#16 Giving the Seeds, The Readers, Math with Form 4, Shopping, Collecting Bottle Caps
I’m afraid I have fallen woefully behind in reporting. Too many things to write about-not enough time.
This week we had the presentation of the organic, non-gmo seeds to Mr. Bonface Simiyu and the form 3 agriculture class. We had sponsored Bonface to attend the Gro Bio-Intensive workshop in Thika. You may recall Ben and I took him after dropping Judy at the airport. He returned full of enthusiasm for this kind of farming which uses less water than ordinary farming. He had learned new information about seed saving and thus was very happy to receive non-gmo seeds. He reports the girls are excited about starting the seeds in boxes to be transplanted later. I was surprised at how many girls take agriculture class. I suspect few of them will go back to live on a farm, but many of them have farming parents and grandparents.
Along this line, Ruth Kahiga reports she has submitted a proposal to Safaricom for our biogas conversion project. It will use all human and animal waste, convert it to methane for cooking and after processing, produce organic fertilizer safe for using on food crops. It’s the ultimate in recycling and addresses a number of issues, not the least of which is the pit latrine, which tends to fill up fast and is very smelly. Sorry if I’m grossing you out. I hope this project will be completed before I come in 2015.
Often in the afternoon when I return from school there are 1-3 small boys at my door wanting to borrow books. It’s interesting that rarely are girls here to borrow. When Judy was here she spent time talking to them and even feeding them on occasion. Evidently I have inherited that cause. Sometimes Jackson, whom we know from several years ago (he is a friend of Joseph aka the peanut butter thief) has asked, “Is there anything we can eat?” Even though I’m tired and really want to rest, I can’t refuse hungry boys, so I make them peanut butter toast. They really love it—me too! The last time they came they were so sweet, emptying the garbage, washing their dishes, sweeping the floor, even mopping it. All 3 of them are just darling.
Jackson, Julius and Danson
I remembered the white board which now has to sit atop my refrigerator, the magnets having failed. In the past kids have loved it, so I got it out and sure enough, the loved it, although none of them is very artistic. Sometimes I have to shoo them away, or just retire to my room and let them rummage through the books. I’m sure by now Jackson has read most of them. Danson is a more recent recruit and Julius has come only twice.
Three nights this week I have stayed at Esther’s house at school so I could teach the form 4’s in the evening, alternating 4A and 4B. The third night I went to 4B but invited any 4A’s who wanted to come to join us. I thought maybe few would come because they were beginning their mock exams next day with an English exam and a lab practical. To my surprise most of the A’s came in, but they requested that we work for just 1 hour instead of 2. That seemed fair to me and we tackled some hairy questions. At exactly 1 hour, I packed up to leave, but they gave me such a rousing cheer I stopped briefly to thank them and give them some encouragement. As I turned to go, I remembered I needed a blog pic and predictably they clowned it up.
As I walked out, 2 girls stopped me, each wanting to thank me. One is a girl who really struggles with math, and when she said I had inspired her, it brought tears to my eyes. Both of them live far away but would like to attend the 2-week tutoring class I always do after schools close in August. The only way would be if they could stay in town, so I am looking into whether they can stay at Mji Wa Neema, which is where I do the class. They are all very well-behaved girls, and are friends with the 3 girls from here who are in form 4, Magdalene, Cynthia and Selena. The final hurdle is permission from Fr. Mwangi. Julia will speak to him ASAP and I think he will be OK with it. Julia and Agnes don’t mind and I’m sure these girls will be very helpful around the compound.
Even though these are only practice exams (hence “mock”) the pressure is enormous. In the past I’ve seen articles in the paper about student suicides or strikes because they didn’t want to take the mocks. I’ve not been here in October for the real KCSE, but it’s hard to imagine more stress than this. It’s a real rite of passage for these kids, worse I think than the AP’s and college boards.
My usual work focuses on form 1 and 2 math, but almost ½ the form 4 KCSE exam is from that curriculum. Often student have forgotten it, so it will be good for them to review. In the afternoon they can work together on other classes, or if they wish, we can work on forms 3 and 4 math for awhile.
Past readers may recall the District Education Officer (DEO) has forbidden any “tuitioning” during break times. Tuitioning had become a problem, with schools requiring student to spend up to ½ their holiday at school, and causing parents to pay extra for this. Sometimes teachers would augment their incomes by having tuitioning in their homes. It was a bit of a racket. However, since I don’t charge anything, and it’s totally voluntary, I don’t call it tutoring rather than tuitioning. I used to do it at Ndingi, but now must do it here at the home, which is not a school and thus not under the authority of the DEO. We do math for 2 + hours in the morning and sometimes kids want to come back in the afternoon. It’s one of the things I really look forward to since kids attend b/c they want to. I get all varieties, some local, some from SFG or Ndingi and some come after their friends tell them about it. Each year I worry I’ll be swamped, only to have maybe 10 show up the first day. Generally by the end there are over 20. I’d set my limit at 30, but that hasn’t happened yet.
It’s time for one of the biggest events of the year—Talent Show Day. It used to be called Cultural Day, but talent show is a better descriptor. I was asked to be part of the planning committee and of course I volunteered to help with any shopping, since I have the car. After much discussion we agreed the major part of the budget should be spent on special food (read meat) and fruit, which I offered to fund. They don’t get much of either and I wanted them to have a generous servings of fruit. I asked whether I could take Esther to bargain for me, b/c she knows prices better than I and could be sure the sellers weren’t giving me mzungu prices. However, Janet, who teaches CRE and Kiswahili wanted to go. “Are you a good bargainer?” The rest of the committee hooted at that. “She’s a Kisii. They are the best bargainers in the country!” And than definitely proved to be the case. I had to call her off from trying to get a reduced price for oranges at ksh5 (about $.06) each. We bought oranges, bananas, mangos, pineapple and watermelon, and with each vendor she asked for (and got) a bonus for herself. I didn’t mind a bit and was really amused by the good natured exchange between Janet and the sellers. She’s really good!
Afterwards we stopped by Joyce’s house to pick up more cloth bags. Janet had admired mine and in true Kisii spirit, asked for one. Why not, I thought. But first I extracted a promise that she would never, ever take plastic bags again! She loved the bags and had a hard time choosing from among the great fabrics we picked from Nairobi a few weeks ago.
Then we were off to Life Beads of Kenya, a small workshop I’ve written about before. It’s run by my friend, Minalyn, who wasn’t there when we arrived (car broke down) to select something special to be presented to Miss St. Francis—the high point of Talent Show Day. We were met by Jacklin, an American volunteer from New York, whom I had met several times before, once at Rotary. She let us in the “show room”, where Janet nearly lost it. There are so many beautiful things there I was afraid I’d never get her out. Finally we settled on a nice bracelet and were on our way back to SFG. Unfortunately by the time we arrived and got all the fruit unloaded from my car, I had missed the class I had wanted to teach. And then, when I reported to Ruth, showing her the bracelet, which she loved, she asked, “Did you remember the chicken?” Oops! Chicken was what the staff wanted and we were supposed to pick that too. Oh well, back to town, this time with Ruth in tow, carrying a list of things the students wanted for Talent Show, like ribbon, balloons and a very curious item, 200 bottle tops. We weren’t sure what they were for, but figured we could stop in any bar, of which there are many. We thought this would be easy, the bars toss them and some weren’t interested in helping us. However I walked into one dark and musty place, where quite a crowd was gathered. I quietly squeezed through to a barman, who led me to the back where the trash is. Together we picked through broken bottles and assorted other stuff, finding quite a few. I thanked him and gave him a small tip, then took my cloth bags rattling with bottle caps back out through the crowd, giggling to myself about what they must have thought.
We picked up the chickens, which were frozen solid, so it’s a good thing I didn’t beg off until the next day and meandered back towards school, looking for a shop that would have balloons. While Ruth bargained and counted out 40 of them, I wandered across the road to another bar, where there was an abundance of bottle caps lying around on the ground. This was a more raucous establishment, which men and women sitting about (at 3 in the afternoon) laughing and drinking, and ???? As I wandered through, collecting my treasures, one man wanted to know “what is your problem?” Laughing, I explained, but I’m sure they had a good chuckle over the crazy old mzungu who was picking bottle caps off the floor—occasionally kicking one out of the dirt.
Ruth laughed when I told her I would be including this in my blog. “You can’t make this stuff up, you know!” Such was my week. Next one is about that evening and dinner at La Belle.