#5 Growing Up

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I’m getting to be such a big girl!  Yesterday I drove to Mai Mahu, about 30 km from here .  That’s about 20 miles, which certainly doesn’t seem like much—until you’ve driven on Kenyan roads.  The MM road has a very good surface, which is why it carries so much traffic.  Trucks going 5 mph (really), belching smoke, matatus pulling off and on with no warning, overloaded donkey carts, bicycles carrying impossible loads, cars racing at amazing speeds, “overtaking” every vehicle in sight with inches to spare.  No one would ever fall asleep while driving here!  It’s a gutsy game and it brings out the worst of my competitive nature.  This is the farthest I’ve driven in Kenya, but Fr. Kiriti has now given me permission to drive to Nakuru, prvided I take Jecinta along as a babysitter at least the first time.  Driving in Nairobi involves some sort of death wish.  I’m not ready for that challenge yet and probably never will be.

At this point I was nodding over my computer at 9 pm.  Definitely am not on Kenya time yet

 Saturday, June 16 

The reason for my drive to Mai Mahu was to meet Fr. Kiriti, whose family compound is in the “suburbs” of MM.  He had business in Nairobi, to finalize a water project he has shepherded in his home area.  I had some shopping, so we had a fun day, first at the water commission and then at Nakumart, a Kenyan owned large all-purpose store.  I have wanted to have a printer here and finally decided to take the plunge.  It’s not that I will use it much, but when I need to print it is very frustrating.  As much as I love my mac, with my limited knowledge of PC’s I find it hard to connect so I can print.  Now I am print-independent and loving it.

Fr Kiriti has officially left the Naivasha parish, but is taking 2 weeks of well-deserved rest in MM until he moves very far.  There is no internet nor even phone service where he will live.  He says he can go 1-2 kms to get connection, but that lack of instant contact will be very difficult for all of us.  Perhaps it will be a blessed relief for him, as his phone rings or bings with a message constantly.

My life here goes on and in time we will all adjust to his absence.  Right now he leaves a big hole in everyone’s lives.

Yesterday was an academic day for form 3 (3rd year students).  Parents come to consult with teachers, so no teaching happens in the school.  The other students spend the day in the classrooms studying.  It always amazes me that they actually do that w/o supervision.

At left are Selena and Esther, both form 3’s from Mji Wa Neema children’s home.  Between them is Victoria, also form 3, who is a Maasai dwarf, not 3 feet tall.  The girls all love her, carry her if necessary and help her up steps etc.  The school has made nice accommodation—special desk, steps to her chair in the dining hall, special bed.  Dwarfism here is often seen as punishment for some sin and is a source of shame for everyone connected, but somehow Victoria has not experienced rejection.  She’s happy, loves SFG and is doing well.

I took the academic day as an opportunity to teach as much as I could, taking both form 4 sections and both form 1 sections.  Every year I have come loaded with enough mechanical pencils for each form 1 student, as well as enough for the form 4’s—given to them right before the KCSE in November.  In the form 1 class I tell them I have made a tradition of bringing as small gift (nervous giggles from the girls)  have fun letting each girl choose the color she likes and showing them how it works.  I don’t know whether they had known in advance from the older students that this was coming, but they were very excited to get them.  However, as I taught the class I noticed that only 1 out of 40-some was using her new toy.  The others seemed to be saving them for a special occasion!

This is one way I have of introducing myself to the new girls, who have heard about “Margo” but are still shy in the beginning.  Many have never interacted with a mzungu and being taught by one is definitely new.  We laugh about having trouble with each others accents.  I have to remind myself to speak slowly.  Even so, I can see that sometimes they don’t get it.  A big thing I have to repeat often is that if they don’t tell me they have not understood I won’t know it.  I always thank the ice-breaker who shyly lifts her hand to tell me.  I had had one lesson the day before with one of the form 1 sections, so when they welcomed me back so nicely, I figured they must have learned something.

The form 4’s are old friends, now very comfortable with me.  We thrashed out some knarly questions and I was happy that I could stay beyond the end of the class time, since the next teacher would not be coming in.  Class periods are only 40 minutes here—far too short for my taste.  Even the 50-minute periods as Menlo Atherton were often too short for me, though perhaps my students longed for the blessed relief of the bell.

Here I am explaining a fairly simple calculus problem.  Fortunately the calculus they do is a scratching of the surface.  Nonetheless I have to reach back a long way.  I sat in on a class in 1999, having first taken it in 1954.  I have never taught it nor tutored it, so am a bit rough.  It comes back, though.

The ideas are new and hard to grasp at first.  I explained the first example beautifully, with careful graphs, taking it slowly.  At the end I said, “Raise your hand if you think you could do another question like this.”  Not a hand rose.  Sigh!  But we plugged away and soon I saw the faces relax and some smiles.  As I walked around, I began to see right answers and good work.  All it takes in time and patience.  The students are willing to work hard, but they are so afraid of math.  I have to spend a lot of time convincing them it’s not hard—definitely uphill work.

In the afternoon I went to view the new bread dough mixer.  SFG makes all the bread for the 290 students plus the staff, as well as about 200 at Archbishop Ndinigi.  They were kneading the dough by hand until last year Esther, the matron, told me they all had aching shoulders and were exhausted.  A member of the KH board read an email I wrote about it last year and below you see the result of her gift.

Here is Esther, adding water to the mix and so happy to have it.  The oven is also new, and can hold enough for 1 school.  Two bakings is all that is needed (kneaded?) each day for both schools.  She says the girls love to come help with the mixing, forming loaves and baking.  The bread is ½ and ½ white and whole wheat flour, made with honey and delicious.  Sometimes the WW is hard to find, so we’re thinking about getting a flour grinder and buying whole wheat berries directly from the growers.  The grinder would pay for itself in time.

All for now,

With love to all,


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