#11 The Day Was Not the Way I Planned It!

I thought it would be an ordinary day, teach 4 or 5 classes, work on some test questions, chat with students and staff, home by 4 pm.  Not!  Upon arrival I found the class I thought I was to teach being taught by someone else.  OK, so back to the staff room to continue my solutions of the 2012 KCSE, but no sooner had I sat down that Ruth, the principal, grabbed me up to her office to announce I was on the committee to organize Cultural Day—which is tomorrow!  I didn’t even know it was tomorrow, much less that I was to help.  Second, she told me her daughter was home for midterm break and had done very badly in math and would I please go over to her house to tutor her daughter.  OK, I gather my box of math stuff, some paper and some books and we go to her house, just 100 feet from the main building.  Her daughter appeared and looked none too happy to be working on math during her holiday, but I sat down with her and we talked about some topics she had not understood.  Within 5 minutes, the grumpy look disappeared and we had a nice hour and more.  She’s actually quite good in math.  I wasn’t able to determine why she thought she wasn’t good and why she had had such a poor score, but she felt a whole lot better and we agreed she would work on other things and I would come back to answer any further questions.

Back to the staff room, where I learned the committee was meeting NOW!  OK, off to Sr Magdalene’s tiny office where 5 of us sat, cheek-by-jowl and began at square 1 to organize.  Sr was in charge and she did a fabulous job of leading us through the many issues.  Each person volunteered for some job.  Mine was to do the shopping for foodstuffs for preparation of traditional foods.

Think this will be the 4th cultural day.  Last year’s day seemed less cultural day and more talent show to me.  Some of the “acts” I thought were in poor taste, including some dancing I found quite inappropriate for our school.  I actually wrote a letter to the staff, outlining my concerns, so I was very pleased when the committee members kept emphasizing that the dances, songs and other parts of the day should be cultural, reflecting the mores of the tribes represented at SFG.  I’m very much looking forward to seeing the real thing.

Just by way of contrast, just last week I attended a prize giving day at Archbishop Ndingi Boys High School, where our own Daniel Kantai, a ½-Maasai boy here at Mji Wa Neema led a traditional Kikuyu dance which was beautifully performed.  They have taken their troupe to several competitions where they have taken 1st place.  Only one more competition stands between them and going to the nationals.

Meeting over, I sat down, only to have Pauline ask me to teach her form 4 class.  She has been working on something, possibly the exam for the end of the term.  She’s new this year, rather quiet, very serious and is becoming a real colleague to me.  I like her style and she likes working with me.  So I went to her class, where the girls were “revising” by working through a mock KCSE from another school.  They’re so good, quickly forming small groups and staying focused.  When they asked a question, I quietly put the solution on the board, but then I noticed they were all watching, so we worked it out together.  Then back to the groups.

Now it was lunch time, but I had little time to eat.  I had been called by the math teacher at Milimani High (next door to the church compound).  I wrote about going there with Heather a couple of weeks ago.  Wanjiru had asked me then to come teach a class, so when she called yesterday I agreed to come at 2.  Tearing down the hill from school, I parked in the church car park and walked over.  I thought I’d like to arrive like a Kenyan, on my 2 legs.  The high school is just behind Milimani Elementary which many of our younger children attend.  Just as I walked in, one of the classes let the children out for recess and tearing at me came some 80-90 1st or 2nd graders wanting to greet me and shake my hand.  This school is amazing.  It performs very well, and has huge classes.  Some rooms have 100 kids!  ACH!  But the kids learn.

Anyway, I rushed up to the high school where the Wanjiru awaited me.  Her form 3 class must be at least 90 kids.  She teaches forms 1, 2 and 3.  The only reason she doesn’t teach form 4 is there isn’t one yet, as the school has been in operation only 3 years.

The kids looked up expectantly.  She must have done a good job of preparing them, b/c they were wonderful.  Nobody, slept, chatted, looked out the window or in any way failed to stay right with me.  I had a great time talking about number sequences.  Since I’d taught that to both our form 3 classes this week, I was pretty good at it.  I could see these kids aren’t at the level of SFG students, but considering they’ve been in huge classes their whole school life they are doing very well.  It didn’t take long to begin to pick out the stars.  Although they were shy with me, the clever ones soon had their hands in the air, offering answers—with a little friendly persuasion.

I stayed about 1 ½ hours and no one complained about such a long math lesson.  I had a great time and was flattered that several other teachers came in to listen.  But…3:45…had to run to the next item on my schedule.  Run up to Ndingy to pick a copy of the 2nd part of last year’s KCSE, meet Janet so we could shop for tomorrow, and off to the supermarket.  We bought beans, fermented milk, called Maro, dried peas, oranges, and a root, the name of which I can’t remember, plus much more.  Janet laughed at me when I insisted we didn’t need plastic bags.  I had one large bag for the little items and the rest we just threw in the car.  Then off to the small market in the street just across from the church compound.  She wondered by I hadn’t wanted to by tomatoes, onions, potatoes, squash, eggs, corn….at the supermarket.  I explained that the ladies in the street market are trying to feed their families by selling beans and corn on the streets and they needed our money more than the supermarket.  We had to buy a lot.  Her job was to select the items from her list and bargain, while I carried the load until it got too heavy and then I hoofed it back to the car.  I quipped to 2 of the ladies that I was the donkey for this team, which cracked them up.  At one point I glanced down at Janet’s shoes—spike heels with tiny straps, the kind in which I would break an ankle after 5 steps.  Here we were on a “road” of potholes and stones, some loose, some sticking up to trip the unwary.  Every step uneven.  She was oblivious.  Kenyan’s walk everywhere, so their legs, feet and ankles are very strong.  Finally we had everything on the list, except those things Sr Magdalene just called to add to it.  Hmmm, where can we find rope w/o going back down to the supermarket?  As we made our way slowly up the road, creeping through the 5 o’clock traffic (yes, here too!) she hopped out at no less than 5 shops, finding only ½ the rope we needed, but dusk was coming on.  She needed to get home and I had to take all the stuff back to school and be home before dark.  I left her off not far from her home.

On the highway, not much below the school is one last little market.  I had to stop at the side of the road and run across, carefully watching the traffic that speeds very fast.  This is the Nairobi-Nakuru (and parts north) road.  Ah, made it across the road, down the incline, up to the market.  Do you have any rope like this.  No.  RATS!  OK back up the incline, scoot across the road, and off to school.  I commandeered several girls to carry in the loot, stopped to talk to Peter (deputy principal) and finally back down road to home.  It was almost dark when I arrived.  And suddenly I realized I was pooped!  Didn’t even wait for the dinner Judy offered to cook (she had had her own long day).  Just ate corn flakes and a banana and flopped on my bed to complete my report.  I must sleep early as I’ve been commanded to attend assembly first thing in the morning.

The reason this particular assembly is important is that Peter and Ruth were at an event at which schools from all over this large district were recognized for a job well done.  SFG received a number of trophies—Peter was just grinning all over as he told me.  He said we won the most coveted award, the Most Child Friendly School in the District!!!!  In addition his English class also received a trophy.  I didn’t quite understand what it was as we were both in a rush, so I have to be there to hear in the am.

Sorry for having no pix.  But I’ve arranged for Peter to video parts of tomorrow’s events and I will carry my camera (promise!)  Best,  Margo

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