# 25 Sitting in the Nairobi Airport,

I wouldn’t be sitting here if I hadn’t finished the packing.  Fr. Kiriti had wanted to leave Naivasha at 2 pm and it was exactly 2 pm when I tearfully said good-bye to Hillary, Margaret, Josephat and Cyrus.  It has always been hard to leave, but this time, all I could think of was, “Is this the last time I will see this place?”  I’m having a mental duel, “Of course you’ll come back!” vs “Get real, Margo.  This is the end of a wonderful chapter in your life, but it’s over!”  Which side will win?  Only time will tell, but as we drove out of the compound and up the road, I looked and wondered.  “Will I be back?”

As I think about all the stuff I had packed up to be left at Fr. Kiriti’s house, it looks like yes.  I left nothing in my Mji quarters.  Fr. Ngaruiya assured me I was welcome to stay next year, but if there are no kids there, I can’t stay by myself—too lonesome and I would not feel secure.  Catherine has invited me to stay with her, but 2 ½ months might be a stretch for her.  I could stay at Fr. Kiriti’s house, but that’s far away and again, I would be lonesome by myself, even though it would be secure.  I hate the uncertainty of it all.

But enough of the sadness.  I need to write about the last 2 ½ days.  Saturday night was the last night I would be eating dinner with the kids.  I had bought chicken and enlisted Marion and Jecinta to help me chop the coleslaw, which all the kids, even Joseph, loved.  They rarely eat uncooked vegetables here, so I was more than a bit surprised to see how the scarfed it down.  We had our ceremonial last talk and I then returned to my packing.

Sunday I am a bit lazy and leave my house late to walk the 200 feet to the church.  I think 2 masses this summer actually began at 8:30—and this was #3!  Oops!  I was one of perhaps 50 sluggards, all waiting for a break in the readings to make our way to a pew.  I braved the scorn of those who had been prompt and went all the way down the main aisle to the 5th row back—Jim’s pew.  The celebrant was new to me.  But he kept good time and gave us a good sermon.  I was out on time and after walking down to the gate to collect my newspaper, was soon eating my bran flakes and doing the Sudoku.  My favorite kind of Sunday morning.   BUT—-Regina, math teacher friend from 2005 had said she was coming to say good bye, arriving at noon.  When Cyrus and Mukomi came in to say I had to go with them to approve her new digs and take up a load of her things, I did a quick time calculation and agreed.  “It’ll take only 15 minutes.”  Why do I fall for that?  It’s never just 15 minutes!!

I’ve had to fork over ksh 10,000 ($100) to cover the deposit and first month’s rent, further depleting my rapidly diminishing cash supply.  It will be covered by ETW, except it’s Sunday, Hillary is off, and besides he has no cash until Fr. Kiriti and Alice sign some checks.  Mukomi must report to school on Monday.  We gotta do this.

Her “house” is one room in a compound of about 10, each opening on a common courtyard.  The manager opens the door and I am dumbfounded.  It is a MESS!!!  Dirt and sand all over the floor, no bulb in the light fixture, the loo is filthy, there’s a big bite taken out of the wall at a corner.  We refuse to pay anything until it’s in rentable condition.  Mukomi recognizes a girl living on the 2nd floor and decides to leave her things in that apartment.  I get back to find Regina in my kitchen, happily reading the paper.  We chat and exchange the usual pleasantries, but I keep thinking about all those last-minute things.  I need to pack up my personal kitchen items, there are some crafts yet to be loaded up, dishes to be washed and more fires to put out.  Most of the kids are leaving that day and I need to spend a few minutes with each one—conscious that it could be a “last hug.”  Over and over.  Finally, I find a few minutes and try to find some space on my bed among the suitcases and piles of stuff, to take a quick nap.  I’m wakened by Fr. Kiriti, coming from Nakuru and in a big traffic jam.  We’ve planned he will take some of my things to his house and have dinner together.  Wide awake, I realize I need to say good bye to Fr. Ngaruiya.  He and I have a nice friendship—teasing, argumentative but with mutual respect.  We chat, I taking my last opportunity to nag him about Mji, a social worker for the parish, stuff at SFG, and he to tell me A, B, C about why I’m wrong!  It has always been like that.

Before I know it, Fr. Kiriti is at the rectory door to collect me and of course comes in to greet his colleague.  He invites Fr. N to join us for dinner (he accepts), Kiriti and I load up his car with the items I have ready to go to his place and we hop into Ngaruiya’s car, heading for the Buffalo Mall, where a not-too-fancy restaurant has opened.  It’s a fun evening, lots of laughs and very little agreed on, but I think some of my requests will be honored.

Back home, more last minute items, then climb into my bed for my last night under that damned mosquito net (I won’t miss that) and write for an hour (#24 post).  Slept like a log, awakened to tweak # 24 when suddenly the electricity goes off.  Oops, shoulda’ taken my shower first.  Oh well, we’re not leaving until 2.  Finish tweaking, go into the kitchen where I’ve left some dirty dishes in the sink.  “I’ll just wash them up while I’m waiting for the hot water to boil on the stove.”  OH @#$@#!$@$%^@$ No Water!  What have I done to deserve this?  Plastic pitcher in hand I go into the guest bathroom for water from the spigot there.  “Oh dear, the flusher must not work, as the toilet needs attention.  Must remember to bring in the bucket.”  Fill the pitcher, begin washing cups and mugs, water boils, and suddenly there is water from the faucet.  Begin eating my breakfast, doing the Sudoku, when Cyrus and Mukomi bring in another fire.  She is moving in today but has no way to cook.  She needs a gas cylinder and the gadget that fits on top to put the pots on.  @!@#!$!#^@%$%^*  I call Espedita, who has recently opened a shop selling gas canisters.  Can she help us?  Oh, she is a dear!  She will come by with it and take it and Mukomi.  Just wait about 1 hour.  Next I see Mary, lugging a big heavy suitcase.  She is leaving to stay with her brother until school begins.  How far?  Not far?  Yeah right!  But I take her and to my surprise, it’s not far.  Back home, Espedita has arrived, but bringing not quite what is needed.  She’s an angel.  She takes Mukomi back to get the right things and I go back to my house to find the electricity is back on!  YESSSSS!!!  Quick shower then continue to pack the very last items.  This is just like moving!  Nothing to be left.

Sometime in the midst of all this, Catherine calls to say she is on her way to pick Joseph and Lucas.  I find them, they’re not ready, but are hurrying, ready by the time she arrives.  Each carrying a very small bag of belongings.  Oh God, it’s hard to say good bye to them.   And to Catherine, although she will come to the US in October for a few days.  Joseph and Lucas???  Who knows.

Suddenly it’s 1:15. Fr. N calls to ask whether I’ve had lunch.  No.  I accept his invite for a quick bite.  Back at Mji, Fr. Kiriti has arrived.  I show him what goes to his house (he’ll collect it tomorrow) what goes in the car, last minute hugs, pix, tears.  I take one last look and we are off!  I’m reminded of 5 years ago when Jecinta and Julia were waving good bye at the gate.  I never dreamed I would not see Jecinta again.  She was dead in 3 months.  No one knew she was sick at the time I left.

Naivasha is growing and I wonder, if I do get back what changes will I see?  At some point the road through town will be 2 lanes each direction, street lights will be working, traffic lights? Right turn lanes?  Sidewalks?  They will all come someday.

We do our usual evaluation of the summer’s events, accomplishments, frustrations, disappointments, joys.  We stop at a new mall just outside Nairobi for tea and I want to use the ATM.  “Wrong pin entered.”  Twice I get that.  RATS!!!  We find a tea room and Fr. gets up to get my computer (with list of PINs), but stops to chat with some people in the far corner.  Returning, he tells me it’s Sr. Magdalene, whom I haven’t seen in 5 years.  She finishes with her friends and joins us.  Oh, I’m happy to see her, another powerhouse, who brooks no nonsense.  She was principal of Bahati Girls when I last saw her but is now at Marymount.  Both are top high schools, producing many A’s on the KCSE.  Of course, they get top students to begin with, but they do know how to inspire their girls—something SFG has not yet figured out.  She hopes to retire in 1 ½ years and what a loss to girl’s education.

I never get the ATM to work.  Guess I’ll have to fight with VISA when I get home.  It’s OK, just wanted to give Fr. Kiriti some cash.  He’ll survive.

We pick up Sr. Irene who wanted to see me off.  We’re hoping she will come to the US in April to talk about the Helping Babies Breathe program sponsored by Dr. Ron Ariagno and her wonderful program of bringing Pokot girls to womanhood without “the cut” (FGM).  Right now she is completing her master’s degree in program development, after which she will take a greatly expanded project to other areas as well, helping other tribes, other girls, more babies. Besides being a great force for women, she’s lots of fun.

At the airport, we stop for a last chat, then walk to the door (of no return!)  The tears flow, I walk in.  I’m really leaving.

# 24 Leave Taking

Sunday night and I leave tomorrow, flying out of Nairobi at 11 pm.  I arrive Dubai 5 hours later, have an eternal layover (4 ½ hours), leave Dubai 9:10 am arrive SFO 16 (!!!) hours later.  Yes I will definitely be jet lagged, but culture shock is always the worst part.  I realized a few years ago that it was shocking to be around so many mzungus after spend all this time seeing virtually none.  It takes some getting used to.

We ended the tuitioning on Wednesday, although we had students teaching on Thursday.  My plan was to have plenty of time to pack up.  Ha!  Another case of “People make plans and God laughs!”

Wednesday afternoon I worked, organizing my things, the crafts, the house….. that is, I worked,  between someone at my door, either a friend to say good bye or a kid with a problem, one right after the other.  I felt like I was putting out fires all afternoon, one issue after another, someone needs a room, someone else needs a revision book, someone wants to talk, someone needs some math help.  Later in the afternoon Catherine came by to take me to her home for tea and to see her place, which is really nice, with a great view of the lake (I think, because it had clouded up by then and the lake was hidden in the rain.)  I’m happy to see where Joseph and Lucas will be staying until school takes up September 4.  Back home, more packing, tossing out, organizing in the evening before I fall into bed, exhausted, with much more to do.

Oh well, I have Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning.  Plenty of time.  Can you hear God laughing?   Sure, I organize all day Thursday.  It’ll be fine.  Titter, titter from on high.  More fires to put out, meet with Hillary to plan for the kids who are going off to college for the first time, who pays for what (ETW or the parish?), how do they get there.?  Will Fr. Kiriti allow Hillary to borrow the car to take them—Margaret all the way to Mombasa, far away, some to Nairobi, some to Nakuru (opposite direction)?  He says OK, so that’s settled.  Meet with Tabitha, parish accountant to discuss the shopping for the younger kids going back to school in 1 week.  ARGH!!!!  I really miss Julia.  She took care of all this and now it’s me. Evening and I got a bit more organizing done.  Still much to do.  Oh well, I have Friday, Saturday Sunday and Monday morning.  Ha, ha, ho, ho.

Espedita, whom I hardly knew before this year, popped in Friday morning (I’m still in my PJ’s) to say she wanted to take me to lunch.  She’s one of those folks whom I knew pretty quickly we were kindred spirits, so I said yes, trying to figure out how I would fit that with Agnes arriving from Nakuru at 3 to spend the night.  And when was I going to finish???  I got some work done in the morning, and went off to the Buffalo Mall with Espedita for lunch.  Right away I saw why I like her.  She has an abusive husband, but instead of being cowed into submission like many women, especially African women, she isn’t having any of that.  She has laid down the law!!!  They live in the same house because he wants to have a connection with the children, but that’s it.  No relationship, no nothing and no more abuse.  Very strong lady—just the kind I like!

The rain began as we received our lunch.  Another elephants and giraffe’s event and we were still eating when Agnes’s matatu was supposed to arrive.  I called her.  She was almost in Naivasha.  “Don’t worry.  Find some shelter.  We’ll pick you in 15 minutes.  The roads were awash with water, literally like a river in the road.  I spotted her standing under an overhanging roof.  She ran to the car and soon we were at my small house.  As I introduced the 2 of them, I realized they have the same story.  Abusive husband, wife who’s having none of it, some sort of accommodation because of the children.  So I invited Espedita for tea and to get acquainted.  My instincts were right on—-they really connected!

Among Agnes’s many accomplishments is her work in peace and reconciliation.  I think her work may be a big part of the peace in Naivasha (where she worked with Catherine’s assistant, Wanjiru) and in Nakuru, both sites of major violence in 2008.  I had introduced Catherine, Agnes and Wanjiru some years ago and they also connected.  While we talked, Wanjiru called Agnes, who invited her to join us.  She did.  Wanjiru is another no-nonsense, straight talking powerful woman.  I tell you, there was so much energy in that room, the walls were quivering!

During the conversation, I happened to mention Lucy, who is pretty vulnerable now, having run away from Mji some years ago and now at age 23, (I think) with 3 children and no education, no skills, no job so no money.  Wanjiru listened for about 2 minutes, then announced, “I will take care of her.  I will be her mother.”  I called Lucy, they talked, made plans to meet and I sighed, happy to have one fire well under control.  Later I mentioned Kantai, another troubled Mji kid. He has had training to drive heavy equipment and trucks, but also has no contacts and no job.  This time it was Espedita who picked up her phone.  I found Kantai, introduced them and maybe something will come from that.  Fire # 2 under control?  Maybe.  Espedita and Wanjiru left together, newly acquainted, but already planning some mutual projects.  I was sorry the quartet was broken up but it did give me time to fix some dinner for Agnes and me and for us to chat.  It’s always good.  I got some more organizing done, then fell into bed.  Oh, well, I still have Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning to finish.

Agnes left early, and I got to work—until Cyrus came in to talk about Mukami, who will be studying at the Kenya Wildlife Service station in Naivasha, but since Mji is closing, she needs to find a room.  ARGH!!!  Where is Julia when we need her?  Cyrus takes over, plans with Mukami, she goes off with Mungai to find a place, and I get more packing done until Cyrus comes in again.  He and Joseph had been working to clean up the Mji compound.  Joseph confessed he was very sad about the closing of Mji, where he had finally found some degree of stability until April when Julia announced she was leaving for the US, where she would get married.  Joseph was devastated.  Now he was facing another 2 weeks before school took us for the third term  and he didn’t know where he would be.  No one, not me, not Cyrus, not Catherine, not Fr. Ngaruiya, no one had told him that he and Lucas would be living with Catherine and her children.  ARGH!!!  I hadn’t given it a thought.  I assumed someone had talked with them about it and determined that’s what they wanted.  OK.  We find the 2 boys, bring them into my kitchen and tell them.  Neither looked very happy.  Joseph still was unreconciled to the closing of Mji and Lucas wasn’t much happier.  I call Catherine.  She says she has planned an outing for her kids that afternoon, and she’ll pick up Joseph and Lucas to join them.  They’ll eat lunch in a restaurant and go on the outing.  I thought they’d be very excited.  Many of the kids have never eaten in a restaurant!  Lucas, “I don’t want to go.”  “Have you ever eaten in a restaurant?”  “Yes.  I didn’t like it.”  “What’s not to like.  You can order anything you want.”  “Do you like hamburgers?”  “No”.  “Hotdogs?”  “NO”.  “Chicken?”  “No”.  “Fish?”  “Yes.”  “OK, order fish.”  Catherine and Francis arrive, the boys get in the car and I pray they’ll have a good time.  Three, maybe 4 hours later, they returned, beaming!!!  They’d gone to the lake, had fish for lunch and taken a boat ride.  Then they’d gone to Catherine’s house where they saw the room they would share and suddenly it was great.  They’d had a nice afternoon with Michael and Louis and the big worry was gone.

While all this was going on the kids were cleaning the compound and as I inspected, some ladies arrived with lots of food.  The church compound outside the Mji wall was teaming with kids, there for a big event and they were to be fed within the Mji compound.  ARGH!!!  Bound to be more mess.  I went to the market to buy our Saturday dinner and upon return found at least 200 kids within our area, jumping, yelling, racing around, playing on the teeter totter, tumbling down the slide, eating little lollipops on a stick, having dropped the paper on our newly cleaned up ground (and later dropping the paper stick).  I retreated to my house and put a few more things in the suitcase.  The one Fr. Kiriti would bring in October was complete and others were filling up.  I began to believe I would actually be ready at 2 pm on Monday.

You may be wondering why I had so much to do.  Because Mji is closing, I’ve decided not to leave anything of mine here.  It will all be stored at Fr. Kiriti’s house here in town.  Since my return next summer is very uncertain, I am bringing home stuff I might have left here.  Moreover, I have 3 suitcases to fill with many fragile crafts.  Each item I picked up had to be classified, (1) stay in my metal trunk, to be stored at Fr. Kiriti’s house, (2) go in the suitcase Fr. Kiriti would bring over in October, (3) go in the checked luggage (2 suitcases) (4) Go in my carry on. (5) be given to one of the kids, (6) to be tossed.  And I still didn’t have all the crafts until Saturday afternoon.  The lady who makes the mama dolls had been burned out by thugs after the election.  She barely could get 12 more made. As I’m making those decisions, kids and friends are poking heads in for one thing or another.  By the time I turned in Saturday night, I felt things pretty much under control.  And I still had Sunday and Monday morning.

To be continued.

# 23 ½ Catherine’s New Info About Baby Betsy

This is essentially what Catherine wrote to me.  I will add a few explanatory words in parentheses, but these are her words.

Thanks very much Margo for sharing this story. It is still taking a big toll on my thoughts and am not able to focus much on other stuff until we have resolved this Julia and Betsy issue.

On our visit at Julia’s grandmom Sunday, a few key things kept going through my mind:

  1. The daughter, Julia’s mom, is actually bed ridden. Julia’s grandma (Betsy’s great-grandmother. It is the g-grand who had the stroke) takes care and nurses her.
  2. Two of Julia’s cousins, handsome boys orphaned by the death of their mom, who was a beneficiary of Life Bloom till 2006, are also under the care of the same grandma.

from left:  Laura, Michael, grandson, Kimami, Catherine, Rosemary, (Catherine’s good friend,) who taught bio one day, Betsy on her great-grandmother’s lap.

  1. Julia’s grandma has no access to piped water, yet the piece of land where her semi-permanent structure stands is in her name. On average, she buys water from the donkey water vendors at Ksh200 each day for domestic use. Thinking very fast on Sunday, I decided to request the Naivasha Water Company where I sit as the Director’s Chairperson, to waive some costs for water installation for Julia’s grandma. (Remember she can’t carry a can of water because her one leg and arm are semi-paralyzed.)

Yesterday she came to the office as earlier agreed, bringing Betsy with her.

In LB offices, Kimami, Catherine, LB staffer, Wanjiru, 2 more LB staffers, g. grandmother with Betsy.

  1. Since she couldn’t carry BABY Betsy on her back or arms, the young boy in the pic, her orphaned grandson, (Kimani) carried the baby on his back. I took Julia’s grandma to the water company offices to fill in the forms for water connection. The staff I met was just “stunned”. (Catherine has also been chairperson of the water company, which, under her leadership, has connected many Naivasha people to water.  In fact, I’ve wondered if that is why I’ve seen fewer donkey carts this year.)
  2. I have requested Francis (Catherine’s friend) to help me raise the about 7000sh ($70) needed to connect grandma’s homestead with piped water. This should be done in the coming two weeks. Her access to piped water will help her save some money every month, and Wanjiru will be training her on vegetable sack farming to be able to grow her own fresh vegetables and save on the same costs. (This is the kind of outcome when Catherine and Life Bloom become involved. At the same time, I’ve asked about the 2 grandsons, Kimami and Gatonye, and their schooling.  Kimami is in class 8 and Gatonye is in form 1 at Milimani, a day school right next to the parish compound.  I’ve suggested that if they are good students they might be candidates for sponsorship by Kenya Help through ETW.  She has promised to investigate their grades and help with the applications for Jan 2018 if they qualify.  Currently the g.grandmother does casual jobs to earn school fees for their “free” public education.  If they can be sponsored, they can go to Ndingi and have a much better chance to succeed.  LB would possibly supply volunteers to help g. grandmother care for grandmother.)




(two more pix of Baby Betsy’s home life)

# 23 How Is the Tuitioning Going?

We’ve been meeting 9 am to 1 pm for most of 2 weeks, with one day off for the election.  Each day brings a different configuration of students to be taught and volunteers to teach them.  Many of the students are sponsored by my dear friend, Mary Fry, and her Bloom Where Planted foundation, based in Pasadena.  Her agent, James Mugo, is really on the ball, gathering the kids and bringing them here to Mji.  By far, the greatest number are form 4’s, about 30 of them yesterday.  We’ve spent as much as 4 hours a day on math, with biology, physics and chemistry being offered when someone was available.

My morning began today with finding out which of the form 3’s and 4’s take which science and then trying to match up kids with teachers and rooms.   After finding the yard man to open one classroom, I started out teaching the 2’s until Kevin showed up and I was free!  It’s good to have some time, as I’ve been feeling exhausted.  Four hours on my feet (on concrete floors) yesterday about did me in.

James has been great about finding graduates who did very well in high school to teach.  As I write, Lydia, form 4 from SFG, is teaching biology to 22 form 3 and 4’s in the Mji dining room.When I asked this morning about who wanted biology, many raised their hands. “OK who is good in biology?”  Several people indicated Lydia, who shyly agreed that she does well and would be willing to teach the class.  When I walked in later, to take the picture, I could see she’s doing a great job.  Students were attentive, taking notes.

One of 2 Kevins is using the old Mji kitchen to teach physics to 8 form 3’s and 4’s.  A graduate of Ndingi and one of Mary Fry’s sponsored students, he will begin university in September.

Maxwell started out teaching math to 5 form 2’s, but when I came in to take the picture, they had changed to chemistry, which he seemed to be handling like a pro.

Other Kevin is teaching math to 3 form 1’s, including our Lucas from Mji on the far end.  He’s another Ndingi graduate who earned A in math and is headed to university to study economics.

At 1 o’clock I visited each room to see how things had gone (well, by all reports).  I found Nancy, another SFG grad and Mary Frey kid, talking to the group about the English exam and about her experiences in university.  Nancy is a student I know because she is so vibrant, so full of energy and such fun.  She was the emcee of SFG Talent Show in her 4th year.  Did a fab job!

Having some time has stimulated my thinking about next year and following years.  What will happen to the tuitioning program if I don’t come again?  That’s a distinct possibility, given how it has been for me this year.  I’m definitely feeling my age.  What I’m thinking is that James Mugo can organize students to do the teaching and I think Fr. Ngaruiya would be open to letting the rooms be used.  I like the idea of students teaching students and see it as the long-term solution to this need.  Clearly the students find it useful, or they wouldn’t keep turning up.

Another reason my future here is uncertain is the distinct possibility of permanently closing Mji.  Where would I stay?  Catherine has offered to host me, but I think having a guest for 2 ½ months would be hard for her, if for no other reason than she is traveling more and more as her Life Bloom program becomes known.  She has spoken in several European countries, other African countries and of course in the US.  If you haven’t acquainted yourself with her and her work, I urge you to visit www.lifebloomservicesintl.org  She is working to help establish LB programs in other parts of the world, particularly in areas where women and girls are most vulnerable.

I’ve known Catherine since 2005, have hosted her severally in Menlo Park, and continue to be in awe of all she does.  It’s not just that she created an organization the likes of which had not been seen and has now interacted with over 6000 women and girls (and a few men), but also she is very much on the ground with individuals.  I wrote earlier this year about Julia, a very vulnerable woman and her child, Betsy, named for Betsy Rose of Berkeley, who happened to be visiting Life Bloom at the time of baby Betsy’s birth in 2016.  Unfortunately, Julia is quite unstable, having had many life challenges.  Currently she is missing, with baby in the care of the grandmother, who recently suffered a stroke and is partially paralyzed on one side.  She has no money for her own food, let alone to feed Betsy.  When I encountered Catherine in the church parking last Sunday, she was on her way to the market to buy food for Betsy and grandmother.  I contributed to that, but it’s only a short-term solution.  Grandmother needs support for herself and Betsy needs a stable environment.  Child abandonment is a felony, so Julia will probably end up in jail when she is found.  Children up to school age are usually with their mothers in the jail, but as you can imagine, it’s not an ideal environment in which to raise a child.  These are issues Catherine deals with on a daily basis, as well as running LB.  What makes it possible is the staff organization she has developed.  Wanjiru is her 2nd in command and is a powerful woman in her own right.  The 2 of them are a double whammy!!!!  She has trained her staff so well they are able to carry on the program in her absence.

The woman on the left is a LB participant and a female donkey cart driver—very unusual for women, but LB ladies can do anything, when they are empowered!  She is teaching Wanjiru how to balance the load for best results.  Note the donkey on the left is attached to its mother, not to the cart.  That’s how the training begins.  This picture is from 2011, taken during preparation for a donkey cart race, one of the many fund-raising activities taken on by LB.

In addition to being LB Executive Director on the macro level and dealing with individual crises on the micro level, Catherine has 3 teen aged children, Laura in university, Louis in form 1 and Michael in class 8.  Can you imagine she is also finishing her PhD work (in her spare time????)

(later)  I sent the above to Catherine to verify I had all the facts.  She wrote back more information about Julia, Betsy, Betsy’s grandmother and Betsy’s great grandmother.

I will send her writings as an addendum, along with some pix.


# 22 Mji Wa Neema Reunion

Hard-working men prepare the fire.  Wekesa, Patrick, Josephat, Antony, Evans, Joseph.

Soon after, charcoal was added to make coals on which they roasted the sheep.  In the meantime Antony, one of the founders of Mji, held forth, man-to-man.  The boys were not just respectful, but very appreciative of the advice they gave him.  Without Fr. Kiriti in the parish the boys have not had a man to talk to them.  Hillary does counsel them, but he’s not a whole lot older than they are.

I don’t think I can describe how the day has been, except to say that everywhere the kids are talking to each other, teasing, playing games, just enjoying being a family.  I’ve tried to get pictures and while they will give you some idea, they can’t truly convey the energy and fun.

Simon washes the porch while Selinah supervises!  Every day the walkways are splashed with water and swept.  Usually it is seen as women’s work, but at Mji, the boys have had to pitch in as well.  They all know how to cook and clean

Evelyn and Esther make chapattis.   It’s a long process, first make the dough and let it sit.  It has no yeast, so doesn’t rise.  Form into ball, roll out.  They know how to make them perfectly round.  Cook, one at a time on a slightly concave cast iron pan, turning by hand (they must have asbestos fingers!)  For over 30 people, they probably made close to 100.

This is Tabitha (aka Mokami) and a friend preparing stew.  Mokami is cutting the very last wisps of meat from the sheep bone, while the friend is pounding garlic into a pulp.  They are on the other side of the kitchen wall from where the chapattis are being made.

Margaret and Lucas stand in the dining room at the pass-through window from the kitchen.  Cynthia and Kamau (in white hoodie) wait for filled dinner plates to put on the table.  As is the custom, most of the roasted sheep was eaten before we even sat down for our meal.  For our dinner, we had chicken, a mutton stew, with rice pilaf, chapattis and coleslaw (thanks to Kate, for setting me straight on the spelling—duh!)  The tables were all pushed together so we were one big group, over 30 of us, all chatting, teasing, eating, laughing—being together as family.

No Kenyan event is complete without a speech and this was no different.  I talked about the job each of them needs to complete, namely doing their very best in school, not only to ensure the best possible future, but also to let our donors know their gifts have been well spent.  Most of them are working hard, but a few are slackers.  I introduced that term and noted they knew who the slackers are and so do I!!!  (school marm stare over the top of glasses).  I pointed out some who have had outstanding academic results.  “Each one of them made a decision at some point that he or she wanted to achieve a goal, be it doctor, lawyer, engineer, or whatever.  The rest of you need to made that decision too.  You don’t have a family to carry you.  You each need to be self-supporting and a contributing member of the community.  The way to achieve that is through school!!!”

Cyrus, as eldest brother also talked at length.  Even though he is one of them, all respect his position as eldest and listen.  It’s so interesting to see how that works.  Fr. Kiriti told me once that in his family of 8 boys and 2 girls, he (5th born) is the go-to person when someone in the family has a need, but the eldest (surviving) brother has all the authority.  He’s the eldest, whether or not he is the wisest.

We were pretty stuffed after that meal, so agreed to meet at 8 for cake and ice cream.  At the appointed hour, I brought out the cake, still in its box and said a few words about it’s being a special day for someone who had finished her schooling and it’s……(bringing out the cake) RUTH who has completed her training.  She was stunned!!!  Flabergasted.

Totally surprised.  Her mouth flew open, she covered her face, as kids do sometimes when overwhelmed, then she ran from the room, but came right back and beamed.  The kids all cheered her and clapped.  It was perfect and she couldn’t have been happier.

The custom here is that the honored guest takes a platter of cake pieces and feeds each person who has honored her.  It took a few minutes for her to process what was to be done, but then she really got into it!  After each guest is fed, the honoree is fed by several guests.  Sometimes they make the pieces too big and it gets to be a mess, but the kids did it so well.  You can see how happy she was.  This morning, (now it’s Sunday) she brought me a very sweet thank you note.

Below, Ruth is feeding Lucas, with Simon standing, John in the red hat, Tylon wrapped in the blanket and Evans.

This is Mungai feeding Ruth.

Later we Skyped with Judy.  The kids were so happy to see her and at first bunched around the computer.  Later they each sat to have a personal word with her.  Judy has always been a big favorite.  She was the one who organized great outings for them.  They will always remember her.

Marion takes her turn talking to Judy while her sister, Jecinta finishes the last bit of ice cream.  Joseph’s hat is too big.  Cynthia, Josephat and Ruth are behind, awaiting their turn.

It was such a good day!  My fear is it will be the last one here, unless the prospects for Mji change