#10 – A Special Need

June 27, 2018

If you haven’t received # 9 don’t fuss.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I will.  I am currently at SFG, where a pressing problem was brought to my attention just now.  Lucy, a form 4 girl, last of 8 children, none educated, was being sponsored by an aunt.  The aunt paid fees for 2 years, but stopped paying.  Here’s the rub.  The mother was not told, the fee arrears piled up and the principal did not do her job, which was in the least to notify the parents and at most, send the Lucy home.  Now, 2 years later, the family owes some $1600, a huge amount. 

Lydia, the new principal came to find me in the library, where I was helping some form 1’s with percentage questions.  She wanted me to come to her office to talk to Lucy, her mother and another lady who seems to be a distant relative.  They had come to withdraw Lucy from school.  The mother is such as I have seen many times, a simple lady, speaks no English, had the 8 kids, poor and wanting so much for at least child to have high school. 

I wish I could say Lucy is a strong student, but she is average.  Yet she is a very sweet girl.  My heart is so sad that she has attended SFG 3 ½ years but can’t be allowed to sit for the exam with such a large amount owing. 

The mother has managed to raise about $150, from family members and a small “bursary” from the county education office.  I’ve asked whether ETW can cover some of it, can the school “swallow” some of it, since it was negligence on the part of the previous principal.  But can some of my followers also help, as will I?  No one needs give a lot, if a lot of people give a little.

Here is a picture of the distant relative, Principal Lydia, Lucy and mom.  I made jokes so they would smile.  The faces were very serious before, as this seemed to be the end of a dream.

You may have noticed that I’ve not included pix in my blogs.  It’s because it has come to our attention that privacy issues are such that each person pictured must give written consent (or the parent is under 18).  That is so much bother and often impossible here at SFG because the parents aren’t here.  However all those shown have given me written consent.

We are also trying to arrange for Lucy to stay in Naivasha for the 2 weeks after school closes in August so she can take advantage of the tuitioning we offer.  It’s mostly math, but kids often stay in the afternoon to study other subjects together and sometimes I find a teacher to help them.  It would help Lucy a great deal to get that academic support.

Ordinarily in a case like this, the student would be sent home.  After all, the food must be paid for, the teachers and other staff paid.  The fees must be paid to support the running of the school.  Yet this situation is unique in my experience, that arrears would be permitted to accrue for 2 years with nothing done.  Moreover, the ultimate price is paid by the student for failure of adults to take care of business.  I’m learning that the previous principal failed in her duty in many other respects.  Lydia has been very open with me about what she has faced coming here.  She is a no-nonsense woman who is tackling a tough job, with many issues, but they can’t all be solved at once.

So, my friends, if you can spare some help for Lucy, it would be wonderful.  Lydia is allowing her to stay in school to continue preparing for the KCSE in the belief that we can find the funds to pay the arrears.  I think we can.  It is just for this kind of situation that I come here. 

Thank you in advance and if this isn’t possible for you, don’t feel bad.  It will happen somehow.

# 8 – Observations in Mass and More Visitors

As predicted, mass began ½-hour late.  Waiting along with a growing crowd, I looked around for someone to steady me going up the wide steps.  Two nuns made eye contact and  we greeted. I asked one to assist me, which she kindly did and I proceeded to Jim’s pew.  I always think of him as I sit there and this morning, for some reason, felt teary.  It’s been 19 years, so I don’t often tear up, but there I was.  Not wanting to embarrass myself, I began note the hair-do’s of the women in the choir in front of me.  In the past there have been really elaborate braiding designs, but I see that many middle-aged women have now chosen not to spend all day Saturday in the salon, but rather have short hair or simple comb-backs.  Some resort to either the traditional head-scarf or a wig. 

Mass begins in a processional of dancing children, trained by a very sweet lady. They are incredibly cute and energetic, feeling the honor of having been selected for that week.  Next come the altar servers, most of whom were girls, identified by their neatly corn-rowed braids.  Again this is an honor to be chosen.  They are very well trained and take it all very seriously.  The pageantry is colorful.  I always enjoy that part.

There are 2 times when people leave their seats, one is to give their offerings, putting the coins or bills through a small slot in a big metal box, then filing back to the seats.  The other is communions time.  This is a big church in which there are 6 columns of pews and I don’t know how many rows, but many.  Each row holds some 50 to 60 people.  I need to count them some time, but I’m guessing well over 1000 people come to each of 3 masses.  The point being it takes a long time for that many people to file down and back.  Since Jim’s pew in 5thfrom the front, I have a good opportunity to observe the people—young girls with elaborate hair do’s and often very tight skirts, old women in head scarves and mid-calf skirts, men in jeans in tees, coats, suits, but not often ties.  A third filing down is for the offering. Each Sunday a “small Christian Community”, of which there are 30-some, is assigned to bring food.  Mostly it’s women who come carrying a bag of flour or sugar, some apples, potatoes, bananas, watermelon.  Whatever each has and can offer.  This is given to the priest, who hands it off to his helpers, who pile it in the corner.  They carry their portion in beautifully woven baskets or on woven trays.  Later they have to retrieve their baskets and trays. The food is for the priests in the rectory, the nuns in the convent and I think is shared with the poor, but not sure. During Fr. Kiriti’s time it also was shared with the Mji kids as well.  When there was a social worker in the parish she regularly gave food to desperate people, often young mothers trailed by small children or the very elderly.

Sitting next to me was a young mom with a son who seemed to be about 5.  He didn’t even peep during mass, but entertained himself finger-walking along the back of the forward pew, quietly talking to himself, swinging his legs and occasionally trying to see over the people in front, which he couldn’t do.  I wanted very much to lift him onto my lap, but couldn’t ask the mother for permission. Occasionally I felt his small shoulder kind of snuggling up to mine or look over to receive a shy smile from him. So sweet.

As is often the case, the celebrant was a visiting priest, very animated while addressing the children, seated on both sides of the church, seeming to tell them a bit of the story from the readings.  Then he launched into his real sermon, which went on for 45 minutes. I found him very hard to understand, both because the sound system isn’t great and also because the accents are hard for me.  Naturally my mind wandered and I was very happy there was no test at the end.  I’d have failed miserably.  I thought about the sermon at the last mass I attended at home. The priest said his philosophy is to make the listeners feel better than when they came in—to be an inspiration. I’m not sure about the rest of the congregation who could probably follow him, but for me?  Well….

Diana Naserian came to visit in the afternoon.  She is someone I have supported to become a pre-school teacher. The process involves 3 levels, the first of which she has completed.  She earned a certificate, but can’t be employed until she receives that document.  Often it can take up to a year!!!  Can you imagine?  In August she will begin the 2nd2-year set of course, leading to a diploma and a much better salary.  The tertiary 2-years lead to a degree, which is her goal and I hope to be around long enough to see her through.  In the meantime, she lives with her younger brother.  They support themselves doing crafts which they sell in the market. She brought me a bracelet she’d made and a beaded belt from her brother.  Diana first came to my attention when you next younger sister, Mary, had a child from a very sad situation.  Diana took her in and supported her through the pregnancy and during the first months after.  Diana is the oldest of 6, all from an alcoholic mother and different fathers. As such, she feels very close to her siblings and has taken on the responsibility to see them through school. She and her brother pay fees for a younger one, in 6thgrade.  She had asked me for a computer.  Thanks to the ever-resourceful Flora Sullivan, KH president, I got her a very nice one through “Computers for Everyone”—I think that’s the name, but not sure—an EPA group providing refurbished computers for foundations. It was a very low price and came loaded the MS software.  Diana was so happy!!!  She says she has taught herself many beading techniques from watching Youtube videos. She lives in Naivasha, up towards SFG and offered to come help me any time I needed it.  Of all the kids I’ve helped, Diana has been the most grateful. Her dream is to open a preschool. She’s a very loving person and is perfect for that. 

Later Joyce Muturia, a very long time friend who has visited me in the US, along with husband Charles, came by.  We had so much to share, we could hardly tear ourselves away, but driving after dark is very hard here.  Joyce is an entrepreneur and ever-busy with new projects.  She finished pharmacy school some time back, then returned to medical school to become a doctor.  While there she took over management of a restaurant on the campus.  Because the university professors are vastly underpaid and overworked, they strike.  Joyce had to leave that job because the university was closed so much.  That same issue has interfered with the education of many of our sponsored kids.  Cyrus, who was to complete his pharmacy education in a few months from now, may not finish until December or even later.  So sad.

Joyce then opened a restaurant in Naivasha, but not content with that, she leased the whole building, which she is renovating, along with the owner, to be a hotel.  Now she tells me she wants to open a school for kids who are not academically inclined, but good at sports.  While emphasizing the sports, they will work in a farm to grow their food, thus learning good agriculture practices as well as other useful skills.  She wants very much to give back to the community, in particular to the unfortunate kids who either can’t thrive in the very rigid Kenyan education system, or perhaps have not had the opportunity because of school fees. She is a woman of great energy and vision who inspires me as well.

Several days ago I bought a chicken.  Because my oven is so unreliable I cut it up and boiled it.  I had not gone to the market for onions or any of the other vegetables I might have added to it, but by the time it was done, I was so hungry it tasted very good.  Yesterday I chopped some, mixed in a bit of mayo, added sliced avocado and had a great sandwich. 

Because I’m alone so much, I have taken to listening to books on CD, which I loaded only my computer before leaving home.  I do love being read to, so it is going almost literally day and night. I’m listening to the Outlander books of which there are 8.  I was never able to get the set for book 5, but have all the rest, plus an autobiography of Elizabeth Warren and a few others.  I have more than enough to get me through the summer, although I won’t listen so much after my US visitors arrive July 2, just 1 week.  That will be so fun.  One is a retired nurse, having worked at Stanford Hosp for 35 years. The other is her daughter, who works in HR and wants to spend time at Life Bloom. 

This is now Monday morning.  I’m going to SFG to begin my work there as soon as I get myself ready and make another chopped chicken and avocado sandwich to take along.  And thus my real summer is beginning.

# 7 – Today I Am the Visitor, not the Visitee

Despite my having wakened at 6:30, it was 11 am before I drove into Naivasha Boarding, a boys primary school, which Joseph attends. I’d had to field some phone calls, respond to emails, gather up my laundry to be done in the parish machine.  Off to the Naivas to get a Black Forest Torte, Joseph’s favorite, plus some juice and a chocolate bar, all requested by Catherine Wanjohi, his foster mom. I was first distracted by trying to find a large washing basin for my laundry.  I’d crossed the road, wandered down a rough dirt lane.  Stopping by a shop I was told “There is a shop selling plastic things just there” (pointing).  I went “just there”, but no such shop.  “No, it’s down that way”, indicating further along.  Picking my way carefully among the stones and rubble so common in the streets here, I inquired several more places before my search was successful.  I had to climb several uneven cement steps, and stood waiting for the customer before me to complete her purchases, put away her purse, stuff the items in her backpack and almost knock me over.  Seeing a large green tub, I pointed it out to a very nice young man, who got it down and industriously wiped out the ever-present dust.  “How much?” I asked the lady in charge.  “Ksh 380”.  OK and I handed her the money.  “May I borrow your young man for a few minutes?”  Handing him back the tub and grabbing his arm to steady myself, I walked with him back to the main street, where the surface was reasonably smooth. I thanked him and I walked across to the Naivas.  While there, I noted a similar item for ksh 1310.  Hmmm, quite a markup.  Besides I like buying from the small shops.  It’s just that the walking is hard getting to them.  I’m getting quite brazen, grabbing a stranger and asking for an arm to steady myself.  People are inevitably very nice and willing to help a decrepit old lady! 

Waiting for me by my car was the ever-present parking attendant, wanting the ksh 80 fee to park.  ARGH!   Back on the road I tried to remember how to get to the road to the prison, and suddenly I remembered the funny disorganized street pattern.  Sure enough, just as I’d been told, the sign for Naivasha Boarding was on the left.  The school is about 500 yards down a very dusty road, full of cars ahead of me, kicking up a thick dust cloud as they too, headed for the school to visit their sons. This necessitated closing the windows, raising the inside temp to what felt like the 90’s.

Last year when I went to this same event, Joseph had seen us, recognized the car, as we drove in.  This time I had to drive way around to the playing field where possibly 100 boys were gathered, in hopes that someone would come to visit them, while all around the field and other places in the large campus were families in clusters, already enjoying each other.  ARGH!  How was I to find Joseph among the sea of brown faces, shaved heads, green sweaters and grey shorts?  Catherine, out of the country, had written to tell me of the day, explaining she had delegated her sister, Evelyn, to bring the requisite banquet and giving me her phone number, so I called.  She and a nephew had already arrived and were sitting on a bench outside Joseph’s classroom, waiting for the teacher conference.  She sent Joseph to find me, which he did right away.  Being the only mzunguin the whole place, I wasn’t hard to spot. 

As we walked back toward his classroom, he told me he’d been told Catherine is away, so he figured no one was coming.  Now here I was, in addition to some 7 or 8 of Catherine’s family.  I handed him the box with the torte, cautioning him to carry it flat. Remembering I’d brought that same torte last year, he grinned happily and held it carefully.

He doesn’t talk much, but we quickly found the classroom and Evelyn, whom I immediately liked.  She reminds me a lot of Catherine.  We sat together on what I would have dubbed the “miscreant’s bench” were I a teacher there.  They sit outside the classrooms, presumably for that purpose, except when populated by parents. 

Shortly our turn came up.  We found a pleasant young man who looked at Joseph fondly as we sat down to get the report.  Joseph is sadly near the bottom of the class.  When the teacher asked him what he thought prevented his doing better in math, he thought for a minute.  “I don’t understand the questions,” he replied.  Ah, such a common problem.  It’s not that students don’t know how to do the computations.  They just can’t figure out what to do.  We talked about that a bit, after which I asked Joseph to step out for a minute.  I wanted the teacher to know a bit of Joseph’s story, his transition from a (mostly) street kid, fending for himself, developing street kid skills—lying and stealing—to staunch his hunger.  At Mji, he had a hard time with things like bathing (screamed like he was being beaten), washing clothes, helping with chores and mostly, going to school.  He couldn’t read, hadn’t figured out the decoding and was terribly frustrated.  He knew almost no English.  Today what I saw was a shy, but confident boy of 13, standing before us and his teacher, quietly explaining what he thought he could do to improve. He spoke in English with ease, using complete sentences and looking us in the eye.  I wanted that teacher to know the tremendous strides Joseph has made. He will catch up, I’m certain. Under Catherine’s loving care, Joseph’s anger and frustration seem to have slipped away, giving him the chance to become a real student.  It was wonderful to see.

The 3 of us walked back across the grounds to the spot chosen by Evelyn and sat on the ground, chatting.  As we talked, she told me she too, is a math teacher, at the university.  I’d known that at some point, but had forgotten.  We discussed the shortcomings of the math curriculum here, until I had to leave for my next event.

Nancy Glaser is an old friend who now works for Stanford Seed, (google it), living in Nairobi.  She wrote to me several days ago to say she would be in NVA today, on an outing down by the lake and would I like to join them for lunch.  I’d agreed before I knew about Joseph’s event, and I did want to see Nancy, so after stopping by my house to use my western-style toilet—can’t do the squatters anymore— I headed off, thinking I understood the directions.  Head toward Nakuru, turn at the road to Hell’s Gate, go along for some 20 minutes, look for the big sign board on the right—Fisherman’s Camp.  I drive and drive on a road that might be smooth and nice until suddenly it’s a sea of potholes—so many it’s not possible to dodge them.  One must simply choose which hole to go through. In some places the road was clear, even deserted, others full of slow moving lorries, heavily loaded as usual and spewing black smoke as usual.  All along I’m watching for the promised “Fisherman’s Camp” great, big sign board. Several times I stopped to ask was it further ahead.  Most Kenyans are eager to be of help and will answer the question whether or not they’ve even understood it, let alone know the answer.  Once I pulled alongside a waiting matatu to ask the driver (surely he would know).  He couldn’t pick what I was asking, despite how slowly and carefully I pronounced it. Finally a man alighted, crossed the street and was able to convey my question.  “Yes, it’s further on.”  I drive and drive then spot a shelter with 2 policemen.  I stop there.  “Yes, it’s further on.”  I drive and drive, my 20 minute journey having stretched to nearly an hour.  At one point I see “Fish Eagle Camp”.  No she clearly said, “Fisherman’s camp”. When I got to the entrance to Hell’s Gate, I’m sure I’d passed it.  That is confirmed by the piki-piki driver waiting at the intersection for a fare.  “It’s back about 3 kilometers.”  ARGH!!!  Seeing nothing else, I turned in at Fish Eagle Camp and only then did I see a sign in fancy script, very hard to read and impossible while driving by, dodging the potholes.—Fisherman’s Camp.  Indeed this is where I was heading.  After only a few more wrong turns, I find my way and see Nancy, madly waving to me, even as we spoke on the phone.

We had a lovely lunch and opportunity to catch up. She has been doing international work for maybe 8 years or so and loves it.  Her focus is helping entrepreneurs set up successful manufacturing businesses that will provide thousands of jobs for locals, as well as develop international markets for Kenyan goods.  I’ve seen for years that graduates have a very hard time finding jobs, so I was really glad to hear about her work.  Evidently several very big donors are funding this work.

I couldn’t stay too long, having yet a 3rdevent, Talent Show at SFG.  As I was about to leave, it occurred to me that Nancy could go with me if we got out somewhat ahead of her group.  We could stop by SFG so she could at least see it.  She’s been a loyal blog reader from the very beginning and I wanted her to see what I’ve been writing about for 14 summers.  We headed back along the pothole, lorry jammed road, through NVA, past the very large Catholic Church, completed by Fr. Kiriti (along with SFG) during his 9 years here and on to the school.  The girls had just finished lunch and were ready to resume the program.  We walked through the entrance passageway and out into the quad.  After all these years, it still takes my breath away the first time I come each year.  Nancy has seen enough of African schools to know how great this one is.  She seems impressed

As we headed to the Gean Jill dining hall, named for donor Jean Gill, who loves the transposition and doesn’t want it changed, we met Lydia, new principal, who greeting us warmly and pointed out the journalist from The Nation,there to record the events of the day.  To my knowledge, this is the first time SFG has had this kind of recognition.  He turned out to be the very videographer I’d interviewed in my kitchen last week, to possibly create some videos for our website. Nice coincidence.

We could stay only briefly, as we didn’t want to keep Nancy’s bus waiting up on the road, maybe 1000 yards away.  As it turned out, they’d stopped for petrol, so we could have stayed longer, but we just sat by the side of the road, chatting and waiting until the bus arrived.  She ran across the road through a fortunate break in the heavy traffic and I was on my way back home.

I collected my laundry, (no more hand washing for me), and back home, flopped on my bed tired, but happy for a very full day, which, it turned out wasn’t quite over.  Patrick, lately of Mji, knocked on my door.  He had seen me and came to visit.  Having completed Archbishop Ndingi in November, is waiting to begin a course in mechanical engineering.  He can’t attend university, having earned a grade too low for admission, but will be at one of the many technical institutes here.  It’s not clear to me how employable the graduates of said institutes are, but it’s the best he could do.  He believes if he does very well at the institute he can enroll in university for a degree.  Maybe by then Nancy’s work will have begun to show progress.

And now, dear readers I’ve glance up to see it’s 10:58 pm and I must be ready for mass tomorrow at 8:30, even though I know it won’t start on time.  Last year I conscientiously arrived on time, only to wait 10 to 30 minutes.  The one time I arrived late, mass started on time. Go figure.

# 6 – Visitors and Visitors

Last evening I finally had a sit-down with Fr. Ngaruiya to discuss a wide variety of issues, all of which I had carefully noted in my laundry list of concerns.  My security while I am here alone being at the top of the list.  He proposed putting a dog in the Mji compound, which would certainly be a deterrent to any potential intruder.  I ran through my list of 12 items.  For the most part they were satisfactorily sorted out and I now feel much more settled.

This morning a knock came to my door—Hillary came in to chat and have some tea.  I was rushing to eat breakfast, as Fr. N. wanted me to go with him to see the progress in the Ndingi renovations.  Shortly, Fr. N was  also at my door, but rather than rushing me out, it being already 15 minutes after our agreed upon departure, he came in to have a cup as well and to argue with me about some math.  It turns out I was probably right in my solution of that math problem I wrote about before.  Next thing I know, Fr. Kiriti, comes in to visit and I must grab a stool from my bedroom. Two of my 4 chairs were badly in need of repair and Hillary had taken them for me, but I’ve not yet gotten them back. It was great fun, everyone talking at once, no one listening and all enjoying the beautiful morning.

Breakfast complete, tea drunk and issues as resolved as they’ll ever be, I set off with Fr. N, while Hillary and Fr. Kiriti went their ways.  Ndingi is going to be an impressive school some day, if they ever find the money to complete it.  Right now they need to put on the roof, but have run out of funds (or will shortly).  I suspect that if he put it to the congregation, they would help, but for some reason, even though it, like SFG, is a parish high school, they don’t ask the parish to support it financially.   In fact, the people have not been led to think of the schools as part of the parish family.  It strikes me as very odd.  In US, a parish school is very much a part of the community and most of the students belong to that parish.  Not so here.

Sr. Irene arrived about 5.  I’ve written about her severally.  I met her when Fr. Kiriti was in East Pokot about 5 years ago.   She was there with another nun, doing a mobile medical clinic—well-baby checks, prenatal checks, immunizations, and giving out food to pregnant women, nursing mothers and the very old.  She had come to visit on her way back to her mother house in Nairobi. 

Last summer I invited her to come to US in April of this year, but there were some complications.  She will come in September, providing she is granted a visa—always  problematic with the US embassy.  If it works out, we’ll provide an opportunity to hear about her work to eradicate FGM (female circumcision) still practiced by many of the rural, nomadic tribes, including the Pokots.  She’s an amazing woman, very determined to continue that program and to expand it beyond the Pokots.   Her Mother Superior, a woman from Mexico, supports that effort whole-heartedly as well as encouraging her to continue in school for a PhD.  She just finished her master’s in project management, supported by a KH donor.

I’d had some hair-brained idea of making pizza for dinner.  I had tomatoes to slice on top, ham to dice, cheese and a green pepper.  I’d bought yeast, flour and (can you believe it?) a jar of pizza sauce.  How hard could it be?  As it turned out, it was very hard—the crust, that is, consistency of cardboard although the taste wasn’t too bad.  I have a stove with an oven, but it’s a blind guess as to how hot it is.  There is no indicator of temperature (which would be in Celsius anyway, I’d have to do a conversion).  I can only turn a knob and hope I’m selecting something close to a sensible temperature. I can’t even see the flames to tell help me.  I guess it’s the way one would bake in a wood fired oven.  Make a guess and hope for the best.  In the case, it was definitely not the best!

I’ve just now done what I should have done—google a recipe.  Hmmm, needs oil!  That didn’t occur to me.  Dumb! However, we were all hungry and doggedly chewed through the cardboard.  Funny what one will eat, given a good degree of hunger!  Sr. Irene had brought a watermelon, which was our tasty dessert.

Hillary and Sr. Irene had worked together in Pokot, so this morning he showed up at the door to greet her.  The 3 of us chatted until is was time for Irene to leave.  We walked down toward the matatu station, stopping to pick up my newspaper.  Hillary, who had borrowed my car to pick my chairs and a 20-liter bottle of water to take to his house, came along just as we needed him.  We hastily said our good-byes to Sr. Irene and went off to grab Mary to return her to SFG, where all students were under strict orders to arrive before 2 or face the consequences.  One year the consequence was exacted on the last day of the term when everyone was eager to go home.  All late arrivers were required to stay the whole day, working in the shamba(garden) digging and weeding.  They were really upset by such draconian measures, but the message was driven home.  DON’T BE LATE!

The distinctive red, white and blue SGF uniforms were everywhere—walking down the dusty road, standing by the gate, in groups, under trees inside the entrance, lined up to give their pocket money to the secretary. It had been only a week, but they greeted each other as if it had been years. 

I had wanted to meet the new principal, Lydia Ndungo, but thought she would be far too busy for more than a quick greeting and handshake—a necessary part of any greeting.  In fact, she had been well prepped, because she seemed as eager to meet me as I was to meet her.  It was I who had to break it off after more than ½-hour.  We parted, already knowing we could work very well together, promising to meet again on Monday. 

As we drove out the gate, well after the 2 pm deadline, we saw disappointingly many latecomers.  I’m guessing they are younger students who were unaware of the possible “consequences” of being late.  The reality is, however, that those who come by matatu from a far distant place may well find it impossible to get there by 2.  I must remember to speak to Mme Lydia about that.  The deadline used to be 4, but some girls couldn’t make it, even by then.

I am very hopeful for the future of SFG.  Mme Lydia at least on first meeting seems to see the same issues I do and is very determined to address them.  She appeared tough, determined, smart, experienced and a very good administrator, already on top of things, already having addressed many and ready with a plan to address others. 

Tomorrow I am going to Joseph’s parent’s day event.  That will be my next report.  For anyone wanting a bit of Joseph’s history, see #6 from my 2017 posts.  You will find it at www.kenyahelp.us 

If there are any typos or odd words, please blame my over-zealous spell check.  When I read over what I’ve written I wonder how those gremlins could make so many changes that leave my message almost incoherent.  ARGH!!! I’ve read it over and tweaked severally, but …

#5: Frustrations, Teaching and a Visit with KIVA

Mary and I discovered that David Mungai had locked the gate to the Mji compound last night, not realizing we didn’t have the key.  A call to Loise, parish secretary, brought someone to unlock us, but we also needed someone to unlock the dining hall door.  About that time Fr. Ngaruiya showed up and to my surprise, he gave me the whole bunch of keys—all the Mji keys.  As I looked at them I noted two identical keys and wondered whether they possibly fit the large padlock, whose key I have “misplaced”. I knew I’d bought one with 3 keys last summer and I’d left all the keys here.  Bingo!  They were the right keys, so I’m back in business and now that I have those 2 keys, I’m sure the recalcitrant key will show up.  Isn’t that always the way things work?

My girls arrived promptly at 9 am, and we got to work on some probability and calculus questions.  We talked long enough so that they felt confident to continue to work on their own, I left to the Naivas to continue replacing items that “walked off” during the year.  Fr. Ngaruiya had assured me no one had stayed in “Margo’s house”, but I showed him a pair of trousers I’d found in the closet of my room.  Pretty strong evidence, I’d say.

It’s not a wholesale disappearance of stuff, but still annoying to have to buy a mop, broom, spoons, as well as having to repair 2 chairs—one of which I’d had repaired last year, but was broken again. 

In the meantime, we’d discovered the sink leaks and the boards beneath have been dripped on and dried over the winter.  In addition, the tank suppling water to my kitchen had again emptied and needed to be pumped.  No water to wash the dishes.  All in a day’s package of frustrations, but eventually things will settle.

Coming back, I found 3 hungry girls, to whom I offered a choice of grilled cheese, hitherto unknown in their world, or peanut butter and banana sandwiches, also a new taste treat.  Yesterday I’d offered PNB and banana, but noticed they didn’t use any of the bananas. When queried, they admitted they didn’t know how!  Huh! How hard can that be.  So I demonstrated how to cut and place the banana slices as well as the fine art of grilled cheese making.  Both were highly successful, so much so that I had to make many, each cooked individually in my small frying pan. 

Just as we were finishing, along came Hilliary, bringing the necessary hooks so my curtains could be hung correctly and of course he wanted grilled cheese too.  Since he’d shopped for the hooks in Nakuru, where he’d had to go for Fr. Kiriti, and had offered to take my 2 chairs to be repaired, how could I begrudge him a few sandwiches?

Finally I was free for a rest, but as I sank on my bed, a small voice said, “check your calendar to be sure you’ve done all the things you wrote for today.” ARGH!!  At 2 I’m supposed to meet a man attending a KIVA conference here in town. It’s 1:25 and Hillary is gone with my car.  As I waited for him, it occurred to me that as students finish high school, some don’t qualify for university, or are unable to pay, many would want to establish a small business.  KIVA was designed for just that purpose, providing low interest loans.  So did Hillary want to go with me?  He did.

KIVÅ’s conference is in a very posh hotel down by Lake Naivasha, about 20 minutes away.  We arrived on African time—late, but were forgiven by the very nice young man, Kevin O’Brien, who works in the San Francisco office.  He explained how KIVA works and as he talked, I thought about David Luther, about whom I wrote yesterday.  I told Kevin a bit about David, how bright he is and how much he wants not only to expand his business, but also to go to school.  He hungers for school.  KIVA might well be the answer for him, so as soon as I was back I called him. Shortly he showed up at my door. The more he heard, the more excited he became.  He has wanted to study computer science, but has been a victim of circumstance.  At the time he finished high school, the requirement for regular admission to university was B (which he earned), but also a minimum mark of 64 (I think that’s what he said). He earned 63!!! Heart-breaking, because the parallel program costs about twice.  Moreover, he would have immediately been eligible for a low-interest government loan. There was no way it was going to happen for him.  Now the requirement is C, which makes him a star.  He’s already researching KIVA and figuring out how he can achieve his goals. I’ve connected him with Kevin O’Brien, which should be a good beginning.