Monday August 15, 2011
#26 Coincidence or ????? You’ll have to read to the end to find out what the title means.
I spent my day off going to Nakuru to visit my friend, George Mbugua and Mwangaza College, where he teaches . (I forgot to take his picture, so had to hunt up this one from 2008.) It’s something like a community college, but some of the students have no high school at all. They are learning skills like hair dressing, tailoring/clothing design, accounting, computers, cooking/catering etc.
It was a bit of an adventure b/c I went by myself (no babysitter) on a matatu. It’s about 1 ½ hours on what I once dubbed “the road from hell”, but now it’s a very nice highway, no potholes, just a few traffic bumps in the town. George had to finish teaching his classes before he could meet me, so I wandered around a market with many, many produce stalls, full of luscious looking fruits and veggies of every description. I then regretted having bought a papaya and mango very quickly before I left Naivasha. It’s the usual thing to take a small gift when you go visiting and I thought I was going to be visiting George and his wife, Louise, in their home. Duh! Of course they were working!
Everyone wanted to sell me their goods and I had to be firm, but it was fun to wander through the narrow aisles, dodging shoppers, vendors, potholes, garbage/trash and small trenches full of water from recent rains. This is not a place for the unbalanced!
When George arrived, we hopped on a matatu to his school, which is very nice, lovely buildings, plantings, and very welcoming. I met the president, Brother Bernard, a Christian brother from the US east coast. He spent a generous amount of time talking to me and praising George. I had written a letter of recommendation for him when he left SFG, which he claims is what got him the job.
I got the full tour, including his class, where I spent a few minutes teaching them my favorite topic, FOIL. These students are not the top of the class at all, but they seemed to pick it up (some of them). It was fun, as it always is and the students were appreciative, as they always are.
I saw the catering class, a large kitchen, where students were busily cooking (what else?). They served me a tasty lunch of ugali, stew and greens—a very traditional meal.
We peeked into the large library, equipped with computers where students can use the online services without charge, a very nice perk. The tailoring class was practicing for their fashion show of clothing designed and executed by the students. Nothing would do but I should stay to see some of the designs. Here are several.
I remembered Virginia, SFG class of 2011, who wanted to be a dress designer. I spoke to Brother Bernard about her and was told that even though her KCSE score was low, she would be a top student at Mwangaza, so I picked up a brochure for her. Later as I got off the matatu back in Naivasha, I heard my name and turned to find a man I didn’t recognize clearly speaking to me. He stuck out his hand, “Hi Margo, do you remember me? I’m father to Virginia.” Klunk! Could have knocked me over with a feather. I guess I had met him or how would he know who I am and my name. This is what blew me away. I’ve been here for 2 months, have walked by the stage (matatu station) where he works selling tickets many, many times, but today is the day I picked up the brochure for her and the day he spoke to me. Too strange! I gave him the brochure, in which he was very interested. He is still paying off her fees at SFG, but hopes to have that cleared soon. She can’t receive her certificate until the fees are paid, so can’t go further, although she has taken a computer class, as have most of the graduates.
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. After leaving Mwangaza, George and I hopped on piki pikis to go to his wife’s work. She is a waitress in a petrol station fast food shop. We had never met, but I liked her immediately. She’s cute, open and friendly. The 3 of us chatted over a glass of mango juice (my favorite). She told me she grew up on a farm in a very fertile area and loves that life, raising cows, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and growing maize and other foodstuffs. George, too, grew up on a farm, but in a very dry, unfertile area, so it was hard to scratch out a living. He loves teaching and while he didn’t say it clearly, my guess is he would be happy not to be a farmer again.
I had stopped at the local bookstore to buy some African folk tales for their daughter. I had to guess her age, and thought it was between 6 and 8, so I bought accordingly. Hmmm—she’s 3. Oh well, mom and dad can read them and save until she grows into them. It’s the thought that counts! George tells me she is in baby class, which is the youngest of the 3 levels of preschool. “What does she learn at school?” “Letters, numbers (she can count to 50), colors.” Sounds about like what our kids learn.
Back at the stage, George found the right matatu for me, but the express cars don’t leave until they are full. I was only #2, out of 8 (this is a smaller version, not the 14 passenger ones). While it slowly filled up, those of us already seated were considered fair game for all the hawkers and there were LOTS! Some had baskets filled with peanuts, lollipops, gum, candy, cookies, others sold handkerchiefs (no one uses tissues here), socks, watches, cell phones, calculators, wallets, soft drinks, sausages, yogurt, water. One after the other rapped on the window, which was closed on my side but open on the other end of the seat. Some believe that “no” means you’re not interested, but some are so desperate they just keep pushing in hopes you will be worn down. It always makes me very uncomfortable, as I know they are the poor and needy. If I bought from each and every one of them, I’d be broke and it would not make a dent in anyone’s poverty. I’m sure that anyone who has traveled in the developing world has experienced this and more. I recall that the Chinese hawkers were among the most aggressive, but that may be b/c I was in an obvious tourist group, whereas here I’m just one mzungu on the matatu with a bunch of Africans.
Tomorrow I begin 2 weeks tuitioning at SFG. I’ll spend three nights each at Jecinta’s house so I can teach the form 4’s in the evening, and the form 2’s during the day. After that I have 3 days and then come home. As much as I miss my family and friends, it is always very sad to leave. But in the meantime I’m going to enjoy the time I have left.