#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.


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.

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