#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!


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