#4 Several Days of Goings on June 13, 2015
I’ve been here 5 days and it seems like I never left. Yet I notice some differences, more traffic, lots of building, streetlights along the road out to the highway, the kids in Mji Wa Neema have grown taller (of course!), but it seems so empty, with so many off in high school or beyond. So different from just a few years ago when Judy and I were awakened by their washing and getting off to school (they got up about 5 or 5:30!)
Not only did I go to St. Francis on Thursday, but on the way home I stopped at Archbishop Ndingi, the boy’s high school. Unfortunately the principal has been ill and was not there, but I met the new deputy and some of the teachers, including Herbert who teaches the form 4 math. He was quite insistent that I commit to coming to teach them and asked me to go talk to them briefly, which I did. I asked whether they remembered me. Yes, they did. When did I teach you before? Form 2. Ah, a long time ago. I told them I would come on Monday to revise (review) with them on 3-D geometry, a topic many struggle with.
Friday, Fr. Kiriti and I met in the ETW office to fill out his visa appointment request. Never have I had a more frustrating experience, trying to upload his picture. Their program just wouldn’t accept anything. It would tell me the picture was too small, “please use a picture that is at least 600 pixels”. Ach, how big is a pixel??? My iPhoto deals in centimeters. OK, I finally was able to change the units, and tried one that was 700 pixels. Nope, too big. I must have 15 different sizes; each was either too small or too big. After 2 ½ hours we gave up. Fr. will pay ksh 1000 to a professional to get it done. Last year we were able to do it ourselves. I felt totally defeated! So we went off to the Naivasha Sports Club for lunch. ARGH!
I had contacted Anastasia, someone I know from several years ago when she was coming to the US to participate in a Women in Technology program in SF. She and husband Mwangi have been close friends to Fr. Kiriti and at his suggestion they came to ask me to write a letter for him to help get his visa so he could join her after her program had finished. They are a wonderfully engaging couple whom I liked immediately. I wrote the letter and they had a great tour of the US and were grateful for the help. They now have a baby girl, Bakita, who was baptized today and I was fortunate enough to be invited.
Most people rent a tent and chairs for such events. We got there early and I sat down next to a lady whom I didn’t recognize, but turned out to be one of the outgoing board members of SFG. We had a wonderful conversation and when I mentioned I attend Rotary meetings while I’m in Naivasha, she perked up. What is Rotary, she wanted to know. She liked what she heard so much that not only has she promised to attend Wednesday’s meeting, but also asked whether she could bring some colleagues in public health.
Need I say that the 12 noon event began at 1:40? In fact, at noon there were about 3 people there, but by the time it began the tent was full. Bakita is 8 months old, darling, with big brown eyes that stare unabashedly at anything or body that seems interesting. I was right behind the grandmother who held her part of the time and my mzungu face was a real curiosity for her. Not once during the hour and half event did she complain. She was wide awake and quiet as a mouse, although she winced a bit when she was held over a basin and doused with warm water, not just by Fr. Kiriti, but by dad and then by mom. Each poured a 2-quart pitcher over her head, down her face. She sputtered a bit and kind of danced up and down, but nary a peep.
Fr. Kiriti began, as he often does, by informally addressing the crowd. Evidently he was very funny b/c they laughed a lot. Then he stopped, asking whether I had picked any of it. Of course I hadn’t—it was in Kikuyu! So he explained that not only was this a celebration for Bakita’s baptism, but also it was Anastasia and Mwangi’s wedding anniversary AND Mwangi’s birthday, AND they were also going to bless A and M’s home, which they have built. I could choose which of those I wanted to celebrate. Why can’t I celebrate them all, I wanted to know?
The mass that followed was concelebrated by Fr. Kiriti and Fr. Nicholas, with Fr. K delivering the sermon. Again, he must have been funny, as well as serious because there were outbursts of laughing sprinkled throughout. But this time he didn’t stop to explain. I meant to ask him about it on the way back home, but we gave a ride to another lady and I forgot to ask him.
Through the window in the tent I could see a large spread of food, but just as the formalities were ending the wind picked up and rain was threatening. It seems to cloud up every day about 3 or 4, sometimes raining elephants and giraffes, sometimes cats and dogs, sometimes a couple of kittens.
Quickly Plan B was implemented and we all piled into the large living room, where the first of 2 cakes was served, after which Bakita retired for the evening. There must have been 12-15 preschool children, all of whom jostled for position around the coffee table where the cake was to be cut. Bakita, with help from mom, made the first cut. A cute tradition is that cakes are cut into bite sized pieces, and then fed to each visitor. Kenyan cakes are quite dense, but very tasty, so a small piece goes a long way.
The rain had begun in earnest, accompanied by loud thunder. Good thing their house is big. Food was moved to a long table in the kitchen, where it was served. Kenyans love to eat and the food was plentiful; ugali, a traditional mashed potato and peas combination, rice, chicken, lamb, 2 kinds of salad and of course chapatis. People really piled it on their plates, while mine look positively skimpy, but even so I couldn’t eat it all. The inevitable sodas came out, along with water bottles. Then the also inevitable speeches, introducing all the family members, each with a brief talk, which I gathered had to do with parenting.
Later that evening at home, Cyrus’ brother, David, came by to chat, and later on Cyrus himself. For some reason the kids like to come try out their world views with me. Maybe because virtually no topic is forbidden, they like to ask me about the big questions in their lives. David is a playful kid, really lots of fun, but didn’t apply himself much in high school. He did a diploma program, somewhat similar to an AA from community college. He is finding it tough sledding. Knowing David, though, he will land on his feet. They are all lamenting that they are growing up and moving out of Mji Wa Neema. There used to be 34 kids living here. Now there are 2. So sad.