Hi, it’s Maya again, per request. St. Francis Xavier Girls Secondary School got out for midterm break Thursday morning and I have until Monday at 4pm to enjoy some American food and sleep in. I’m writing from my cozy bed in Margo’s house, wearing a pair of blue jeans and my favorite polo. So comfy.
Next to me is my friend Joseph, who’s getting a huge treat by playing Temple Run on my iPhone. He better keep his mouth shut about it or a line of jealous kids will be trailing out of Margo’s door by tomorrow. Here’s a picture he took on photo booth, a Mac application that lets you take photos in silly effects with a webcam. (He doesn’t actually look like this, and neither does the door.)
I’ve never heard him make as much noise as he did when he laughed at this picture. We also played with some cool new toys that Granny bought at the Maasai market and looked at some picture books. Unfortunately, Joseph and the other children in the home won’t be able to keep any of the toys because they’re all for selling, but he did pick out a book that I think is perfect for him. It’s an all-picture book of prehistoric fossils, from T-rexs to Brontosauri (not sure what the plural of brontosaurus is.) I asked him if he knew what the fossils were called, and he replied, “skeletons.” I guess he’d never heard of dinosaurs before.
Since I started with today (Saturday the 22nd), I guess I’ll go backwards. Yesterday, I woke up around 10am and found a note Granny had left, saying she was at SFG teaching some math and would be back around 1 for lunch. We had discussed this already: she would teach in the morning, and after lunch I would go back with her to help teach or whatever. It was 12am back home, but I knew my friends’ summer routine didn’t include sleeping until 2 or 3. I sat down at the kitchen table with Margo’s computer and logged on to my Facebook for the first time since leaving Palo Alto. Right away, I saw one of my girl-friends was online and started telling her all about Kenya. Turns out, she didn’t appreciate hearing about the toilets as much as you guys did. That conversation didn’t last long. If my friends didn’t even want to hear about the difficulties here, there’s no way they would ever make it through a day in SFG. I felt a little proud of myself for surviving this far.
I talked to some other friends about the climate, culture, and cuisine while frying up a pan of eggs and buttering three pieces of toast. My plan was to eat as much as possible over midterm and that could last me through the rest of my time in SFG (two more weeks). Soon, it was 12:30pm and I was still in my jammies and unshowered. Abandoning my dishes, I hopped in the shower. When I got out, Agnes came by to let me know Granny would be a little late. Still in my towel, I went back to the kitchen to try and eat some more and make a cup of tea. I checked my email to see if there were any new ones.
When Granny came back, I ran to put on my uniform, brush my hair, and put on my school shoes. I was in for it.
“Maya, I left you three tests, and you’ve failed all of them.” (she claims she didn’t say fail, but she did) I failed to notice my camera cord on the table and take it to my room, wash her dishes that she left in the sink (and some of mine), and finish the heel of old bread before opening a new one. I actually had used most of the old bread, but I wanted to use a big slice to cut out a hole to put an egg in.
“But Granny,” I said. “I didn’t know that there were going to be tests.”
“Life is a test,” Granny told me.
Oops. Now I ask “Did I pass the test?” every time I throw away a dirty napkin or put away a spoon. Don’t think she saw that coming.
When we got to school, I found out that I was actually assigned a class to teach by myself. I hope that no one is under the impression that I have a degree in teaching or something. I did some factorizing with the Form 2s, tried to pretend I knew what I was doing. In the end, I think I may have actually taught them something, but I’m not really sure. After that class, I didn’t have anything to do and neither did the Form 3s, so I decided to pass the time by trying to write all 54 African countries on the board from memory. The girls had fun helping me remember by giving me a first letter, or location in the continent of one that I hadn’t written yet. With a few hints, I got 49, and three of the ones I missed were islands anyway. The Form 3s were impressed by how well I knew their continent, but it was only because I’d been tested on almost every country in the world this past semester in history. We had more time, so I wrote all 50 states on the board as well. I had wanted the girls to try and do it, but after California and Florida, their next guesses were LA, Canada, Argentina, and Sweden. Geography here is really geology, so they’ve never had any education on countries and their location. I’d love to teach a class on that.
On Thursday, Granny, Ben, Jecinta, and I drove to the Musical Maasai Market in Nairobi. It was so overwhelming, there were at least 30 vendors and they all seemed to be selling the same stuff (as well as claiming that they made it). Everywhere we went, people were begging me to buy their merchandise. We were everyone’s “sister” and “new friend” and “first customer.” When the first vendor we saw gave me a gift of a beautiful dish (see picture on left), we were obligated to buy from him later and he even followed me around to remind me that we said we’d come back. One seller was so ridiculous when I tried to bargain with him that he told me I’d promised him a higher price earlier. I’d never even seen him before. Another tried to trade me a new 100ksh bill for the crumpled 500ksh I was holding, thinking I wouldn’t notice the value. These people clearly thought I was some kind of idiot. Despite the hassling, I had a really fun time looking at all the jewelry, bags, dishes, sandals, key chains, toys, and other goods. I bought a chess set for my brother Ben, a spear for Michael, a woven bag, beaded sandals, and some garnet jewelry, which is gorgeous, but I feel bad about because I know it probably didn’t come from an industry that I want to support. I also spotted some beautiful paintings that I knew my parents would love and convinced Granny into buying some to sell (yes Mom, you can choose which one you want).
We had to bargain with that artist for over 20 minutes so I left it up to Jecinta and went to watch the Maasai performers, who were singing and dancing.