2016 – #15 At Last Some Time for Me—take 2

ARGH!!!! I had a whole page of brilliant writing, which I inadvertently deleted, never to return! It has been a long time since I did such a stunt and now I am reminding myself, save, save, save. RATS!!!

Since the form 3’s and 4’s are in exams, I’ve at last taught some classes, form 1’ and 2’s, something I love and have missed—except I forgot the down-side of standing on concrete for long periods, leaning over desks to give hints or advice, writing on blackboards (and erasing) I noticed my legs ached today as I walked down the road to my favorite newspaper vendor, finding the very last copy of The Daily Nation. I should know better than to wait until 4 pm!! The small shop, run by Buru is about 10 minutes down the road from Mji Wa Neema. Buru always greets his customers with a cheery smile. His shop is the local equivalent of 7-11, except since it’s his shop, he cares about his customers. It’s hard to see that the item sitting on the papers on the counter is a cow’s tail, a very useful tool for sweeping away the ever-present dust.

Buru in small shop

I had come home at noon, fully intending to do my laundry, shower, shampoo and clean my kitchen. Did I do that? No, I sat on my bed and tried to complete the exam the form 4’s are doing. UGH! Some of the questions are hard. I was about to give up on one, when I realized what I needed to do. Problem came right out. Yes! That’s what I like about math—thinking through a tough one.

On the way back from Buru’s I took my life in my hands to cross the road, where traffic is busier than I can ever remember. Naivasha is a booming town and the trucks, cars, matatus, piki-pikis along with the donkey carts and pedestrians make crossing the road an adventure. But I wanted to shop at the street market across from the church gates, to buy some tomatoes, onions, peppers and carrots for a stew I wanted to make. Then I thought about the wonderful papayas here (known as popo) so went further than I had intended, hoping to find one. None of the small vendors seemed to have any, but I wandered up to a permanent shop I remembered as having fruits not found in the make-shift platforms where the sellers bargain for their goods. Sure enough they had many and I chose a particularly delectable one (as I later discovered). As I was digging out my ksh 50 ($.50) I was aware that someone was standing next to me. It was Miriam, younger sister to Mary Sangok.

Mary and her 2 sisters have essentially raised themselves, as mom was not round. Miriam dropped out of high school (public day school right next to the church compound) but has now decided she would like to return. She’s a bright girl and very street-savvy. I hope she can stay to graduate. By that time Mary and sister Diana may be able to send her on to university.

Yesterday I interviewed 2 girls from East Pokot, bright girls who were brought to SFG by Fr. Kiriti when he was still the parish priest there in the Kositei mission. We will be using their words in a video being done for Kenya Help by Media Center on San Antonio Road in PA. Louise Pencavel, the videographer, also happens to be the mother of Alice, a favorite student of some years ago at Menlo Atherton.

They talked about the impact on their lives, things they now see need to change in their community (marrying off girls at ages 12-15), and the importance of educating girls from those very rural communities. This is Chapusi who wants to change the way women are treated in the Pokot culture. Being at SFG has greatly broadened her perspective and her sense of what is possible for her life. I just hope my camera picked up her voice, which is very quiet. She was wonderfully earnest and open about life for girls in Pokot.


You may recall that while Alison and I were visiting Fr. Kiriti, we went to the small high school in his parish. Education is a big priority for him, possibly because he feels so very fortunate to have had an older brother who paid his school fees to high school. He was 5th in a family of 10, which is not a good birth position for a bright kid. Everywhere he goes he gets to know the students, the teachers, tries to improve the school and asks all his supporters for help. He wants to begin a youth program in the parish to address the growing problem of unemployed young people who turn to drugs and who-knows-what-else out of despair for so few opportunities. He asked me whether I could help out with some textbooks and could I get them from the Catholic bookstore in Naivasha, which he likes to support. The principal had given him a prodigious wish list. No way could I pay for all those books, but I asked the principal to prioritize and off I went yesterday to see how many I could buy with the amount I thought I could afford. Most texts are between $7 and $8 (contrast that to texts over $100 in the US), but she wanted 6 – 12 for each class (forms 1 to 4) and 8 subjects. ARGH!!! But I ordered what I could—naturally getting more math books than any others. Somehow money for the rest will be found. Fr. Kiriti is very persuasive. This is the bookshop, run by James. Standing at the counter is Lucy, accountant for SFG who had been sent with an extensive shopping list of items needed for the science exam practicals.

James in C. bkshp w Lucy, acct

As I write this, I am happy to report that in fact I finally did shower and shampoo. My laundry is dripping in my broom-closet size bathroom, the kitchen is clean and I made a yummy stew for my dinner. I don’t cook very often, but peanut butter sandwiches have begun to get old. It’s now 10:15 pm and I am nodding over my computer.


2016 – #14 Lucas Goes to the Dentist—First Time Ever!

I’ve written about Lucas before, big brother to Joseph of peanut butter fame, both residents of Mji Wa Neema. Lucas is quiet, studious, hard-working and never steals peanut butter. He’s now in class 8 and will sit for the national exam in November to begin high school in January 2017. He’s bright, particularly in math and he enjoys it. But he has Naivasha teeth—meaning they are permanently stained from the excessive fluoride in the ground water, weak and the enamel is virtually gone. He has a bright future, but not with those teeth, so I began asking about dentists.

When Alison and I visited Fr. Makarios at St. Theresia Center for Abused Children, I learned the clinic (which is open to the pubic) includes a dentist who comes every Tuesday. I asked whether they would be able to cap his teeth. “Oh yes, she has done many of those.” He showed me before and after pix of several pretty severe cases, although they didn’t seem as bad as Lucas’. Fr. Makarios told me the fees are at or below those of the district hospital, so I decided this was it.

Yesterday was the big day. He hadn’t heard any bad stories about dentists, so he was actually pretty eager to go get his teeth fixed and not in the least frightened, despite this being his maiden voyage with the dental chair.

I was impressed with Lucas and how calm he was in a very strange environment and with the dentist, who took a lot of time to talk with him before she did anything, explaining the procedures and the instruments. She was very gentle with him—note how relaxed his hands are.

Luca @ Dentist 1

She found quite extensive periodontal disease, which she treated, while explaining how to brush his teeth and otherwise do preventative maintenance. She cleaned the teeth, filled his one cavity and planned the further work.

I was also very impressed with the office, which looked very much like any dental office in the US. The only missing procedure was xrays. Fr. Makarios told me that a machine had been donated, but it arrived missing an essential part!!!! ARGH!

We set up more appointments during his school holiday. Julia will take him. It’s relatively close and easy to access. She doesn’t have to take him to Nairobi, nor even Nakuru. It’s about 20 minutes away by matatu. The best part if that the cost for everything is just under $1000. In the US it would have been 3 to 4 times that. Lucas has a sponsor who can help with this some, but donations are welcome. He’s a kid who’s worth the fix.

One of the most stalwart members of the SFG staff is Solomon Maina, who teaches Kiswahili and CRE (Christian Religious Education). His was a name I learned early on, because he has the characteristics of a Solomon. Quietly, over the years he has been going to school during the holidays to earn his bachelor’s degree and last weekend was his graduation. Monday he returned with the biggest smile!!!! He was as proud and excited as any kid. Unfortunately when I took the picture, the smile disappeared—having one’s picture taken is a very solemn (Solomon?) occasion. However the staff, who were very supportive of him made up for it—well, some of them did.

Maina graduates July 2016

Yesterday was the last day to cram for the mocks—practice exams for the KCSE. All over the country kids are burning down dorms and principals’ offices in what is becoming a trend to try to delay the mocks. There is more to it than that, but it generally reaches a peak at this time of year. I suspect there are negative consequences for performing poorly, both at school and at home. The exams are long and hard. Math has 2 papers, each 24 questions, about 1/3 of which are really challenging, ½ are hard but doable and 1/6 are easy. The marking is very severe, so a pretty good student might have a grade 25% – 30%. It’s discouraging and creates a lot of fear and stress. Hence teens act out. They also strike, riot and burn over issues of food, TV during free time, harsh treatment by staff, particularly administrators, whom they claim do not listen and punish them for voicing their opinions. So far, I’ve not seen any sign of this kind of behavior at SFG, but …… who knows?

Monday and Tuesday I was on my own, without Alison. The younger students are now coming in for help and I had 5 form 2’s asking questions about material well ahead of the form 2 curriculum. Students and staff alike are telling me that having the 2 of us here for such a long time made a real impact on the math. I noticed smiles and genuine interest. I could see they are beginning to enjoy math (what a concept!) Time will tell.

Here are form 4’s “revising” and getting ready for the 2nd most stressful day of their 4 years (the most stressful being first day of the real deal.)

Form 4 Students study for mocks

And below is Mr. Wekesa, a new math teacher, giving some last minute help. He’s a great teacher and a wonderful colleague. As head of the math department he is the one who set up a schedule for Alison and me to tutor students for the past 2 weeks.

Wekesa math_physics helps students


2016 – #13 My Muse Takes a Week Off!!!

I just realized I have not posted for a whole week. One way I know is that no one has written to me for a whole week!!!!! (except Hilliary and Bernie and a few of their cohorts). Somehow, even though it was a very busy week, I haven’t felt the urge to write. But here goes

Saturday was Talent Show day at SFG and the place was vibrating with excitement. We got there late, and already the dining hall was lifting off its foundations with the force of the music. I knew I couldn’t manage very long with that, so I boldly pushed forward and asked please could it be turned down. The DJ did so, but pretty soon it was back up to max decibels. I have a few pix, but there is no way my camera could capture the energy, the wit, the creativity we saw that day. Nonetheless we left after 5 ear-punishing hours, feeling pummeled. The show went on for 2+ hours.

Sunday we look it easy, but in the afternoon I went again to the Naivasha Sports Club to tutor Sandy. We worked in the small building where Minilyn (mom) shows her crafts, many made by HIV-positive workers, whom she has trained. Sandy is coming along, nicely, but she’s not going to make a name in the math world, despite our best efforts. I just want to get her to the place where she can follow and understand the lesson. She’s a bright girl, but one of the rare ones who really doesn’t get math. (sigh!)

2016 - #13 Margo tutoring Sandy

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday saw us chained to the tables in the SFG library, surrounded by girls who wanted math help. It’s amazing how many are now coming in—always more than the ones the teachers have selected for help. I think there are several factors contributing to the increased interest, enthusiasm, and confidence we’ve experienced from the girls. First, the new math teachers are good and the girls like them a lot. Secondly, Fr. Ngaruiya, the new parish priest, is a math teacher and has taken a big interest in their progress. He is well-liked by all and I think the girls want to do well to please him. I believe the presence of Alison and me and the 1-1 time they’ve received has also contributed.

Thursday Hiliary, new social worker for Empower the World, drove us to Nakuru to visit Fr. Kiriti. I have done that drive several times a year, but somehow I developed a fear of that road with the slow trucks, the speeding cars and matatus and the many near-misses I’ve seen as the speeding ones overtake the slow ones. Last year I didn’t drive it at all. Poor Hiliary had to take a matatu back to Naivasha—not a fun ride.

That afternoon Fr. Kiriti took us to the Wild Animal Park, a huge hunk of land where animals can live a very natural life—until a predator gets them, but that’s part of their natural life as well. There are always many of the deer family, mostly elands and gazelles, who merely looked at us and returned to grazing. Once we noted several who were on guard-duty. Fr. Kiriti opined there must have been a lion nearby, but we didn’t see any. We saw several rhinos, a couple of wart hogs and many buffalos and zebras, but the big treat was many giraffes—more than I’ve ever seen. I’m still awed by their size and grace. Fr. K says they have no predators, their skin being over 1 inch thick and very tough. They also have a powerful kick that has splintered the ribs of many a lion.

2016 - #13 Giraffe 2016

Of course the monkeys and baboons were so much fun to see. The older ones seem to spend most of their time people-watching, sitting by the road, observing those odd characters snapping pictures from the car windows. We loved the babies, tumbling, scratching, screeching and playing just like a bunch of little kids.

2016 - #13 Baboon 2016

Back at his new parish, St. Paul’s, we met his assistant, Fr. Xavier, a very sweet and devoted priest who plied us with questions about our visit, our lives and our world in the US. We thoroughly enjoyed spending 2 days with the 2 of them.

Friday we visited the parish high school, small, new (only goes to form 3) and very poor. The students have few text books and they have no library at all. We took maybe 20 – 25 of the books I had brought over. We also gave each student a mechanical pencil and each of the staff members got to choose a scarf—including the cook who was so grateful!

We visited the form 3 math class, taught by a student-teacher, who is the only math person there. Matrices was the topic and some of the students were struggling with what has always seemed to me an unnecessarily complicated way to solve a system of equations. He demonstrated a problem, then set the class to work on another. The 3 of us wandered up and down the aisles, marking correct work, giving suggestions and minor lessons to those who had made mistakes. They had made it a double lesson, so the class was long and I took the opportunity to tell them to use their brains, not their calculators. “God gave you a good brain, didn’t He?’ nod of head, “Then you should use it before it turns to oatmeal!” giggle. Both Alison and I had a great time with them but were happy to relax for a 20-minute tea break before meeting a combined form 1 and 2 group.

The teacher was introducing solving systems of equations (not by matrices) and made a typical new-teacher mistake of assigning a problem to be solved, which the bright ones completed quickly, then sat idly by. AAACH! I couldn’t stand it, and told them to do another one. He had shown them one method (not the one I would have used) without helping them see they could either add or subtract, depending on the signs. Again, I couldn’t stand it and asked his permission to address the class. He was very kind and perhaps felt he’d learned a little bit about teaching. I can’t imagine being the lone math teacher in a high school, a learner at that, with no mentor, no one to give advice. He’ll go back to university in a few months and a new practice teacher will show up. It’s better than having the proverbial football coach, but not a whole lot. It’s not that there are no math teachers. It’s that the school is too poor to hire one. Practice teachers are free (I think). I’m thinking that next year I might volunteer at that school for my 2 ½ months here. Although I know I’m helping at SFG, I think I’d be of much great use in this school. We’ll see, but I’m contemplating it.

After our school visit I went off to see my friend, Shamin to get a haircut. Generally when I’m there I’m the only client, but this time there were 3 clients when I arrived. One lady had booked an appointment for manicure and pedicure but then wanted a haircut too. Shamin’s sister does the fingers and toes, but only Shamin does the hair. On top of that, they had no running water, but had to fetch it in buckets from a tank that they fill from a water truck. It was crazy, but somehow she got it all organized and I was out in less than an hour—shorn more than I would have liked, but better than going 2 ½ months on one haircut.

Next on the agenda was a visit to Jecinta, former principal of SFG, now principal in a government high school in Fr. K’s parish. She had left SFG under somewhat of a cloud, but Fr. K, always one to soothe things out, had visited her recently and was received with great joy. They had a healing visit and she encouraged him to bring me to visit too. As we left Shamin’s shop it began to rain—lightly at first, but soon it was not only elephants and giraffe’s, but an occasional hippo and rhino. In no time the road was awash in MUD! ARGH!!! To top it off, when we arrived, no one was in sight. Evidently they were having an assembly. We never got to see her and we kept the bottle of wine we had taken to give to her. Fr. K kindly offered to take it off our hands!!!

I mentioned that I did not want to drive the road between Nakuru and Naivasha, but my conscience wouldn’t let me force Hiliary to take a matatu early in the morning to fetch us and drive us back. He already had to use his Sunday to drive Alison to the airport, so I had a little chat with myself and determined I could take it easy, not be in a hurry to “overtake” and I could do it—so I did. And it was fine.

Here are Alison, Fr. Kiriti and Fr. Xavier right before we left for Naivasha

2016 - #13 Alison, Kiriti, Xavier 2016


2016 – #12 Fun Friday and the Goats Arrive at Last

Friday morning Alison and I spent a lot of time tutoring, but afternoon classes were canceled to allow preparation time for Saturday’s big event—TALENT SHOW!!!! Ta Dum!!!! (drum roll, please). We emerged from our little cocoon in the library, where we’ve been holed up these past weeks, to find students huddled in groups, in the labs, in classrooms, out on the green in front, all rehearsing their “items” (acts). Some of the female staff were sunning themselves outside the staff room, chatting and just relaxing. It was wonderful to see them let down their reserves and just be themselves.

Teachers relaxing

This is Loise (librarian), Susan (matron), Belgon (lab tech) and Martha (math teacher)

Zita was here earlier, doing something to Belgon’s hair, which includes long extensions, but Zita was called away to help students do a computer search for something involved in TS.

Zita teaches English and taken on the project of teasing Margo, a vacant position since Janet left to have a child. If Janet is reading this, I wish to report that Zita is doing an excellent job!

Here is Zita with students in the library, second from left in back row.

Zita wi students in lib

Alison and I left school early, having a number of errands, including a Naivas run, which we do every 2-3 days. Everyone who walks in is subject to a search with hand-held metal detectors. Women are scanned by a woman and men by a man. But the “soldiers” know us by now and at best give us a cursory search and often waving us through. If a person is carrying a bag or package, it must be left with a package checker before the person is allowed to enter. We always bring our beautiful African fabric bags, which are empty, of course, so again, we are given a bye. But because I don’t want the privileged mzungu role, I always walk up to the lady, hold out my arms, we both grin at each other and she sort of scans me.

From time to time, we have been hearing a “funny noise” from the right front wheel area of the car. I took it to Mwangi, the mechanic, but of course it didn’t make the noise—it’s like going to the Dr for an earache, but it stops hurting about the time he (or she) is ready to see you. But by Friday, it was getting to be pretty noticeable so we set out again. Mwangi’s shop is somewhere on the backroads of NVA and I wasn’t at all sure how to get there. I thought I could figure it out, and ended up going over the WORST roads, worse than the Road From Hell (old road to Nakuru before it was fixed). Not only that, the road I thought was lead to his shop was actually being redone, so it was blocked off and I had to search on more pot-holey roads. ACH! When I finally found the place, it was full of cars and mechanics, none of whom was Mwangi and none of whom spoke much English. A very nice gentleman sitting in his car, waiting for new tires, interpreted for me and assured me “he is coming.” That can mean anything from 5 minutes to 2 hours. I was tired and really wanted to be home taking a nap and evidently my impatience showed, b/c he very kindly advise me to be patient. “He will come.” And he did, after about 10 minutes. He English isn’t any too hot either, but eventually we agreed that Friday afternoon at 5 pm was not an ideal time for him, particularly with about 6 cars around the front of his tiny shop, all in various stages of (dis)repair. He will come at 7:30 Monday morning and Alison will get her wish to ride in a matatu—to get to school that day. I had hoped I’d taken my last matatu ride. Long time readers will remember some of my adventures (as well as misadventures) such that several years ago I announced I’d “been there, done that” and was ready to drive to SFG. Haven’t been in a matatu since and happy about it. Will write in next post how it went.

We finally got back to the church gate and were just driving in when we saw Mr. Karanja ( the goat man) driving out. “Yay” I thought, “The goats have arrived.” We parked the car and opened the gate to Mji Wa Neema very carefully, so the goats wouldn’t escape, only to find, NO GOATS! RATS!

I find Julia. “Didn’t Mr Karanja bring the goats? They were supposed to be delivered today.” “No.” (I wish I could reproduce the way she says it—very characteristic). Call Karanja, “Hi Karanja, where are my goats?” “This evening. We’ll deliver them this evening.” (By then it’s at least 5:30). Hmmm, how late do goat deliveries occur here? But I’m too tired to pursue it any farther. We fix tuna sandwiches and I repair to my bed to rest and read emails.

About 8:30 I’m nodding over the computer when my phone rings. “Hi Margo, we’re here with the goats, but the gate to the home is closed.” “OK, I’ll be right out.” Grab my shoes, my “torch” and run out to open the gate. I see Karanja and his helper by an old matatu with the back end open, revealing 2 large bags that could have held 100 lbs of onions or potatoes each but actually held one terrified goat.. After dragging them over the rocks and the grate, the helper removed one bag, revealing a trussed-up wild-eyed goat with BIG HORNS. Soon the other one was also writhing on the ground, complaining (and rightfully so!) I ran to the house for scissors to cut the rope tying the feet together and finally the poor things could stand upright.

Fortunately Simon (remember him? Takes Tai Quan Doh) was home, having been sent here for school fees in a big mixup (the fees had been paid), as well as David Mungai, so they could help with putting the poor goats in very small pens for the night. One is very docile and went right in, but the other one (with the big horns) was having none of it. They tried head first. No Way!!! Then the tried lifting his back side and putting it in the pen—ooh watch those horns. But the boys are used to such things and finally the goats were in for the night.

Here are the boys struggling with Billy Goat Gruff (remember that fairy tale?) The docile one is on the right, just relieved to be out of the sack and legs free. Alison, Julia, Joseph, Lucas and I were all cheering them on and trying to shine the torches on the pieces of rope they were using to tie the pen doors shut. At last the goats were secured, the doors tied shut and we all went back to bed.

Caging the goat 2

Next morning they were still penned, as Julia had to send the boys to the market for rope to tie them up. Alison and I had errands again, then headed for SFG for Talent Show.

TS is always fun, but it goes on and on—and on, on, on and more. The music is blaring in my ears (which contain my new hearing aids). I need the aids to hear the dialog for the skits and choral recitations, but OUCH!!! my ears hurt from about 500 decibels (well, maybe only 450!)

I’ll need more time and space than I have tonight, so will write about TS next time, but for now I’ll end with this. Lunch included watermelon for everyone. “Oh, boy! I’ll take all those rinds to the goats.”

In 2015 Fr. Mwangi’s goat that lived all summer at Mji Wa Neema loved anything I managed to scrounge for him, especially watermelon rinds. So I get a bag and pick them from everyone’s empty plates. Someone points out the girls have had watermelon too, so I get another sack and trot down to the dining hall, where I am quite the curiosity as I pick through the garbage, rescuing many rinds. Later as we drive in the church compound, we see the goats happily grazing just outside the MWN gate. All excited I toss a pile of rinds for each goat, not getting too close. Those horns are to be respected! Guess what?? Yep, the goat took one sniff and turned up their little noses. No watermelon rinds for them! Alas! I suspect they’ve never had anything but grass. So much for the “goats will eat anything” theory!




2016 – #11 We Visit the Maasai Market and We Get a Goat

I had asked my old buddy, Ben, to drive Alison and me to Nairobi for the annual crafts buying event.   He was the accountant here in the parish until his ethics clashed with those of a previous (unnamed) priest. Ben left his post rather than compromise his ideals. He has driven me to the market for the past 8 to 10 years and he knows the ropes so well. He’s a great bargainer, and tells the hawkers about why I’m buying things and where the money people donate for them goes—back to Kenya to educate kids. Several of the sellers thanked me and a couple gave me a small gift after I had bought items from them. One lady said she had grown up in a children’s home and was very grateful that her school fees had been paid. I bought a few things I’ve never tried before and all the time was thinking “What would the people of TMC like this year?” Of course there are other opportunities for people to donate for crafts, but the TMC members are so supportive of this work and they love the crafts!

Right before I left I put a newly charged battery in my camera so I could get lots of pix, only when I took my first (and as it turned out, only) pic, the camera indicate the battery was gone. AAAARRRGGHHH!!! Will the gremlin in my life never stop pestering me???? Of course I had picked a battery that had been charged, probably 1 month ago, but they do spontaneously discharge over time. Sorry I couldn’t get more pix, but I think I’ll need to go again, and that time I will check to see the battery level.

Ben used to drive a cab in Nairobi and he knows every road, street, back alley and cow trail. We zipped there pretty fast and went right to the mall. The market used to be outside in the hot sun (or wet rain), but several years ago they arranged for the second-to-the-top floor of the parking structure to be available every Thursday for vendors, none of whom is Maasai, according to Ben. I suspect they are mostly Kikiyu, and those tribe members tend to be self-starters and very good business people (according to a number of my Kikiyu friends, who, of course, could never be biased!) The vendors are pretty aggressive, “Mommy, I have just the right thing for you.” “I am your sister, I’ll give you best price.” “Welcome to my shop” (a spot about 10 X 10 spread with a cloth over the concrete floor). “Please, just come look.” And on and on. I have learned how to convey I’m not stopping at that shop and we headed directly to my friend Joseph Njorogi, from whom I have bought for the past few years. He has very clever items (no, no hints until I get home) and now that he knows what I do with the donations people give for them, he gives me a very low price. Readers of several years may remember 2014, when my granddaughter, Maya, come with me, Njorogi invited us to visit his farm just outside Nairobi, where we saw his family members making the crafts he sells. Much of his materials come from banana leaves and corn husks, along with wire, bits of fabric, rope and a lot of creativity and work of many hands. We all loved being there and of course bought many items.

2016 - #11 Njorogi @ MMarket 2006

He has a shop in a little back alley of a place, where we have also bought over the years. Last year I saw a shop with beautifully woven baskets/bowls. She owner wanted very high prices (I call it skin tax), but Njorogi told me he could get them for much less. I told him what I wanted and he found a lot of beautiful bowls for much less that what I would have been charged. He has promised to do the same for me this year.

After shopping, which is incredibly tiring, walking up and down aisles, on concrete floors, being accosted constantly by people, all of whom need to make a living, bending over to view the goods, bargaining and trying not to feel guilty about bargaining too hard. Ben is worth his weight in gold in matters of determining a fair price, all the while lugging my purchases, which we’ve carried in cloth bags (of course!!!). When I finally ran out of energy, money and inspiration, we deposited everything in the car and headed for the restaurant on the ground floor where we always have lunch. Sitting down felt very good!

On the way back, I received a text from Karanja, whom I had asked about getting a goat for the reunion of the children of Mji Wa Neema, which will be sometime in August when most will be on semester break. I had been told that a goat would be a least $70 and could be as much as $110 and I was hoping Karanja, who heads the committee to get MWN recertified so it can take in more children, would give us a fair price.   He wanted me to go today to his farm to select the goat. That was about the last thing I would want to do, but I finally agreed. I picked him at the road to the Deliverance Church whose sign is so big it has become a landmark—“I live just up from the Deliverance Church” or “Turn right at the Deliverance Church and proceed 9 houses, then left….” At Alison’s suggestion, we had invited small Joseph to go along to select the goat. He had no school today, their having been closed to honor the ending of Ramadan. Of course he was delighted. He hardly even gets to ride in a car.

Karanja’s farm is just beyond SFG, right on the edge of the highway. He proudly told us he owns 6 acres, the value of which has doubled, tripled, quadrupled many times over the 30 + years he has owned it, but he’s not ready to sell. He raises goats on the land and waits until the inevitable urban sprawl from Naivasha reaches this far south of the town. It will be like all those multimillionaires in Silicon Valley, paving over fertile farm land, ending it’s use forever.

2016 - # 11 Joseph meets the goats

There were several fenced fields, one with a single goat, huge and scary. He was tied, but he lunged and strained, trying to get away. Karanja said he doesn’t like women and tries to attack them—except for lady goats, of course. He’s the breeding male—the big white one in the pic above.

Karanja announces he wants us to have 2 goats. I’d been told that a goat would cost $70 to $100, so I’m not eager to buy 2! “I don’t think I can afford 2 goats.” “I’ll give them to you for ksh 4000 each ($40).” Even at that I wasn’t too sure Julia would want to put up with 2 goats, but he was so kind to make us that offer, I couldn’t refuse. Delivery was promised next. Read # 12 for the end of the story. Well not really the end. That will be when we eat the goats. Oooooh! That sounds so terrible.

Finally we leave (it’s getting dark), we take Karanja home, get back to Mji Wa Neema, report to Julia (she was very happy to be getting TWO goats). Alison and I could hardly stumble into the house, rustle up something for dinner and fall into bed. Big day!

PS In case you are wondering, it is the custom to refer to a man by his last name. Some women are referred to that way, but often they are called by the first name.