#7 Models and Matatus

#  7 Matatus and Models

Awakening this morning before 7, I plug in the modem and am happy to see some emails from home.  I read all of them and begin to answer.  It’s part of what I love to do, telling people about what it’s like here.  It’s important to me to feel connected.  Otherwise it’s like being on Mars—that different.  I’ve promised  Jecinta I would teach the form 4’s at 1:30, but was so tired last night I couldn’t think to do the prep, so I need to get to school.  Out to the road to catch a matatu, I find lots of them, but virtually all empty.  That means they will turn around so many times, I’ll never get to school.  I wonder that someone hasn’t figured out a way to organize them so that not so many go up at once.  One comes along that is ½ full.  Maybe they will not turn around.  After all, there are always more people along the way, waiting for a “vehicle” as they are sometimes called.  No luck, around we turn and go clear to the bottom of the hill, to the matatu stage.  Disgusted, I get out, only to be accosted by a swarm of touts, each trying to fill his vehicle.  I look at one and start to get in, but the tout is very rude and I decide against it.  “OK, I’ll call my man, Fred, on his piki piki to get me”  Fred says, “I’m coming” when I tell him where I am.  I begin walking up the road to where he has said he was.  I stop at the place where he usually waits for a fare and call again.  No answer.  RATS!!!  Time is passing and I need to get to school.  Call once more.  Oh, he had not understood me and is waiting at the church.  Carefully I tell him where I am.  “I’m coming.”  But at that point Fr Kiriti drives by and offers to give me a ride to school.  He doesn’t like me to ride piki pikis, even though Fred is very careful.  I tell the other pp drivers to explain to Fred and gratefully climb in.

He is in a hurry, so he drops me at the road, just a short walk to the school.  It’s the same walk I take when I get off the matatu.

Right there is a metal works and I have a brilliant idea.  The material Jecinta has asked me to teach is 3-D geometry and the questions are very hard to visualize.  I keep wishing we had a model of a cube made from wires, so the students could more easily see which angles were meant.  I’m having a hard time seeing some of them myself.  “Why don’t I stop and ask whether they can make what I want?”  “Does anyone here speak English?”  Three guys stare at me, but one says he does.  I try to explain what I want.  He produces a pad of paper and I make a drawing.  He immediately understands and agrees to make it.  “How much?”  “Ksh 300” (about $3.75-a bargain!)  I nod in agreement.  “How soon?”  “Um, maybe Friday”.  RATS!  I need it yesterday!  I wish I had thought of this sooner.  “No, I need it sooner.”  “OK, tomorrow”  This is Wednesday.  “I really need it today, can you do it today?  I’ll pay you ksh 400.”  He nods.  “What time?”  “Um—-4 o”clock.”  My class is at 1:30, but I can see this will have to do.  I walk on, pleased with my efforts.  When I tell the other math teachers what I’ve done, they all grin and agree models are very helpful.  But of course they would never think to take the initiative to remedy this need.  The African way is to accept.  The Margo way is to figure out how to solve the problem—after all I’m a math teacher and that’s what we do—solve problems.

As I approach the gate, I hear a piki piki moter behind me.  Oh, dear, it’s Fred, looking crest-fallen.  His buddies didn’t tell him I got a ride and he is worried I am offended b/c he didn’t understand my English.  I assure him I am not and promise to pay him for coming all the way there to find me.  I don’t have enough small bills in my pocket and they never have change, so I hand him ksh 60 and promise to pay him the rest.  It’s not very expensive, just ksh 150, but it’s ksh 30 on the matatu.  Fred is very relieved and grateful that he didn’t lose a fare.

At tea break I find Victoria and Teresia, her penpal and best buddy here.  I’m under orders to include on in this emai.  Here it is.

In class the girls were having a hard time seeing what I was trying to show them yesterday.  They’ve had no experience in drawing 3-D and despite my excellent explanation yesterday, most of them made the drawings incorrectly—they did it the way the book did it (incorrect).  The trick is to dot the lines you wouldn’t see if it were opaque, while those you would see are solid.  Even then it’s hard to see “into” the picture, but without dotted lines, I can’t see it at all—can’t tell front from back.

I’ve written the correct answers on the board, in hopes they will see and it does help, but they are still struggling.  I sympathize, because 3-D is hard for me too.  Jecinta has never taught it, so she’s sitting in the back of the room, struggling too.  I long for the model.

After they have asked all their questions (and presumably understand) I explain the new material and put them to work.  Before the end of the period, I write a few answers on the board for them to use as guidelines and promise to come back tomorrow for more.  Many of them will eventually be able to draw in perspective and see, but some will not.

I consult with Simon, another math teacher about something I just can’t see myself.  We scratch our heads and eventually sort it out.  Then I walk up to the metal works to check on the progress of the model.  The man had gone to another place to do the welding and they all tell me he will be back in 2 hours (it’s now 3 pm).  Hope springs eternal and I report to Jecinta, give her the money to pay him and decide to leave, as I am tired.

I’m lucky today. Esther (matron) is by the door, purse in hand, so I know she is going to town.  We walk up to the road together and meet an old lady, who says something to her in Kikuyu , the predominate tribe in this area.  Many older people have never been to school and thus don’t even speak Kiswahili, let alone English.  Esther explains that lady has said she saw me at the dedication of the school back in 2007 and remembers me.  Sweet.

A matatu has seen us coming and awaits us, but it’s very full.  People have big bags of cabbages they are delivering in town so there is hardly any place to put our feet.  Nonetheless we get on and are soon back in town.

Back in my room I’m still wondering how I will prepare for tomorrow.  If only I had some sturdy wire pieces or some sticks.  I contemplate cutting up some wire hangers, but it’s hard to cut the wire.  I know b/c I’ve already had to do that once to repair something.  And besides, I don’t have enough hangers.  What to do?  “Oh, wait.  Judy left some chopsticks last year from the Chinese dinner she prepared for the children of the orphanage.  I add up how many I will need.  Twelve.  YES!!!  There are 7 pair, so I’ll have 2 left over to use as diagonals—taping them end to end.

So I’ve sat on my bed for the past hour, making my model with chopsticks and tape.  Here is the result.

I’m very pleased with my handiwork!  I’ll leave it here to use when I’m prepping at home.

It looks kind of lopsided, but it will do.

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