#17 Visitors and Visits

Sunday is a social day in Kenya—at least in Naivasha.  Regina had called me yesterday to say she was planning to visit me.  I already had some commitments later in the day I said OK, but come early.  Regina, a math teacher whom I met in 2005, my first visit, has been through the Job routine, just one problem after another, but she is amazingly resilient.  Today she looked quite serene, at peace.  She told me whenever someone does her wrong, she confesses their sins as she lies in bed, she forgives them and she sleeps peacefully.  Sounds like a very positive way to live one’s life.

We always have much to chat about.  She teaches physics and math in a small rural high school maybe 45 minutes from here.  When she told her students she was coming to visit her mzungu friend, they begged her to bring them along, but of course she couldn’t, so we agreed I would go to her school either this Tuesday or next, depending on how the principal views things.  This last round of the KCSE her physics students turned in an almost impossible performance, scoring 7.9 (out of 10) up from 4.0 last year (she wasn’t teaching them that year).  Her principal had been giving her a hard time, but this score, combined with her forgiveness routine has totally turned the school atmosphere around.

I took advantage of her visit to ask her to explain a couple of KCSE problems I just couldn’t solve—both topics we don’t cover in the US.  Then it was time for me to go to tea at Elizabeth’s house.  She had invited me along with Maureen, one of the new young math teachers at SFG.  Elizabeth was the parish secretary when I first came here, but is now secretary at SFG.  Often I am leaving at 5 pm, so offer a ride to town to anyone needing one—almost always Maureen and Elizabeth.

Regina was going to visit her sister who is right near Elizabeth’s house, so, after stopping at the street market across the road to buy bananas and oranges as a gift, we began to walk up the road.  My instructions were to call when I arrived at “the second bump” (speed bump), where Elizabeth always alights.  I mentioned where I was going, “Oh, Elizabeth is one of my very dear friends from Ndingi days.”  So when Elizabeth arrived to escort me to her house, she was delighted to see Regina and invited her to tea too.

Maureen was already there, along with her 18 month-old daughter whose name I can’t tell you, but it means “the gift”.  After briefly chatting Elizabeth disappeared, then emerged from the kitchen bearing one after another of the warming containers in which food is always served here.  ACH!  I thought it was to be tea, but it was a 6-course meal?  Mashed potatoes, rice, chipattis, peas, cabbage, and meat.  It was delicious and I ate too much.  Had I known I would have eaten a smaller breakfast.

As I sat there I had that uh, oh thought.  Forgot my camera and how can I write about this in my blog with no pix.  I briefly mentioned my forgetfulness and before I knew it, Elizabeth had popped across the way to her sister’s to borrow a camera.  How’s that for a first class hostess???  I’m hoping she will bring them on a flash disc tomorrow so I can include them.  Another sister dropped by and joined us and after awhile Elizabeth’s husband, Samuel (pronounced Sam well) came back from a biology session with his students.  I had met him only once about 4 years ago, just a few days before their wedding—really nice man.  Elizabeth wanted him to show her how to load the pix onto the flash, but he refused until we took more pix, that included him.

Walking back out to the road with Regina and Elizabeth we encountered many small children, each having some kind of response to the mzunguwalking with the neighbor lady.  Some stared, some shook my hand, some wanted to know “how are you?” and one girl, having shaken my hand looked down to see whether I’d left some sort of mzungu mark on her palm.  They all giggled as they passed and Elizabeth opined they would remember, “She touched me!”  I know I write about this phenomenon often, but it’s a daily occurrence.

I had also arranged to see Damaris later in the afternoon.  I thought I had written about her earlier, but can’t find it, so I guess not.  She taught Joyce, how to sew, a project which ended up with our buying 100’s of cloth bags to bring home.  It’s been enough to get her off the streets.  Damaris is one of the most giving persons I’ve ever met.  She teaches women to sew (no cost to them) helps them market their goods and gives them all kinds of encouragement.  We discussed how the bag business could be expanded in Naivasha and it occurred to me that she could organize a contingent of “bag ladies” to petition the city council to put some kind of ban or price on plastic bags.  We talked about strategies—how plastic pollutes the soil, pollutes the air when it is burned, causing all sorts of lung problems, how using cloth bags promotes small business for single moms, who buy the fabric in local stores, adding to the tax base.  She says she will make a presentation to them.  I hope I get a report, but I’m not sure she does email.

While I was there and older lady whom I know I had met before dropped by.  She recognized me and gave me a huge grin and a bigger hug.  She doesn’t understand English, but as Damaris and I chatted we stopped so a translation could be done.  She regretted she had not known I was coming or she would have brought me mokoni, a traditional dish of mashed potatoes and peas, eaten with the hands.

Just as Damaris was escorting me to the gate, passing the caged up guard dog who was ready to eat me whole, given an opportunity, her husband arrived.  I had always wondered how Damaris supported herself in her very nice house, when she gives away so much of her time.  I don’t think I’d ever heard her mention a husband, but there he was, a BIG man, big smile and a huge paw that swallowed my hand.  Actually she does help, as she is now employed at a school for disabled children and adults.  She teaches weaving and sewing.

Back down the hill to the supermarket to restock Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, then home, where Patrick of Mji Wa Neemai materialized out of nowhere to open the big metal gates guarding the inner compound where the rectory is and where I park my car.  I hate having to get out, open the gates, trying not to pinch my fingers, drive through, get out to close the gate again, get back in drive around the corner to the garage—-it’s a drag, but it’s an important part of the security here.  Anyway, I was very grateful to Patrick, who is about 11 or 12, on of about 8 boys of approximately the same age.  I’ve only recently gotten all the names straight.  Part of the reason is they rarely tell me if I use the wrong name!

As I walk through the small gate into the children’s home compound I am met by clouds of dust.  Julia has the kids sweeping the dirt and digging up one of the few grassy spots.  Cough, choke—don’t know why they are doing that, just rush to my door and baracade myself against the dust.

We’ve been blessed relieved of dust most of the time b/c it has rained more this summer than I ever remember.  Generally the mornings are clear, but as the day wears on the clouds gather.  By 4 or so the clouds are dark and then all of a sudden it lets go.  Not only is it good for the crops and keeping down the dust, but also at SFG we harvest that rain water from the roofs and while the rain isn’t enough to serve the needs of 300 people, it helps.

So that’s my day.  I really enjoying living it and writing about it.  Hope you enjoyed reading it.

Thought I was finished, but…read on for the next em.  Too many pix to include here.Sorry.  I thought I was going to get some pix from the tea party at Elizabeth’s, but snafus happen everywhere, even here!

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