#19 Shughuli Shughuli

Friday, July 29, 2011

#19  Shughuli Shughuli

This is a new term I learned yesterday, meaning “this and that”, “here and there” or just a lot of miscellaneous stuff, which is exactly what this will be about.  I haven’t written for some 5 days because my life has been shughali, shughuli and it’s been long days, ending with children from Mji Wa Neema visiting in the evening, when I usually do my writing.  I love talking to them—you all know that teenagers are my love.

I spent most of last weekend and Monday interviewing the students who are supported by Kenya Help.  I wish I could send their stories and pictures.   I’ve felt wrung out, listening to young people who have lost their parents, families have lost everything they own, they’ve endured hunger, one girl said she had gone to school day after day with no breakfast, taking no lunch with her and having a meager meal in the evening because there was no food and sometimes no water.  You can imagine what it is like for her to be here where she has food and water in abundance, as well as a nurturing atmosphere in which to learn.  Eventually this will all be on our website, which is being redone.  I can’t send all my interviews through the modem.  It will have to wait until I get home and can up load to a flash disc.

I had come home early on Tuesday so I could type up some of the interviews and plan my workshop for the next day.  School has now closed for the August holiday and Michael and Mercy were already at loose ends.  I was working at my kitchen table when they wandered in to see what I was up to (and probably wondering whether I had any biscuits -I didn’t).  Seeing my blue box of pens and pencils, they immediately did what kids do—explore.  Soon Joseph and Lucas wandered in and I had a kitchen full of kiddies, enjoying the colored pens.  Eventually I had to shoo them out to attend an event at Life Bloom.

Mercy (Toleo), Joseph and Lucas (brothers, newest residents) and Michael drawing.

LB had visitors from Uganda and Tanzania so had invited some of their women to share their stories.  I arrived in the middle of this and was moved to tears by the story of Susan, one of millions of girls who have had no high school.  She came to Naivasha, landing a job in a bar, and going from bad to worse.  Eventually she found Life Bloom and with Catherine’s help and encouragement made a decision to change her life.  She prayed for a direction, something she could do.  She began to notice signs about hospitals, stories about hospitals and just hospitals in general.  So she gathered her courage and went to a hospital in Nairobi.  She told them all about her life as a b-girl, including her alcoholism and other sordid details.  They were so impressed with her honesty, openness and determination that they hired her.  She was only qualified to be a “cleaner”, ending up in the maternity ward.  There she was not only diligent but also observant.  She learned the routines and practices and was eventually promoted.  She now has been trained and is a nursing assistant, with responsibilities and is beloved and respected by her supervisors.  Needless to say, I was in tears.

Susan’s talk was capped with a “water ceremony” in which each participant slowly poured water into a bowl as she prayed or spoke about her hopes for the women of Africa.  Susan is on the left, moved to tears as was the woman next to her.  The visitors are facing, one recording the ceremony on her telephone.

After everyone spoke they were about to break up, but I wanted something more.  I took the bowl and said I wanted to baptize myself with some of the water, b/c it contained so many beautiful thoughts and prayers—whereupon I sprinkled some of the water on my head.  They loved it and everyone was baptized anew!  Wow, what an experience.

Leaving there I drove to SFG to attend the ending of the term-closing ceremony.  At such events, everyone speaks, so I was invited to speak too.  It had been a long afternoon, I could tell, but the room was very quiet as I told them a bit about LB. I shared a bit of Susan’s story as an example of someone who didn’t have the opportunity they have.  Some were shocked at what I said, but they need to understand the realities out in the big wide world.

Next day we left bright and early for Meru, home of Marymount high school, where I had been invited to give my calculator workshop.  Peter Muigi (SFG vice principal) and Maureen, math teacher and grad of MM accompanied me—Peter to drive (I wouldn’t want to drive on those roads!) and Maureen b/c she had not been back since graduating.  This was my first workshop and I was a bit nervous, although I had prepared very well.  About 20 math/science teachers came—most of MM’s as well as teachers from neighboring schools.  It had been arranged by John Gatuna, vice principal, whom I met last weekend when he came to speak to the SFG form 4’s about succeeding on the national exam (they take it this November).  After about a 5-minute session in which I showed him some of the features of the calculator, he was sold.  It was a very quick set-up, but the attendees liked it so much they are now talking about arranging a really big one for me next year.  Jecinta says he told her they’d try to do a national math teacher’s workshop for me!!!  Whether that happens or not, I was so thrilled that they would even think about it.

Before they would let me leave John insisted Maureen and I speak to their form4’s.  This school is twice the size of SFG, one of the very top schools in the country that is known for the excellent performance of their math students.  I spoke a bit about still loving math after all these years and a bit about my dream of teaching math to African girls.  I had kept it short, having promised Peter that we would leave promptly at 3, as he had a very important meeting at 5—to plan some details of his wedding, coming in 2 weeks!  But no, John had heard me talk about the easy way to FOIL and factor, something I have taught many times here, always with great success.  Wow! Were these girls bright!  I had 20 minutes and I would guess 95% of the more than 200 girls, who were jammed in the chem lab, got it!  John was beaming and I was so jazzed by the energy in that room I could probably have flown home unaided!

It was such an upper of a day, but after a 2 ½ hour drive back I discovered I was totally wiped out!  We were ½ hour late getting back, but the cake and flower lady had arrived on African time—about 10 minutes after we arrived, so all was well.

As I was finishing my dinner of I-don’t-know-what, Monica (form 2 girl who lives here at Mji Wa Neema) knocked on my door for some math help.  It was then that I realized just how used up I was.  We worked a few problems and then I just faded away.  Had to get to bed, b/c we were leaving early the next day for Sr Judy’s funeral.  That will be #20.

Margo

#18 Another Nairobi Day-Kizito Gets a Camera

Friday, July 22, 2011

#18 Another Nairobi Day-Kizito Gets a Camera

Before I left the US, I was given an assignment to purchase a graduation gift for Kizito by the person who sponsored him all through university.  He has just completed 4 years in computer science and graduated #1 in his class.  He has wanted a camera because he is also an artist and has dabbled in using technology to alter pictures.  Today was the big day.  Many of you have bought cards made from his drawings.

Originally I had planned to take a matatu to Nairobi, where I would be met by Kizito, we’d make the big buy and he would put me on another matatu to proceed to Karen, where I was to visit for several days with my dear friend Sr Judy.  I had to cancel the visit to Karen, b/c tomorrow I will be meeting with a person from a very successful girls high school.  I’m hoping they will invite me to offer a workshop.  Then it occurred to me that I would be carrying a big wad of money (this is a cash economy—didn’t even bring my credit card), so I asked Esther, matron at SFG to be my babysitter.  The matatu ride to Nairobi is long and cramped, so I was stiff and somewhat unsteady when we alit.  The station is in a really busy, run-down, crowded part of town and not someplace in which I’d like to wait around carrying a wad.  Thus I was grateful for Esther, as Kizito was delayed ½ hour by traffic jams—ubiquitous in Nairobi.  As I’ve written before, Nairobi traffic is a crazy mixture of matatus, lorries (local term), busses, taxis and private cars along with piki-pikis weaving in and out, big carts often piled high with heavy loads and pulled by hand.  Matatu drivers are notorious for weaving in and out, never giving an inch, while piki pikis zip here and there and the hand carts slow everyone down.  Ugh, what a mess!  Now combine that with a bigillion people all jay-walking, pushing, crowding taking advantage of every slow-down of traffic and streaming across.

The shops are much like what I imagine the lower east side of New York must have been in the 1920’s, full of junk but compelling to me.  But I can’t look, lest I trip, get shoved into the street, am victimized by a pickpocket or just lose my babysitter.  Yep, it’s a trip!

So, Kizito arrives at last and he has checked out the camera shops, “just across the road” and off we go, Esther holding my hand, across impossible intersections, down narrow streets with broken side-walk paving (if it’s even paved), and narrow sidewalks (if any) across more streets and roads and soon I’m thinking, “Just across the road of which city, Jerusalem, Berlin, Rio de Janero ????”  But the neighborhood begins to upgrade and soon we are in the fancy part of town at a very glitzy camera and TV shop.

Prices are low, compared to the US, but I still gulp at Ksh 22,000 (slightly less than $250 for a really nice 16 pixel Samsung) By the time we got the memory card and a carrying case it was still under $300.  Kizito was thrilled.  As I write I’m waiting for him to email me the picture we took of him in the shop.

Somewhere along the line I had received a call from Fr Kiriti that Sr Judy had been hospitalized and was in ICU at Mata Hospital in Nairobi.  So after a quick bit of refreshment, Kizito left for an appointment and Esther and I hopped a cab to the hospital clear across town.  I’d asked Kizito to check the internet for visiting hours, but he got it backwards.  We arrived at 2 for the 11:30 to 1:30 visiting time.  RATS!  But as we approached the entrance I spotted another nun in Judy’s order.  She took us in, up the stairs and right to the door of the ICU.  She opened the door for me and there was Sr Christine, who works with Judy.  She took me by the hand and we walked to Judy’s bed, where she was in a medically induced coma, IV’s piggy-backed, oxygen, vital signs monitor—the works.  A young doctor (intern?) has just finished assessing her.  I could hear only snatches of his report to Sr Christine,  but the upshot is they don’t know the cause, by her blood-pressure had dropped precipitously and suspicion there might be a connection to an earlier thyroid problem.  She had reported heart pain, but…. That’s all I know.  I held her hand and spoke to her but no response.  It’s hard to believe this is the same person I left 1 year ago, full of energy, funny, busy, full of life!  I couldn’t get a sense of whether this situation is life-threatening.  But it is very sad.

We didn’t stay long.  Our taxi was waiting, meter running.  We hopped in, gave a ride to 2 people who had come to see her, and took off  again across town in the Friday afternoon traffic.  For reasons known only to the taxi driver association, he had to drop us where he picked us, so it was across those streets, now even more crowded—how could that be—dodging and sprinting our way back to the matatu station.

The ride back seemed interminable.  I was tired, legs cramped, not enough space, in middle seat so couldn’t see out well.  It had become a real downer with the news of Sr Judy.  Will keep you informed of her condition.

Margo

This is now Saturday night.  I wrote this on Friday, but had to wait for Kizito to send the pix.  This morning Fr Kiriti called me to say Sr Judy passed away only a few hours after we visited her.  I am so stunned I hardly know what to think.  She was a strong, vital, energetic woman.  So sad.  Fr Kiriti and I will join hundreds of her sisters at her funeral on Thursday at the mother house in Thika.

# 17 Sr Cecelia’s School

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

# 17 Sr Cecelia’s School

Yesterday I played hooky from school to accompany Sr Cecilia to her school, Sacred Heart Primary.  Off we went up the road towards SFG, but turning off before we got there.  Up, up we drove, with the paved surface giving way dirt and the dirt becoming more rutted and more pot-holed.  We drove for a good 40 minutes—enough to get us to the rural highlands.  On either side of the road were farms with small houses, fields green with maize, potatoes, wheat and through small stands of forest.  I’ve puzzled about the trees in the forest, which have no branches below about 20’.  There is virtually no underbrush.  Why was that?  Oh, the people cut the branches and miscellaneous undergrowth for firewood.  The forest is a green lawn with long stemmed trees.  The sight is very different from our forests.  In rural areas much of the cooking is done on small fires, with stones arranged to hold the cooking pots.  It is a common sight to see women loaded down with huge bundles of sticks, emerging from the forest or walking along a road.  Yes, it’s always women!

We stopped first at a maternity clinic in this relatively remote rural area.  It was established by a woman name Wangu, who is now 78, who built this XXX years ago b/c she was so concerned about maternal mortality.  She is a vital, energetic woman who has spent her life serving the poor.  Now she would like to retire and have someone take over the clinic.  Ideally it would be the local government who would take it over, but she has had no luck getting that to happen.  What will happen?  Who knows.  I loved meeting her and had reason to be grateful to her for personal reasons, namely that she has a western-style toilet in her quite spacious house.  My knee is much, much better, but I dare not stress it by squatting.  In the rural areas everyone has a pit toilet.  Although I maintain age is just a number, my knees have not understood that concept!

Wangu took us to the clinic, which has 15 beds, but only 2 were occupied, one with a mom and her day-old son and the other by a woman who has not given birth yet, but needs to be monitored.  By Kenyan standards this is a luxury facility, clean, well attended, with separate delivery room.  I was to impressed and just hope so much that this service can be continued.  Sr Cecilia told me that prior to its opening women would give birth by the side of the road.  It’s so remote that husbands would carry the wife in a wheelbarrow for miles, then board the matatu for a bone-crushing ride of several hours to the nearest hospital.  Obviously these rural birthing centers are to maternal/child health.

Back in the car we set off on even more rough road until we came to an open field with new stone construction, very much like that of SFG.  Children in red sweaters and brown skirts/shorts were running around, playing soccer—with good soccer balls!  Usually when I visit schools the soccer ball is a plastic bag tightly packed with plastic bags.

The driveway was neatly outlines with whitewashed stones and the grounds were clean and uncluttered.  The teachers were clustered around a small fire pit preparing tea.  Lunch is also prepared outdoors like this (remind anyone of backpacking?)  Sr Cecilia cooks for the teachers when she is there—otherwise they cook for themselves—the men joining the one woman and I might add they do it proudly.  Children bring the lunch from home.

This is a rainy area, so crops are generally good.  People have food, but no cash to speak of.  While there is a fee for children to attend, most can’t pay, but are admitted.  They opened just this January and already have about 100 students from class 1 to class 4.  Eventually it will be a boarding school, as some children travel very far to get there.  It all reminds me of SFG several years ago, construction continuing as funds become available—5 classrooms, dorms pretty much complete, but not yet painted (to be begun shortly, as someone has donated the funds).

This is a school that made my heart sing.  The children were so happy, whether in or out of class, the teachers dedicated, caring, involved, lovely young people.  Their pay is very low but Sr Cecilia tries to compensate as best she can.  As I visited classrooms I found active teaching, students eager to respond to questions, raising hands, calling out ‘cher (short for teacher), jumping up and down as young ones are apt to do in a classroom where they are encouraged.  In all the classrooms, desks were arranged in a semi-circle, not rows.  Note the 2 children in the foreground look like boys, but notice the small bows at the back of their dresses!  This was a first grade class

In a 4th grade math class, the teacher was introducing the concept of area.  He had carefully written terms on the board, and spent a lot of time developing the concept, not just telling them it was length times width.  He may have been a bit nervous to have a visitor.  He kept using “diagonal” when he meant “vertical”.  When I had an opportunity I quietly mentioned it so the kids wouldn’t get the wrong term.  But he put so much energy and enthusiasm into the lesson I marveled he could do that all day without being exhausted.  When the children began their practice problems, he handed me his red pen so I could mark their correct work, or help them see an error (there were few).  After initial shyness, they were soon raising their hands (‘cher) for my mark and a pat or a “good job!”, “perfect”, or “great”.  It was a great lesson and I was glad to have the opportunity to tell all the teachers (while they cooked their lunch) how impressed I was with the teaching, the lively, encouraging spirit, the positive energy I found.  This is a great project, which Sr Cecelia is funding in England, but times are hard.  I promised to donate some money to help.

As we were about to leave, Fr Kiriti drove in.  This is not in his parish, but the mass he had celebrated earlier at an outstation wasn’t too far away.  While I talked to teachers, he inspected the installation of a water tank with Cecilia.  He has become quite the expert on water projects.

He arrived at lunch time, when the children tumbled out of class to line up at a small hand-washing tank.  Soon the tank was empty, so Fr Kiriti grabbed up a smaller can to refill it from the big tank.  I could see that it was heavy and hard to lift up to refill the washing water tank.  (Aha moment)  Why not move the hand-washing tank over to the big tank and perhaps put a basin beneath to catch the water for the new plantings.  Sometimes new eyes see things missed by everyday viewers.

Eventually we left, bumping along that terrible road.  We had decided to visit Sr Cecilia’s mother who lived not far, but “very far” over those roads.  First we stopped at a little restaurant she knew about that serves very good samosas—except they didn’t have any more.  RATS!  We settled for a meat pie, which was fried dough with a bit of meat, tasty but definitely junk food.  She didn’t want her 73-year old mom to cook, but she made the mistake to call to announce our pending arrival and mom cooked up a storm.  Neither of us had much of an appetite, but we ate anyway—though not too heartily.  Kenyan moms are like Jewish moms—“So eat already!”  Do I look like I’m wasting away?

Her mom has a great farm, so peaceful, with fields of maize, potatoes, greens, and pastures with cows and sheep.  Chickens wandered about the yard and about 10 chicks peeped loudly to be released from their protective confinement.  This is a traditional family.  Her brother lives nearby, with his wife, a very pleasant woman, good friend of Sr Cecilia’s.

On the way back we stopped at SFG, which Sr had never seen.  She was wowed, as visitors often are.  After giving her the $.25 tour, I showed her the chalk trays that were installed in the most recent rooms.  Such a simple idea, but have not seen them here.

In the end, a lovely, inspirational day.

Margo

#16 Sudanese Students

Sunday, July 17, 2011

#16 Sudanese Students

For the past 2 days I have been interviewing student on scholarship from KH.  I’ve heard heart-rending stories, but I today want to write just about the students from Sudan—4 boys in form 3 Archbishop Ndingi and 1 girl in form 1 at SFG.

Elizabeth Nyarach is 19 and the first girl in her village to attend high school.  Not just to attend high school, but to leave her village, her country, her comfort (?) zone and go to a new country, essentially alone, except for a cousin in Nakuru. That takes courage—the fire in the belly!  And she has it.  She’s very bright and incredibly studious.  She arrived late, due to delays getting from Sudan.

Elizabeth Nyarch - Sudanese - on scholarshipHer father and 2 brothers died in the fight for independence, after which she, her mother and 4 sisters fled to the camps in Kenya.  She stayed there until only recently, when they all returned to Sudan.  She had been schooled in the camps, but I’m told those schools are no longer.  In an effort to get the residents to return to Sudan the powers-that-be have made it less hospitable.  Bt her education there is surprisingly good.  Her English is quite good, but she and the 4 boys as well are struggling with Kiswahili, required in the Kenyan system and begun in kindergarten by Kenyan children.

As we talked yesterday, I began to think of the enormous culture shock she must be dealing with.  I began to ask questions.  Had you ever slept in a bed before coming here?  “I slept in my first bed when I came to a cousin in Nakuru, just before coming here.“  Do you like it?  “Oh, yes!”.  Had you seen running water? “No”  Electric lights? Chairs?  Flush toilets?  Showers?  Schools?  “No” to all of these.  “My people have never even heard of a school, so they don’t understand why it’s important.“  What do you think about wearing trousers in forms 3 and 4?  “Oh, I’d be beaten.”  She didn’t quite understand the question.  No I mean what will it be like for you to wear them here at school?  “When I first came here I thought they were smart (cool).  I am eager to wear them”  She had never seen a woman wearing trousers.  When you finish school here and return to Sudan will you be free to marry the man of your choice?  “No, the father can force the girl to marry an old man, often over 50.  She has no choice.”  Since her father and brothers have died, it is the uncle (“a bad man” according to Elizabeth) who has that authority.  As you can imagine that cut me deeply, for such a pioneer in her community to still be under those constraints is hard for me to swallow—and I’m sure harder for her.  Now that the lid is off the box and she has peaked out to see what the rest of the world is like for women.  She can’t go meekly back into the box!

So, nothing ventured, nothing gained, as I was interviewing the 4 Sudanese boys from Ndingi yesterday, an inspiration sat on my tongue, as it were.  In each interview I first talked about their position in Sudan when they return.  Having a high school education will position them very well to be leaders, not just in their village, but also in the country as a whole.  Too bad, in fact that they have 1 more year to complete.  Having discussed how valuable they will be to their emerging country and how necessary it is for the leadership to be persons of integrity, caring most for the people and not for themselves.  They are all that kind of man.  I just hope they can retain those values and not be victims of the “power corrupts…” reality.   Then I talked about Elizabeth and the status of women in their society.  “You 4 have to help her, support her.  She can’t go back and be the submissive woman they will expect.  You have to be prepared to convince the movers and shakers that they must use that valuable resource their women represent.  No longer can the men of Sudan view women as objects for their sexual pleasure and servants to satisfy their every whim.”  I worried about whether I was stepping over the line with them, but in fact it was an experience just to watch the expressions on their faces as I talked.  They listened!  They too have seen women who are independent, capable, bright, contributing to the fabric of Kenya.  At first I think they had a problem being taught by women.  They’ve made that adjustment.  I really pled the case for Elizabeth, b/c it will be very hard for her.  Yet she wants to return, to be of service to her country.  Unless I’ve misread them completely, and I don’t think I have, they got it.  To each I said, “If you are free to marry the woman you love and who loves you in return, you will be infinitely happier that if your wife was forced to marry you.  Women know, even in societies like yours, that they have more worth that is awarded them.  Women have ways to insinuate themselves that men never even suspect.  Much better to see your marriage as a partnership, working together for the common good.”  Each of them smiled at that thought.  They have seen.  They can’t go back into that box either.

How I wish I were younger and could speak their language.  I would go to Sudan in a heartbeat when Gabriel establishes his school, to teach and do my bit of rabble-rousing!  Probably just as well it’s not in the cards for me.  I might find myself amidst a rabble not in agreement!

Margo

PS  I finished writing this while at SFG, at my desk in the staff room.  I passed it around for the teachers to read and was so touched by the response.  Maureen, math teacher, was in tears.  Several of the men came to talk to me and discuss how they can support Elizabeth here.  I think this is something important that will be followed up both at SFG and Ndingi.

# 15 Adventures in Nakuru

Friday, July 15, 2011

# 15 Adventures in Nakuru

Hard to believe I’ve been here almost 4weeks.  Already I’m having separation anxiety for my Sept 5 departure back to Menlo Park.  But 4 weeks is the longest I can go w/o a haircut, which means a trip to Nakuru (100 KM) to my friend Shamin, who has been cutting my hair here since 2006.  Trained in London, she knows how to cut mzungu hair and I am so grateful to have found her.  We greeted with a big hug and each agreed the other looked just the same—certainly true in her case.

The reason I couldn’t continue to look frowsy is that I was to have lunch with the bishop, who was returning my hospitality.  You can be sure I took my camera, as I suspect there are those who wonder whether I’ve made up the whole story.

Fearing that the traffic would be bad, Fr K and I had arrived early.  We stopped at a supermarket where I was able to find oregano—totally necessary for spaghetti sauce, which I will make Monday night (cook’s night out) for Fr Kiriti, Fr Kinuthia and Sr Cecilia, a very congenial trio.  After the haircut we still had time for tea and a chat in a nearby restaurant.  Even at that we arrived at his lovely but not ostentatious residence 15 minutes early.  Fr Kiriti hates to be late.  He is one who does not operate on African time!

We were greeted by Bishop Maurice Makumba, himself, in full regalia.  Later I teased Fr Kiriti that he must be very confident to arrive in a casual shirt, no clerical collar in sight.  But the bishop is very relaxed and easy to be with, has a hearty laugh and likes a joke.  He had promised to help me organize a graphing

calculator workshop in the Nakuru area, so I wanted to nail that down.  We had a lovely, unhurried lunch of very tasty chicken, cabbage and tomatoes, potatoes, and chapattis (something like Indian nan, but perhaps a bit thicker).  We shared stories and laughs and I think I didn’t say anything I shouldn’t have, which was my worry.  I do have a tendency to blurt out something inappropriate when under stress.

It wasn’t exactly tea with the queen, but close to it!  I felt very honored and humbled, as well as amazed to have been invited.

Afterwards we went off to visit one of my favorite people, Sr Magdalene, principal of Bahati Girls, one of the top high schools in the country.  She was in a meeting at the Pastoral center on how to treat employees and make them feel respected and appreciated.  However she left the meeting to greet us.  She and Fr Kiriti are old, old friends she and I go back to 2005 when we met and immediately became best buds.  She is a wonderful mix of strength and determination with an easy manner and hearty laugh.

After a happy greeting and chit chat, I asked her whether she had seen SFG yet.  “Only from the road.”  “You’d better come soon, we intend to become your rivals for top performance.”  You may recall that the pioneer class of SFG was 2nd only the Naivasha Girls in this district of 25 high schools.  We think we have a chance to be #1 in the district, but beating Bahati Girls (in a different district) is a real challenge.  They get the cream of the crop.  She, too is interested in the workshop.  She promised to visit me after school closes in August.

We didn’t want to take her from her meeting for too long and we still had some time, so we stopped on the way back at a very interesting exhibit of a dig by Louis Leaky, not far from where he found the first bones, some 300 million years old.  This site had yielded many very early stone tools, hammering tools, obsidian cutters (very sharp) pounders (perfectly round) and others.  We were the only clients for our very knowledgeable guide, shown here explaining the formation of the rock striations to Fr Kiriti.

It was a lovely day all around and I was sorry when we returned, as Fr Kiriti and I have not had much time before today to catch up with thoughts, ideas, questions and just enjoying good friendship.

I came back to my room to rest and continue reading Sarah’s Key, by Tatana de Rosnay, which takes place in current Paris, but flashes back to the story of a Jewish family, delivered to the Nazis by the French police in 1942.  Great book, NYT best seller.

Later, needing a break I wandered into the kitchen where Julia and Agnes were preparing dinner for the children.  Most had received their midterm reports today, each shyly or proudly bringing their marks to Mom.  She is so remarkable, remembering the previous marks exactly for every child.  If I heard correctly, every one of them had improved, some quite dramatically.  We agreed that some recognition of effort is in order.  It will be a Judy-style treat of ice cream and biscuits (cookies) on Sunday evening.  Stay tuned for further reports on this subject.

Margo