#23 – Wrapping It Up

I’m sitting in the Nairobi airport, waiting for the check-in counter to open.  My flight doesn’t leave for more than 5 hours, but I wanted Fr Kiriti to get out of NBO before dark and back in Naivasha in the early evening.  This is the end of year #15.  I had thought last year might be my last, but I really wanted to claim 15 summers.  Now I’m seriously thinking of #16.  Yet a lot can happen in 9 ½ months.  I’ll come again if I feel able.

In the past I’ve visited Fr. Kiriti where ever he was stationed at least once, but this year I didn’t leave Naivasha except to pick Julie and Niki at the airport and 2 times to Maasai Market.  Nairobi and Nakuru are in  opposite directions from Naivasha.  So we agreed I would come to visit this past weekend.  Hillary would drive me to Nakuru Friday evening and Fr. Kiriti would drive me back on Sunday.  Another case of “the best laid plans….”  Hillary called me Wednesday to say a favorite cousin had been found murdered in Nairobi—a very good person, who was returning from a university chapel where he regularly attended prayers.  He would be buried Friday in an area not near where I wanted to go.  My inconvenience was nothing compared to his shock and grief.

Plan B was Saturday morning the kids would walk me to the stage—the place where I could “hop” a matatu.  It’s maybe 1/3 mile, something that I would not even have noticed in my “youth”—say 75, but these days I needed both Mary and John to hold my hands.  Otherwise I’d be impossibly slow and possibly knocked over by throngs of pedestrians on uneven sidewalks—when sidewalks existed. We arrived at the “Nakuru Direct” sign where a full matatu sat, waiting for the driver.  Five minutes, 10 minutes, finally he showed up and that one left.  But no other vehicle (as they’re known here) appeared. Ten more minutes.  Then I remembered the evening I drove Hillary to the Nakuru stage in a different area.  Some probing of the kids revealed that this wasn’t the major stage for Nakuru.  It was ½ mile away, through back alleys, unpaved, rutted, rocky, full of obstacles, and the usual careless piki piki drivers.  Mary took a firm grip on my hand, John carried my backpack and off we went. 

I must admit, schlepping through the back streets is really colorful, so different from anything in my US life.  Arriving at the major stage, we found it strangely quiet, compared to the bustling place we’d just left.  John went off to make inquiries while Mary and I sat in plastic chairs placed for the comfort of waiting customers outside a hair salon.  At some point they told me the problem was that Saturday is not a commute day, so few vehicles.  We sit and sit.  At last John appears, beckoning.  We follow to find a waiting matatu with exactly 1 seat remaining—the one on the very narrow aisle.  The seat so narrow, only one cheek is supported.  I’m so glad to finally be on the way, I don’t care.  I plug myself into the current story on my phone and sit back for a long, cramped, bumpy ride—until I realize I’ve been leaning on the knee of the young man in the seat just behind me.  “Oh sorry!”  He didn’t seem to mind, but I was embarrassed. 

Not only was the seat narrow, but also the young man in the window seat had wide shoulders such that I was a bit torqued.  The leg room, also narrow, required my knee to be jammed against the seat in front.  Ah, the beauty of public transportation in the developing world.  It’s not as if I didn’t know what I was getting into and if I wanted to visit Fr. Kiriti’s new parish, this was my only option.  Clearly having my own car to drive has made me quite spoiled

The driver was “aggressive”, often passing long lines on the left (like passing on the right in the US), weaving into the traffic flow from time to time and generally driving like a matatu driver—until we came to the area where crews were working in the highway.  Yep, they do that a lot on Saturdays.  The jam was 101 on Friday at 5 pm, which is to say, at a standstill. Since Fr. Kiriti was to meet me at the Nakuru stage, I texted him, “In a jam, hope you’re not too hungry” (we were to eat lunch after I arrived). The usual 1 ½ hour trip took 2 ½ hours, but at last we arrived the stage, which was a total jam, making me wonder what it was like on a commute day. 

We walked another ½ mile or so to the sports club, which he has joined to be sure he stays in shape, had a nice lunch and chat, then drove off to see St. Monica parish, his new home base.

The house reminded me of a mini Winchester Mystery House, no rhyme nor reason to the design, but pleasant and comfortable.  His part includes a sitting room with the usual way-too-large furniture and 2 bedrooms.  It was one of the first opportunities we’d had to talk without rushing.  He told me about beginning of his new job, supervising the construction of a retirement home for the Nakuru diocese.  He really loves to do that work, having directed the construction of SFG as well as completing the ½ built church he’d inherited upon arrival in Naivasha in 2004.  However, he’s been assigned to assist in St. Monica, under a rather cranky parish priest.  “For 27 years I’ve been in charge—it’s hard not to be in charge.” 

Driving back to Naivasha the next day we talked about my summer, how I see things at SFG, what some of the Mji kids are doing now and how it has been, being at Mji with Mary and John.  I had to admit it was really fun to have them staying with me and being so helpful. They loved the food, in particular the hamburgers (no, cheeseburgers, with pickles when we could find them at the Naivas) and more importantly, the pizza. 

Because my visitors, Mary Fitzgerald earlier in the summer, as well as Julie and Niki, had brought back to much of the crafts I’d bought, getting myself packed up and out of the house was much easier.  It isn’t just packing my things, I always have to pack up all the things I’d  borrowed from Fr. Kiriti’s house, pack a suitcase of crafts for him to bring when he comes, pack up my own things that I don’t leave in the house, now that I know that it’s used by other visitors in my absence.  I’ve come back to too many broken or missing items.  Mary, wrapped up all the glasses and big mugs that I’ve purchased over the years to put in a big metal trunk I’d bought.  It’s full of stuff, little things like a brush to clean out the small holes in the shower head.  They get clogged by the high mineral content of the water here.  Less water coming through the instant hot system makes it very hot.  Hence a regular brushing out is needed.

This morning, Hillary arrived bright and early.  He took one load to Fr. Kiriti’s house, about 20 minutes away, came back, by which time I was ready to go.  We took my metal trunk, water dispenser, toaster, coat trees Judy had had made years ago, bedding, stools etc.  Amazing how many things I’ve bought over 15 years in an attempt to make living a bit more convenient.  I left my shampoo and conditioner to Mary and the rest of the Arnica to Margaret, whose facial rash responded well to it, invited the 3 of them to divide up the remaining foodstuffs, taken the “left-behinds” from math camp to the parish office in hopes some child would remember where he/she had left that calculator or text book.  Hillary got the remains of my digestive aids, having had almost instant relief from an attack of dyspepsia one day.  I said my good byes to the parish staff, all of whom are always so welcoming and so willing to ease my daily life and to Mary and Margaret, both very grateful for the pay I’d given them for being my babysitters.

John was doing some yard work for Fr. Kiriti, so I had a chance to say good bye, thank him and give him his pay as well.  And then, we were off to Nairobi.  Each year parting gets harder.  Each year I wonder whether I’ll ever be back.  I’m feeling much more hopeful for 2020, but life has a way of making plans without consulting me.  We’ll see.

On the road, we stopped at a road-side café and gas station.   To my surprise Fr. Kiriti suggested pizza—he rarely eats cheese, although he loves it.  Surprised again, when I took my first bite of Hawaiian Chicken pizza to find it quite good. 

Finally at the airport I was more than a bit dismayed to learn my flight from Amsterdam to SFO had been canceled and I’d been rerouted for a 2ndstopover in Heathrow.  ARGH!!!! I’ve been there twice in my early years and I’ve very carefully avoided it ever since.  I refused, insisting they put me on another airline.  I waited and waited.  Then they wanted to route me through Amsterdam and Seattle, arriving SFO 5 hours later than originally scheduled.  In the end I agreed to go through London but asked for a wheelchair to change terminals.  I recall the last time was a very long trek through a very large and confusing series of seemingly miles of corridors, trams, not finding the right gate area. I used to pride myself on being able to cope with all that jazz, but now find myself perfectly willing to let someone else guide me.  Must be getting old.  It wasn’t until my young seat mate mentioned a computer gremlin had lost all the data that I learned the cause of the disruption.  I wish I’d been told.  Might have been more understanding.

Nairobi to Amsterdam

Now I’m in the air somewhere between Kenya and the Netherlands, 4:33 am (but not sure whether that’s Nairobi time or whether my computer is self-correcting as we fly.  Doesn’t matter.  I just wish I were sleepy.  Must have been that really chocolaty dessert I couldn’t resist.  Yet another bit of proof that somehow we pay for our sins!

London Heathrow

As it turned out, I didn’t use a wheelchair.  Maybe it was the return to sea level that energized me, but I walked the interminable corridors, grateful for the “people movers”, not finding signs very helpful so asking questions.  All went well until just before the security line, a rather curt lady, dispensing plastic bags for liquids and cosmetics enumerated all the things that must be in the bag.  I’ve not put anything in a ziplock for years and nowhere have I been required to do it on this trip—except here.  I pulled my toothpaste and face oil out and stepped in line.  I was a bit nervous about the nursing scissors I’d carelessly packed in my carry on.  I was briefly stopped in Nairobi, but allowed to keep them after I mentioned they don’t have sharp points—and he look at my face.  In London, my carryon passed right through, but my purse was stopped! Huh?  Oh, RATS!!!  Curt lady had listed lipstick!!!  ARGH I had not only lipstick but also lip balm. 

I’ve never seen such a slow, thorough, search of bags and mine was about 10 back.  I began to calculate whether I’d make my plane—and get irritated that an 83-year old could be held up for nearly 45 minutes for LIPSTICK!!!!  Remind me never to go through Heathrow again.

London to SFO

On my last leg of this @#$!%$^%^@ series of flights.  This time I’m on Virgin Atlantic and fascinated by the arrangement of seats in business class.  It’s the most efficient use of space I’ve seen yet.  Haven’t done business very often, only to Kenya and back, but I give this designer A+.

Home

Arrived home Tuesday, exhausted but happy to be met by son, Mark, who had made a casserole for us to share.  What a guy!  However, I was NOT happy to find 7 loads of sheets to be washed, no clean ones to put on my bed, refrigerator full of renter’s food, cupboard likewise and “stuff” left in every room.  Not only that, my kitties were nowhere to be seen.  I was sure they’d come in when night fell, but no.  They always sleep on my bed, but no, I was all alone that night—in which I slept from 8:30 pm to 8 am (when wakened by a phone call). Opened an unused bedroom door and 2 sets pf pointy ears popped up.  They had been so traumatized they’d been under that bed all day.  After some initial hesitation, we are buddies again, slowly I’m getting the laundry done, house in order and refrigerator/cupboards emptied

Tutored my first student last evening.  I guess I’m home.  Summer 2019 is now history, recorded in these blogs.  Sigh

#22 – Margo, Chief Chef

Or as we said in my family, chief cook and bottle washer!  Among the people I’ve gotten to know well is a very colorful, smart, strong woman named Joyce Muturia.  I’ve eaten at her home many times, but this year, when she learned I occasionally cooked American hamburgers for John, Mary and now also Mary’s sister, Margaret, she announced, “Margo, I want you to teach me to make American hamburgers.”  Envisioning the 8 the 8 Muturias and the 4 of us in my one-butt kitchen and responded, “I’ll bring the ingredients and cook at your house,” which is what I did last night. I bought 2 kilos of “mince meat” aka HB, buns, cheese, catsup, and we took the last of the sort-of dill pickles and some mayo from the refrigerator here, schlepping all of that and the 4 of us to the Muturia house. 

I thought I knew where it was, but when we arrived and I “hooted”, no one opened the gate.  Calling her, I found she was not yet home, so we waited.  Shortly she arrived, laughing, to tell me I was waiting at the gate next door.  Oh well, I was in the ballpark. 

Joyce is quite a character and enormously enterprising and energetic. When I first met her, probably in her 30’s, she was completing a degree in pharmacy, after which she promptly opened a “chemists.”  There are many in Naivasha, so it wasn’t the grand success she’d hoped.  Eventually she closed it, by then completing a medical degree.  While she was at the university, she accepted the contract to run a student dining hall, commuting back to Naivasha (99 Km) and managing her family of then 3-children. After completing that degree, she returned to Naivasha to open a restaurant and eventually joining with her husband and another couple to open an adjacent guest house.  In the meantime she bore her 4thchild.  Not content with all of that, she bought some land and is growing onions—great big ones, not the puny little guys we see in the street market.  What’s next? Only Joyce knows.  Oh, did I mention that all the while her husband was spending most of his time in Iceland, studying geothermic energy, earning a PhD?

Back to my tale, I’d brought my great new acquisition, the round cast iron griddle that has been so successful coking HB’s, pizza, French toast, grilled cheese sandwiches and an occasional egg.

We were 12, so I set people to work, some making the patties, some cutting the cheese slices, another slicing tomatoes and the pickles, splitting the buns, while I, teacher that I am, explained the intricacies of great HB making, all the while, cooking the patties, shifting them around the grill to find the hottest areas (or the not too hot spots), toasting the buns and trying to keep track of how long each patty had been cooking.  At last they were all topped with melted cheddar and warm in the buns.  Hmmm, not 12 chairs in the house.  Emanual had to stand. 

Precious, the last born and only girl, prayed over the food for us, after which I carefully explained, “Mayo on one side of the bun, catsup on the other (not a mustard fan, so didn’t do that), then tomato and pickle slices, and…..voila!”  Although heretofore almost no one I’ve met in Kenya has even heard of a dill pickle, let alone eaten one, I’ve made many converts, except Joseph, who reluctantly tasted a small piece, after his mother insisted, turned up his nose. Emanuel, Travis, Precious, as well as Joyce and husband, Charles, pronounced them “sweet”, which means they like the taste but doesn’t describe the taste.  Dinner was completed by a lovely fruit salad of watermelon, cucumber, pineapple and banana.

The pickle slicer had gotten carried away, but 8-year old Precious, had her own ideas of what to do with the extras.  “Eeny, meeny, miney, moe, catch a rabbit by his toe.  If he cries, let him go, eeny, meeny, miney, moe.” Moe was required to eat a pickle slice.  I will confess right here and now, a slice of pickle in a tummy more than filled with HB and fruit salad, was not going to happen.  When I was that hapless Moe, I firmly said, “no”.  It may have been ungracious, but not nearly as ungracious as what I feared might occur had I eaten the pickle!  To my amazement and I suspect, John’s dismay, eventually the pickle plate was empty.  John, Mary and Margaret have also become pickle fans—especially John. Unfortunately, we cleaned out the Naivas pickle supply and I suspect they breathed a sigh of relief at not having to chuck them out and determined they’d never stock them again. 

While at Joyce’s, I’d casually mentioned the kids had requested one more pizza dinner, which would be tonight.  “Margo, I want you to teach me how to make pizza.”  “Um, it’s a long process.”  “I’ll come to your house and watch.”  We agreed she would come at 4.  At 4:05, I’d garnered Mary to chop the onions, one of Joyce’s mammoths, while I minced the garlic.  Onions and garlic sautéing,  Mary chopped the tomatoes and I chopped the green peppers, all of which we tossed into the pot.  Still no Joyce.  At 4:33 I found a text, “I’m coming, but it will be 4:30.”  Text back, “Too late to arrive at 4:30, it’s already 4:35!”  She arrived promptly on African time at 4:50, just as I was adding the bay leaves, thyme, oregano, the last crumbs of the basil, mixed herbs and some salt.  Charles, having popped in about the same time, watched as intently as Joyce, the pizza dough instruction utube I’d found.  With no less aplomb than Julia, I tested the temperature of the water, added sugar (to feed the yeasties), sprinkled on the powdered yeast and allowed the yeasties to awaken and have a sugar snack to get them going.  Adding salt, oil and flour, I deftly mixed the dough, just like the demo man.  We set it to rise, just in time for Joyce and Charles to scoot off to a mass, saying they’d be back to see the result. 

The dough rose, we spread it on the round griddle, smothered it with the sauce (much more thickly than any but Mama Mia would have), added chopped squareds of “sandwich ham” and smothered the whole works which shredded cheddar and the last of the parmesan brought in Julie and Niki’s cases.  I’d scoured the Naivas, but no salami nor pepperoni.

Sure enough, just as the crust was nicely browned and cheese melted, the Muturia’s (6 of them) arrived for a taste.  I cut a slice and divided it into chunks.  “Sweet” was the consensus.  Off they went for their own dinner and we sat down to ours.  Joyce had commented that our pizza was huge, but I knew every crumb would be devoured.  It was.

#21 – Mji Wa Neema Reunion

Since so many Mji kids came to Naivasha from their various schools for the Saturday ETW reunion (see # 20) we decided we’d have our Mji reunion Sunday.  I’d bought a sheep for the event, although we all prefer goat, we planned the food, John and Mary made sure the girls and boys dorms were ready, we cleaned up the yard—just like anyone would do in expectation of guests.  And they came.  I didn’t count them, but I think there may have been 20 to 25, all eager to see each other, to share what has become an annual event.  Hillary joined us, as did Frs Kiriti and Ngaruiya and Odhembio, the catechist who has been a big brother to them since he came to this parish, maybe 10 years ago. 

For me it is at once, a wonderful gathering of my Kenyan “grandchildren” and a hectic day of trying to handle all the small things we had not anticipated, listen to kids telling me what pitfalls they are currently facing and wanting to just be part of the group around the fire pit where parts of the sheep were roasting away.

The preparation, from slaughtering, which I did not observe, let alone participate in, to making the meat pan-ready, is a much more arduous task than I would ever have thought.  There must have been 3 or 4 around the table, hacking bones apart, cutting off facia, removing excess fat, separating out the innards, some of which they roasted and some of which they tossed (though that was minimal). They’ve all done this often enough to know what to do and they joked and laughed as they worked.

Finally it was ready.  We all gathered in the dining hall, people going in and out to answer a call, get a plate, a serving spoon, some water, whatever.  It was almost never a stable group, but as I sat at the end of the table and looked around it was a repeat performance of so many dinners I’ve shared in that room, only the players keep getting bigger. Lucas and Joseph came to stay, from Catherine’s, Michael returned from his music festival, Cyrus came from a remote area where he’d just finished his 1-year internship (which he LOVED), they gathered from the 4 corners of Kenya to be together.  After the meal we had our traditional ice cream and “biscuits” aka cookies.  This was another Judy idea, which was met with mixed opinions that first year. They all loved the flavors, but I remember Michael in particular, screwing up his face at the cold, but continuing to eat because it tasted so good! 

Generally I have engineered these events (Judy started it, but hasn’t been here for 5 years or so), buying the food, and making sure everyone was on board.  But every year I wonder whether it will be my last.  Before I left home this past June, I was pretty sure this would be my last trip, but…..  Only time will tell.  In fact, I’ll either be here in June 2020 or I won’t. 

Julie and Niki were leaving Sunday night, with Hillary driving them to the airport and Cyrus catching a ride to go back to Nairobi where he lives.  And slowly by slowly the others packed up their things to return to school, job, attachment, home whatever.  As I hugged each one goodbye, I wondered, as I so often do, “will I ever see her/him again?” Need I admit to some tears?  Of course I had tears.

Some stayed over for today and some are still here tonight.  By Wednesday, it will be Mary and her sister Margaret, John and Joyce. 

This morning, it was back to teaching math—-exceptI had forgotten that the 2ndMonday of each month, the Lions eye clinic takes over most of our teaching space AND the end of Eid is a national holiday in Kenya.  ARGH!!! I’m running around trying to find places to teach, classes were small, and I’d had little time for much breakfast. It was crazy, but then by a bit after noon, our area was EMPTY.  The form 4’s who usually stay for chemistry didn’t show at all and I had only 11 for math. 

In addition to everything else I’ve set myself the goal of cleaning out all the junk not just in the dining hall (that’s now done) but also the “suite” of rooms Julia (matron) used when the home still had kids.  Four cupboards in the 2 rooms and a storage were jammed with coverless books, many with missing pages, old clothes, and just junk.  I even found a bone from some previous goat or sheep stuck back on a shelf! There is still a bit more to do but mostly the place looks pretty good.  Since Fr. Ngaruiya lets people stay in the Mji compound, I wanted it to be fairly livable.  Now I think it is.

About 3 I sit down to finish the Sudoku and have some lunch.  It’s so peaceful.  I don’t know where the kids are, but I’m enjoying the quiet.  Not for long!  They’d gone to Fr. Kiriti’s to visit Toleo, who hadn’t come yesterday, and now they trooped back.  Tylon came in to tell me he wasn’t feeling well, headache, join pains and general malaise announce the probable onset of malaria.  Ugh!  What to do. I call Joyce, who is a doctor, for advice and proceed as directed to the Kebeti clinic, but it has closed.  Off to the district hospital we go for testing. Joyce has called ahead (nice to have friends in high places!) so we are seen right away.  Yep!  It’s malaria, but we’ve caught it early.  We pick up the medication and finally I have a few minutes for me.  However, I didn’t finish the Sudoku until about ½ hour ago (10:15). Now off to sleep.  Long day.

ETW Reunion

Empower the World (ETW) convened its annual meeting and reunion at Archbishop Ndingi this morning.  It was the best so far, although many of our current or past sponsored students were not there.  I was most pleased that almost all the Mji kids were with us—on time!!!  There were some 65 from form 1’s to 7 or 8 years out of university

Each year there are a few more who have finished their education, either university or technical college and ready to embark on their careers.  Yes, jobs are hard to find but many graduates are employed—maybe not in a dream job, but self-supporting.  Several people spoke, telling their stories of how they began in poverty and despair of ever going to high school.  Kizito, now a program developer for Safaricom, the biggest phone network in Kenya, spoke having completed high school, but having no hope to attend university. When someone agreed to sponsor him he was determined to be tops (he graduated #1) at university.  Even then it was a problem getting a job.  In the 7 or 8 years since, he has held 5 jobs, each better, more interesting, more challenging and much better paid.  Later I heard several people saying his talk had been truly inspirational.

Kennedy spoke briefly of his family’s being victims of the post-election violence during his 2ndyear of high school.  He was sponsored to complete his high school in a different area, worked very hard and was sponsored to medical school.  From the time he and I first met, he had told me of his dreams to be a doctor and to open a clinic in his home area, where medical resources are scarce.  He told us that just this last year he achieved his dream, I was stunned.  He’s not yet 30!  The clinic is small, but growing.  He’s interviewing new med school grads, looking for others who understand poverty and what it’s like to be too poor to afford medical care.  He married a fellow med school graduate, who works together with him.  I’ve asked him to write his story for our 2019 newsletter, which will be out in late November.  It’s a beautiful story of a tall young man who wanted to be of service to his community.

I wish I could communicate the lights in the eyes who told a small break-out group how they felt when they learned they could go to high school. Many have written eloquently about the crushing poverty of their families and the almost disbelief when the word came, “Empower the World will sponsor you.”  That’s Kenya Help here in Kenya. 

We had a lovely catered lunch of traditional foods, really delicious.  We sat around on the small porch or on the grass, people meeting for the first time or renewing friendships, networking with those of common interests and skills.  While the turnout was not what we had wished, much was accomplished!

Heretofore, I had thought building St. Francis Girls was the big achievement of Kenya Help, but I see now that establishing this family of young people, each having a beginning in poverty, many growing up with a single parent or even an orphan, is even more important.  I can see this organization growing and eventually becoming self-sustaining.  Already those who are able have begun to donate to help others.  As I’ve written before, helping strangers is a pretty new idea here, but many of our beneficiaries “get it” that they were sent to school by strangers, whom they will probably never meet, and they want to “pay it forward.”

My sense and belief is that we ETW is still a “child”, a dream of Fr. Kiriti, Hillary and mine, but it is a healthy child, eager to grow.  Two of our early sponsored university students, Kizito and Mithlet are members of the board and were the big planners, along with Hillary, of this meeting.  Mithlet graduated in accounting and business practices (I think that’s the second field), but has not yet found her dream job.  Undaunted, she is back in school, earning a CPA.  She’s an amazing person, so full of energy and a wonderful advocate for ETW.

As things wound down, suddenly Cyrus appeared.  He has been doing an “attachment” for his medical degree in an area very far.  He told me he’d had to take a flight to Nairobi even to arrive at 2 pm.  So great to see him and to see all the Mji kids there, like true brothers and sisters, enjoying being together.

More coming.

#19 – Day 2 of Math Camp

It’s going even better than I had hoped.  Yesterday 15  form 4’s, today 25, with several people indicating they will be bringing their children tomorrow.  Catherine sent 2 of her LB ladies to ask about it for their children, one a form 2 the other form 4.  Last year we had 50 form 4’s at the end.  The room was crammed.  .

Catherine’s daughter, Laura, has come as promised to teach form 1.  She needed to go to Nairobi today to get something from her school, but she told her mother she would teach first, because “my students need me.”  She went to Nairobi afterwards.  Laura and I had a long talk in the afternoon yesterday, in which I suggested she might consider taking up teaching as a career.  She’s a very caring person with good people skills, and I’ve wondered why she’d chosen a career crunching numbers.  “You’ll never get rich teaching but you will have a very rich life.” Only time will tell how she will find a way to encompass all her many qualities and skills, but she’s very bright. She’ll figure it out.  Look at her mom!

Benjamin Macanda, who teaches chemistry and physics, came at 1 to teach the form 4’s.  All 25 stayed!!!  I was amazed. He’s a sweet man, quiet and soft spoken. Lydia tells me he was an excellent teacher.  From the looks on the faces of the students as they left, I believe it.  They looked very happy for what they are learning. Since math and science are the courses that bring down the scores so much, I think this is going to be a very significant experience for them.  Tomorrow we will invite the form 3’s to join the class.  I wish I’d thought of that sooner.  He tells me that the curriculums for those 2 years mesh very well and he will make sure the form 3’s are not left behind.

In the meantime, it has just occurred to me that now that Laura is doing form 1 math, Margaret, who taught it yesterday is now free to teach biology in the afternoon.  I think she’ll like that.  We had discussed it previously, then it slipped from my mind when she was needed for math.

For my part, I am enjoying the teaching very much.  The students are enjoying being in mixed classes.  Today I told them about a time in the early 1990’s when there was a push to have girls high schools—ostensibly because girls were more timid to participate in class with boys present.  In general, I didn’t see that, but maybe I was just unconscious. So I asked my students to write anonymously what they thought about it.  A few girls thought they’d like it, but most didn’t think it necessary and some said an adamant NO!  The boys were decidedly opposed.  One guy, maybe more, I forget, said “We need the girls in the class to keep us civilized!” When I said that the girl clapped and the boys yelled, YES!!!!  They all laughed.  They like learning together.

So far I’ve felt quite energized and have had no trouble teaching 3 hours straight, even standing on concrete floors.  There is something about the energy of teenagers that I absorb! 

The mornings have been gloriously beautiful, skies clear and blue and warm enough to teach in a short-sleeved shirt.  As the day progresses, the sky begins to cloud and today by 4:15 it began to rain.  It was just a sprinkle at first, but now at 5:45 it is pourng.  This is in stark contrast to previous years when by the end of July the rains had completely ended and the whole area was a dust bowl. I think the rainy evenings are good, particularly, married to the sunny days.  Kenya has had some areas of drought and famine, so perhaps if harvests are good around here, food can be sent to those areas of hunger. 

Lydia called me last night from Maasai Mara, just ecstatic about the first evening, during which they’d seen lions, many elephants, cheetahs (very rare), hippos, buffalos and many members of the deer family.   This morning they were to go out again, return for breakfast and rest, then go out again tonight. 

This has been a bit of a stressful year as she has had to undo many of the things Ruth put in place, sack some incompetent or non-performing staff and arrange attitude adjustments for others.  As I’ve written before, she’s doing a great job, but it hasn’t been a piece of cake.  That’s why J, N and I decided to send her on the safari with them.  She needed something to lift her up and keep her going. I think it’s working!

John will return tomorrow, J and N on Thursday, and the kitchen will again be bursting at the seams.  Margaret, Mary and Tylon are much quieter and while it’s nice to have some calm, too much calm is too quiet. 

We’re looking forward to the ETW reunion on Saturday and the Mji reunion on Sunday.  I’ve been waiting for the delivery of the sheep which I’ve purchased for the Mji event. The boys do the slaughtering (I absent myself from that particular scene), but it is a natural part of their lives here.  They love the ritual and the repeat of all we’ve done in years past.  Since Mji was closed 3 (?) years ago, this reunion has become really important in keeping the sense of family, which is so important to kids growing up without much of a biological family.  Some have relatives they are close to, but many have none or none they are close to.  They love getting together, but to my mind it’s deeper than that.