#6 We Visit Joseph at His Boarding School

June 24, 2017

Up until now, I’ve not felt good about Joseph’s being in a boarding school, but I have seen the school, Joseph and his very kind teacher. I think maybe this is good for him.

But let me begin with the realization last night that I hadn’t bought enough chicken for the 6 people going for Family Visiting Day, plus Joseph himself. So early this morning Alison and I set off for the Naivas. As we stopped by the rectory kitchen to see why my newspaper had not been delivered yet, Fr. Ngaruiya heard my voice and sent Laban, his cook, to call me back. “Come sit and have a cup of tea.” “We need to hurry to get chicken to cook for Joseph’s visiting day.” He still wanted to talk, but as soon as we could, we rushed to the car. As we drove out the gate, I saw a man reading the newspaper. “I’ll bet he’s reading my paper!” To gateman, “Has my newspaper come?” He walks over and takes the paper from the man. Aha, now I know what happens. They read it at the gate and deliver to me when they damned well please. I don’t think they’ll do it again!!!

At the Naivas, the parking attendant is nowhere in sight. To the armed soldier in front, “Will you please tell the attendant that I will pay when I come out, since he’s not here?” He agrees. Inside I learn there are no fresh chickens, only frozen. ARGH!!! Then I look out the door to show Alison the Skye Blue Butchery, intending she could go across to get one there—only to see it is no long there. RATS!!! I grab a pkg of frozen legs, along with 5 more whole chickens for tomorrow night’s dinner and move on. This is a good lesson in shopping here. In my Trader Joe’s they spend the night restocking the shelves. Here, no. Every aisle is clogged with cartons of new supplies, as well as other early-birds. It takes us almost an hour to find everything we need and by 9:15 we are back home, hungry and with many heavy bags to carry in. Fortunately the kids are helpful and soon Margaret has the chicken boiling in my kitchen, while Alison and I are hungrily eating our bran flakes.

Margaret is only 20, but she is such a worker. She reminds me of Julia who had come here at age 19 to become mom to 35 raggedly kids. By 11:30 she had prepared or supervised the preparation of the chickens, many chapatti’s, rice, chopped fruit, and cabbage. We tried to think of all the utensils we would need, plates, cups, spoons (they’re not good with forks here), serviettes (aka napkins), water etc. Though it was a bit like herding chickens (a bit easier than cats!) we finally had the boot packed with food, 3 in the backseat and set off. Hilary met us at the gate and off we went.

The school was near, just down the road leading to the prison, then left on the dustiest road I think I’ve ever seen. At times, we were totally unable to see, but fortunately it wasn’t far before we turned into a very nice compound, full of trees, hawkers at the gate, families streaming in and students so happy to see them (especially Mom with her plentiful and delicious food).

There were so many people I despaired of finding Joseph, but then suddenly there he was,running to the car, the happiest little boy ever. He hadn’t known we were coming, so it was even more special. He stuck his head in for a hug and saw big brother, Lucas, plus 2 of his favorite “siblings,” Margaret and Mungai, as well as Alison and Hillary (and me). We found a place to park and unloaded all the goodies. We brought everything we’d been told he wanted, including the yogurt and Black Forest cake from the Naivas. His eyes were round with anticipation. Not realizing that that Margaret had managed to cook both chickens, I had explained about FHB (Family Hold Back), wanting Joseph to have his fill and to feel special.

He got the first plate, heaped with a big leg and large amounts of the rest. Margaret and Mungai served the rest of us while I poured the passion fruit juice. I watched him chow down like he hadn’t eaten for a week. He’s not a big kid, for 13, but he ATE. He finished his first plate and dug into a second equally large serving. Then wanted a 3rd, but I took the Black Forest cake out of the box and the chicken was forgotten. He was a happy camper. I gave him a BIG slice, and after the others had their servings, quite a good-sized piece remained. By then I was teasing him about having a hollow leg (a new idea to all, so good for a hearty laugh) and Joseph grinned happily, tummy beginning to pooch markedly. A second piece of cake and I began to hope he wouldn’t be sick. Finally, we were all sated so we gathered up the remains, except the box with the rest of the cake, which he carried for further snacking.

I wanted to meet his teacher, whom he said he really liked, off we head to the classrooms, where we encounter a queue of kids and parents, all lined up on a bench. Joseph and I claim the end spots and as each family goes in, we all scoot along, the rest of our group having decided to take a walk around the grounds. At last it is our turn. Entering, we meet a kindly Mrs. Maina. I explain what this mzungu is doing there. She tells me Joseph was doing well, but I know he has had many problems, particularly with reading, so I want to question her further. “Joseph, can you wait outside while I talk to Mrs. Maina?” Then I tell her his story, none of which she had been told. His mother had died (he said 3 years ago, but I think it was 4 or 5), he was brought by Lucas to Mji Wa Neema, hungry, cold, frightened, in tattered clothing.   Julia took them in without a backward glance. It was hard for both at first. Lucas was very angry at his mother for dying, although she hadn’t been much of a mother. She’d refused to be tested for HIV, thus didn’t take ARV’s (Anti-Retro-Viral) and she died, leaving 2 destitute orphans. Joseph seemed to be in a fog, just happy to have a full tummy, warm clothes and a bed (which he regularly wet for several years). What he wasn’t happy about was school, often yelling out, sometimes hitting, unable to do the work. Sometimes he would take his lunch container, leave the home and go to town, showing up again when school was out.

But slowly by slowly, Julia’s love and firm hand began to work their magic. When she was in the US in February, she told me Joseph was improving, settling down. I wondered. Then, in April, she told the children she was getting married and would be leaving shortly for the US, where her intended lived in New Jersey. Even now I get tears in my eyes, imagining that scene, kids incredulous, “What? You’re doing what?” Then as the reality sinks in, all wondering what has happened to their lives? Each has suffered the trauma of losing a mom, most have also lost their grandparents, so have no family left at all, others have relatives who don’t really want to take them in. Of course they were going back to high school or where ever. All except Joseph, who was not in class 6 (as I had thought), having failed class 5.

It was at that time that the second bomb dropped. Fr. Ngaruiya had decided to close Mji Wa Neema! They were to gather their belongs and go home. But for many, where was home? As you may imagine, I’ve had a hard time processing that decision. He’s not a bad person—he’s very nice, but I don’t think he really understood this new trauma for them. His concern was money to support the home. With only Joseph here, how could he justify paying a matron? Joseph couldn’t stay here alone, but even with Margaret, Tabitha and Mungai who were allowed to stay, awaiting fall and university (for M and T) graduation and finding a job for Mungai. No, Joseph definitely needed a firmer hand than they could offer.

As I’ve been here, living with them, welcoming back some of the high school kids on mid-term break, I don’t know that I’ve thought of a better solution. I’m not sure even Solomon could have found a good one. It’s just that it was all so abrupt, such a shock, first losing their beloved mom, Julia, and then losing the only real home they’ve had for years.

Now I see they are adjusting, at least those whom I’ve seen. I haven’t been able to contact Simon, Evans came and went, the ones in University are not on break yet, so I haven’t seen them, but somehow, with the resiliency of youth, they are managing as best they can. Time will reveal more. But today I saw a happy Joseph, doing well, not misbehaving, learning. There is no doubt in my mind that there are long term effects of the multiple losses, but for now, my mind is at rest.

When it is time to go, I remember the vanilla yogurt. By that time all that remains of the cake is a few crumbs, soon to be totally eaten. “Joseph, I forgot your yogurt, but surely you’re too full for that,” showing him the container. With eyes lighted up again, he shakes his head, “No” and holds out his hand. I can’t believe it, but he got all the goodies he wanted and he’s not giving anything up. God! I hope he doesn’t have a tummy ache tonight!

I give him a big hug, and realizing he is crying. So hard to be left by the only family he has. I hug him again, Hillary tells him to be a man, and I tell Hillary it’s OK to cry. Men cry! He admits he too has cried. Of course!

Off we go, with Joseph smiling bravely through his tears, down the dusty road and home, where the car is quickly unloaded and I fall on my bed, exhausted.

(back) Margaret, Mungai, Lucas, Alison, Hillary. (front) Margo and the boy of the day.


# 5 Visitors and Kids

Almost every day someone comes to greet me and/or another Mji kid comes back to do some “tuitioning.”   Today it was Evelyn, a form 4 girl whose performance has been lackluster at best.  Two of her siblings grew up here, Cynthia, who is now in university studying engineering and younger brother, Tylon, who will come tomorrow.  Evelyn and I had a real heart-to-heart about her future, which right now doesn’t look too bright.  The sad thing is that she is bright, but somewhere along the line a teacher told her she wasn’t a good student and she really took that on.  Her grades, which had been quite good, dropped and she lost all interest in school.

“Evelyn, what do you want to be when you grow up?” “I don’t know.”  “What classes do you like?”  “Biology.”  “Hmmm can you think of something in the area of biology you might like?”   Shy smile and giggle.  “Evelyn, when November comes and you’ve taken your last exam, you’ll be leaving St. Francis.  Where will you go?  You can’t come back here, b/c Fr. Ngaruiya has closed this home.  What will you do?”  “I don’t know.”  Oh, God, this tiny, shy sweet girl goes out the gate of school with all her worldly belongings and has no place to go!  I was close to tears, but had to hold it together.  Evelyn absolutely has to develop a plan.  “The deal is, Evelyn that your only chance right now is to quality for university or some training institute.  If you have no idea what you want to train for, we can’t send you on for further education.  This is it, Evelyn, you’ve got to get it together and perform really well on the KCSE or else you’ll have nowhere.”  She looks very solemn and nods.

Evelyn didn’t want her photo taken, but here is one from about 10 years ago.  (L) older brother, Tylon, Joseph (since adopted) Tabitha, Evelyn

“When I first came here and you were that quiet little girl, Fr. Kiriti told me you were a very strong student, but something happened to that.  Is that right?  (nod)  What happened?”  “I don’t know.”  “But you do remember that your grades used to be very good.”  (nod)  “What has happened to you in math?”  I’ve noticed she spaces out in math class.  “I just don’t understand  “OH, tell me some topics that are really hard for you.”  She goes through the form 4 book and lists 6 topics.  “OK, which do you want to begin with?”  “Differentiation.”  They all know how to differentiate, but mostly have no clue what it means.  I’ve taken to writing notes and definitions on the papers we generate in hopes they’ll look at them, but also when I ask, “What will we find out by differentiating?”  Nada Depending on the question I tell them it’s the velocity of a moving object or it’s the slope of the line tangent to the curve at any point and what does it mean when that slope in zero.  Then we tackle some questions.  Over and over we come back to What does the derivative tell you?  How can we use it to answer this question?  Finally she begins to put it all together.

I wrote about Lucy last time.  ETW has decided to continue to support her through her last bit of salon training.  That means baby care for the 2-year old, nursery school for the 4 your old (who is quite out-going and already loves me!), and food/lodging.  Because she stopped going to class she must repeat 3 months, so it’s a big deal.  But we know this is her only chance.

Here she is with her 2 boys.  Older one is Edward, ARGH! Can’t remember younger one.

June 23

Alison Staab, Kenya Help board member, arrived today.  Hillary drove us to the airport, where we had a fairly long wait, but that’s better than last year, her first visit as a KH’er.  We were late and when she came out of customs, we weren’t there.  She handled it like a trooper, but I felt bad.  I know how it is to arrive and find a big smile greeting me.  After that long trip, it provides the big “Ah!” and the tension begins to fall away.  Alison is another retired math teacher.  The 2 of us put in long hours working with the form 4’s at SFG last summer.  Unfortunately, the math results for the KCSE were pretty dismal.  It was a class which had had many different teachers and the inconsistency showed.  I’m told this year’s form 4’s are much stronger.

Already our dance card is full.  Tomorrow we go for parent visiting day at Joseph’s school.  Yes, he is Joseph, the notorious peanut butter thief.  He’s now in 6th grade and I’m told he’s a reformed character.

Later a friend will visit.  Sunday, more visitors, then a party for all the kids who have been here all week, studying their little hearts out.  We’ll have chicken, chipattis and greens, with ice cream and biscuits (cookies) for dessert.  Monday, Fr. Kiriti is coming and later Alison and I will go to St. Francis—the first time this year for both of us.  Tuesday is David Mungai’s graduation, which we will not attend.  “Margo, you won’t even get there.  The graduation will go on and you’ll be sitting in a huge traffic jam.”  (quote Fr. Kiriti).  Evidently it’s 101 on Friday evening with a Giants game—that’s the regular situation.  On graduation day it will be worse.  Although what could be worse than going nowhere?  Backwards?  We’ve agreed we will meet in a restaurant somewhere in Nairobi for a nice meal, where we’ll actually be able to talk to him.  At the graduation mob scene, even if we got there, it would take the Hubble telescope to see him.  This plan will be much better.  Friday will be Thanksgiving mass for him.  This is traditional when a student completes his/her university course.  Another big party afterwards.  Yikes, I’m exhausted just writing about it all.

#4 Internet Problems Solved

June 18, 2017

The problem was not with the modem, but with the user (me). The modem requires “topping up” monthly, even if it’s only ksh 50 ($.50). I thought I had done that, but evidently I topped up my phone instead. The reason the modem didn’t work is that I had no airtime and no credit. Don’t ask what is the difference b/c I’ve never figured it out. I just know the terms and what I need to do to keep connected. That’s all. This afternoon Hillary came by to deliver my car, which he had brought from Nakuru where Fr. Kiriti had it. Hearing my complaint, he looked at the situation and patiently explained what a dunderhead I am (no he didn’t use that term) and showed me how to top up. Immediately it sprang to action and is actually quite fast. I don’t keep it plugged in all the time b/c it eats up airtime, but when I do plug in, it downloads my accumulated emails as fast as my wifi at home and sends out equally quickly. So, I am in business and please write to me!

Slowly by slowly my eye is returning to normal, so that when Fr. Kiriti came this afternoon to take me to dinner, he didn’t blanch and recoil at the sight. Nonetheless I didn’t put in an appearance at mass this morning, but did enjoy the wonderful choir which drifted through my windows all morning. I’m wearing sunglasses when I go out, which effectively hide the ugly sight, but in Tusky’s supermarket this evening, I got lots of strange looks when I had to remove them to see. I’m still not ready to put in an appearance at SFG, but probably will before the end of the week.

My smart aleck daughter, Susan, sent me an email advising a cane (my doctor had advised that right before I came and to my discredit, I refused). She included pictures of some really great looking canes, which she suggests I call a walking stick, as well as some really funny ones and one that was downright bawdy. Gave me a good chuckle.

This evening Fr. Kiriti came from Nakuru, on his way to Nairobi tomorrow, and took me shopping to replace items that either mysteriously disappeared or have been broken, and then to dinner. It was great to have a long chat, something we haven’t had since I left last August. So many issues can be cleared up with a good face-to-face. I was surprised to see tacos, burritos and quesadillas on the menu. I ordered a quesadilla and was surprised to find it was pretty good, although I suspect our friends from south lands would laugh and turn up their noses. We Gringas don’t know the difference between OK Mexican and good Mexican!

June 19, 2017.

What I’d thought would be a boring week has become anything but that—-why am I surprised, it’s always like that. First off, I thought the high school kids had a midterm break beginning Friday. Wrong, it began today, so as I sat eating my breakfast, a knock at my door found Beatrice standing there, wide smile and big hug. She is sister to Selinah, who graduated from SFG 3 years ago and is about to complete nursing school. Beatrice hopes to follow in her sister’s footsteps.

Shortly after Mary (Margaret’s smaller sister), small Patrick (there are 2) and several of the Pokot kids arrived. Each came to greet me and give me a big hug. Later Fr. Ngaruiya came to see me and I asked whether all the Mji Wa Neema kids who are in high school could come back for the week so we could do “tuitioning”—help them with their hardest subjects. He was hesitant, but when I offered to pay for the food, he agreed. I don’t think it will be much and I know those kids need this. They also want to be here. So now we have the job of notifying them to come.

Fr. N had another price for his agreeing to let the kids stay. He wanted me to mark some math papers for him—marking paper why he had come to see me. Marking papers is one of the reasons I retired from the classroom, but…. Anything for the kids. I love having them here. It’s almost like in the past, but without Julia.

For those who are new to my blog or have forgotten, Julia was the matron here for 10 years. She arrived here at age 19 to became to be “mom” to 35 kids, ranging from infant to about 14. She has done a fabulous job with them, but now she is getting married to a Kenyan-American living in New Jersey and is there now. The kids have no real home and have lost their mom. No wonder they are foundering! They need to be together. They all feel like they are siblings and now is the time for them to be together to process this change in their lives. I am grateful to Fr. N for letting them come for the week.

My little house was like Grand Central Station today. A lady named Espidita came to pick up some items she had asked me to bring from US for her. While she was here, Lucy, one of the kids, came running in to greet me.

Hers is such a hard story. She came here with her sister, Queen, who was HIV positive and eventually died from it. Lucy had always been rebellious and difficult and after Queen died, Lucy ran away (probably about age 15) to live with some man. We don’t know a lot about her life for about 6 or 7 years, except that 2 years ago she contacted Julia when the youngest of her 3 children was hospitalized. I happened to be here and went with Julia to see her. It was the beginning of a big turnaround for her and eventually we got her into salon training. An aunt kept her children and she stayed here so she could go to school.

Today I learned that she had not completed the course because the aunt died and she had no one to watch her 2 and 4 year olds. The youngest is with the paternal grandmother (father nowhere to be found). Like most kids who’ve lived on the streets, Lucy has those street-kid skills and has not always been truthful. Not all that she told me seems to be true, as I later learned when Hillary came and we had a discussion about how to get Lucy through what may be a week or a month (yet to be determined) remaining of her training. She wants to set up her own salon, but I said she should work for a year to get more training and save her money so she could buy her own equipment and make that shop truly her own, rather than getting a hand-out to set up. “Just think how proud you will be to open your own shop, using your own money. Then it will be truly yours.” She seemed to like that idea. In the meantime, KH will continue to support her for food and pay fees for child care (2-year old) and nursery school (4-year old). Nonetheless Hillary and I both agreed this was a better solution for her. She kept saying, “Margo, I have changed.” Julia had told me that even last year. She really wants to get her life together and take care of her children. We’re not giving upon her.

After my fall I’ve wondered whether it was a good idea for me to come here again. Maybe I should just accept that I’m 81 and have passed the time when I could come here safely, but after today I know why I am here. So many things need to be addressed for the Mji Wa Neema kids. Hillary is great, and Fr Ngaruiya is willing to help, but Lucy isn’t the only one. Kantai has had a problem with his official documents. I had to sort that out with him and Hillary. Hillary will take him to the appropriate office tomorrow to get that done. Lucas has allergies to something that makes his eyes inflamed and very uncomfortable. He had some drops, but ran out and he didn’t know to tell Hillary. I got him enough med for the next 6 weeks until August break. Then I want him to be seen by a good eye doctor. Julia would have taken care of all these things, but she is no longer here. Hillary is willing to step in, but the kids don’t know to go to him. Slowly by slowly we’ll get it sorted out, but in the meantime, I’m glad I’m here. Those of you who know me I’m the sort who wants today’s problems solved yesterday!!! Sometimes I’m a big pain in the backside, but I do get things done.

All for now, Margo


#3 The Usual Internet Hassle

I didn’t finish my whole Nakuru story in #2. It was already too long. But here is the rest.

The modem I’ve had for several years, a small device like a fat flash disc, is not compatible with my new Macbook Air. So, after my series of tests and other medical stuff yesterday, Hillary and I went off to the Safaricom (SC) shop in Nakuru. This is the biggest cell phone company in the country and going to their shop is like going to an Apple store only instead of plenty of blue-shirted helpers, there are few and always many people waiting. The Nakuru shop has a big seating area, maybe 6 chairs by 20 rows, 120 occupied seats. As I entered, I was first “wanded” to be sure I’m not carrying any bombs (!!!). Having passed that test, I explained to the “greeter” about my problem. Instead of directing me to a chair, she sent me to the clerk in the white shirt, who had 2 people in line before me. When my turn came, he thought for a while and handed me off to another clerk who clicked around on my computer, scratched his head and handed me off to a 3rd person. ARGH! I knew this would be a long wait. Having found a parking place (miracle) Hillary joined me and we both watched while he explored my operating system, system preferences, email preferences and probably dietary/literature and beer preferences. By now we were there more than an hour and I needed to sit down (jet lag). Because the seating area was full, I approached a clerk, “I really need to sit down or I’m going to faint”. This was a slight exaggeration, but it did produce a chair! Most Kenyans are very considerate of the elderly and while I hate admitting I’m one of that group, sometimes it helps!

Finally, the 3rd guy concluded my old modem was not compatible, and brought out another one ($21). It seemed to work in the shop, but very slowly. When I got back to my room it got stuck on downloading emails and wouldn’t send out!!! RATS! Now what? That remains to be seen, as SC in Naivasha is open on Saturday morning only and besides I don’t have my car yet. Although it is a walkable distance, the walking areas are very rough and uneven, with rocks, and potholes. I’m not ready to tackle that yet. The fall has made me very cautious.

 Now I am in the sitting room of the nuns’ house. They are very welcoming and have very fast wifi, as does the rectory. I wish I could extend the wifi to my house, which is pretty close, but no luck.


As I’ve indicated before, settling in here is always problematic. This time, there is no water in my bathroom sink, so my first night here, I tottered into the kitchen to brush my teeth. I heard some scrabbling on the window sill above the sink after which a big, fat rat skippered down, ran around and then disappeared under the stove. I was so exhausted, I just brushed, closed the door and did the Scarlet O’Hara thing—I’ll think about that tomorrow. Next morning, I found nibbles in a tomato and 2 bananas. Of course, I’ve had to scrub down all the counter tops, window sill, table and stove. All food is now in covered containers or the refrigerator, but the next night about 2 am I heard a big crash. Again, too sleepy I did the Scarlet again. In the morning, I found he had knocked over a pan I’d left sitting over the dishes in the drying rack. A salt shaker was shattered but nothing else—except a few nibbles from my sponge. Fortunately, I’m not freaked out by rats, but I do not welcome them in my house. My territory—theirs is outside! Unfortunately, this rat doesn’t understand English, so I’ll have to resort to poison. I don’t like to do that, but I’m not sharing my quarters with Mr. Rat! I can’t get to the market until I get the car (tomorrow), but tonight I’m going to try Judy’s very successful ant remedy. Mix boric acid with sugar. Ants are attracted to the sugar and die from the acid. Ants aren’t too smart, but rats??? They may sniff it out. Only the morning will tell.

How do I deal with rats and other invaders? This is Kenya. If I can’t deal with it, I should stay home. It keeps me adaptable and why should I be so special that rats aren’t an issue for me when they are for so many others?


My old friend, Peter Mungai came to visit yesterday afternoon. He is a math teacher and chairman of the parish council. We talked at length about lots of things, including the closure of Mji Wa Neema. I had hoped that there might be some dialogue about that decision, but he was not at all hopeful. He, himself, wanted to keep it open and bring in more children as the older ones moved on. This is now unlikely.

For those who wish a health report, I am slowly recovering and slowly adapting to the 11-hour time difference and the greater altitude. I’ve slept a lot, though not necessarily at night and have spent many hours resting on my bed, feeling very grateful for my ipod and the books I down loaded from the library before I left. Otherwise I’d be going nuts.

I’m now pretty much up to date, so no more posts until there are more adventures to report!


#2 It’s ALWAYS Like This

Friday, June 16, 2017

Somehow getting settled here is like trying to untangle an enormous pile of electrical cords—it has to be done one step a time and much of it is unexpected. Arriving about 5:30 pm I found my little “house” nicely cleaned by the few kids who are here. In addition to Margaret, Tabitha and Mungai, I was met by Josephat (whom I always call Patrick by mistake) and Kantai. I asked whether they had planned dinner, “yes, we’re having ugali and greens.” Oh my, that’s not going to work for me. I’m tired and hungry. I gave them some money to get some “mincemeat” (hamburger) and we have a lovely feast. Of course, the girls did all the cooking despite Julia’s prodigious efforts to make sure all the boys know how to cook. But I insisted the boys should clean up.

Before I go on, I’ll tell about arriving in Nairobi. I have 3 large suitcases (to accommodate some math materials that a donor sent to me, along with a check for the extra luggage charge), plus my carry on. My dear friend, Flora Sullivan, had packed me up well, including making bright pink ribbons which I attached to the handles. “Ah”, I thought, “for once I’ll immediately recognize my luggage.” You may recall I picked someone else’s suitcase last year, which I didn’t discover until I’d begun to unpack in Naivasha. ARGH! Fr. Kiriti had to take me all the way back and while I did recover my own bag, it had been force open and a few things removed. So I’m standing, trying to monitor 2 carrousels supposedly disgorging the luggage from Dubai. Looking, looking, back and forth between the two—no pink ribbons! The crowd thins out, only a few folks left (this is about an hour after landing) and no pink ribbons!!!! All I have is my small carryon. Fr. Kiriti, I know is getting more and more anxious, but I have no phone to call to tell him. I ask an attendant, “Is there more luggage from flight 719 from Dubai”. “No it’s all been off-loaded” Small bit of panic setting in. One more search. Way across on the far side of one of the carrousels is a collection of unclaimed bags. Are they there?—YESSSSSS! Three pink ribbons (now thoroughly flattened) are barely visible. Great relief. But now I have the problem of getting those heavy bags on the trolley. Ah, an attendant. Looking like I permanent transplant, barely able to push the heavy trolley, I head for customs. “Welcome Madam, what brings you to Kenya?” “Tourism” (I know the ropes by now!) “Ah, and what is in all these bags, Madam?” “Personal things, and many items that have been donated for schools and children.” “Donations? Donations are now taxable in Kenya, Madam.” Hmmm, guess I missed a rope or two. “What is your estimate of the value, Madam?” “I have no idea, they’re used, handmade (forgetting all the scarves lovingly made for the form 4’s by the “knitting elves” are in suitcase #4 to be brought next week by Alison). At that point I can’t even think what’s in them all. “We need to have an estimate, would a tax of $100 seem about right?” Now I’m feeling like this is a shake down. “Oh no, that’s way too much. All the stuff I brought is probably not worth much more than that.” (Most would be a free offering on my local “next door” at home.) “No problem, Madam, how about $50?” I’m thinking about an anxious Fr. Kiriti standing outside. “OK, what do I need to do?” “Just come right this way, sit here, this young woman (phone in her ear) will take care of you. She finishes her conversation, begins the process of filling out some form on an ancient and very slow computer. By now I’m getting irritated. “Please, can we just do this?” Finally, the form is printed and I’m sent to a window to pay my $50. Back about to the form-lady, more forms and at last I am free!!! Exiting the door and about to head down a ramp and wondering how I’m going to keep that trolley from running away from me, I hear a familiar voice, “Margo?” and there is Fr. Kiriti’s welcoming smile ready to greet me with a bear hug. I’m here!

He easily takes my cart down the ramp and leaves me standing at the curb while he sprints to the car park. He easily packs all 3 50+ lb. cases into the back of his car and we are off through the late afternoon Nairobi traffic, which he deftly navigates and soon we are on the by-pass, chatting and catching up on news. And before I know it, we’ve turned into the familiar gates to the church compound, greeted by one of the “soldiers” who’s sole purpose is opening and closing those heavy gates. At Mji Wa Neema we are happily greeted, the kids and Fr. K carry in my cases and summer 2017 begins.

Next morning Fr. Ngaruyia arrives at my door while I’m still eating my breakfast in my pj’s and robe, trying to do the Sudoku from yesterday’s paper (thanks Fr. K). He’s all smiles and welcoming, sits down for a minute before he’s off for Wednesday office hours. He very kindly offers me the use of his car for the day. Even though Fr. Kiriti had done some food shopping for me, there was much more I needed (among other things, he’d forgotten several necessities, like TP.) Fr. N explained that his uncle had died, burial tomorrow, and I am to go with him to Nakuru for the mass. Fr. Kiriti will be there to give me “our” car and I can bring it back. OH NO! I just got here and I have to do that hair-raising drive from Nakuru! I’m sure my face betrayed my dismay, but finally we agreed that Hillary, social worker par excelance” for Empower the World (ETW), will go as well, driving me back. I’m fine driving around Naivasha, but that’s all!!!

Later, Margaret in tow, I collect the keys, am instructed about the secret cut-off button that must be pushed before the car will start and off we go to the Jama supermarket, not nearly as familiar as the Naivas but cheaper. $40+ later, we’re back in the car and Margaret tells me she must do a big shopping for Mji Wa Neema. School break begins tomorrow and all the Pokot kids whom we sponsor through ETW will stay here for the 4 days. It would take a full day each way for them to go home. She reminds me where the wholesale shop is and with dismay I remember it’s in the matatu yard which is an impossibly busy place, full of the inevitable lorries, piki piki’s, cars, pedestrians and hundreds of matatus, all jockeying for position. UGH! Welcome home! But miracles do happen. There is a parking place right in front of the shop. Forty-five minutes later, Margaret returns with huge bags of rice, flour, cooking fat and who knows what else and we begin arduously working our way out to the street through all that maze of people and vehicles and then we are home. I’m exhausted, but the shopping is done and the car unscathed! Whew!

After a 2 hour nap and a peanut butter sandwich I walked down to the office to return Fr. Ngaruyia’s keys. Locked! OK, over to the rectory. Locked! I turn around, lose my balance and do a lovely face plant in the dirt. I was actually knocked out, but no bones broken, teeth intact, but with a lovely shiner where my glasses (unbroken) had hit my cheek, and a fat lip. Fr. Ngaruyia is standing over me. “What happened?” “Lost my balance and fell.” He’s on his phone, calling Sr. Carren, a physician who lives in the convent here in the compound. Together they take me back up to my house, now in even more disarray with my suitcases and still unpacked shopping. She takes my BP (fine) my pulse (normal) asks me a lot of questions and decides because I have chest pain (which I argue is from hitting the ground) I must see a cardiologist in Nakuru, whom she calls and sets up an appointment for 9 am. Despite my belief that I’m fine (turns out I’m right), everyone, she, Fr. N and Fr. K by phone agree I must do this. I realize if something went wrong here, I’d be a big burden for them and begin to wonder whether 2016 should have been my last visit. I agree to go.

Next morning Hillary arrives and off we go. I’m sore around the midsection, look like somebody gave me a good working over, still jet-lagged, but it’s good to see that familiar road and so glad I don’t have to drive it!

Although traffic is surprisingly light, we arrive 10 minutes late. Hilliary, equally deft driver as Fr. Kiriti, had used the GPS on his phone and driven here without a hitch, except the big glut of traffic coming into town. He drops me (because just like at home, there’s no parking) and I take the elevator to floor 1, where after several wrong offices, I walk in, apologizing for being late. No problem, this is Africa. The doctor has not arrived.

Dr. Duncan Killingo, a handsome young man, begins taking my history, hand writing it all (no computer in sight). He then pulls back a curtain to reveal an examination table, where he proceeds to do an EKG (normal) and Echo Cardiogram (normal, just like it was 2 weeks ago at home) and sends me off, form in hand around the corner to a lab where they will do a Doppler scan of my carotid arteries (clear) and a blood test, revealing an elevated vitamin D level (purposely, thanks to Dr. Damon Miller who insists that we’re all deficient in vitamin D, so the norms are off.) Dr. Killingo is mildly concerned, but I have been reading about the relationship between low vit D and bone breakage and realize how lucky I am to have a high level. No broken bones, despite having been diagnosed with osteopenia in my pre-Dr. Miller days.

Upshot, $200+ later, it is confirmed that I am a fine specimen of an 81-year old who occasionally loses her balance. I have chest pain because I fell. No one knows why I lose my balance. But please don’t worry! I fall at home and I fall here. I just have to be more careful. I’m glad I’m here and anticipate many more adventures, hopefully sans the drama.

There is so much more to tell, but this is getting to be a treatise and I don’t even have any pics!