#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.


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