a dear! She will come by with it and take it and Mukomi. Just wait about 1 hour. Next I see Mary, lugging a big heavy suitcase. She is leaving to stay with her brother until school begins. How far? Not far? Yeah right! But I take her and to my surprise, it’s not far. Back home, Espedita has arrived, but bringing not quite what is needed. She’s an angel. She takes Mukomi back to get the right things and I go back to my house to find the electricity is back on! YESSSSS!!! Quick shower then continue to pack the very last items. This is just like moving! Nothing to be left.
Sometime in the midst of all this, Catherine calls to say she is on her way to pick Joseph and Lucas. I find them, they’re not ready, but are hurrying, ready by the time she arrives. Each carrying a very small bag of belongings. Oh God, it’s hard to say good bye to them. And to Catherine, although she will come to the US in October for a few days. Joseph and Lucas??? Who knows.
Suddenly it’s 1:15. Fr. N calls to ask whether I’ve had lunch. No. I accept his invite for a quick bite. Back at Mji, Fr. Kiriti has arrived. I show him what goes to his house (he’ll collect it tomorrow) what goes in the car, last minute hugs, pix, tears. I take one last look and we are off! I’m reminded of 5 years ago when Jecinta and Julia were waving good bye at the gate. I never dreamed I would not see Jecinta again. She was dead in 3 months. No one knew she was sick at the time I left.
Naivasha is growing and I wonder, if I do get back what changes will I see? At some point the road through town will be 2 lanes each direction, street lights will be working, traffic lights? Right turn lanes? Sidewalks? They will all come someday.
We do our usual evaluation of the summer’s events, accomplishments, frustrations, disappointments, joys. We stop at a new mall just outside Nairobi for tea and I want to use the ATM. “Wrong pin entered.” Twice I get that. RATS!!! We find a tea room and Fr. gets up to get my computer (with list of PINs), but stops to chat with some people in the far corner. Returning, he tells me it’s Sr. Magdalene, whom I haven’t seen in 5 years. She finishes with her friends and joins us. Oh, I’m happy to see her, another powerhouse, who brooks no nonsense. She was principal of Bahati Girls when I last saw her but is now at Marymount. Both are top high schools, producing many A’s on the KCSE. Of course, they get top students to begin with, but they do know how to inspire their girls—something SFG has not yet figured out. She hopes to retire in 1 ½ years and what a loss to girl’s education.
I never get the ATM to work. Guess I’ll have to fight with VISA when I get home. It’s OK, just wanted to give Fr. Kiriti some cash. He’ll survive.
We pick up Sr. Irene who wanted to see me off. We’re hoping she will come to the US in April to talk about the Helping Babies Breathe program sponsored by Dr. Ron Ariagno and her wonderful program of bringing Pokot girls to womanhood without “the cut” (FGM). Right now she is completing her master’s degree in program development, after which she will take a greatly expanded project to other areas as well, helping other tribes, other girls, more babies. Besides being a great force for women, she’s lots of fun.
At the airport, we stop for a last chat, then walk to the door (of no return!) The tears flow, I walk in. I’m really leaving.