As predicted, mass began ½-hour late. Waiting along with a growing crowd, I looked around for someone to steady me going up the wide steps. Two nuns made eye contact and we greeted. I asked one to assist me, which she kindly did and I proceeded to Jim’s pew. I always think of him as I sit there and this morning, for some reason, felt teary. It’s been 19 years, so I don’t often tear up, but there I was. Not wanting to embarrass myself, I began note the hair-do’s of the women in the choir in front of me. In the past there have been really elaborate braiding designs, but I see that many middle-aged women have now chosen not to spend all day Saturday in the salon, but rather have short hair or simple comb-backs. Some resort to either the traditional head-scarf or a wig.
Mass begins in a processional of dancing children, trained by a very sweet lady. They are incredibly cute and energetic, feeling the honor of having been selected for that week. Next come the altar servers, most of whom were girls, identified by their neatly corn-rowed braids. Again this is an honor to be chosen. They are very well trained and take it all very seriously. The pageantry is colorful. I always enjoy that part.
There are 2 times when people leave their seats, one is to give their offerings, putting the coins or bills through a small slot in a big metal box, then filing back to the seats. The other is communions time. This is a big church in which there are 6 columns of pews and I don’t know how many rows, but many. Each row holds some 50 to 60 people. I need to count them some time, but I’m guessing well over 1000 people come to each of 3 masses. The point being it takes a long time for that many people to file down and back. Since Jim’s pew in 5thfrom the front, I have a good opportunity to observe the people—young girls with elaborate hair do’s and often very tight skirts, old women in head scarves and mid-calf skirts, men in jeans in tees, coats, suits, but not often ties. A third filing down is for the offering. Each Sunday a “small Christian Community”, of which there are 30-some, is assigned to bring food. Mostly it’s women who come carrying a bag of flour or sugar, some apples, potatoes, bananas, watermelon. Whatever each has and can offer. This is given to the priest, who hands it off to his helpers, who pile it in the corner. They carry their portion in beautifully woven baskets or on woven trays. Later they have to retrieve their baskets and trays. The food is for the priests in the rectory, the nuns in the convent and I think is shared with the poor, but not sure. During Fr. Kiriti’s time it also was shared with the Mji kids as well. When there was a social worker in the parish she regularly gave food to desperate people, often young mothers trailed by small children or the very elderly.
Sitting next to me was a young mom with a son who seemed to be about 5. He didn’t even peep during mass, but entertained himself finger-walking along the back of the forward pew, quietly talking to himself, swinging his legs and occasionally trying to see over the people in front, which he couldn’t do. I wanted very much to lift him onto my lap, but couldn’t ask the mother for permission. Occasionally I felt his small shoulder kind of snuggling up to mine or look over to receive a shy smile from him. So sweet.
As is often the case, the celebrant was a visiting priest, very animated while addressing the children, seated on both sides of the church, seeming to tell them a bit of the story from the readings. Then he launched into his real sermon, which went on for 45 minutes. I found him very hard to understand, both because the sound system isn’t great and also because the accents are hard for me. Naturally my mind wandered and I was very happy there was no test at the end. I’d have failed miserably. I thought about the sermon at the last mass I attended at home. The priest said his philosophy is to make the listeners feel better than when they came in—to be an inspiration. I’m not sure about the rest of the congregation who could probably follow him, but for me? Well….
Diana Naserian came to visit in the afternoon. She is someone I have supported to become a pre-school teacher. The process involves 3 levels, the first of which she has completed. She earned a certificate, but can’t be employed until she receives that document. Often it can take up to a year!!! Can you imagine? In August she will begin the 2nd2-year set of course, leading to a diploma and a much better salary. The tertiary 2-years lead to a degree, which is her goal and I hope to be around long enough to see her through. In the meantime, she lives with her younger brother. They support themselves doing crafts which they sell in the market. She brought me a bracelet she’d made and a beaded belt from her brother. Diana first came to my attention when you next younger sister, Mary, had a child from a very sad situation. Diana took her in and supported her through the pregnancy and during the first months after. Diana is the oldest of 6, all from an alcoholic mother and different fathers. As such, she feels very close to her siblings and has taken on the responsibility to see them through school. She and her brother pay fees for a younger one, in 6thgrade. She had asked me for a computer. Thanks to the ever-resourceful Flora Sullivan, KH president, I got her a very nice one through “Computers for Everyone”—I think that’s the name, but not sure—an EPA group providing refurbished computers for foundations. It was a very low price and came loaded the MS software. Diana was so happy!!! She says she has taught herself many beading techniques from watching Youtube videos. She lives in Naivasha, up towards SFG and offered to come help me any time I needed it. Of all the kids I’ve helped, Diana has been the most grateful. Her dream is to open a preschool. She’s a very loving person and is perfect for that.
Later Joyce Muturia, a very long time friend who has visited me in the US, along with husband Charles, came by. We had so much to share, we could hardly tear ourselves away, but driving after dark is very hard here. Joyce is an entrepreneur and ever-busy with new projects. She finished pharmacy school some time back, then returned to medical school to become a doctor. While there she took over management of a restaurant on the campus. Because the university professors are vastly underpaid and overworked, they strike. Joyce had to leave that job because the university was closed so much. That same issue has interfered with the education of many of our sponsored kids. Cyrus, who was to complete his pharmacy education in a few months from now, may not finish until December or even later. So sad.
Joyce then opened a restaurant in Naivasha, but not content with that, she leased the whole building, which she is renovating, along with the owner, to be a hotel. Now she tells me she wants to open a school for kids who are not academically inclined, but good at sports. While emphasizing the sports, they will work in a farm to grow their food, thus learning good agriculture practices as well as other useful skills. She wants very much to give back to the community, in particular to the unfortunate kids who either can’t thrive in the very rigid Kenyan education system, or perhaps have not had the opportunity because of school fees. She is a woman of great energy and vision who inspires me as well.
Several days ago I bought a chicken. Because my oven is so unreliable I cut it up and boiled it. I had not gone to the market for onions or any of the other vegetables I might have added to it, but by the time it was done, I was so hungry it tasted very good. Yesterday I chopped some, mixed in a bit of mayo, added sliced avocado and had a great sandwich.
Because I’m alone so much, I have taken to listening to books on CD, which I loaded only my computer before leaving home. I do love being read to, so it is going almost literally day and night. I’m listening to the Outlander books of which there are 8. I was never able to get the set for book 5, but have all the rest, plus an autobiography of Elizabeth Warren and a few others. I have more than enough to get me through the summer, although I won’t listen so much after my US visitors arrive July 2, just 1 week. That will be so fun. One is a retired nurse, having worked at Stanford Hosp for 35 years. The other is her daughter, who works in HR and wants to spend time at Life Bloom.
This is now Monday morning. I’m going to SFG to begin my work there as soon as I get myself ready and make another chopped chicken and avocado sandwich to take along. And thus my real summer is beginning.