#1-2013 We begin June 8
Greetings to all my faithful readers. This year I am accompanied by Maya, my 16-year old granddaughter. It’s something we’ve talked about for some years, but I’ll admit to some fears about having responsibility for a lovely blonde teenager, so far away from home and all the things she knows. Through the year I tried to prepare her for what it would be like in this Kenyan boarding high school, but as it has turned out, nothing I could have said would have helped. One has to BE here to experience the differences between Palo Alto High School and St Francis Xavier Secondary School for Girls. MAJOR!!!
Everybody went to see us off, Maya’s parents, younger brother, boyfriend and Gypsy, she world’s smallest dog. Because we had so much luggage, 2 cars were necessary. You can be sure I took advantage of her 2 large bag limit as well as my own to bring books, soccer balls, scarves for the 4th year students (a long-standing tradition, about which I’ll write more in the future). Three and ½ suitcases were my stuff and ½ was Maya’s. I brought LOTS of books. So there we were at SFO, surrounded by max-sized bags, and I could see that the parents, too, had their own reservations. Ben, Maya’s 12-year old brother had a particularly long face, as the 2 of them have been very close from the beginning. Even having exclusive time with Gypsy for 5 weeks was insufficient compensation for the loss of his sister’s presence.
And so the adventure began. We were early at the check-in counter and I was so glad I had done that on-line, as the check-in line for those who failed to do so was already LONG. We were 2nd in our line!
My friend, Luane, has a love of packing. She and I are like Jack Spratt and wife—I hate to pack. We had a weight limit of 50# per bag and she made it to the ounce. BUT, they weighed our carry-ons as well. OOPS! Can’t be more than 10#. Mine was almost 13. I quipped that I had recently lost 3 #, could that be a trade-off? Sure they wouldn’t have charged me an overweight fee. She must have heard that one before. We had to scurry of rearranging and eventually put stuff from my small suitcase in my purse (which was a backpack) and finally passed the weight test. Naturally, as soon as we were out of sight, we reversed that procedure. Next step-SECURITY. I have a self-imposed rule that I don’t do those new scanners. They can pat me down as much as they want, but I am adamant. Some TSA agents punish recalcitrants like me by being VERY thorough. Such was the lady who led me to the side to determine I wasn’t the underwear bomber.
Since we had 2 nearly hours to kill we bummed around in the shops. Maya had forgotten sun glasses, so we explored that item, but eventually rejected them as over-priced (Margo) and ugly (Maya). Nearly a day later she found a pair she liked in Dubai, but again rejected when it turned out I had made a decimal point error in calculating the conversion rate between the dumah (think that’s their currency) and the dollar. They were not $20, but $200. OOPS! She eventually found some in the Naivasha supermarket (a somewhat fanciful term) for about $2—clear evidence that it pays to shop for the bargains.
Eventually we were seated in our aisle seats, close enough to chat, but not squeezed together. That was the good part. The greater challenge was the 3 babies in our immediate vicinity. They were not happy campers and announced to one and all in the ways babies the world over communicate their displeasure. Ah, the beauties of the 15-hour flight. But Maya was a trooper and eventually all 3 fell into an exhausted sleep, as did we, albeit fitfully.
The hotel in Dubai was renamed Cocksworth (from Millennium) but other than that was the same place I’ve stayed for the past 6 or 7 years—not 5-star to be sure, but perfectly OK. The room, plus meals are part of the ticket and it is a welcome break to be horizontal for the night before the final 5-hour leg to Nairobi.
I had carefully booked a window seat for Maya and an aisle for me, even choosing the seats to be as near the front as possible for quick (well, faster) exit and was so pleased with my pre-planning, until I noticed that we had one of the 2 or 3 seats in the whole plane with a blank wall where everyone else had a window. Bummer! But Maya was again a trooper, after overcoming her initial disappointment. I was chagrined, to say the least. Now I remember that the plane flies too high the only view is clouds for most of the trip, but it would have been fun to watch the landing in Africa. We discovered the TV setting for the under-the-plane camera as well as the one for the nose-camera and Maya was able to peek through the window of the seat in front, so she got a bit of that excitement. Suddenly we were there and she had that same response I had had those 9 years ago. I’M IN AFRICA!
At arrival there is the usual scramble for the visa line. Being an old hand, I grabbed a bunch of forms and proceeded to the line where we stood to fill them out. Hmm, only 1 pen. But we were fast and that piece went smoothly. Dragging our rollies and carrying heavy backpacks, we had to make our way downstairs (yes, stairs—no escalators in Nairobi) to the luggage carousels where my usual bad-suitcase karma was at work. It took forever, but finally we piled everything on 2 carts, passed the final check easily and there was Fr. Kiriti’s smiling his most welcoming smile. We had arrived.
Nothing is easy here, like getting out of the parking lot, where the ever-present SLOW service was exiting 1 car per 3 minutes. No exaggeration. The road was packed with home-ward cars, trucks, matatus and walkers. No problem, we’ll take the brand new road around central Nairobi. Alas, many others had the same idea. Fr. Kiriti and I later voted never to take that “shortcut” again. Poor Maya, trying to see the sights and jostled about became nauseated and eventually we stopped so she could sit in front. I didn’t know she was prone to carsickness and she was trying to be a good sport, so didn’t mention it.
We were a good 2 hours on the road, but finally I began to recognize the scene outside Naivasha. We saw the lights of St Francis (SFG) as we passed it and then there we were on the road into town. We drove in the parish driveway, dominated by the beautiful church completed during Fr. Kiriti’s time here and rolled to a stop in front of Mji Wa Neema children’s home—my home away from home.
There are only 10 of the original 34, the rest being grown up and gone or away in high school. Those 10 made up for it by rushing us with grins, hugs, handshakes and a very hearty welcome. They grabbed those heavy bags and deposited them in the front hall of Margo’s house and an exhausted Fr. Kiriti took his leave.
Julia, the matron, had cooked a lovely meal for us, which had cooled considerably, but was nonetheless most welcome, at least for me. Maya was still feeling woozy and ate only some rice, but I enjoyed the chicken and veggies prepared in the African way.
I was home.