#24 I Visit Old Friends in Nakuru July 24, 2015
I have hardly been away from Naivasha and not overnight at all, so today I’m going to Nakuru for a weekend visit with my dear friends the Ventners. But first I have things to do at home, like shower and shampoo. As I stand in my shower with the water so hot that I have to keep turning the heater off (water cools) and on (water gets too hot), back and forth and grumbling to myself about why those heaters are so #$%%** hot, when suddenly I remember Teresia in her one room, with no water at all and I realize that by Kenyan standards I live in luxury. Not only do I have running water and an indoor toilet, but also I have hot water. I’ve quit kvetching!
While I’m there in the shower, all wet, of course, I decide I might as well do my laundry as well. I always get very wet as I scrub, wring out, rinse, ring out, hang, so it’s best to just combine it with a shower. It’s almost 10 am when I finally wander out to the kitchen for breakfast – always the same, cereal with seeds and nuts sprinkled and 2 pieces of buttered toast. Yes, I do live in luxury – I have a toaster, refrigerator and stove, though only the broiler part of the oven works. Life is good.
I have many things to take to the Ventners. I fill my backpack and a shopping bag, as well as stuffing some things in my purse. Ben will drive me to the matatu stage, since I am loaded down with stuff, all heavy. The stage is a madhouse and I am so grateful to Ben who knows exactly which matatu is the best and what they should charge me, as there are many going to Nakuru. This is a non-stop van but it doesn’t leave until it’s full. We wait maybe 10 minutes then begin to weave our way out of the staging area and onto the main road. I busily text Fr. Kiriti and Lydia Ventner with that information. Fr. K will meet me at the stage in Nakuru and drive me to the Ventners. It’s a bit over an hour drive and I am so glad I made the decision not to drive myself. All last winter I had nightmares about that road – I hate the drive.
I’m jammed into a seat built for an haute couture model, which I definitely am not. I plug myself into my iPod and am soon engrossed in the Limpopo Academy, one of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series. Getting into Nakuru I realize that Friday afternoon is not the best time to travel anywhere. Maybe all the Nairobi people have taken refuge here, because Nairobi is totally focused on Obama’s arrival today. Roads are closed and it is crazy there. Well, it’s crazy in Nakuru. There are hundreds (yes 100’s!) of matatus all trying to get into the 2 block long staging area, each inching forward, using every nanometer of space, with people squeezing past barely moving vehicles. How they manage this with so few injuries is nothing short of miraculous. Finally our driver has found a place and our door opens.
Everyone wants to be first out, but we are all jammed in! I ask the man next to me to hand me my backpack after I’m out, which he agrees to, recognizing he can’t get out until I do. My backpack is heavy and I have a purse and a cloth shopping bag. I don’t see Fr. Kiriti anywhere and realize finding him will be like the proverbial needle. I rummage around in my purse for my phone, which of course has fallen to the bottom, beyond the glasses case, iPod, wallet, camera and who-knows-what-else, all the while fending off aggressive guys whose job is to find passengers for their particular car. “Where to, mzungu? Nairobi”, “No I’m being met.” “Sho sho you going to Mombasa?” “No I’m being met.” “Sho sho, you have a boyfriend?” “You can be my grandson.” (Laughter all around) Finally phone is located and I sort of stagger off to the side, unbalanced by the backpack. I call Fr. Kiriti. No answer. ARGH! Try again. No answer. So I stand for a while, looking around so I can describe my location when he calls. Pretty soon the phone rings. “Where are you?” “I’m just finding a parking.” “Where shall we meet?” “Start walking toward Kenyatta Avenue. Just ask somebody which way it is.” Everyone is actually eager to help me, and soon I’m slowly making my way toward the chaos of the street we came in on and walking towards the round-about. People stare at this grey haired mzungu weighted down like a peddler, but everyone is bent on getting to where ever they are going. Never did I feel the least bit uncomfortable as I stood there waiting. Pretty soon I spot Fr. Kiriti across the road and miraculously a space opens between those 100’s of matatu’s and I’m able to get across. He relieves me of the backpack and I’m fine.
We decide to have tea at the big shopping mall so I can buy some food that I want to take to the Venters. Lydia has called to ask me to bring a big jug of water, as the filter on their dispenser needs to be changed (available only in Nairobi, of course) so we have our tea and go into the Nakumat, which is one of the big supermarket chains. I’m stunned at the prices of fruits and vegetables. I’m used to the prices in the Naivasha street market. Prices here are as much at 60 to 70% higher. No way, I’m not buying here. But I buy minced meat (hamburger) and find something that will do for buns. I can’t find dill pickles, but get gherkins and ketchup (they even have Heinz!). I’ve decided to offer to make American style hamburgers for them tomorrow night. (RATS! I forgot cheese, but Lydia has told me we’re going into town tomorrow anyway).
Finally we are on our way out of town to their new digs. Lydia has texted the directions, “Take the 4th dirt road to the left off the Njoro Road. Follow it about 3 km until just past the orphanage, turn into First Avenue.” First Avenue???? We’re way out in the country, the suburbs long past. We drive and drive and drive and drive, and then suddenly there is a children’s home and WOW!! Here is a community of new houses out in the middle of maize fields and cows wandering in the lane. We’re looking for #8 as we slowly make our way down First Avenue, which is paved only for the first 100 feet, when we notice that only the very first houses is finished. We call. “You’re past us, Wilco will go out the door and guide you.” Turn around, Ah, there he is.
They have a lovely home, which rents for a song way out here. Someone thought Nakuru would grow faster than it has and may be losing his shirt, but Ventners have lucked out with a large house that’s brand new.
I met Lydia and Wilco 4 or 5 years ago and fell in love with their wonderful family. I’ve written about them in the past, but will briefly remind you that they are Afrikaners who left South Africa for Kenya in 2001 after their families rejected (shunned) them for adopting a Zulu child. They now have 7 children, all African and each very special. Only 4 are home right now, the other 3 are away in boarding school. The oldest one is in university in South Africa, the next 2, Joy and Stephanus, are out of school and at home. Joy is about to open a bakery shop in town, in addition to giving private swimming lessons to well-off Nakuran children. Stephanus is taking high school classes online. He’s a musician and never could relate to traditional school. Both kids have come to my early August free “tuitioning” classes in previous years, so I know them pretty well. Great kids! Timothy (maybe 12) and TeDay (7) are home schooled.
This is absolutely the most loving family I have experienced, bar none and certainly the most unorthodox. They support themselves by their own creativity, making jewelry, wall pieces, tables – all kinds of stuff – from taka taka, (trash, junk, castoffs, detritus). Many of you will remember the taka taka earrings made from flattened bottle caps, colorfully decorated. They sell in the markets and to people they know through their missionary work. Lydia is totally hyper, while Wilco is totally laid back – a perfect combination.
I brought them an odd collection of gifts, pecans, chia seeds and hemp seeds all the way from Trader Joe’s, colored pens, TJ’s 72% organic, fair trade chocolate, Yogi tea (Egyptian Licorice, which they all love) and the bag of taka taka that I’ve been collecting since I arrived. I give Lydia my bottle of Stevia (organic, from TJ) which is like gold to her. RATS! I should have brought her the full one I still have in Naivasha, instead of the one I’ve been using all summer, but still is about 80% full.
Everyone helps prepare the dinner, which is wonderful and we all chat well after we finish eating. Evidently it is their practice to do a short Bible reading after dinner. It’s TeDay’s turn to read aloud and he does it very well. We discuss the topic in a lively and far-ranging conversation. At one point I ask them to tell me the story of how each child came to join their family. More about that in my next installment. They only told me about the first 3, but that’s already a long story.
Timothy, Joy, Stephanus, Lydia, Wilco and TeDay.