This is Saturday. I arrived very late Thursday night so I’m still jet-lagged. I have decided to take it easy, not push myself to hard. On the other hand, having stuff everywhere, not stashed, drives me crazy. After breakfast, I begin unloading suitcases. I have some clothes, to be sure, but the bulk of my “stuff” is some 100 scarves, made for the St Francis (SFG) form 4 girls, by the Knitting Elves of Menlo Park, organized by former Kenya Help board member, Anita Dippery. Most of the scarves were made very lovingly by Ginny Fitton, who must be a machine!!! They are of beautiful colors and designs and will be enthusiastically received by St. Francis girls. That will happen sometime in July, when some of my visitors will be here to see the event.
A large number of young people, mostly boys are here at Mjifor the weekend. I think they’re here for “spiritual direction” as well as comradery. In the evening, they must have had some sort of ceremony, as they sang a lot and beautifully. Later, they had loud music and were more noisy. Because the boy’s dorm is right outside my window, even if they’re being pretty quiet, a lot of boys just do make noise. Mary, one of the youngest of the Mjikids is here staying with me for the week, in my other room. She’s in her last year at St. Francis, so preparing for the KCSE (national exam). We were working on math last night until I could see her eyelids drooping and I sent her off to bed. Mary’s window is just outside that side. ARGH! I hate to be the old battle ax, but I did go stomping over there, to explain in clear words that they are guests here and at 11 pm they are not to make noise. To their credit, they didn’t after that, but I was sorry I had been a bit stern with them. It’s the school teacher in me, who brooks no nonsense. Student “get” that here as well as at home.
This being Sunday now, I woke early to go to mass. It is very different here, more like suddenly being dropped into 1950. But the music is always glorious. Naivasha church is known for the excellence of the choir and I sit right behind them, in the pew I bought some years ago, when they were building the church and dedicated to my husband. At the time I’d asked Fr. Kiriti to place it near the front so I could hear and also see the mouths to help me understand the strong accents. It still sits in the place I requested. I do love to sing along with the choir, although I hum a lot, not knowing the words. And now, back in my room, the singing from 3rdmass is drifting through my window. Sometime during the summer, there will be a choir competition sponsored by this parish and I will hear groups all over the grounds, practicing their songs. It’s always a wonderful gift.
Singing and dancing are still a big part of the culture here. From early childhood, people dance until it seems as integral as breathing. Same with singing and the choir members all dance in place, swaying in unison and clearly loving it with their whole beings.
Walking out, I encountered many old friends as well as those who greeted me heartedly but of whom I had no memory. It’s always like that. “Do you remember me?” “I remember your face (often I don’t, but it’s rude to say so), but do remind me of your name.” Others I remember well, but can’t pull up the name. And many I know immediately, name and all. As I emerged and was faced with the broad steps, I asked one of them to hold my hand as I descended. Anyone bumping me could send me head over heels. There is always someone and I don’t hesitate to ask. In fact, going in I had met my dear friend Simon Peter Mungai, math teacher extraordinaire,whom I’ve known and admired for many years. I asked him to guide me up. “It would be my honor.” Such a nice man. He promised to get me a copy of the 2017 national exam math questions, so I can be prepared to teach them.
Standing at the bottom of the steps, I met Esther, former St Francis matron, with whom I stayed many nights. As we chatted, Lucas was suddenly at my side. Long time readers will remember Lucas and brother, Joseph, who came to Mjiafter their mother died, lonely, hungry, confused and in rags. Julia had taken them in, fed them, found warm clothes for them and become “Mom”, as she was for so many. Slowly they had worked through the grief and anger, the fear of abandonment, settling in as the newest members of this wonderful community of orphaned children. Now Mjiis closed. Both boys were taken under the ample wings of Catherine Wanjohi and her 3 teen-aged children. Lucas, now in form 2, looked happy, grown up, confident, sure of a future, thanks to Catherine and to Deepa Shiva and her husband, Harry, who take care of needs, not just school fees, but clothes, food, even a wonderful vacation in Mombasa for both boys. Joseph is in boarding school, class 6, I think. We visited him there last summer, where he seemed to shine. He had requested boarding school and a nice, loving place was found for him. Catherine reports he is improving from the boys who wouldn’t go to school, would yell at the teachers, and for whom I despaired of any kind of future. He is doing well in his studies, though not the academic star the Lucas is, at least passing (C work) and trying hard. It’s all we can ask.
After mass it was my intention to walk down to the paper seller for my Sunday Nation and daily Sudoku fix. I had specifically asked yesterday whether he would be open Sunday. Imagine my dismay when I found his shop tightly padlocked! RATS!! On Sundays the walkway along the road is crowded, as is the road, itself, and there are rocky, uneven places—definitely a place to take care. I didn’t fall, but it was a bit dicey several times. Next Sunday I’ll find an escort.
Back at my house, Mary was entertaining 2 SFG students. I didn’t remember either of them, but there are so many now, how could I? As is so often the case, the chatter stops when I come in—they are so shy of me. I do my usual “How are you in math? Do you like math? What are your hopes for the future?” Trying to get them to open up. They speak so quietly I must ask them to repeat, despite the hearing aids I now wear. As I suspected, neither one performs well, although one girl proclaimed her love of math. I offered to do some “tuitioning” through the week and to my surprise they both readily accepted. They’ll come tomorrow 9 am. And so it begins. That’s what I come here to do.
Below are Mary (holding phone), Mary Jane, and Pinina. Later they made lunch for us all.
Among other things, I asked how they liked the new principal. So far I’ve heard nothing but good about her. I’m eager to meet her, but I think she is not around this coming week during mid-term break. Had I known this week was their break I would have delayed my trip by a week. Oh well, this does give me a chance to acclimate and settle.
Before I close, I want to extol the virtues of Hillary. It’s always takes hours of my time and much of my energy to get my computer set up so I can send and receive email, as well as get my phone working. Friday, when he brought me to Mjifrom Fr. Kiriti’s I mentioned I needed to go Safaricom to get connected. “They’re not open today. It’s a national holiday, in honor of the end of Ramadan.” Oh, RATS!!!!! But he was able to get everything going. I made lunch for him and Mary, cheese sandwiches with tomatoes and sliced pickle. Mary had never tasted pickles, but gamely tried a bite. I hadn’t realized they were quite peppery, so was surprised when she shook her head. However, I tasted my sandwich and realized the pickle prickle was modified and encouraged her to try again. This time she like them, and even had more on the hamburger we had for dinner.