#4 Mimi Ni Mwanafunzi
This is Maya, reporting from the sanatorium (infirmary) of St. Francis Xavier Girls Secondary School. Yesterday, I began to have some issues with the food here. When I started throwing up, the school agreed to let Granny take me back to MH overnight. I felt much better this morning, so we decided to take me back to the school around 9:30. However, as soon as we started driving, I felt worse again. I attended two classes but by teatime, I barely had the energy to walk to the dining hall, let alone run like students are supposed to. So here I am, resting in the sanatorium (health office), and very bored.
Apart from the disagreement between porridge, githeri, ugali, and my tummy, I’ve been mostly comfortable here. Since I refuse to poop in a hole (and trust me, it’s a very unpleasant hole- not like the kind you dig while camping that smells like pine trees and dandelions), I get to use the staff bathroom when necessary. Another privilege I get is hot water for my “shower”. I found myself standing in a tiny bucket of nearly boiling water thinking “this is not my definition of a shower and also OW! this is freaking hot!” But, of course, I’m very grateful that it’s heated, even though I need to use the cold tap to rinse.
People are always talking about that one machine/device that they cannot live without, and the debate between phone and computer is like coke and pepsi, or canon and Nikon, which came up when I bought a camera for this trip (Nikon won). Turns out, I would trade either of those things right now for a washing machine. It literally is a machine from heaven, I can’t believe that I’ve always taken it for granted. Washing underwear by hand on my third day in Kenya was probably the lowlight of my year. Just the idea of scrubbing my clothes clean with my bare fingers took at least 10 minutes for me to accept. It took another hour for me to actually begin. The way people live here makes me feel so spoiled. I hate that the bathrooms gross me out, the food makes me puke, and I want to complain about doing laundry, but that’s how I am right now and it will take time to adjust.
On the bright side, the students couldn’t make me feel more welcome. Everywhere I turn, I see friendly faces and hear “Hi Maya!” The girls are so happy to see me and are fascinated by everything that I say. I’ve never felt so popular in a place where I barely know anyone! All 300 girls want me to know their names, and I feel bad that I can only remember about 35 right now. I’m working on it, but what I would never tell them is that so many of them look the same to me.
They are absolutely in love with my PALY yearbook and pictures from home that I brought. Abby, a girl in my current class and who sleeps in my cube, has become one of my best friends here. She found the pictures of Gypsy (not the worlds smallest dog) so cute, as she should, that she started referring to him as “our dog” instead of “Maya’s dog.” They each want a picture of me to keep, which is a slight problem because I only brought three good pictures of myself, not wanting to seem narcissistic. Clearly, this was a mistake and Granny and I will have to go down to the print shop and scan them each 100 times.
The staff has also been extremely kind and understanding. During the weekly assembly, many of them gave announcements that included a nice welcome to me, including Madam Kahiga, the principal. When a few students read the “something in Kiswahili” after the flag raising, I heard my name several times and assumed they were welcoming me as well. They could have been saying that I was a cannibal for all I know but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. The deputy, Mr. Murigi, even allowed students to speak to me in English on Friday, the day where only Kiswahili is supposed to be spoken. I’m not really sure what the difference between Kiswahili and Swahili is, but they’re both foreign to me. I’ve been attending Kiswahili class, but I usually just doodle the whole time. My teacher, Madam Janet, has taught me a few words. The first thing I learned how to say was mimi ni mwanafunzi, meaning “I am a student.” Now, whenever she sees me or I enter the staffroom to talk to Granny, she makes me say first so that I won’t forget. I probably will after I leave though, how can I remember a word like mwanafunz? Now that I think about it, how can I not? This language is so funny I love it.
This is Joseph (below), our favorite peanut butter thief. This is Lucas, his brother. (Notice the crocs, haha so cute)
Some days I want to stay here forever and some days I wonder how I’m going to survive one more day in this place. The kids here are SO CUTE I just want to kidnap them all, which apparently is an actual problem here. As soon as I can get my camera and Granny’s computer at the same time, I’ll upload all my photos, which are 90% of African children. For now, I only have a few photos that I took on Granny’s camera but I will attach them anyway.
These cuties I found playing on the swings right outside the gates of Mji Wa Neema.
Lastly, Margo has been reading some of your replies to these emails to me and I want to say thanks for your encouragement, it’s been difficult but so completely worth it so far to have this incredible experience and meet so many amazing people. I completely agree with all your praise and appreciation of Margo, I’m so lucky that she’s my granny and that she brought me here. Everyone here loves her too!!!
Maya (Margo’s granddaughter)
P.S. Here is a picture to go with the first email, since Granny didn’t include the one she took of everyone seeing us off.
Left to right (back) Michael, Maya, mom Janet, dad Mark. In front, brother Ben and Gypsy (of course)