#9 Scarves, Millimani High School and Nairobi + Margo’s BIG DRIVE
I really can’t keep up with all the adventures and am cherry-picking the ones that seem the best to share.
Last week was the 3rd annual scarf giving day for form 4’s. Thanks to Anita Dippery and her gang of “knitting elves”, as well as my own fingers, I arrived with over 60 scarves, enough for each form 4 and each new teacher who didn’t get one last year. As a courtesy I offered Ruth Kahiga, our new principal, the first pick. Unable to make a choice, she talked me out of 2. Esther, the matron and dear friend, had not received one last year, so I asked Ruth to call her into the office. It was evident from her face that she wondered what was going on, but when I explained she had the privilege of 2nd pick, she beamed as only Esther can beam. I had forgotten to bring my camera, so I have no pix of this part of the event. We borrowed one from Peter Murigi, deputy principal, for the rest of the ceremony, but the person taking the pix was even more of an amateur than I.
I wished I could wait until the next day to bring my own camera, but the day was so cold!!! It was the perfect time. I was freezing, myself, and the girls were all in sweaters and jackets (called jumpers here).
We gathered all the form 4’s into one classroom. They were very excited, each having chosen a number, 1 to 50, determining the order of choosing. Most of the scarves were made from bright-colored, fringy yarn and were very popular. Most of my offerings were made of granny squares, with which I used up baskets of left-over yarn. To my surprise, they all were chosen too. I had had just enough white, red, green and black (Kenya flag colors) for one scarf, which was “scarfed up” immediately. It was actually a bit of a mob scene.
Note the patches on the sweaters. They were designed by the students, sketch sent to me and then to my daughter in San Diego. During my last visit there she took me to DOVE Professional Apparel, a uniform business she once owned, where the manager arranged for his provider to make them. I brought 1000 patches in my suitcase and everyone loves them. They’ve been termed “very smart”, high praise indeed.
Fast forward to yesterday (Monday). Heather, my young guest, spent the day with 2 Life Bloom, staff members, Wanjiru and Teresia, visiting the women’s prison and the beginnings of the learning center LB is constructing. I joined them in the afternoon for a visit to Milimani High School, situated along with Milimani Elementary School, right next door to us. In fact, Mji Wa Neema shares a wall with the play ground.
The reason for the visit was to introduce the high school students to Heather, whose women’s group at her church in Tacoma, WN, has sent funds to purchase “sanitary towels” for girls at the school. This may seem the most mundane of gifts, but girls miss several days of school each month for lack of funds to purchase them—or even worse, sell themselves for money to buy. This school serves the teenagers of the Naivasha slum and other poor kids. When money for food and rent is absent, sanitary towels have a low priority.
Among the many works of LB is talking to students about making wise choices in life, to tell them they are loved, unique and worth every effort to bring them to responsible adulthood. The 300 +/– students were crowded into a double classroom, cheek-by-jowl. We sat almost knee-to-knee with the front row. They sang their school anthem for us, and as Wanjiru, Catherine’s wonderful second in command, spoke to them they were rapt. They soaked her words like thirsty sponges and her words were truly inspired. Heather, too, received that same attention (at 4 pm, from kids who had been in class since 7:30 am!) She is a a pastor and speaks very movingly. Her message is full of God’s love and how enriched we all are when we are loving to each other. As they talked both to the boys and the girls I pondered how important it is that the boys come to understand what the girls must endure with their periods and their poverty.
I talked about the mythology of girls and math and asked how many liked math. A few hands were tentatively raised, but soon many hands came up. It turned out that the woman whom I thought was the principal is the math teacher, with 5 sections of more than 80 students each. Talk about dedication! She had not realized I was also a math teacher, but immediately invited me (insisted) to spend a day teaching her students. That will happen next week, I think.
Catherine had been called to a meeting of the water board, of which she is the new chair, so was unable to join us until we were almost finished. She walked in the door and the room expoded with joy. Both boys and girls whooped to see her. She comes as often as she can to listen, counsel and spread her encouragement. She is a gift to all.
I was very impressed with the students at Milimani High. They so exemplify the struggle to get ahead in this town. We may question the means by which they find the money to buy uniforms and pay school fees (even this school is not free), but they are desperate to get the education they know is the only road out of the slums. I’m truly looking forward to teaching them.
Heather was scheduled to return to Nairobi to met up with friend, Njeri. We decided rather than find someone to babysit her on a matatu, we would combine her trip with ours to the Maasai market where Judy and I go to find the fun things we sell at home to support our various causes here. Ben, the accountant, agreed to drive my car and to be our chief haggler, and Julia, the children’s home matron, went along too. In the past we had taken Jecinta on these jaunts, but Ben proved to be every bit the bargainer that Jecinta is. Again, I forgot my camera, but fortunaely Heather took some pix.
My problem is always “will I be able to get this home and can I sell it for enough to make it worthwhile?” I found some wonderful nativity scenes set inside beautifully carved gourds. I bought only 3 and wonder how I can transport them, as they are a bit fragile. Other nativity sets were so cute, but I knew they would be crushed creches long before they reached SFO.
After several hours our purses empty and arms loaded with treasures, we called it a day, agreeing we would come again. I had decided to expand my driving range—not in downtown Nairobi, which is a nightmare, but just out of that main traffic. We stopped for lunch in a little café I know and afterwards I took over the driving. Judy was gripping her seat, not, she assured me, because of my driving, but that of all the others, particularly the ubiquitous matatus. However it didn’t take long before my 60+ years of driving kicked in and I felt quite comfortable. The 4 lane high way gave way to 2 lanes and before I knew it, we came out of the highlands and came down to the Great Rift Valley. We were soon back safely in Naivasha and Judy could breathe again! Nap time.