24 Shughili Shughili

#24-2013 Shughili Shughili

I’ve used this term in the past-it means miscellaneous.  That’s what this report will be.

First of all, my “tuitioning” has begun.  The group is very small, just 9, but a great group and the size makes it easy to ensure everyone understands.  I have 5 boys who are sponsored by Mary Fry’s Bloom Where Planted organization.  They’ve been moved from a very bad school (not her choice) to a much better one, but find themselves very behind in math.  Two are the Ventner children – remember them, the Afrikaner couple from Nakuru who adopted 7 African children?  They make the taka taka earrings, which you are going to love.  The other 2 are Selina, a form 3 at SFG who lives here at Mji Wa Neema and Miriam, the younger sister of Jane Doe.  I wish there were more, especially girls, but I’ll take what I can get.  I realized when I awakened last night that it would have been smart to have it announced in mass.  If the parents knew, the kids would be here.  Oh, well.


Selina, Daniel Eric, Samuel, Miriam


Miriam, XXX, Japheth, Sephanus, Joy (Ventner dad in background)

Yesterday morning, day 1, I was ready at 8:45, tables arranged, new boxes of chalk and new eraser at the ready, smile on my face and eager to go.  9 am arrived, 9:10, 9:20—oh, my, maybe no one is coming.  9:30 they arrived, promptly on African time.

As usual, I asked them to think of the topics they find hard.  Quickly we had a list of 8.  They were very quiet and attentive at first, not sure what to expect, but as time went on they began to relax and I could see they were liking the day.  I had to invite them for a tea break 3 times before they stopped working.  They were back in their seats very quickly, ready for more.  The 5 Mary Fry boys had been brought by James, her wonderful helper, who said he’d just brought them so they could see where we were.  They’d be back tomorrow.  Oh, no, I urged them to stay, which they did.  They had no paper, pens, books, calculators—nada, but fortunately I always have plenty of those.  Today they arrived fully equipped, even with newly purchased calculators a al Mary.  As usual I had to admonish them not to use the calculator when they could use their brains.  “God gave you a good brain and expects you to use it.”

Because everyone was late, I suggested in the future we begin at 9:30.  I’m happy to have an extra ½ hour to sleep, but no, this morning they had all arrived by 9:10.  That’s OK, I was just happy to see them and to know they were eager to learn.  Every year it’s a different experience.  This is the first time I’ve done it outside of Ndingi.  But this is very handy for me, just about 10 feet from my doorway.

I’ve always been careless, thinking more about whether the kids were understanding my explanations than whether I multiplied 2 X 3 and got 6.  (Sometimes I get 5!) But today I made so many dumb mistakes, mostly arithmetic, but some just writing the wrong number, I had to laugh.  We’ve now dubbed them “Margo Mistakes.”  ARGH!

We’ve talked about finding the volume and surface area of the frustrum of a pyramid (look it up!) and about solving a system of equations—guaranteed to be on any exam.  The surface area is always hard for kids and these are no exception.  However, feedback that I’ve received from Mary and from the Ventners indicate they are getting it.  The Ventner kids are particularly challenging b/c they have been home schooled and evidently have not followed the Kenyan curriculum.  Yet they will need to pass the KCSE, so must face even the useless topics as well as the good ones.  They are great kids, serious, hard working and very grateful.  We’ve agreed that on Thursday they will stay later to try to bring them along.

Tomorrow we’ve agreed to talk about logarithms, always a bugaboo for students where ever they are.  Everyone agreed that would be a worthy topic.

Catherine had told me the Life Bloom ladies were having a therapeutic dance workshop in the old church building offered by some volunteers from Holland.  She had encouraged me to come, but I couldn’t go until I finished my math class.  So I trotted over to the church, greeting ladies whom I have known for years.  I walked over to a group outside the church, being taught what turned out to be a self defense class – something very important to any woman, but particularly pertinent for sex workers who are often brutalized.  It was being taught by a wiry young man with dreads, whom, after I heard him speak for few minutes, I knew to be African American.  “You sound like an American”.  “I am”.  “Me too.  I’m Margo.”  He is a photographer, name of Ric Francis, from LA, Peru, and now in Nairobi; used to work for AP but got tired of that.  He’s working on a photo-journalist story about Life Bloom, which should be great!  If he sends me information, I will send it on to my readers.

As we chatted, Catherine appeared, telling me that daughter, Laura, was in the car, having just been released from school for August break.  Catherine needed to talk to the leader of the dance group, so I went over to greet Laura.  She and her brother Louis are great fans of Margo’s grilled cheese sandwiches, and I figured she’d be hungry, and indeed she was.  After calling to Catherine, “I’m kidnapping your daughter,” we went to Margo’s house where we had MGCS’s with sliced tomatoes, tea and fruit.  “I have some errands to do; do you want to wait for mom here?  You can sit here at the table or sit on the bed in Maya’s room.”  “I’ll sit on the bed.”  I went off to my room and suddenly felt tired, soon falling asleep.  I was vaguely aware of the rain beginning, but before long could hardly doze through the very loud thunder and the pounding rain.  The power went off of course and in the meantime Catherine texted she was sending someone to fetch Laura.  I looked in on her and, sure enough, she was sound asleep, thunder notwithstanding.  Kids are always exhausted when they leave school.  We agreed I’d let her sleep until the rain stopped, then take her home.  About ½ hour later, the rain having slowed to a drizzle, Trizah knocked my door.  Laura awakened and we hopped in the car.  After dropping them I needed to hit the market, as my cupboards were bare as Mother Hubbard’s.  Going in that direction I saw 3 LB ladies walking along.  “Anybody need a ride?”  “We’re just going down by the round-about on the way to Nakuru (about 1 mile)”  “OK, hop in.”

On the way back from that I passed the big outdoor market, where I stopped for produce.  As I walked in, feeling sorry for those poor ladies, many of whom had no tarp over their goods, nor their heads, I noted several who seemed to be laughing at my bare toed sandals.  Yes, they were getting wet and muddy, but then my toes been wet and muddy before.  It’s not terminal.  “What are you looking for?”  “Tomatoes”.  “Over there.” “No they’re too green” (they were GREEN).  Further on I found some riper ones.  “How much?” “Four for 20.”  Never 5 shillings each, always “4 for 20”.  “OK, I want 12”.  Even the most unlettered can calculate that’s sh 60.  She started to pick green ones.  “No, I’ll pick them.”  She reached for the ubiquitous plastic bag.  “No bag, I’ll put them in here,” indicating my lovely African cloth shopping bag, which I always carry.  I bought onions, bananas, and a watermelon, about all I could carry, and picked my way among the mud puddles to the gate and back to the car.  Then on to the Naivas supermarket, where I replenished my bare larder and, evading the guy who sells note cards and always wants me to look at them (they’re not very interesting), lugged my heavy bags to the car.  On the way home I saw Julia (matron at the children’s home) walking to her afternoon/evening class.  She is studying Information Technology, and has been working very hard.  I find her studying in the dining hall every day, except now she has been displaced by my class.  “Need a ride?”  I was beginning to feel like a taxi, but Julia is so good to me and wonderful with the kids.  It’s a treat to be able to do something for her.


Julia with Simon in the kitchen

Now it is dark, Simon has come in several times while I type, once to show me his latest practice math test (78% this time, going up) and again to borrow a screw driver.  He loves to fix things and I think next year I will bring him some tools of his own.  Maybe I’ll just give him mine and bring new ones for myself.  Then Evelyn came in to get the paper, carrying a big butcher knife.  “Is that for self-defense in case I attack you?”  Giggles.  Evelyn is in class 8, so must be 13 or 14, but doesn’t even reach 5 feet and looks to be about 8.  Many of the kids here are small for their ages, not because they aren’t fed here—they eat huge plates of food each day—but either because they are genetically small, or possibly they were vastly underfed as small children before they came here.


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