#29 Sunday in Kosetei and Back Home to Naivasha

#29 Sunday in Kosetei and Back Home to Naivasha                         Monday, August 20, 2012

Message from Fr. Kiriti:“We have 2 masses tomorrow morning—one to an area where I have not given them mass yet and one to a school where I have been.  We leave at 8:30.”  I slept pretty well, despite the warm night and the chorus of frogs.  Again I had to water the bush early in the morning, then fell back to sleep.  Fortunately Fr Kiriti called through my window at 7:30.  I had set the alarm on my phone, but never heard it.  The cold shower was fast.  I was on time for breakfast and ready to hop in the sister’s truck at the appointed time.  I asked whether he took a collection at these masses and he said he thought they had not done that in the past, but he firmly believes the people must begin taking more responsibility for themselves and for their church.  It will be a very long time before that small parish will be self-sustaining, if ever, but they need to give—it can’t be all one-way.  I stuck a couple of bills in my pocket so the people would get the idea and we drove off, my bags in the back.

We picked a man standing by the road who would direct us to a small church built (very badly) by the previous priest.  Off through the bush we drove, again surrounded by thousands of goats, some cows, and occasionally a small group of camels.  It was a repeat of Thursday, except it went on and on and on.  Fr. Kiriti kept glancing at his watch.  He is very punctual and he was fretting that he’d be late for this mass as well as the one following.  It’s so hard to describe the countryside, rocky, hilly, full of small acacias, and vast.  Occasionally we would spot a maize field or a small group of mud huts, round and grass-thatched.  Always a passel of small children stood by, staring at the truck (an unusual sight) as the mzungu inside (even more unusual—perhaps unique in their experience).  Finally we arrived—the first, although we were ½-hour late.  But almost immediately people began to appear from the bush.  Each looked in the back of the truck to determine what food had been brought (none).  Some left (men) but most stayed (women and children).  Our guide was one of 3 catechists, who began organizing the benches and the table (altar).  Mass began with barely a quorum (maybe 15 at most), but by the time it was over there were close to 50.  I sat in front, so wasn’t fully aware of the late arrivals until it was over.  An older gentleman seated next to me began directing traffic for the new arrivals until Fr Kiriti had to quiet him so mass could begin.  He is the chairman of that small community and seemed to want to establish his leadership position.

Always there is a woman who begins the singing and others join in.  The leader seems to know it’s her job and they always sound wonderful.  Fr. Kiriti tries to engage the people in dialogue, but he is new to them and they were a bit shy.  He actually forgot the offertory until after communion, at which time the catechist put a small basket on the floor and Fr Kiriti deposited something from his pocket.  I got up and dropped in my offering as well.  We were the only ones.

At the end he turned to me, “They want you to greet them.”  I should have anticipated it, he always does that in small groups, but I had not prepared any remarks.  It didn’t matter, since I had to first be translated into Kiswahili and then to Pokot. I expect some was lost along the way.

We hopped back in the truck—and I found I was getting pretty good at grabbing the bar above the glove compartment and boosting my fanny, all in one movement.  Catechist in back we drove another 20 minutes to a small school where maybe 30 people waited.  Since school is closed for several weeks holiday, desks had to be hauled out from a storage area, a small room where the head teacher stays.  The school is just nursery, class 1 and 2, so the desks were tiny.  I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to fold myself in, and the man across the aisle, with long, skinny legs never succeeded.  This congregation grew to more than 50 by the end and they seemed much more savvy.  The singing was beautiful, as always and the clapping kept everyone together.  At offertory time, there was no basket, so a hat was commandeered from one of the congregation.  They seem to be more used to it, although not very many came forward.  It certainly didn’t cover the petrol used to get there, but it was a beginning.  Again I spoke briefly and the people were wonderfully warm and welcoming.  Several very old ladies shook my hand with a strong grip and grinned (toothlessly) and with pleasure.  It was wonderful to be there.  I’m sure most of the children had never seen a mzungu let alone shaken hands with one, but each one solemnly offered a hand—no giggling here.  This was serious business.  Unfortunately, my memory card on my camera was full, so could take no more pix.

By this time it was close to noon and I was wishing I’d been a bit more vigorous with breakfast.  We were facing a 2 hour drive back to Marigat and an hour to Nakuru—then another to Naivasha.  Fr Kiriti pushed it as best he could, but often we were going 5-10 km/hour.  It got hotter, but there were practically no other vehicles on the road for the first 1 ½ hours, so no dust to speak of and we could have the windows down—no AC either!  The empty petrol drum in the back came loose, so we stopped to secure it again, but our tying job couldn’t compensate for all the bumps.  It had been sitting in line with the side, so I suggested we put it sideways so we could secure it to the front of the bed.  Good thinking, Margo.  It worked.

Chatting or just peacefully watching the unending hills dotted with goats and the occasional small hut, I was startled back to reality, “Uh!  What happened to the brakes?”  Oh, dear! Remember we were in a borrowed truck.  Fr Kiriti takes excellent care of all his vehicles, but the sister’s haven’t been so well trained.  Pumping, he slowed us down and stopped.  Slowly he started up again and tested.  They worked fine and gave us no more trouble, although he had to use them constantly.  We never figured out what happened and it gave us pause.  Responsible person that he is, he called the sister’s driver and listed all the things that needed attention before it could safely be driven again.  And we prayed it would get us back.  I had begun to wonder what I’d do if I didn’t make it to the plane the next day.

The truck had no power steering, and the potholes were everywhere.  It is an exhausting drive for him and I offered to take over for awhile, but he wisely demurred.  It has been years since I’ve driven a stick shift, and with no power steering he didn’t think I could do it.  Probably right. Suddenly he called my attention to the speedometer which was fluctuating wildly and then….the motor quit.  We were in the middle of no-where, more arid than in Kosetie by far.  I had left my running shoes back in Kosetei for him—he hadn’t any there, and now I had only open-toed sandals with totally inadequate support for my feet and ankles on this rocky uneven road.  Oops!  Under the hood he quickly discovered the structure holding the battery in place was missing one of the verticals.  It had rotated around to rest on one of the terminals, shorting out the battery.  ARGH!!  Oh, no, the wires to the terminal had burned a bit too!  What to do?  “We can use some of that rope in the back to tie it down,” was my offering.  I quickly untied a fairly thin piece, which secured the top piece and was tied to some other thing sticking up.  It looked to me like a disaster ready to happen, but we hopped back in the truck he turned the key and to our amazement (and great relief), it started!   We stopped once or twice to check our makeshift repair.  My concern was fire, but it wasn’t hot and held fine.

And then we got to Marigat!  Whew!  It wasn’t exactly civilization, but it does boast a hotel with a reasonably suitable bathroom, which I had investigated on the trip out.  I asked the clerk for the key to the ladies, but quickly returned to report it was flooded and could I please use the men’s?  She looked a bit apprehensive and warned me, “Please be quick.”  I was.  And off we went to Nakuru.

You’ll be glad to know we had no other unfortunate events with the truck and finally we turned into the Pastoral Center in Nakuru where the car awaited us.  We were hot, dirty and hungry and after shifting all our gear to the car, proceeded to the Chinese restaurant where we had eaten a few days before.  Familiar with the menu, we quickly ordered, ate and were on our way, this time with me at the wheel.  The northbound traffic from Nairobi was heavy, but we were south bound and made good time.  It was just getting dark when we pulled into the parish compound and drove around to Mji Wa Neema.  After a brief panic when I couldn’t find my camera, he was off to home in Mai Mahu (another ½ hour) and I was left to complete my packing—mostly done before I left.

Every few minutes brought a knock at the door and a kid who wanted to talk.  It was 10 before I wearily climbed into bed.  Long day!

Up early this morning to wash my brillo-like hair, I was ready, bags at the door by the time Fr. Kiriti arrived.  I had planned to stop at Safaricom to have my modem reactivated as I failed to top up on time.  (Don’t ask—it just means it didn’t work).  I don’t understand I just do.  However, this being the day after the end of Ramadan, most shops were closed.  Oh well, all my emails will just have to wait until I get home

In Nairobi we stopped to shop again.  The previous priest had left the house and larder bone-bare.  Fr Kiriti even needed waste baskets, cruets for wine and water, and supplies.  He had wanted a device he’d learned about to pump up tires, but it was ksh 18000 (over $200).  It wasn’t in his budget.  I pointed out I have filled my car tires with a bicycle pump, which he has, so that problem was solved.  Pumping up a Prius is hardly like pumping a truck tire, but he’s strong and has helpers.  Dumping the purchases in the car, we had lunch, then off to the airport.  And now I find myself almost to Dubai.  Where did the summer go?

One week later, in Menlo Park.

I’ve spent the better part of the week sleeping.  Didn’t know I was so tired, but finally I think I’m on west coast time and pretty much back to myself.  My next to last email had no pictures, so in addition to this one, I will send one that is basically just pictures, with brief titles.  That will complete the 2012 version of Margo’s blog.  I thank all of you who have told me how much you enjoyed reading my ramblings.  I really need to write it, so am grateful to have readers.

Many have suggested that I write a book.  I have to say the thought is overwhelming to me.  I can take one day at a time and fairly well organize it, but 8 summers!!!!  NO!!!!  Too much.  It takes a real writer to sort through the tons of material I’ve generated.  Not my gift!

Good bye until next June.

Margo

#27 or #28 A Youth Competition and Much More

#28 A Youth Competition and Much More

Saturday in Kosetei began early with a dawn visit to a small bush outside my room.  I carefully watered it, then settled back for another hour sleep.  But breakfast was at 7:30 and I was there with the youth leaders from Nakuru whom I’d met the day before.  They were there to help the young people deal with the problems of adolescence heightened by the culture of the Pokot people – early marriage, FGM, male supremacy in all things and the belief that food should be given to them by the church and by NGO’s like World Vision.  Fr Kiriti explained that the people weren’t nearly so poor as they let on, having LARGE herds of goats, plus some cows and camels for some folks.  They are loathe to part with any and will let their children go without medical care, shoes, nourishing food and school, rather than sell even one goat.  Food relief programs are vital for some areas and for droughts, but this area is green and alive.  A few people are beginning to grow maize, but in general they are still “Cargo Cult” people.  One of Fr Kiriti’s self-imposed challenges is to change this mind set, in the belief that people are much happier when they are independent and confident that they can provide for themselves.

One evening he told a story about a man, Jeremiah, who asked him for ksh 2000.  Being a savvy guy, he told Jeremiah he would give the money and in exchange he wanted a small goat to slaughter for guests.  The goat didn’t show up, of course, and some days later Jeremiah asked for ksh 3000.  Fr. Kiriti reminded him about the goat and suggested he was now owed 2.  Not long after Jeremiah casually remarked his goats had an “outbreak” and he had to go to Marigat (nearest town) for medicine.  And soon after that he bemoaned that all is goats had run away.  He had no idea where they were.  Jeremiah hasn’t been seen since.  Fr. Kiriti laughed heartily and opined that ksh 5000 (about $60) was a cheap price to pay for getting that pesky thief out of his hair, if he had any – he keeps his head totally shaven now.

The mores of the Pokot permit casual sex from a very early age.  Hence early motherhood.  One of the goals of the seminar is to educate both boys and girls about the hazards of early motherhood.  Readiness for marriage is indicated by red mud being applied to braids, so the girls look like they are wear Raggedly Ann wigs.  They are not permitted that hair style in school in an effort to discourage the practice of marriage at onset of adolescence.  Of course they discuss HIV/AIDS and other STD’s as well as the advantages of school.  There is a small elementary school (about 230 kids) near the parish compound.  Many of the class 7 and 8 students are in their late teens.  There is no nearby high school, but even getting them through elementary is a task.  Believe me, I saw many more than 230 school-age children.  I suspect the girls are particularly discouraged from school because everything for the family is done by the women, even to putting up a house.  This while they are bearing one child after another.  Of course they need the help of the older girls.

The competition of dramas and dance was held in the church, an open-air building on top of a hill, commanding a wonderful view of the green countryside below.  I’m told the area will not remain green for long, as the hot, dry season is beginning.  I worry about food for all those baby goats, as well as the people, although the maize fields I saw were flourishing.  There are no windows, just open spaces, but eventually grills will be installed so that things can be kept in the church without their disappearing.  Already “Fr Winchester” has plans to build many projects, including a new rectory near the church.  The old one is falling down and is of a curious design.  There are separate buildings for toilets and showers, for dining (separate from the kitchen), even the opening is on the opposite side from the door to the kitchen.  There is yet another separate building for his office.  Whoever designed it must have been a student of Rube Goldberg!  Nuts!

I have no words to describe the vigor and energy of the dancers!  The thick concrete floor of the church actually vibrated with the stamping.  I wondered how their feet could withstand it, to say nothing of the knees!  I have some video shots, but couldn’t take as much as I wished due to the limitations of my memory card.  It is now totally maxed out.  When I get home I’ll try to learn how to send a few of the better pieces.  The lead dancers wears a cow’s tail attached to the left arm, which he/she moves vigorously so the tail twirls around.  They move and shake every part of the body, feet never resting, bobbing and weaving to the beat of the feet.  I didn’t know what he was conveying until after, when a lady told me he was begging for peace (which I mistakenly heard as “pigs”).  Fr. Kiriti and I had seats right next to the judging table, so after he had put on quite a show for them he moved over to us.  He was right in my face.  I could see the sweat running down but he kept on dancing until I thought they would all drop.  Three of 4 parishes participated in the event, which was a big deal and well attended by the locals.  There were hundreds of small children, many women and few men.  Fr. Kiriti explained that the men were having an important meeting.

By 3 pm the program was over and I was exhausted just from watching.  When we walked down to the truck I was appalled to find the back literally alive with kids.  There wasn’t a spare inch and still kids were climbing up the tires trying to fit in on the sides.  This is de rigueur  in Kosetei, so I just held my breath.  The children are so nimble and quick, they hopped in and out with no effort.  No injuries occurred as we ferried them back down the hill to the compound where most of the seminar activities took place.  The adults ate in the round dining building while the kids were fed outside.  Women from the community had been hired to help with food preparation.  The leaders were 2 nuns, a priest, and 4 or 5 young people who do this for a living and are based in Nakuru, the diocesan center.  They go to schools and parishes all over, including both SFG and Archbishop Ndingi.  They are positive, energetic, talented and full of enthusiasm for their jobs.  The kids loved the seminar and Fr Frederick was fully pleased, announcing it was 97% successful.  Don’t know about the 3%, but 97% is pretty good!

After dinner, Fr Kiriti and I retired to the screened in porch at the rectory to chat, plan, share thoughts and generally enjoy the pleasant warm evening, relieved by gentle breezes.  Bedtime is early, so I found myself carefully shining my “torch” along the path to the toilet.  I didn’t enter until I was fully satisfied that the gecko on the wall was the only other occupant.  Despite the warnings that there were snakes, I saw none.  I was actually a bit disappointed.  “I don’t want him to bite me, I just want to see one,” I explained when Fr. Kiriti adamantly said NO!  How can I feel I’ve had the full Kosetei experience?

I’m writing this episode from my seat on Emirates Air, heading for Dubai, then on to SFO in the morning.  This has been an odd leaving, like a dream.  I just wandered through all the packing, organizing, goodbying and tears.  It’s a very stark transition, yesterday I was in one of the most remote parts of Kenya, then a harrowing trip back (see next chapter), driving to Nairobi today and here I am, on the plane going home.  How did it happen?

#26 or #27 A Mass in a River Bed and a Perfect Storm

#27  A Mass in a River Bed and a Perfect Storm                     Friday, August 17, 2012

“We have mass here at 7 am, but you can sleep in b/c we are going out for mass at 9:30.”  “Great, I am tired and would love to sleep in.”  But….I was awake at 6:30 with a very strong need.  It’s not advisable to use the toilet after dark, as the snakes hunt at night, it being too hot during the day.  This was the first night I did not get up to answer nature’s call in I can’t remember when.  Thus at 6:30, it was a NEED.  That taken care of I had another 1/2 hour of sleep, then out to the shower just outside my door.  It’s cleverly designed, an open air round building which spirals in to the actual shower area, so no door is required and the showerer has privacy.  It was lovely, except the water was cold.  Fast shower, wrap myself in my towel, newly purchased yesterday, and back inside to dress.  I was ready to join the others for breakfast after they finished mass.

Yesterday when we were driving on some particularly rough road, Fr. Kiriti thought he heard a suspicious noise.  He had stopped to inspect underneath the truck, but saw nothing.  This morning he noticed fluid leaking from something under the engine area.  That was OK, he’d have one of his helpers drive the truck to Nakuru where it would be repaired.  Later the helper called to say that a stone had cracked the differential, which will be welded tomorrow.  In the meantime he could borrow the sister’s truck.

Off we went, stopping shortly to pick up the man who would direct him to the house of Hannah, the lady who was hosting the mass.  We drove through a “forest” of small acacias and scrub.  Goats everywhere.  Because the rain has been plentiful this year there is plenty to eat and the goats have multiplied exponentially.  Kids scampered from the car—hundreds, thousands—all colors, shapes and sizes.  Up small hills over rocky areas, down into a gully to cross a dry river (or sometimes not so dry), grinding up the other bank and on.  Occasionally seeing cattle or once some camels.  Eventually we came on 2 ladies waiting by the side of the road to give us further directions.  After a brief discussion they proceeded to walk down a path, oblivious of the fact that it was far too narrow for the truck.  We were just getting out to follow them on foot when a small boy arrived to say he knew how to get there with a road.  He hopped up in the back with our first guide and several more small boys to yell directions, and off we went again.  Shortly we arrived at a clearing with some round houses made from mud and thatched with grass, where other people waited and more arriving for mass.

We parked and walked down to a dry riverbed.  Maybe 100 yards further on was a lovely overhanging tree.  Under it was a perfect seat, perhaps roots that had been uncovered by fast moving water at some time past.  That was Fr’s seat, with his mass box in front of him for an altar.  The rest of us arranged ourselves on the bank and on rocks.  My rock was amazingly comfortable.

The congregation were mostly women and children, ranging in age from a few months to 10 years or so.  Fr Kiriti introduced me and those who weren’t too shy shook my hand and smiled. The children were particularly sweet, openly staring at me, some shaking hands, others not quite sure whether there was something wrong with my skin and thus an object to fear.  One little girls, 2-3 years, shook my hand, then quickly checked hers to see whether I’d rubbed off on her.  So I checked my hand too.  Smiles from the adults.  Perhaps 20 were there to begin with, but by the time it was over it was more like 50.

Under the tree, Fr Kiriti put on his alb and stole.  I was again reminded of his childhood story of seeing a man teaching under a tree, wearing clothes over his clothing – his first mass.  He sat down and engaged the people, adults and children in dialogue.  I surmised it had to do with which children were going to school; later he confirmed it was.  Shortly, he began the mass.  All the while people wandered in and found a place – young women carrying babies, older women, children, including a girl who couldn’t have been more than 6, carrying a baby on her back, and the dog who had come to greet us when we alighted from the car.  He was a friendly sort, who eventually scratched out a cool spot for himself and lay down to attend mass.  He stayed quietly until a small cat, hardly more than a kitten appeared on the embankment.  She scouted about, eventually climbing the tree under which we sat.  Small sprouts swayed as she passed and she stopped to bat at them.  She had the dog’s attention.  He got up to see what she was up to, but clearly she knew how to handle him.  No confrontation, just a clear understanding of who was in charge.

The girls wore dresses of every description, from frilly white satin with red ruffles to skirts probably handed down many times from older siblings and neighbors.  Some of the boys wore the traditional cloth wrapped around the waist, knee length, and I can guarantee at least one wore nothing else.  Some boys had on shorts, one so worn that the rear was like fragile lace, but he seemed unaware that his little black bottom showed through in many places.  Most of the women wore dresses or skirts, but several had come with full traditional regalia – wide beaded neck-pieces and elaborate beaded headpieces.  I took pictures later, but not sure I got one of those ladies.

Fr. spoke in Kiswahili, although some were as unable to understand as I – they speak only Pokot.  He spoke at length, dialoguing with them, then turned to me to explain the question he had posed.  “What difference has Christianity made in your lives.  How are you different from the people who hold the traditional beliefs?”  Our guide spoke eloquently (I think) with elaborate gestures and a stately manner.  Clearly he is someone.  A lady then spoke, quietly, diffidently and briefly.  Fr. then explained, “They said that the difference is they know what is right and what is wrong.  It is wrong to steal, to be unfaithful to one’s spouse, to be unforgiving.”  He then presented them with this scenario:  A man and his wife quarrel.  He puts her aside, sends her home to her family, but the children belong to him.  He takes a second wife and maybe she won’t love the children like their mother does.  He quarrels with second wife and perhaps takes a third, with the same outcome.  He now has children from 3 wives and no one to care for them.  Wouldn’t it have been better to resolve with his first wife?  They should talk, tell each other what is the problem and stop that behavior.  He specifically mentioned drunkenness, as this is a major problem here.  In this culture, the women do everything, even to putting up a house.  The men lounge around sleeping, eating and drinking.  The people listened.  Whether they heard is another matter.

At communion time I happened to notice movement on the opposite embankment.  Looking up I saw 3 camels passing by, stopping to nibble tender morsels.  Alas, I didn’t feel it a propitious moment to interrupt for a photo, so you’ll have to take my word for it.  I’m told the camels are not wild, but are part of the herds of some families.

After mass, there were handshakes, smiles and waves of kwaheri.  Back in the truck, Fr Kiriti explained that the man who had spoken so well, is a teacher in the local elementary school.  He understands English, although he spoke very little of it to me.

After we left him off we went to the Buddha tree to send out #26.  Fr Kiriti’s phone picked the weak network signal, but my computer couldn’t.  Maybe none of my Pokot missives will be sent until Sunday when I return to Naivasha.  “We’ll walk up there a way to see whether we can pick it there”, he said, locking his side of the truck and going around to mine.  “Grab my camera, will you, please?  And my sunglasses?”  Camera and glasses in hand, he locked the door.  One second later, “Where are the keys?  Oh, God, I have locked the keys in the truck!”  Oops!  I peeked in the window and there they were, dangling in the ignition.  RATS!!!!  We stared at each other, each berating him/her self for the mistake.  Nothing would do but we walk back to the compound.

By this time the sun was hot and I had not thought to use sun screen.  It was flat, but rocky and the 1 km seemed long, but finally we arrived.  It hadn’t helped that I had to lug my computer, which I had taken out to send/receiver emails – a futility.

We saw one of the sisters who own the truck.  “Do you have a second key?”  “Yes, but it’s back at our home, 2 hours away.  However, we’ve done that ourselves and have been able to use a wire to pull up the lock.”  Hot and already tired, Fr. Kiriti returned to the truck with several clever young men in tow.  I was already feeling burned on my neck and having no car-stealing skills, elected to remain.  But, oh no, the house was locked.  RATS!  Was thinking about my bed with the new mattress with great longing.  Oh, well, I have the computer, can begin to write this latest chapter in the 2012 adventure series.

I sat in the dining house (round, with a thatched roof) and wrote for about an hour.  Feeling sleepy I put my head back and snoozed, albeit feeling guilty to be out of the hot sun and in comfort, except for hunger pangs.  I poked around and found some bread, drank some water and hoped for the best.  By about 2:30 the cook was putting lunch on the table and the seminar folks, including Fr Frederick, had arrived, ready to eat, but no Fr Kiriti.  By about 3 he showed up and I could read the body language even before he admitted defeat.  Keys still locked in the car.

He wasn’t about to give up, however, just needed to eat and have some water.  Then he would return to try it again.  As we sat there, his clever young men arrived, handing him the keys!  Relief!  Hurrays, high 5’s (which they didn’t understand) and gratitude.  Shortly he went in another vehicle and soon returned with my glasses from the seat, my water bottle, now hot enough for tea and my camera bag.  Phew!  I now will admit I was a bit nervous on this one.

#25 or #26 The Profession of Vows and the Real Road from Hell

[Note – I rec’d both a #23 part 2 and the same blog numbered #24, which accounts for the confusion in numbering]

#26 The Profession of Vows and the Real Road from Hell                 Thursday, August 16, 2012

Yesterday was the ceremony in Thika, outside Nairobi, about 1 ½ hours from Naivasha.  Many staff members from SFG went to be with Sr. Magdalene, but she probably didn’t see us among the 3000-4000 people who were there.  That’s a quick estimate, counting chairs per row and number of rows, then number of sections.  The ceremony began with dancing girls, with 2 token boys, from an elementary school.  They were terrific, but it was almost impossible for me to take photos without being pushy like the professional photographers.  I try not to be an ugly American type.

After the dancing girls came the 3 nuns who were doing their final vows and 8 who were celebrating 25 years of sisterhood.  One is Sr. Pauline, who spent many years in the Naivasha parish, mostly teaching catechism.  She is very short and very round and I’m embarrassed to admit I dubbed her Sister Roly-Poly the first year – couldn’t remember her name.

There was much speech giving, singing and dancing and then the vows, followed by a 2 ½ hour mass.  All in Kiswahili, so I can’t report anything about it.   The bishop was the celebrant.  Evidently he did a great job with his 1-hour sermon—there were laughs throughout.  He spoke parts in English, but the punch lines were always in Kiswahili.  Essentially it was over 3 hours of not understanding anything…a time for reflection.  I confess that some of my reflection was, “I wish this thing were over!”

Fr. Kiriti has determined we should leave right after communion, like many Catholics do!  He had good reason, as we had to drive to his family compound in Mai Mahu to pick up his pick-up.  I had to drive the Rav4 to Nakuru, while he made a detour into Naivasha and then met me at the Pastoral Center (PC) where we spend the night.  It began to rain just as I was arriving in Nakuru.  I was a bit unsure where to turn for the PC and missed it.  It’s on a stretch of road that has few opportunities to make u-turns.  Had to drive several km more to a round-a-bout, so even though I left ahead of Fr Kiriti, he arrived before I did and had a moment of panic when I wasn’t there.  Driving back, I was still looking for the right place, when the phone rang, “I’m at the PC, where are you?  Are you all right?”  This came right as I was to turn, so I’m watching traffic, looking for the road, and talking on the phone—worth at least a $250 fine in Menlo Park!  But I arrived and we walked in to get our rooms, only to learn that 2 men who had come right before us had been given the rooms reserved for us.  It wasn’t a problem, except, the person in charge of the keys had gone home and had to come back to open the key-storage.  Another reflection time.

Finally we had the keys, dumped out stuff in our rooms and headed off for dinner.  He went to a hotel he knew, but it was a disco place, with a huge TV and very loud music.  We said NO and went on to a Chinese place—yep, right in the suburbs of Nakuru!  And you know what, it tasted just like American Chinese food.  Tasty.

At 6:15 my phone rang.  Sr. Helen, my Kenyan nun friend stationed in Jamaica, was wanting to say hello.  She works with HIV/AIDS victims, which is very hard, as you can imagine.  I can’t say I was much of a conversationalist and she was most apologetic for waking me.  Actually it was good she called.  I had set my phone to awaken me at 6:30 PM  Oh, good job, Margo.

After a rather skimpy breakfast we set out to do the shopping, including buying a new mattress, which Fr Kiriti has generously installed in my bed, but he will use it after I leave.  Most mattresses here are foam, which form a groove in about 20 minutes, so the “sleeper” must stay in that one place.  My bones have vetoed that and I had had to buy an inner-spring mattress when I first came.  Slept much better after that.  He remembered how comfortable the inner-spring mattress in my guest room is and decided he wanted one for himself.

When the Holy Ghost fathers left this place in Fr Kiriti’s capable hands they left very little for him.  We had a huge shopping list, but fortunately he’s like me, no pondering, no scratching the head, just pick it and move on.  It makes for fast shopping and occasional mistakes, like the printer I bought on arrival.  It eats ink breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack.  It has no mode for OK copies, just good.  It has no setting to make more than one copy—just keep hitting the button.  Halfway through the summer I determined I would donate it and ended giving it to Ruth for her office.

Even with our efficient shopping methods, it was a good 2 hours before we got everything, including parking in a no-parking zone while Fr Kiriti ran off to pick some things he had been requested for the Kosetei youth who are having a seminar in the parish.  I was left to guard the truck.  “If they come to lock the tires (Denver boot), tell them the owner is a police officer.”  Oh, right, tell a police person that.  Did I want to end up in a jail cell?  A boot squad did come by and were preparing to do the dirty deed when I intervened.  “The owner is a priest and he’s coming right back.  Please don’t do this.”  They waved their hands and walked on.  Five minutes later another guy came.  He checked to see that we had paid sh 80 to park at the supermarket.  The he saw me and I think it was a skin dispensation.  He didn’t boot us.  Finally Fr Kiriti came back and you can be sure I got full mileage out of it!

About noon we got off for Kosetei in East Pokot (yes I have determined it is East and not West, despite their being no East Pokot on the map, only West).  At first it was a bumpy tarmac, but the potholes grew larger as we drove north.  Those of you who were among my first readers will remember I dubbed the road from Naivasha to Nakuru The Road From Hell.  It is now a good road, but it was terrible.  The road from Nakuru to Pokot now has earned that questionable honor.

I observed the road and the driving.  It’s a manual shift truck and I haven’t driven manual for years, but I could see that it’s exhausting, so I volunteered.  My offer was refused, but he said I will drive part of the way back.  Further report upon my return to civilization on Sunday.

The drive was hot and long, but the countryside is beautiful, acre upon acre of acacia trees, low shrubs, cows and goats.  I saw more goats today that in the whole rest of my many years.  The animals are the wealth of the people, so they don’t want to eat or sell them.  They just expect the government and the missionaries to give them food.

Fr Kiriti talked about how destructive to the indigenous way of life to give food.  It has been necessary during times of drought, but now in good times, the people expect it.  It’s an African form of the Cargo Culture of the South Pacific islands.  In East Pokot, it is possible to grow food, using dry farming methods, but the people would rather walk for miles, then carry home free food.  Today was a distribution day.  We drove by a number of centers full of people waiting for their handout.  He has begun a slow process of trying to move them back to their roots.  Not an easy task.

We arrived at 4 and found the youth seminar in full swing.  There are some 200 young people from this area, learning about HIV/AIDS, FGM, wise decision making and other pertinent issues.  In the early evening one of the seminar leaders brought out some games.  This one is

involves getting 4 of your color discs in a row, vertically, horizontally or diagonally.  The kids really liked it.

The parish compound is really lovely, lots of trees, many buildings, all made from river rock, shaped like squashed loafs of Edam cheese.  The ground is awash with stones, which makes me wonder whether it was a river bed at some time.

Already Fr Kiriti is well-known and clearly loved and respected.  He has an easy way with his parishioners, waving, stopping the car to chat, doing small things to help them understand he is a caring person.  When we drove up a long winding road to the chapel we saw the young people walking down.  As we got into the truck to come back, about 10 of them hopped in

Back, SOP in this area.  The fact that no one was thrown out nor injured is a tribute to their dexterity and balance.

There were 10 of us for dinner in a small round house with thatched room that badly needs a new thatch—one of many projects he is contemplating.  Last year I dubbed him Fr Winchester, after the famed Winchester House in San Jose—he never stops building, but not for the same reason.

Afterwards we sat in the semi-darkness on a screened porch, enjoying the evening and the lovely air.  It’s the first time all summer we’ve had a chance to talk w/o phone interruptions every 2 minutes.  He says one of the things he loves is not having phone network.  All the way driving here until we had no network the phone calls just kept coming in.  Often he was driving on a terrible road, needing to shift up and down constantly, trying to steer, shift and hold the phone.  God clearly didn’t plan ahead.  If He had, we’d all have 3 hands!

#24 Kwaheri (Goodbye)

#24 Kwaheri (Goodbye)                                                                  Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tomorrow I leave Naivasha to attend Sr. Magdalene’s profession of final vows in Thika, then on to East Pokot to visit Fr. Kiriti for a few days.  I get back to Naivasha August 20 long enough to shower and pick my bags, then off to the airport and US.  So today I said kwaheri to the form 4’s.  I had hoped to speak to the whole school, but it didn’t work out.  It’s very hard for me to say good-bye to the form 4’s, whom I’ve taught more than any others.  I may never see many of them again.  Some will come back to visit SFG and I may see them.  Some live in Naivasha and I may see them, but others live far away.

This is a time of reflection and assessment of what I may have accomplished.  Always I think about whether my presence has had an impact.  I think it has for the form 4’s, if only to know that someone cared about them enough to come teach them math.  I had 2 sessions with each class this morning to tie up loose ends and to talk about 3-D geometry, which we hadn’t touched.  Last year I spent a lot of time on it, but this year it was other topics.  When I made my reservations I didn’t know when the tuitioning would be over and would have stayed an extra week if I had known.  It wasn’t enough time, but I know they are more comfortable with the topics we worked on those evenings when I was able to be in the classroom.  They are wonderful girls and I am proud to have had some small part of their lives.

I also had to say kwaheri to Peris.  I had lent her my iPod to keep her company while Peter is gone.  I briefly thought about giving it to her, but know I would go nuts for that 15-hour ride coming home without having my books read to me.  It’s such a long ride to begin with, even with every entertainment/comfort device I can think of.  So Peris didn’t get my iPod.  However, when I went to school today I took my computer down to her so she could watch Midnight in Paris, which I downloaded at some point.  I don’t even remember why I have it, but I thought she might enjoy watching it – she did.  She said she wanted to see it again and again and again.  Peter has it on his computer, so they can watch it together when he gets home.

I think it’s very hard to find good movies, although there are some for rental here.  As much as I don’t believe in copying movies, I may find a few for SFG.  I’m thinking of Nelson Mandela’s story, Gandhi and other inspirational films.  I would love to have suggestions from my readers of films you think they might enjoy.  You can also write to tell me I’m wrong to copy them.  I know it, but….

I wrote about Mary, one of the guests at the dinner with Peter and Peris.  She’s a fun and funny person who loves to tease me.  Early on in my stay, I had brought a mug from home to use for tea.  The mugs at school aren’t washed too well and I wanted to use my own.  In fact I had suggested that everyone bring a personal mug, “I don’t want to share your ‘germies’ and I suspect you don’t want to share mine.”  But I was the only one.  The mug I brought was a big tall one, b/c the only others I had were tiny.  When I brought it out the first day, Mary was “outraged”.  “Margo, you’ll be taking twice as much tea as the rest of us.”  Oh, dear, have I done the wrong thing?  Only briefly did I think she was serious, but she was just teasing.  Nonetheless it was the topic of many pointed comments from her, so today I ceremoniously presented her with the mug.  She was a bit abashed, I think, but loved getting it.  It’s so fun to have that kind of friendship with teachers here.  I makes me feel like part of the group, even though they often speak Kiswahili in the staff room.  It’s their mother tongue and while all are proficient in English, they are more comfortable in Kiswahili.

My desk is empty, and I thought I wouldn’t be back until next June, until I got home to discover my computer was still charging at school.  I had given Ruth Kahiga a ride down so she could shop and intended to let her return by matatu, but she was happy to have a ride back with her heavy purchases.

I just remembered I didn’t write about the dinner with Teresia Hinga, Pacificah Okemwa, and Catherine on Sunday.

Just as a reminder, Teresia (left) teaches at Santa Clara U, religion, ethics and gender.  She is here pursuing her research on religion and gender.  Pacificah (center) was Teresia’s teacher when she was in University.  She’s now at Kenyatta U, where she has developed the Gender Studies program and Catherine (right) is her student.

Our conversation was wide ranging, as you can imagine. We discussed  the work that each of them does  the candidacy of Martha Karau (I think that’s right) for president and whether women will support her sufficiently to win.  I was the one who brought it up and Pacificah challenged me, “Why are you talking about Martha as a candidate?”  “Because she is a woman and will be more sensitive to women’s issues.”  Then they took me to task, arguing that Martha presents herself in a very assertive manner.  We discussed why and we all know the Hillary story.  I suggested that regardless, the mere fact that she is a woman makes her more aware.  We discussed the feminine principle and how it manifests itself in both men and women.  We would still be talking, Catherine has her 4 children at home and had intended to stay only shortly, but couldn’t tear herself away until is became late.

It was a powerful time for all of us.  The room fairly vibrated with energy!

The next day they spent the morning with women in the Naivasha prison – a rich and troubling experience.  Catherine says most of the inmates are sex workers who have been arrested, some for other crimes, but often just for working, while, of course, the men go scot-free.

In the afternoon Teresia and Pacificah visited SFG and I think I can safely say they were impressed with the quality of our school.  Each is a product of the Kenyan school system and was remembering her own days in high school.  When they walked in to the science labs they remembered having no lab at all.  Just a teacher demonstrating at the desk in front of the room.  We walked all around, meeting Esther, the matron, who took them through one of the dorms and proudly showed them our baking facility.  At each step they commented on how well the school was planned.  In Ruth’s office it was like a retake of the evening before.  Ruth, too, is a powerful and dedicated educator.  I loved listening to these 3 Kenyan women discussing the “girl-child” and all the issues needing to be addressed.

Again I am humbled and thrilled to be here as Kenya moves from it’s beginnings as an independent nation (1965) to the modern world.  In some ways they are experiencing what has taken the US 200 years to achieve and squeezed it into 50 years.  It’s because of women like Catherine, Teresai, Pacificah and Ruth that it is succeeding as well as it is.  I feel incredibly lucky to be some small part of it here in Naivasha.