18 Maya’s Experiences part II

Maya’s Experiences part II

Fr. Makarios’ home,  St. Teresia; Archbishop Ndingi, and Marcus’ KCC slum school 

I’m home now, but before I write about that, I still need to write about the last three places I visited before Kositei. In my last email, I wrote about the workshop in Nairobi that made nativity scenes out of maize and banana products. Later that day, Granny and I decided to visit a center started by the priest who had celebrated mass that week and was one of Granny’s many friends. We started out on the road out of Naivasha and ended up on a highway. The highways don’t seem to be any bigger than normal roads, most of them are just one lane in each direction, and they all look the same. 95% of a highway passes dirt, grass, and trees – no shops, few people, scattered herds of livestock here and there. There are occasional signs for a business or plant or school or something but no directional signs (ex: Kenya Highway, 17 North, 38 kilometers to Nakuru). 

For this reason, Granny was unsure whether she was going the right way or not. Fr. Makarios’ center is south of Naivasha, towards Mai Mahu. The other direction is north, towards Nakuru. I told her to keep driving in that direction until we were positive that it was the wrong way. I can’t remember a single time (except that time) when I thought I was going the wrong direction, turned around, and was right. I can, however, recall several occasions when I drove for a while, turned around, drove for a while longer, realized I had been correct to begin with, and turned back around. 

So we’re driving, and the sun is glaring in my eyes. Kenyan cars have the driver on the right, so I was sitting on the left and the sun was coming in my window. It was 5:30 pm, and since the sun sets in the west, the west was to our left, meaning we were heading north. Grumbling, Granny pulled off the road and turned around. Before getting back on the road, she confirmed with the driver of a nearby stopped lorrie that this road led to Nakuru. (Lorries are big trucks that carry 3x the weight that they should be carrying and therefore can only go about 25mph. They’re used for transporting materials like coal, stuff that we use railroads for.) 

This unfortunate waste of time actually turned out to have a bright side. Having turned around, we were driving on the other side of the road, and saw several brightly striped zebras. This time, we were close enough to slow down and take pictures. I’d never seen a zebra up close before, so the extra 30 minutes of driving were worth it for me, the one not paying for petrol. J 

            We drove back into Naivasha, double checked the direction with another man, saw a sign that pointed us towards Mai Mahu, and drove out the other side of Naivasha. Even with all of the reassurance, Granny was still unsure of the way. Clearly, the lorrie driver whose job it was to drive that route, the friendly local, the only official-looking sign I’d seen that showed Mai Mahu being that direction, and the scientifically proven and universally accepted fact that the sun sets in the west in 99.9999999% of the world wasn’t convincing enough for Granny. It wasn’t until we were at Fr. Makarios’ gate that she was sure. 

            Fr. Makarios is a friendly, light-skinned man with a puzzling accent. His family is from Egypt where he was born, but he grew up in Ireland and also lived in Canada for a long time. I’m not sure if that makes him a mzungu, since technically he’s African, but it doesn’t really matter. He admitted to Granny that for months, he took the wrong road up to his school too! Then he explained about the kids and what his center does. There are 30-something children living currently living there, all between the ages of 6 and 12, except for four special cases who are three years old. All of the kids have suffered abuse, largely physical and sexual. The children are brought to Fr. M by relatives who want to help and are treated with professional one-on-one counseling and lots of love. They have school in the mornings and afternoons and play time in the evenings. They begin to reconnect with their family after one year in the program by scheduling visits at the center and at the child’s home. At the end of two years, the kids leave and live with their relatives. He reminded me that in Kenya, everyone has relatives. 

ImageThe school is beautiful by US standards, and a royal palace by Kenyan standards. We got a tour of the large girls’ and boys’ dorms with attached rooms for volunteers and a look at the kitchen and dining room. All over the walls are sweet little messages about kindness, friendship, love, happiness, and other uplifting words. It even has a washing machine and dryer- the only ones I saw during my whole trip. They’re only used for sheets, but I was still impressed. The children wash their own clothes by hand like everyone else; the home must prepare them for the rest of their life, not spoil them. Speaking from personal experience, not knowing how to do chores like that in Kenya makes life a struggle. 

We were introduced to the children during their playtime. He warned us that one of the kids had been burned all over his face and hands, so we should make sure not to stare. They were sitting in groups of about 6 kids, arranged around two volunteers in the center explaining a game. They listened patiently until the end, when Fr. M took me to each of the groups to say hello. As soon as we reached the first group, the kids broke out into a rehearsed chant that went something like, 

“Welcome to St. Teresia something something something something something something feel at home!” It was absolutely adorable and said perfectly in unison. I concluded that this place must get tons of visitors because each child in every group knew it by heart. I’m not surprised, it has the most impressive architecture out of anywhere I visited and an amazing mission. If I come back next summer (which I would love to do), I’m definitely considering volunteering there. 

ImageThe next day, I visited the school I’ve been hearing about since Granny’s first trip to Kenya, Archbishop Ndingi. (If you want a description of the campus, I’m sure there’s one somewhere in one of Granny’s emails.)  We got up bright and early to arrive by piki-piki at 9. The piki-piki drivers charged us each ksh 40, but Granny insisted she wouldn’t pay more because we’re mzungus and that they both knew the real price was ksh 30. Surprised by her firm and uncompromising tone, they accepted the money and timidly rode off. Later, Jecinta informed us that the price actually was ksh 40, and we laughed about after all the times mzungus have been ripped off, we’ve finally gotten a discount. Oops.  

Granny introduced me to the principal, a very kind and welcoming man, who then lead us around for a tour. I couldn’t help but giggle when I saw the boys’ dorm, and when he couldn’t see anything unusual to laugh about, he looked at me for an explanation. I didn’t want to offend him or the school, but the boys’ beds having the same pink sheets as the St. Francis girls is really pretty funny. 

After seeing the school, we went to the staff room to greet the math teacher, Madam Elizabeth. She was very sweet and smiley and kind of reminds me of my last math teacher at home, except a little quieter. At 9:30, she led us to the form 3A classroom where Granny familiarized the students with factoring and FOIL (the opposite). They’ve been taught a way to factor and expand, but it’s not as efficient. They picked it up pretty well, and I got to go around and check their math and answer any questions. 

After the short 40-minute period, there was tea break. Since many of the boys had asked that I greet them, I decided to go into the dining hall to say a quick “Hi” to all of them at Imageonce. This proved to be harder than I’d thought. By the time I got to the dining hall, many students had already finished and were pushing their way out. Of course then they saw Granny and I, they had to turn around and push back in, so there was quite a little jam at the door. After I entered, I realized the stage was on the other side of the hall and I’d have to walk through the whole crowded isle to get there. After 50 “excuse me’s”, we got to the front and turned to face the school. 

The kids that had sat down to let me pass we standing again and people were pushing, chatting, laughing, shouting, slurping tea, scraping chairs, and SSSSSSSSS!-ing each other. In Kenya people say “ssss” instead of “shhh”. Granny and I just stood there, looking at the crowd and waiting for the noise level to decrease. Three minutes later, it was quiet enough for us each to say a few words. I escaped as quickly as I could, declining the offers for tea and to join a table, but Granny stopped in the middle to scold two boys shoving one another and watched them shake hands before walking out. 

Although the next class we went to was form 4, we taught the same material and the students didn’t pick it up as quickly. Elizabeth explained that the A and B streams separate the fast and slow learners, instead of being random like at St. Francis. We’d gotten the fast form 3 class, but the slower form 4 one. I like this separation because at my school, PALY, we have five math lanes, and even my middle school, Jordan, had two. Having been in each lane for a year in middle school, I know how differently they’re taught in the interest of the pace of the students. Having more than one level gives more people a chance to be personally challenged and feel comfortable asking questions. 

At 11:30, we said goodbye to the Ndingi students and headed to MH for a quick snack. Twenty minutes later, we picked up Jecinta and headed out on the highway (in the right direction) to visit the last school on our list. Like St. Teresia, it was founded by an immigrant, is free, and half of its staff is volunteers. It’s named after its location in the KCC slum, which is named after the KCC milk factory right next to it, which is named after the KCC brand milk it produces, which is really tasty. The school was created by a New Zealander named Marcus who came to Kenya and saw the need for a school for slum children. He built one from scratch with the help of donations, many of which came from people who saw his page on Facebook, and the school has been running for a few years. 

The kids are, of course, adorable and seemed to be learning exactly the same stuff that I was learning at that age. There are two classes right now, one for kids pre-school aged Imageand one for kindergarten age, give or take. The rooms are in the process of being upgraded from metal sheets and sticks to real buildings, with painted walls and everything. The construction is the opposite of St. Teresia, but what this school has is perfect for its purpose. Marcus also showed us his huge garden, about 10x the size of the school, that will soon produce large quantities of produce that will hopefully bring in revenue for the school. He is really doing everything that he can to help these children and it definitely seems to be working! 

I loved visiting all three of these schools and will definitely visit them again in the future. The stories behind the first and last ones are truly inspiring. I’ll try to write soon about coming home, but I still have tons going on with cheer camp starting tomorrow and a family bike trip the week after, so who knows. 

=Maya

 

17 Jane Doe and Baby Guinevere Go Home and Other Stuff

#17-2013 Jane Doe and Baby Guinevere Go Home and Other Stuff 

This was a lovely morning.  I didn’t have to be at SFG until 1:30 to take the official class of 2013 picture.  Imagine my surprise looking at my clock when I woke and saw 9:30!  What a lazy bum, as we say in our family.  My nights are restless, so it was good to sleep late and dawdle away the morning about my house for awhile, as if I hadn’t a care in the world. 

Jecinta dropped by to share the latest.  I do love chatting with her.  She was off to Nakuru to the office of children with disabilities.  Her many hats include seeing to the education of those children in the Naivasha area who are blind, deaf, physically or mentally disabled.  She had to collect checks for pay school fees for them.  Most of the schools are in Nakuru, so in a few days I’ll take her to visit the schools to pay the fees and see how they are doing.  Judy went with her on this trek last year, but this time I will drive her. 

ImageOn my way to school I stopped by the Safaricom shop where David Mungai (second oldest of the Mji Wa Neema kids) works. (Pictured is David in 2012 at Judy’s Chinese dinner, where she gave each kid a scarf) He is on a break now, but will resume his medical school training in September.  I needed some phone credit and wanted to see David for a few minutes.  His job is boring, but pays him a bit.  He is now too old to stay at the children’s home.  Kenyan law says no one over 17 can stay here.  That means Cyrus, David and David Wekesa can no longer stay at the home where they lived since early childhood.  It’s hard for them, but Jecinta has to enforce that rule.  If the Children’s Dept found older kids staying here it would be very bad for her.  So sad.  

On from David to see Alfred Maragia, principal of Ndingi to discuss my plan for “tuitioning” after the schools close.  I’ve always offered 2 weeks of free math workshop, using the Ndingi chem. lab, to any local high school student who wanted to come.  That’s where I met Kennedy.  (Pictured are some form 1 boys from last year) 

Image

Now the Kenyan Education Tsar has outlawed tuitioning, a traditional time when form 4 students had to stay 2 weeks into their August break for further preparation for KCSE.  Parents were required to cough up extra fees for that, hence “Tuitioning”.  Ruth had requested of the local ed office for me to be allowed to use Ndingi again, but the answer was NO!  No students are to be allowed within the school compound during school breaks.  NONE, NADA, NYET!  As usual, my little problem solving brain went to work, and I quickly developed the argument that the dining hall at Mji Wa Neema has a blackboard, it’s a children’s home, not a school, and it isn’t tuitioning b/c I don’t charge a fee.  Voila!  I asked Fr. Peter for permission to use it.  He was OK, as were Jecinta and Julia (matron of MWN).  Alfred was pleased by the opportunity for his boys.  Ruth is eager to send her own daughter (not a student of SFG) and Mary Fry who sponsors many students from a local elementary school in both SFG and Ndingi indicated she would encourage her kids to attend.  If all those kids come it will be SRO.  We’ll see. 

On the way to Ndingi it occurred to me that I’ve always taken pix of the graduates of SFG, but had never taken the Ndingi boys.  ARGH!  What a sexist I am.  So I will go there on Friday to remedy that omission.  

Soon after arriving at SFG, I had a message from Jane Doe that she was being discharged today.  ACH!  Too soon!  Baby arrived only Friday (this is Monday).  OK, took the pix of SFG grads, then off to pick Jane, sister and baby Guinevere.  

While waiting I thought I might see Cindy Berkland again.  She is the nurse, not from Iowa, as I had mis-remembered, but from Ohio.  Not too bad, 4 letters both beginning and ending in vowels.  That’s how I remember things!  Clearly not a foolproof system.  

Cindy was there, busily dealing with “challenges”, but took a few minutes to talk.  Suddenly she said, “I want to interview Jane.”  A Cincinnati TV news show will be featuring her accomplishment later this fall, so she wants to video new moms.  Cindy hadn’t thought to bring her video camera, so I offered the one given to SFG by a generous KH donor.  She was very pleased, having thought she might have to use her phone.  So up to school again to pick the camera, back down, by which time Jane has been discharged, has a wretched headache and wants to go Imagehome.  In the meantime I discovered not only do I not remember how the camera works (had to read to manual to turn it on – yeah, what a techie!), but also the batteries had not been recharged.  I had bought an extra for just such emergencies, but both were out.  Promised Cindy I would bring camera tomorrow and left with Jane, Diana and Guinevere.  Is she a cutie or what!!! 

I felt so bad driving those bumpy roads, knowing how painful it was for Jane.  She’s not a moaner and groaner, but I knew.  We had to stop at the Naivas for food and pampers, but finally bumped our way to her small one-room house, with loo down the way.  I have an environmental prejudice against disposable diapers, but here, where all washing is done by hand after toting water from afar, I can’t truly blame people for using them.  

We were greeted by a host of little kids, all wanting to know, “How are you?” and calling “Mzungu”.  Cars coming to this poor neighborhood are a novelty, particularly one driven by a mzungu.  Neighbors were sitting on a wall chatting and greeting Jane et al.  We lugged in the food and all the stuff from the hospital.  After struggling to find the key, Diana opened the door and within a minute Jane and baby were settled in bed.  Diana had to go to the local shops for charcoal and paraffin, both used for cooking inside the house.  So bad for lungs, but it’s what everyone has to do.  The consequences of poverty and lack of infrastructure are evident at every turn.  

The whole business of mzungu vs. African is very hard.  I know I get privileges and exceptions not given locals.  I feel bad about it, but confess that I exploit it if I think it benefits others.  To refer to this phenomenon I’ve coined the term “mzungu factor” (MF if I may).  For example, when I stuck my head in the operating theater (definitely a euphemism) to inquire whether Jane’s baby had been delivered, I was greeted with a smile and with respect.  Most locals will agree a Kenyan would have been rudely sent away.  Today when I drove to the gate during non-visiting hours to pick Jane, the gateman opened w/o a comment.  It’s so unfair, but I was glad I could drive in so Jane had to walk only a short distance to the car.  The other side of the MF coin is the automatic price increase of 10% to 100% in any situation where bargaining occurs – like the Maasai market. 

 One day I walked a short distance to a little shop by SFG where a multitude of items are sold, including geometry tool boxes, needed by everyone, but owned by few.  I wanted to buy some to Imagegive as “incentives” (aka bribes) I found that my price was ksh 60, whereas Christopher Murimi (SFG math teacher) had just reported he’d bought one for ksh 50.  I argued with the proprietor until he backed down, then paid the ksh 60, explaining I didn’t care about the ksh 10 (about $.12), it was the principle.  I left him bewildered but grateful for the small bonus. 

So much for today. 

=Margo

16 Not The Way I Planned It

# 16-2013 Not The Way I Planned It 

My opportunity to work with the form 4’s is short.  They are already taking their mock KCSE exams.  Math has 2 papers, one on Monday and one on Thursday, so I planned to spend this Thursday and Friday nights at Esther’s, enabling me to be here for the evening study sessions.  As always I tell them they can come work with me or study something else.  Generally about ½ choose math.  Unfortunately it’s usually the wrong ½ —those who love math and are good at it.  Those who fear math don’t come — alas!  But last night (Thurs.) we kicked the stuffing out of derivatives.  My plan was to attack integrals Friday night, having spent the day making sure I could do the problems.  They don’t delve very deeply into calculus, but I do need to work them out ahead, consulting with other math teachers if necessary.  That’s the part that didn’t go according to plan. 

Friday morning Esther told me she needed to take her 10-year old son to the district hospital to investigate a mysterious and painful swelling.  It’s a big bother to walk up to the road and wait for a matatu, particularly if you’re not feeling well, so I offered to take them.  Just as I was leaving, Jane Doe’s sister called to say that Jane had gone into labor.  Despite the administration of pitocin, she failed to dilate and an emergency cesarean was to be performed. 

I got there just as they were about to put her on the gurney and was able to hold her hand.  She Imagetold me she was scared, but perhaps calmed a bit when I said my daughter had had 2 and she was fine.  I walked with her to the door of the surgery building, then had to sit on a very hard bench with no back.  After more than an hour, I boldly walked in the door and encountered a very sweet OB nurse.  I asked whether baby had been delivered and when I was told no, asked whether she would come tell us the sex as soon as she could.  Not too long later she stuck her head out the door and motioned for me to come in.  She looked so solemn that I feared there had been a complication, but no, she was enjoying the suspense before she revealed baby is a GIRL!!! Mom and baby were fine, she reported and I was beside myself with joy and relief.  Jane really wanted a girl.  

(next day) 

I visited Jane last evening but she was in major pain, so I didn’t stay long.  Her sister is with her and is very sweet and comforting.  But this morning I visited and baby was with mom.  Here are the first photos of Guinevere.  Later I got a better photo of Gwen being held by yours truly. Image

I asked Jane how she came to choose the name.  “I Googled it”, she said, “it means ‘fair’”.  She’s very happy with her daughter, who was 3.2 kg (a tad over 7 #)  She’s still in pain, but has been given meds that have relieved it some.  I think she will stay about 1 week. 

She is so fortunate to be in the new women’s section, opened just about 1 month.  It is beautiful, spacious, clean, light, and cheerful.  In the old maternity section, women were sometimes 3 to a bed, but here in the new one I saw no doubling up.  The nurses are friendly and helpful and even the food seems good.  In the old hospital, families had to bring food 3 times a day.  

Here is Guinevere with Aunty Diana. Image

The women’s section was the brainchild of Cindy Burkland, a maternity nurse from the Midwest, Iowa, I think.  I met her several years ago when the construction was about ½ complete.  Several years before she had come to Naivasha with her husband who had a contract with Panda Flower Farms, one of 4 (out of 52) Fair Trade Flower Farms in the area.  She had toured the old hospital and was appalled by the conditions.  She approached Panda’s owner, who agreed to help fund the new building.  Cindy did a lot of fund-raising herself and the outcome is stunning, a real tribute to her determined hard work, dedication and warm heart for the women of this area.  Because it is part of the district hospital obstetric services are free, thanks to a recently enacted government policy to encourage women to give birth in hospitals.  Cindy has much to be proud of. 

When I first went there, before the birth, I inquired whether Cindy was there.  At almost the same moment she came through a door, recognized me and welcomed me to the facility.  She put me in touch with the head nurse who was so helpful, even allowing me to see Jane briefly before she went for the surgery.  Jane had asked me to be with her during labor, but of course that wasn’t possible.  

Back at SFG Friday evening, we worked on integration (calculus).  I had had only 1 hour to prepare and had encountered a problem I couldn’t complete.  We talked about the basic concepts they needed and then I presented this problem.  As I talked about it, it suddenly occurred to me what to do.  I was quite excited and proud of myself!  Calculus isn’t my field.  I could never tutor it at the level we do in US high schools, but I think I did OK at this level.  

ImageHere is the late-night crew, many wearing their Kenya Help hand knitted/crocheted scarves. 

=Margo

 

15 Further Trials

#15-2013 Further Trials 

Before Fr. Kiriti and I took Maya to Nairobi to fly home, we agreed we would do the online application for his visa.  We did it 2 years ago and it was an ordeal, but this time it was even worse.  The US State Dept website is the worst, the clunkiest the most user-unfriendly site I’ve ever visited.  ARGH!  In addition, the Safaricom connection kept going off line at the worst times.  During the busy time of the day, it bumps users off after 10-15 minutes, requiring reconnecting.  The site has maybe 15 pages, some with the most inane questions – are you a terrorist?  Are you planning to overthrow the US gov’t?  Who would say yes to those, even if they were?  We laughed filling them in, between the #$%%%$# when something went wrong.  Each page must be saved individually, but the hard part is if you answer yes to some question like “do you have education above secondary level?”, it wants to know the details, but those boxes are very slow to come up, so you save and then red text admonishes you for not filling in those details, after which you have to save again.  Instead of simply going on to the next page it takes you back to the previous page.  ARGH!  May the guy who designed it spend eternity filling in those pages.  

After that ordeal, we needed a picture.  The one he has used in the past looks like a mug shot and I had deleted it, so get out the camera, “big smile”.  Had to take many shots to get one with the head in the right position, no back shadows, good lighting etc.  Then the picture must be uploaded, must be exactly the right size, head exactly to fit the given template.  What a bother.  

Finally 4 ½ hours later the application was accepted!  Whew!  And off we were to Nairobi.  While we were busily filling in, Maya was busily making chapatis with the children and eating far too many.  By the time we left she had a major tummy ache.  It was 3:30, so by the time we got to central Nairobi it was 5.  I am not exaggerating when I say we sat in traffic for 3 hours to go maybe 5 miles, in the company of the usual smoke belchers.  As you might imagine this exacerbated Maya’s discomfort.  She could barely walk by the time we arrived. 

The policy in the Nairobi airport is that only ticketed passengers can enter the departure terminal.  However, I sweet-talked my way in so I could be sure she got checked in.  I requested “unaccompanied minor” status for her, but they didn’t seem to think a 16 year old needed that.  When I mentioned she was feeling nauseous they said, “If she looks sick at the gate they won’t let her fly”  OOPS!  One bag was a bit overweight, but the other was quite light, so they let it pass.  We sat in the lobby while trying to figure out what to do.  She thought maybe some food would help, but there is no place to buy it until after security and I was pretty sure I couldn’t talk my way through that.  I went outside to a little bistro and got fruit salad and some water.  She perked up a bit at that, but when I realized how late it was and knew I had to leave her it was very hard.  Such a look of abandonment on her face.  Had she felt OK I’m sure she would have been fine with it, but she needed a mommy or a granny.  My only words were, “This is your big-girl moment.”  She smiled wanly, we hugged and I left, wondering whether I was the worst granny in the world.  

The problem is that Fr. Kiriti had to leave the next day for Kositei.  Driving in Nairobi late at night is fraught with danger.  Even by the time we left it was dark and both of us were pretty tense until we cleared the town.  It was after 10 when I got home and then he had to drive another 20 minutes to his home in Mai Mahu, another scary trip.  

The good news is that everyone got to his or her destination intact.  Maya was happy to be home with Mom, Dad, Ben and Gypsy (dog).  I fell into my bed immediately after having a snack.  Neither of us had had much lunch and no dinner.  

Next day Fr. Kiriti brought me the car, I took him to the matatu station and he was off to Nakuru and then to Marigat where he had left his truck.  I was left to finish the visa process which meant printing the confirmation form, then take it to the Post Bank to pay the non-transferable, non-refundable fee of $160.  Yes, if they refuse to issue a visa they keep the $160!  Just another embarrassment by our gov’t.  Now I encountered another problem.  I had to use someone’s printer, but to do that I had to download the printer driver, which requires being online.  However, the modem which is my road to the web is like a fat flash drive.  The ports on a Mac are too close together so I can’t have the modem and another plug at the same time ARGH!  RATS! ##%%#$$%#&@$^&^%  Why does this have to be so hard?  When I tried to email the form to the computer already hooked up to the printer it didn’t include the required barcode nor his picture.  Finally someone told me where I could get a splitter, something I should have bought at home ages ago.  So I finally was able to print the confirmation form and went with Ben to the Post Bank to pay the fee.  “This isn’t the right form.  You have to have the one that tells what you have to pay.”  “The fee is $160, can’t we just pay it?”  “You have to have the right form.”  Back to my house, search the website for what I think might be the right form, back to Post Bank.  “This isn’t the right form.” %$#^%^**#^  “Would you please show me what it looks like?”  She did.  Had never seen it before.  Finally she told me about a cyber nearby that does this and knows exactly what is needed.  A very nice young man did know exactly what was needed but he concurred that the US Embassy site is a disaster, so it took more than an hour to print this one-page doc.  I asked whether he knew of anyone who does the whole process for would-be visitors to the US (though why anyone wants to come when we are so unwelcoming, I’m not sure).  “Yes, I do it.”  “How much do you charge?”  “Ksh 1000.”  That’s about $12.50 and a true bargain!  Next time this man gets the job! 

Back to the post bank, pay the $160, get the required receipt.  Last step is to get an appointment for the interview at the embassy.  But it takes 3-4 hours for the system to know the payment has been made (so much for the instant age!), by which time it would be too late to call for the appt.  ARGH!!!  Only later did I realize I could have done it online after the payment was registered.  Finally this morning I was able to book the appt, for the day after I leave so Fr. Kiriti can stay over and go the next morning, avoiding yet another trip to Nairobi. 

Anyone still wondering whether I have a brown hair left in my head???  

I am now happily back at SFG and will go now to try to teach some elementary calculus to the form 4’s.  Fortunately it’s pretty easy stuff.  Good night! 

=Margo

14 We Visit Fr. Kiriti in Kositei Parish, East Pokot

#14-2013  We Visit Fr. Kiriti in Kositei Parish, East Pokot 

I visited Kositei in 2012 and remember only that the distance was LONG, the road BAD and the air DUSTY.  It was decided that Jecinta would accompany Maya and I as far as Marigat, where Fr. Kiriti would meet us.  It meant I had to drive north through Nakuru and proceed on a tarmac road with huge potholes.  My hit/miss score was about 50-50, so it was very bumpy and tiring.  From Naivasha to Nakuru is a good road, but with lots of traffic, much of which is overloaded, smoke-belching trucks going 10 mph.  The procedure is that one by one cars, matatus and faster trucks overtake, each barely missing oncoming vehicles who are also trying to overtake slow moving trucks.  Over and over I had to do that and was grateful for my young years of driving in a semi-rural area east of Portland, where the roads are equally curvy and passing is the norm.  Nonetheless, it is nerve-racking, particularly with passengers whose safety is in my hands.  So when we arrived in Marigat some 3 hours later, I was more than happy to hand the driving over to Fr. Kiriti. 

Before we left, we stopped for lunch in a small hotel where I remembered there was a “sitter” in the restroom.  Not all rural areas offer such luxuries.  However, rest assured that it was a minimal facility where one was not tempted to tarry.  In fact, the ladies stall was locked and we had to use the gents, but no one challenged us. Maya didn’t know where it was, so she asked the lady cleaning the floor where the bathroom was. The woman replied, “You want to take a shower?” They eventually figured it out. I ordered chicken, which must have been frying since last week.  It was totally dry, something like chicken jerky only w/o much flavor and greasy.  I didn’t tarry over that, either.  

We bade good-bye to Jecinta who went back home over that same road in a matatu.  I was sad and grateful to her for showing me the route and wish I knew Nakuru better so that she wouldn’t have to do that.  Forget about a map, as far as I can determine, they don’t exist. 

Our final stop was at one of the many small stalls that line the road, shopping for watermelon and other produce.  Fr. Kiriti’s garden is between crops, so everything must be purchased and trucked in—more about the garden later. 

The tarmac continued for maybe 20-30 minutes.  Some was quite recently laid down, so was smooth and easy, but all too soon, that ended and we were on the dusty lane.  Up, down, around and through we went, all 3 jammed into 2 bucket seats.  Fortunately, I had brought pillows, to pad the seat.  I was in the middle, sitting on the non-seat, so every time that Fr. Kiriti had to shift, my leg was in the way and on that road, the gear shifting is constant.  The truck is old, but like an old Ford or Chevy, it just keeps going (only it’s a Toyota!)  From time to time he’d stop to allow someone to climb in back or to get out.  I really don’t know whether others are so generous, but w/o that nice gesture, people would walk many miles.  

No one here is fat or even “sturdy”.  They are stick thin and STRONG with amazing endurance.  Walking many miles each day is a given, particularly now.  In the past World Vision distributed free food each week.  People would gather from miles around with their sacks to receive maise, beans, cooking oil and flour.  It was a program begun during the drought years, but extending so many years that the people didn’t bother to plant when the rains came back.  They were perfectly content to be given.  Now they are beginning to plant again, but we saw few fields and those we saw were small.  Fr. Kiriti says they earn money by harvesting wild honey to sell or by selling their animals, with which the countryside abounds.  There are sheep and goats everywhere, with a few cows and some camels, which he says are very valuable (expensive) animals.  Here in the parish compound we use camel milk on our cereal and in our tea in the morning.  It tastes and looks very much like cows milk.  

We had to ford several streams, heading down one side, through the water and up the opposite bank.  One gets a great appreciation for the toils of the pioneers on their westward trek and just how hard it was.  Even very old Toyotas are so powerful by comparison to a pair of oxen. 

We arrived on Wednesday.  Thursday night it RAINED.  It pelted down, making it too noisy for me to continue reading to Maya.  Eventually I slept, only to awaken at about 1:30 with a very full bladder. I could still hear the rain.  ACH, what to do?  Finally I convinced myself that no one was out in the rain.  I could step outside, whip off my night gown, cover myself with a towel, squat and take care of the problem.  The rain would quickly erase the evidence.  But as I stepped out, I saw stars in the sky and felt no rain.  It was the river I heard.  The rain had raised that quiet little stream to a roar.  So off I went to the outhouse, back to bed and to sleep, lulled by the sound of the water. 

ImageOn the road after the big rain.  They even grow the potholes big in Africa! 

This morning we went to Chomolingot, about 20-30 minutes away.  Fr. Kiriti had been called by the DC (district commissioner – like the governor of the state) to discuss a program to serve people with disabilities, lame, deaf, blind, etc.  This town, 100 miles the other side of FAR, has the distinction of a Safaricom antenna so has good network.  I had 2 jobs 1) download the visa application form from the US embassy and 2) call Go Daddy to get our website unlocked (I neglected to renew our license).  Since it was about 2 am (PDT) there was not much waiting time.  So glad GD answers the phone 24/7!  The problem took a bit of explaining, hampered by a crowing rooster and a group of Pokots gathered around Maya, curious about this blond mzungu.  GD has now unlocked the site and my very capable support in the US will take care of the renewal, so we’re back in business.  

I wish I could report the same success with the visa app.  My computer downloaded 171 pages  (pdf) from the US Embassy site.  ARG!!  I figured it was many duplicates, so saved it and figured I could cut it down to 1 copy.  Thought I’d been successful but later had a message that it couldn’t be saved b/c it was a format my computer did not recognize.  RATS!  Will try again back in Naivasha where the network is better. 

Back in Kositei, we had lunch and a nap.  It’s hot in the midday, so a siesta is very much in order.  Later, I found Fr. Kiriti in his garden, planting the tomato seedlings he had previously grown in a special bed.  The soil here is wonderfully rich, but full of rocks.  Plants flourish.  In addition to the tomatoes he has kale, sukuwiki (traditional greens) cucumbers, ndengu (another traditional leaf veggie) and sweet potatoes.  He loves to plant and hopes that he is being a good role model for the Pokots. 

The children from the local school come afternoons for catechism classes taught by James, the seminarian here.  Today the were given rosaries, lovingly made by my sister-in-law Annette.  

They came running over to the kitchen where Fr. Kiriti was showing Edward, the cook, how to prepare fish.  They wanted him to bless their rosaries, which he did.  

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They like to hang around to just be together and Maya is a major attraction.  

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However, I noticed some older kids by the kitchen and asked what class they are in.  “Class 8.”  “Would you like some help with math?”  Smiles.  We set up around the desk in Fr. Kiriti’s office.  They would indicate a problem, which I would explain.  My English is very hard for them, but inevitably one of them would understand.  Once I saw that expression on the face I delegated him/her to explain to the others.  Slowly by slowly I’d see the look that said, “I get it.”.  After maybe an hour I had an idea.  I’d ask Fr. Kiriti to make a blackboard in the area where they come for the classes.  I talked to them, asking whether they would come each day and teach each other.  I could see they are bright, and I think they can do a lot.  They seemed to like the idea, Fr. Kiriti agreed and I think maybe it will work.  Time will tell. 

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=Margo