#16 Just Another Day

Just outside the door to “Margo’s House” is a very narrow sidewalk with potholes, running beneath the dripline from the roof.  As part of Judy’s beautification campaign for Mji Wa Neema she arranged for a concrete pad to be laid, essentially widening the sidewalk to a patio-sized piece..  The first part of it was laid today.  They had to construct a little bridge to my door so I could go in and out.Image

It looked so nice when I returned this evening, just as a sprinkle was beginning.  A sprinkle rarely stays a sprinkle here, but this one didn’t come down too hard—just hard enough to wash out little drip-sized potholes in the new concrete!  They are clearly visible on the left.  To the right, out of the picture, there is a line of little holes, each the result of a drop.  Wah!  So sad.  Maybe they can fix it tomorrow, but it will probably rain again tomorrow afternoon.

This morning I arrived a bit late, having taken time to accompany Lucas to the Lions Eye Clinic, held once a month here in the parish compound.  Lucas’s eyes have been inflamed every since I’ve known him, and occasionally seemed infected.  He’d been to the eye clinic several time, but still the redness.  Sometimes kids get pushed to the back of the line, so I decided this might be a time to use the deference often accorded mzungus.  Sure enough, the man in charge put him right up front and we were soon out of there, Lucas to his school, I to mine.


Jecinta, Lucas and the man in charge.

Maureen, form 4 math, had had a tooth extraction early this morning (which I didn’t know about), but of course it took longer than anticipated, so I found her class unattended and went in.  The girls were busily studying for their mock exams, but I sat quietly in front in case anyone had questions.  Of course they did!  Most I could do, but one stumped me for awhile.  It wasn’t hard, I just kept making dumb mistakes.  Worked it out later and gave the solution to the girl.

Stopped to talk to Peter Murigi, Deputy Principal, about our arrangements for interviews of girls with particularly compelling stories.  These are to be videotaped for our new website. 

The teachers are all trying to grade their CATs, which I have heard about for several years, but thought they were saying CUT and wondered what that was.  Now I know Continuous Assessment Testing.  Aha! They have exams to mark.  So I am very popular right now because I love to go teach their classes.  I think I did 4 or 5 today.  Not quite sure, it becomes a big blur after awhile, but I know I taught the binomial theorem to both form 3 classes and sat in 3 lessons for form 4, just answering questions as students came to the front.  No wonder I’m bushed!

Right after lunch Peter Murigi, Lucy, a form 4 student and I met in front of the school for the first taping.  I asked Peter to do the interview, while I did the videoing.  They both did a fabulous job.  Can’t wait to get it up on the website.  The computer/tech guru, Francis, will take it from the tapes and download to his computer, burning a DVD.  I’ll send it home ASAP and we’ll send an announcement to all on this list when the new WS is launched.

I don’t know all the form 4’s anymore.  With almost 300 students I am overwhelmed and know few names.  But I became aware of Lucy when I noticed her a few days ago, sitting in the main corroder, crying.  I asked her whether she wanted to tell me what had upset her.  Then I noticed she’d brought a small plastic bag and I realized she had probably been sent home for non-payment of fees—something very painful for the students, as well as the school.   She told me her parents had recently separated, both worked in flower farms (for pitiful wages) and neither could pay the amount owed, although her father had given her a token amount to bring back.  This is particularly critical for a form 4 girl b/c they are preparing to take the national exam in just a few months.  Every moment is being used to prepare them.

Later Peter elaborated a bit on Lucy’s story.  She had just “graduated” from being head girl.  As you can imagine, head girl means she was chosen by her school mates and vetted by the staff—chosen as the most mature, having the strongest leadership abilities.  It’s the biggest honor in the school and carries a great deal of responsibility.  He reports she was a very strong HG.

I’m so glad I thought to talk to her, b/c after I learned the facts I met with Peter and Ruth (principal) and asked that we present her case to Kenya Help, in hopes her fee arrears would be covered.  She has not been one of our scholarship students (there are many girls in even more desperate need) and we’ve never taken on a form 4, usually beginning with form 1 and carrying the student through the 4 years.  Lucy has been sent home for fees a number of times, but always has bounced back.  I was impressed!  So we agreed that her arrears would be covered, if not by KH, then some other way.  Lucy is back in class and so happy to be there.

When I was speaking to Peter about this small project yesterday, he told me about 2 cases that brought tears to my eyes.  Both were about girls who had been raped and impregnated, one by an uncle the other by a brother!  One is a form 1 girl.  She has this small child, whom her mother is bringing up and the girl is with us.  I don’t know who she is and prefer to keep it that way, as it is a very tender thing.  She hopes none of her classmates will find out.  This situation has made being in school all the more important to her.  Peter tells me she does very well, is very mature and is a wonderful role model for the others.  Needless to say I am very happy that SFG has opened its door and hearts to her.  Not all schools might have been so welcoming.

The other girl is at home right now.  I believe she has had the child and will return at the beginning of the next year.

(RATS!  Just noticed mosquito bites on top of both feet.  Now have put arnica on them.  I found last year it greatly relieved the incessant itch of bedbug bites.  Hope it works as well on these.  I’ve lowered the bednet, but the horse has been stolen, as it were.)

The video taping will continue as soon as we see how today’s session looks.  If it’s OK, we do another tomorrow.  One of the girls whose story Peter thought was particularly touching is that of a Muslim girl from the very distant part of northeastern Kenya, right near the Ethiopian border.  It takes 2-3 days to travel from there to SFG.  Her parents have died and her older sister was taken briefly to Ethiopia, but is now in form 2 in another school here in Kenya, sponsored by an NGO.  This girl is one of our KH sponsored students and is an outstanding form 1.  I was particularly interested because one thing I love about SFG is the diversity of the student body.  Some 15 tribes are represented as well as many other religions besides Catholic.  I think it fosters acceptance of “other” in a very natural and important way.  I well remember my freshman year in college, meeting and getting to know a Jewish girl from Texas living in my dorm.  She was the first Jew I’d ever met (as far as I knew).  I really liked her and was so interested in what was a Jew like.  Unfortunately she left after our first year, but I am still grateful for all she shared with me.

After I sat in the form 4B classroom, answering random questions, they asked me whether I would come back at the end of the day (4:20), which I did.  I love having them show the initiative.  Finally about 5:30 Pauline, their teacher, came in to return the CATs she had marked and sent them off to run around, relax and get their minds off the mocks that begin tomorrow.  Thank goodness she did—or I’d still be there (9:15 pm)

Christopher is a math teacher whom I got to know several years ago and have enjoyed working with so much.  If there is a problem I don’t understand he’s one of my go-to guys.  Unfortunately he has a big problem—smokes!  We talked about it a lot last year and with encouragement by all he managed to stay clean for several months, but as we all know, it’s tough to stop and eventually he succumbed again.  Last week he came into the staff room after having taken a stroll down the road in front of the school, smelling so pungent that I held my nose and made some smartcrack.  Oh my, the expression on his face.  I felt terrible and apologized.  His response, “It’s not you who should apologize, it is me.”  It turns out that others who sit near him have complained about the odor as well.  So we began to strategize again about how he could stop.  He’d done an internet search and found a number of “helps” one of which is candy (sweets) and another is lemon juice in water.  I had offered the 3 lemons we had here at home, but of course I forgot this morning.  But just before I left this afternoon he reminded me and also mentioned about the sweets.  I had a small bag of lollypops in my desk (bribes for reluctant students/rewards to spur on others).  So I tossed him 4 to cover the times he thought he’d be particularly tempted tonight.

One the way home I stopped at the old supermarket, so I texted him, asking what kind of sweets he liked.  Ecluis, he texted back.  I asked several workers in the marker what were ecluis, but they were all equally puzzled.  On the way out, I passed a little shop that seemed to have snacks, so I went in, looking for ecluis.  Not finding anything likely, I asked a clerk.  She was very astute.  “Do you think it could be éclairs?”  We were standing in front of a display which included a bag of caramel candies called—-yep, éclairs.  I texted Christopher, and he wrote back, “Oh, yes, that’s what I meant.”  Mystery solved.

Returning to my car, I noticed a small open market across the road.  I took my life in hand and ran across to see whether any of the sellers had lemons.  As I approached I heard, “Margo!”  A young woman was smiling and holding out her hands.  I swear I have never seen her, but obviously I had.  I think she might be one of the Life Bloom ladies now supporting herself selling fruits and vegetables.  I didn’t bat any eye when I greeted her equally happily, but not by name, since I hadn’t a clue about what it was.  Even better, she had lemons!  Ksh 5 each.  I had just rejected lemons in the supermarket for ksh 100 each.  Such a bargain.! So I bought 10 for Christopher, making her very happy all over again and I’m sure Christopher will be happy when I bring them in the morning.  For any of you who have been through that mill, you know how hard it is.  I was very fortunate in sharing that ordeal with my husband, Jim.  We were able to support each other and both succeeded.  We never were feeling weak at the same time!  Christopher isn’t married and lives alone.  I offered to be his phone helper, but he’s a bit shy and has never called for support.  Hold the good thought for him.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this.  I love writing the little vignettes that I live each day.


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