#10 2014 The Day Takes Over

Friday, June 27, 2014

#10 2014 The Day Takes Over

I plan to be at school before 9 am, but this is a days to grab you by the scruff of the neck and shake you throughout. Had set my clock for 7:30, after finally getting a new battery for it and setting time and alarm. Woke at 8:30, no alarm. Did I set it wrong? No. RATS! Must be kaput. (later when the clock went off at 7:30 pm I discovered that replacing the battery I set the time for am instead of pm duh!) I can still make it to school by 10. But wait, Judy is feeling worse, light-headed, touchy tummy, fatigued (after many hours of sleep). OK I need to take her to the Aga Kahn Clinic (AKC) in town, expensive but clean and well-staffed. We go and she is promised she’ll be seen shortly.

In the meantime, I’ve spotted an mpesa shop across the road so I can pay James Njoroge from the Wednesday shopping in Nairobi when I ran out of money. Mpesa is a great system whereby one can deposit money to a telephone account, then send it to someone who can collect it at his/her own mpesa shop. It’s cheap and efficient in a society that doesn’t use checks for most transactions. Judy gets settled at AKC while I run across for my first time ever using mpesa. Uh oh, need my PIN and ID (passport). I knew the number once, but it is buried too deep for recovery. Check on Judy, who is talking to a very nice young man doctor. He doesn’t think she has malaria and suggests a stool test, which she is reluctant to do. She must await results from blood test. OK, I’ll go home to get my PIN and PP.

Back at the mpesa shop I pay my money, show my PP and get confirmation that the money is in the account I’d set up last year but never used. The lady patiently explains the process and I try to send. Hmmmm, Wrong PIN. How’d I do that? Try again, carefully, nope, wrong PIN. RATS! After 3 tries they lock the phone. If I were a sweater, my brow would be running rivulets by now—the pressure is on. OK, I’ll go home—maybe this is an old PIN. I collect Judy and we stop by the Empower The World (ETW) office to meet with Ann the social worker, to discuss a number of matters about SFG, Ndingi, ETW, the children’s home. She’s smart, professional, organized and inventive—also very pregnant. We are both so grateful for her knowledge or procedures, etc.

Back home, it’s almost 1. I go sorting through my rather impressive stack of receipts and sure enough, when I restarted my phone I got a new sim card and new PIN. OK now I’m in business. Enter PIN, wrong!!!! ARGH! Now what? Do I have to go to Safaricom? That’s sure to be another hour.

Hungry, I start making something to eat while Judy rests, when in the door comes David Kamau, home for mid-term break. He’s one of the brightest kids here, in form 2 at St. Joseph’s Seminary high school. He sits down. “Are you hungry, David?” “Yes” He’s almost 6 feet and skinny like so many 16-year old growing boys, so I knew the answer before I even asked the question. “Cheese toast or peanut butter toast.” “Peanut butter.” While making that I tell David about my frustration. “It’s not your phone PIN, it’s the PIN you made up when you established your mpesa account.” ARGH! What did I use? Mmmm, maybe it’s my old standard, the combination on a bike lock I got years ago. Try that. BINGO! That’s it. I find Njorge’s number and carefully enter everything. It goes through and I must wait for confirmation message, which arrives promptly. WAIT! That’s not his name. OH NO! Have I sent over $100 to the wrong person? PANIC! I call Njorge, “Did you get the mpesa?” “Yes, it just came through.” I begin breathing again. People use aliases all the time. Why is everything such a drama here?

Other kids come in. Evans and Josephat have just finished term 2 of form 1. They are both bright guys, going to the same school as David. All seem to be doing well, but of course we need to talk and they tell me they like the school. I ask David what he wants to do in life. “Accounting.” My face falls. He’s much too bright for that. I mention engineering. “Do you like physics, chemistry?” I already know he’s tops in math. He loves them all and brightens when I suggest maybe I can arrange a tour of KenGen, the biggest geothermal electricity generating plant in East Africa. It’s outside Naivasha and I know someone who works there.

In the middle of all this I had hoped to meet with Catherine after her 1-hour meeting that lasted for 2 hours. That didn’t work out b/c by then she had to hop a matatu back to Nairobi b/c her kids were coming from school for mid-winter break. On the matatu she calls and I go outside to sit on the woodpile for privacy.

Now it’s well after 2 and I have yet to make it to school. Ruth has called to discuss plans for the storage silos for beans and grains. The estimate is about 50% more than I had remembered. I assure her I would get to school and we’ll talk. Phone calls, texts, visitors—-finally I’m in the car, but…..maybe I’ll run to town (opposite direction from school) to get the batteries for the clock in the dining hall that has not run since March. I can’t tell by looking whether they are C or D, so have to take the clock along. Oops! Also have to go to bookstore to pick math answer key for forms 3 and 4. It has been there for 5 days and they are awaiting their money.

Little boys are the same the world over. Coming out of the bookstore I see one about 3-4, standing for all the world like he’s watching street life go by. Then I notice an ever-widening puddle in front of him. Peeing in the street, not even holding his hose!

OK since I’m in the neighborhood I’ll stop by for batteries at the electronics shop of Juanita, new Rotary pres. She had told me it’s in the suite right next to Safaricom. I wander around in there, no electronics shop. Ask. Nope, no electronics shop here. Maybe on the other side of SC. I wander in there. Nope, all clothing and hair salons (aka saloons). @#$!$%^!$#%@#% This day is not going as planned.

Finally on my way to SFG (but still no batteries). Ruth and I go over the estimate. I’m of 2 minds. I really like the idea, but $30,000 for grain storage??? How long is pay-back from the savings? 10 years, 15? 25? Will I ever see it? But it’s such a good idea and the silos will prevent damage from pests and mildew, reduce carbon footprint from many deliveries, save money as grain gets purchased at harvest time when prices are low. What the hell, it’s only money. Let’s do it, but I have to talk to Fr. Kiriti first. (That happens later that evening. He agrees we should do it)

Now it’s 5 pm and I look for Jacqueline to whom I promised more math help. “Come get me in the staff room after your lunch,” I had told her yesterday. Alas! I wasn’t there. But I found her at 5 and we went into the library for more work on exponents. We settle in. “Were you able to do the rest of the problems in the set we worked on yesterday?” “Yes I did them with my friend. Can she come in too?” “Of course!” She bustles off to find friend. The 3 of us begin to work when another friend wants to join us. All seem very bright and they get it fast. The problem isn’t the girls, but with their math teacher who had been terminated. I’ve known him for at least 5 years and always respected him as a teacher, but somehow he fell into drinking and missing class, so he had to be replaced. I was picking up the pieces. I asked whether the other girls were experiencing the same difficulties. “Yes, but now we can help them.” I could have cried for joy! It’s exactly what we want from these girls. Teamwork! Yeah!!!!

Now it’s almost 6 and they need to get to dinner. Me too. Heading out to my newly washed car (had asked the gateman to do it) I am met by said gateman, Stephen, who wants a ride to town. Chatting on the way, he mentions he saw me driving by his house. I figured out it was when I dropped Joyce on Wednesday after our shopping in Nairobi. I had bumped along a new way out of this particular area, hoping to avoid the bumpy way I already knew. All ways are bumpy here.

He invites me to come to his house to meet his wife and children. Oh my, I really want to get home, but OK. So off we bump to his house. Evidently seeing a Kenyan man being driven by a mzungu is grounds for investigation b/c we are immediately surround by 15 or more little kids, all wanting to shake my hand. I’m sure some are going around twice because I shake a lot of little hands, as we slowly make our way through the kids, the dogs, the puppies trying to nurse, and trying not to stumble over the ever-present protruding rocks. We enter his house, but wife is not there. He calls her, as one-by-one, little kids slip in. A neighbor comes in to be greeted by the guest and leaves, saying she wants to give me some fruit. I tell Stephen I hate to take their food, but I know it would be rude to refuse. Back she comes with a well-worn plastic bag of mangos, papayas and passion fruits, so full that they are spilling out the holes in the bag. I’m overwhelmed and thank her, telling her I live in the children’s home and will share the fruit with them. Stephen leaves to find wife and I am left with a houseful of imps, all telling me how old they are, which class they are in, (from middle kindergarten—there are 3 levels—to class 3), their names—none of which I can understand. In desperation I ask whether they can sing the Kenyan National Anthem. They don’t understand me, but when I sing the first line, which is all I know, they all burst into song. They know every note and word and are singing with gusto as Stephen and wife come laughing through the door.

She’s the sort of woman you immediately know you’re going to like and I wish I had had more time to get to know her. Her English is limited, so I know it will be hard, but Stephen is a voracious reader, so has a great command of the language. He’s a very nice man, whom I noticed last year was always reading. He likes Stephen King novels, but I later found his reading is quite eclectic. When I first arrived this year I gave him The Agony and the Ecstasy, which I have not read myself, but hoped he would like. He does. We’ve agreed I will lend him books, but he has to give one back to get another.

Finally I insist I have to get home to take care of ailing Judy. We walk out to the car, still surrounded by children and I’m very glad he is there to make sure I don’t run over one.

At home I find Judy is much better and has prepared meatloaf from the hamburger (minced meat) I bought yesterday. Although I was actually lusting for a juicy burger, the meatloaf is delicious, especially with the catsup I found at the Naivas. We give most of the fruit to Julia, who uses our new blender to make very tasty passionfruit juice. Because the blender is plastic and rather flimsy, I ask to her make it in our kitchen. Finishing, she begins washing the dishes. I tell her no, severally, but she ignores me and keeps washing.

I remember I want to talk to Anastasia, whom I met last year at the SFG board meeting. She came to the US in October as the Kenyan representative to Women in Science, in SF. She visited me at home in Menlo Park. She had also given me a tour of KenGen, where she works as an engineer. I want to ask whether she will take David on a tour, so I send her a text asking that she call when she has a minute. She calls and I talk to her about David, so bright and tops in math and science. Would she and/or her husband (also an engineer at KenGen) consider mentoring him? Yes, they’d love to and why didn’t I come to dinner tomorrow? “Well, I have Judy with me. Can I bring her?” “Of course.” Then an idea hits. “Would it be a good idea for us to bring David?” “Perfect!” We agree to meet at the Total (petrol station up the hill) so I can follow to her house.

Later I wander out to the kitchen where I find Julia and kids making potato slices for what they call chips and we call French fries. I watch everyone wielding great big knives, turning out perfect slices with no pieces of finger added. David is minding the pot of boiling oil and were I not full to the brim with my own dinner, I would surely enjoy some. I chastise Julia, “You are a very naughty and disobedient girl!” Peals of laughter from the kids. Julia is almost falling on the floor with glee. I never saw anyone who laughs more than she does. I ask David whether he would like to go to dinner with us and explain why. I wish I had a picture of his face, which lit up with such surprise. I think it made him feel very special to have mentors and to be invited to dinner. Stay tuned for a report on that event.

By now it’s after 9, the kids have not eaten, and I am ready to sleep. I fall into bed and stay awake only briefly. About 10 I hear someone bringing us chips, but we are too tired.

What a day!

P.S. As I read this over, I am chagrined that I’m just not a photographer at heart, no pix of AKC, the mpesa lady, Davis and the peanut butter toast, the kids cooking chips—I just don’t think of it. Pole sana

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