Thursday, June 12, 2014
# 3 Our First Day-Nothing is Simple
Having fallen into bed, amid half emptied suitcases and stuff everywhere, we both awakened early on our first day. Finding and organizing our household things is one of many initial tasks, but we finally cobbled together a breakfast and planned our shopping and other errands. My first priority was to replace the modem that had been lost. Getting internet connection to work is hugely stressful, so when I went to the Orange office (Fr. Kiriti’s preferred network) and got connected I had another 40-point BP drop. But first we had to find the office, which wasn’t where I had thought. Monica, one of the older girls from Mji Wa Neema was my helper, so when the office wasn’t there, we asked at a business where it was. The man spoke only Swahili and went on at great length, with myriad gestures, pointing and indicating turning corners. I thought it must be very complicated to get there. Walking out, Monica explained it was across from the Naivas (super market) and down several shops. What was he going on about???
The Naivas is just around the corner and down a block from where we were, but today the road is being repaired, which will last approximately 6 months, then full of potholes again. We couldn’t turn left. Just go one more block and then turn left? I wish. No real grid here and I had forgotten the roads. Again glad for Monica. It was a 1-mile detour for a 1 1/2 block trip.
Parking in front of the Naivas, where we would later be doing our shopping, we found the fee had risen from ksh 50 to ksh 80 (about $.95). ARGH! I am used to free parking at my favorite Trader Joe’s. In the Orange shop, I learned I had to have a copy of my passport-which I knew from the past, but had forgotten. Fortunately I still had the PP in my purse and a copy place was just a few shops down. That fee was ksh 3—hardly worth the bother of collecting it! Back at Orange, it took forever, but finally the very sweet young woman was able to activate the modem and now was the big moment—would it work on my mac? In the past, when I’ve used Safaricom modems there were always 2-3 trips back before I could get connections, so this time I was going to be sure. Although internet is slow in the morning, eventually my 81 new emails began to download. I was in business!
In the meantime Judy had gone to the carpenter shop where she ordered a bookcase for our front hall. The kids here love to come in and rummage through the books we’ve brought, and now we could have a place for that. We met in the Naivas, where she had already done most of the shopping, but forgot what a fusspot I am about the peanut butter (only one brand is pure peanuts and salt—no sugar nor stabilizers). I know I try her patience at times, but after more than 65 years of friendship, she knows me well and is most forgiving.
Back home we were both exhausted. Age, altitude (4000 ft), jet lag and tension about getting set up and going all take their toll. We had a bit of lunch (PNB toast) and in came Ben, the parish accountant, who has been our helper for 10 years. His welcoming smile and big hug attested again that we are home. Below is Ben from our shopping trip last year at the Maasai Market. He looks quite fierce!
Just walking out the door to go to the parish office, I see Ruth Kahiga, principal of St. Francis Secondary School for Girls (SFG) coming to welcome us. She is full of good news about the school, which has had a few problems along the way, as new institutions are wont to have. Some staff and administration changes have brought about a new positive spirit among the girls and the staff as well. I am eager to get up there to see.
Then down to the parish office to arrange for The Nation to be delivered. We love reading the paper here, then sharing it with Julia, Agnes and the kids. Always think it’s important for the kids to develop the newspaper habit.
Wednesday is office day for the priest, so we drop in to say hi to Fr. Danielli, assistant priest here. He indicates Fr. Mwangi is in the house, so after a pleasant chat, into which we insinuate a few words about continuing the orphanage, we trot over to the house to see Fr. Mwangi, who greeted us in full regalia.
Above is Fr. Mwangi taken last year at a dinner with the children and Jecinta. Judy and Fr. Mwangi had not met until today.
Judy and I talked about the orphanage and I told him all that Judy has done, raising funds to build a security wall, redoing the dining hall, re-configuring the dorms into rooms for 2 each, building a new kitchen, plus finding sponsors for many of the children to go to high school and beyond. This home has been her passion since she first came here in 2006.
Judy wants to stay home to meet with Ann, the new social worker who does the major work of Empower the World. ETW is the foundation established to receive and disburse funds from Kenya Help. Ann was hired to help Jecinta so had about a year of working with her before Jecinta died, which is hugely helpful. While they meet, I am going up to SFG.
Driving in Naivasha is quite an experience, from remembering keep to the left, keep to the left, to passing donkey carts, dodging piki piki bikes, pedestrian, and an occasional cow, to remembering the speed bumps that jar one’s teeth if hit at regular speed and watching out for matatus (15 passenger vans) as they pull off or on with little regard to other traffic. It does take full attention and I am tense as a bungie cord by the time I arrive. But I am unscathed in my initial foray, so am heartened. Ruth greets me again, and we go into the staff room where I greet old friends and meet new teachers. Only one math teacher is a holdover, others having been poached away by the government schools or having found other jobs. The new ones are friendly, perhaps have heard they’ll have to put up with Margo for while. Everyone greets me and I find I can remember most of the names from last year.
Ruth and I have a long confab in her office while she details the great things that have developed. I hope I can remember them all. Basically a whole new spirit of mutual respect has developed between staff and students, making everyone happier and more motivated. All of Kenya seems to be moving in this direction, from harsh discipline like beating, kneeling, sending students home, to discussion, negotiation and loving guidance. Naturally the response of the students is very positive. I don’t mean to imply that SFG was something out of Dickens, but I had been urging a more gentle approach for a long time.
The girls have established a “fund” of extra items (soap, TP, shampoo etc) they might not need, which they donate. This is totally student run, because they know who among them is in need. Those in need don’t always go to the administration, but suffer in silence. It’s a wonderful program, but what excites me the most is that it came from the students.
Another wonderful student initiative was to fast from meat during lent, then use the saved funds to buy trees which they gave to neighbors. Ruth tells me the neighbors were thrilled that the students came bearing the trees and even planted them. I hope to be able to get pictures and talk to some of the recipients. Again, this was a student inspired and directed program.
Both cows are/were pregnant. One birthed a male calf just a few days before I arrived, the other is due any day. She may have birthed after I left yesterday. Ruth had taken me by the arm as we walked down to visit the cows. She explained that the students completely manage them, milking 3 times a day, mucking out their shed and putting them out to pasture in the soccer field, where there is peaceful coexistence between the games and the cows. We found the cows happily munching away on hay that was grown and harvested in a nearby church grounds.
In the shed we visited the calf, who tried, without success, to find some sustenance from my arm. He’s a large calf, looks very healthy, but wants his mommy. I imagine he will be let out to pasture soon.
Next to the pasture/soccer field is the shamba, where greens are grown, along with onion, beans and a few other items. I told Ruth about the 4 girls in Palo Alto who raised funds for organic, non-GMO seeds as a gift to SFG. She was so appreciative, as they always are, for the love shown to them by Americans of all ages.
These 4 girls (left) tend a beautiful garden in Suzanne Keehn’s back yard. Suzanne is grandmother to Sandy and Andrea, with the chickens; the other 2 being back fence neighbors. The 4 girls have been best friends for years, graduating from visiting by climbing ladders over the fence to now having an opening for ease of visiting. The girls sold produce, as well as bottles they had decorated for flower vases, earning almost $50. Before I left I went to Common Ground in PA, where everything is organic and non-GMO and the staff is wonderful. I bought tomato (heirloom of 2 varieties), cucumber, sweet corn (they don’t have it here), several different melons, kale and lettuce. I had earlier briefed the new ag teacher, planning a little ceremony to present the seeds sometime soon.
Back home again, I found Judy and a very pregnant Ann still planning and working out details of what Judy will focus on this trip. They had not previously met, but it is clear that they will make a great team. Judy, particularly misses Jecinta, because they spent every day together, and accomplished wonderful results (see Judy’s blogs of 2012). Judy was worried about how she would manage without Jecinta, so meeting Ann has been most reassuring. Ann is ready to go!
Judy and I had to go back to the carpenter shop to pick up the bookcase, again negotiating the closed road, but this time I knew the ropes. We arrive to find it’s not at all what she had asked for, too narrow, too high and painted white (she didn’t ask for paint). Not being the numbers person, she didn’t realize the quoted price was way out of line (a mzungu price). Since we wanted another coat tree as well, we had some bargaining chips and we talked him down to a still-inflated price, but I wanted to make a point. I watched Jecinta bargain at the Maasai market many times and way that she didn’t back down. I’m not nearly in her league, but I was pleased with the savings.
Back to home, Judy went to Wednesday afternoon mass while I did our produce shopping across the road at the street market. I love walking down the rutted, rock-strewn road, lined with rickety stalls, or just with people, mostly women, with wares spread out on a cloth. I carried my basket and a cloth bag, filling them with onions, tomatoes, green peppers, carrots, avocados, cucumber, eggs and mangoes. I try to buy from many different vendors, to spread around my few shillings. Avocados are about $.12, mangoes $.20.
Back in our “house” I again felt exhausted, don’t even put stuff away, but flopped on the bed for 20 minutes of power nap. Refreshed I put the stuff away, then went off to the committee meeting to plan funeral for Fr. Kiriti’s father, who passed away at 96, last Sunday. The culture here is for friends of the family to take over the costs and arrangements, relieving the family from those details. It’s a very caring tradition, and this committee had already bought the coffin, paid the funeral home, engaged a caterer for an expected 700 (!) people to attend mass at the family compound in Mai Mahu, then feasting. Tomorrow will be a celebration with his family church (Fr. Kiriti is the only Catholic in the family), and the burial.
Now I must shower, eat and dress for the mass.