#8 Reconnecting With Old Friends
Among the first people I met in 2005 were the math teachers at Archbishop Ndingi, Cecilia, Ignacious, Simon and Regina, all of whom have since moved on. I have lost track of Ignacious, but I see Regina regularly on Sunday. Simon is still in this area and Cecilia teaches in the town of Narok in Maasailand. Thursday evening I called both Cecilia and Simon. Each promised to come see me the very next day at SFG. Cecilia and her sister Ruth were sitting in the teacher’s room when I came back from teaching. I walked in truly did a classic double-take. So good to see them. Cecilia wants me to come visit her in Narok, but I’m not sure how I would get there, as I’m not allowed to take matatu’s beyond the Naivasha area w/o a babysitter. It’s 3+ hours on a matatu, which is not my idea of a great time. Nonetheless I would love to visit her school and meet the Maasai girls. Their culture is one of the least “girl-nurturing” in this country. They are seen as property, not usually educated and “sold” off to the bidder of the best dowry at the whim of the father. I had a bit of insight to their plight reading the book, Facing the Lion, which tells of the transition from boy to man of a Maasai. His description of a woman’s life made me sad and more determined to continue with the work of Kenya Help. FYI we have 4 Maasai in the new form 1 class, more than this community has ever had, either at SFG or at Archbishop Ndingi when it was coed.
Ruth is in her second year at Jomo Kenyatta University, studying environmental science. She is very bright, earning a sufficiently high mark on her KCSE that she was called to the University. I’m told that those students are given no-interest loans and that many are never repaid, which makes it more like a scholarship. Why they don’t just give them a scholarship is a mystery, but at least those bright students get to go on, which is what the country needs. Cecilia is very proud of her sister, reporting Ruth received an A- in math. The exam here is so tough, an A- is indicative of real talent as well as hard work.
I showed them around the school and I could see they were impressed. It is a very nice school and of course it is new, which means the paint is fresh and the desks are not beat up. Esther kindly opened one of the dorms so they could see. Both remarked on the neatness of the cubicles, every bed made almost to military requirements. The dining hall is the pride of the campus and they were duly impressed with it. After a lovely 2 hours visit I walked back up the road with them and waited until a matatu came along.
Shortly after they left, Simon came. When I was at Ndingi he was the one who made sure I had tea at tea time and a plate for lunch, always piled with more than I could eat. He is the guy I would go to if I were struggling with a problem. Good mathematician and good teacher. So I was sad to know he has left teaching. However his news is that he has been made a chief. My understanding of this position is small, but evidently he is the first level arbitrator of disputes, particularly over land. He said markers are often moved, which naturally causes complaints. He has to be very wise to determine the truth of the situation. It is a government position carrying much better pay than mere teachers.
He lives near SFG, and also nearby is a school for rescued street boys. I’ve written in the past about the glue-sniffers who hang out in front of the supermarket. I have not seen any this year and wonder whether greater rehabilitation efforts have reduced their numbers—or are they just hanging out elsewhere. At the school, Simon has volunteered 2 hours in the evening for several years. He proudly told me that in the last exam 10 of the 15 candidates passed well are in high school. He said they came to them dirty, poorly behaved, foul mouthed thugs, but have been transformed by the efforts of this school in general and Simon in particular. He’s the sort of man who provides a very positive role model, patient, but strict, kind and generous.
This is now Saturday morning. I had determined to be a slug-a-bed, to see whether I could get rid of the cold. Victoria came back about 8 at my suggestion so she could get some sleep after her trip to Kisumu. They left SFG at 4 am, rode 10 hours, did their tour and 10 hours back, arriving at midnight. She says she slept most of the way back, but was willing to comply with my directive, “go take a nap, I can’t send you home exhausted!” First she wanted a warm shower and by the time she emerged, I had a visitor. Mary, mother of Charity and the woman who brought me a gift of eggs came shyly knocking at my door. I was in my PJ’s, but invited her in for tea and toast, which she gratefully accepted. Charity is sponsored by the Key Club at MA and is truly one of the nicest girls I know, as well as very hard working. Her mother tells me she wants to be a pilot. If she can score well enough in 2 years, that could happen. Victoria came out to join us and then Cynthia, one of the children at Mji Wa Neema came. So I ended up serving tea and toast to all. Some readers will be glad to know that Cynthia opted for peanut butter on her toast instead of strawberry jam.
Cynthia is in class 8, so is sweating the upcoming KCEE exam. She hopes to go to a high school in Nairobi. Asked why that school, she replied, “Because the do very well there.” He ambition is to be a doctor, a surgeon, to be specific. She’s bright enough, I think to make that, but the hurdles between class 8 and med school are high.
I am now ensconced in my bed, happy to have a slow day.
Love to all,