I thought this would be a quiet weekend, I would have nothing to write about, but as usual, things just turn up.
Yesterday (Saturday) was to be shower/ shampoo, do laundry and be a bit of a lay-about. But then David Luther wrote to say he wanted to visit me before he returned to Nairobi. He’s one of the first sponsored students, graduate of Ndingi, and now is in Nairobi University, studying computer science. I first learned about him in 2006 from a math teacher at Ndingi who had identified him as a gifted math student. As is so often the case here, his single mom could not keep up the fees and he’d been sent home with no hope of coming back until Kenya Help (or its precursor) took him on. Faithfully attending my August “tuitioning”, he sometimes thought he had a better way to solve a problem. While I explained, he would quietly go to an empty space on the board, not say a word, just write his version and quietly sit down. It tickled me.
He had to wait a long time before I was able to promise him university. For the most part, Kenya Help supports school fees for high schoolers. Yet I knew that a great brain was being wasted and decided to sponsor him. He has now completed his first year. As he was telling me about it, his face shone with such happiness. He said every time he enters the gate and must show his student ID he feels overwhelming joy, not quite able to believe he’s really there. He came to thank me and to promise when he is finished and working he will seek out kids like himself and send them to school. YES!!!!!
Fortunately I brought in the clothes I had hung on the line in time to miss the deluge that fell in the late afternoon. This is the time of the “short rains”, but I’m told they came late this year, causing havoc with the planting time.
I had lent John one of my favorite books, Tattoo’s on the Heart, by Fr. Gregory Boyle. Later he told me it was a bit hard to understand, so I suggested that I read it aloud. I read to him for maybe an hour, but at one point he was so moved by the stories of the LA street gangs and the loving way Fr. Boyle treated them that he broke down. I encouraged him to cry, while knowing that it’s seen as shameful for a Kenyan man to show his tears, particularly to a female. Explaining that my belief is that tears wash away the pain and it is good, I left him to compose himself and think about what he was hearing.
Later, John wanted to cook. I am perfectly content to let someone else cook for me. Mary came in and I began reading again, stopping to explain some of the slang and odd phrasing. We read for an hour while John cooked and then after we had eaten as well. I’m sure many of my readers know that book and some may have heard Fr. Boyle speak, but if it is new to you, I really encourage you to read it and be inspired, as I have been. Fr. Kiriti read it last October while visiting here. At one point he told me, “That book is going to be my text”.
Today (Sunday) is Corpus Christi Sunday. I guess I’ve not been here for that before, but it’s a bigger event than in the US. Instead of having 3 masses, there was 1. The church is holds over 1000 and fills every Sunday, sometimes with SRO, so how were all those folks going to fit in for 1 mass? Fortunately, I misunderstood the timing and showed up at 8:30 for a 9 am beginning because even at that early hour, I found about 1/3 of the spots taken and people streaming in. I always sit about 5 pews from the front, so wasn’t aware of what was behind me, but I did observe what I often see, which I call the rump bump. Someone is sitting on the aisle. Someone else sees a spot in the middle. She must either climb over all the feet or she places her backside on the small edge left by the first lady and gently bumps her rump. She in turn does the RB to the next person and so on until the inside spot is filled and the late comer has the aisle spot. This seems to happen only with ladies.
The first 8 rows of the center section has been reserved for the choir. The pew dedicated to my late husband, Jim, is 5 rows back and has always been the first row behind the choir. “OH NO, I can’t sit in his pew! But I always do. RATS! Oh well, I sit across the aisle. It turns out that 2 of the 3 choirs are joined, thus requiring the extra rows. Before mass begins a man makes an announcement in Kiswahili. A lady, very beautiful and beautifully dressed, turns around, looks at me and smiles. Although we’ve never seen each other before, she knows I don’t understand and tries to gesture, but I don’t get it. Next to me are 2 young boys, and next to them is their mom. Hoping she speaks English, I lean over to ask what he said. “All the men must leave and proceed to the old church (with very hard benches, many backless)”. Oh, that’s how they will do it. Mass begins, with the choir singing gloriously. Oh, they are so good! Beautiful! I am delighted and while I don’t know the words, I’ve heard this opening hymn many times and hum along. Everyone is standing and dancing or swaying with the beat. I couldn’t keep my body quiet if I’d tried. Shortly though, my joy was somewhat dampened when I realize the mass will be in Kiswahili, so I’ll understand nothing. As some point 12 people are called to the front. They repeat something, Fr. Ngaruiya puts his hand on each head, saying something, he blesses the group, sprinkles them with holy water and they return to their seats. It took me a few minutes to deduce they had recently become Catholics and were to receive their first communion. This I verified with the mom next to me.
Mass goes on for more than 2 hours. While I couldn’t get the sermon, despite his sprinkling in a bit of English, I did determine he spoke something about communion in the hand vs on the tongue. He also demonstrated the proper way to genuflect—which would never work for these tired old knees. When it was my turn for communion, I stuck out my hand, as I always do. He gave me the wafer, but only later, when I asked Mary about what he’d said did I learn he was saying it was better we take on our tongues— we should not take it in the hand. ARGH!
After the mass, the whole congregation was to join a procession down the main street to the center of town and back. I did not for 2 reasons. One was because I feared I’d be jostled in that big crowd and fall and two because I had accepted a lunch invitation from a lady with whom John stayed for several years after he had to leave Mji (reason unknown to me). He has told me much about her and I really wanted to meet her. So when most people were exiting the back of the church I slipped out the side and went back to Mji to await John.
Since I had sent the car with Hillary to Nakuru for Fr. Kiriti to use, I had to call a taxi. John offered to get one for me. The guy came, and wanted ksh 700 ($7). Although I didn’t know where we were going I knew that was a total ripoff. It pissed me off. “NO!, Are you nuts??? Not even close! “ “What will you pay?” “I don’t know where we’re going. John, tell him where it is and then driver, you can tell me a sensible price.” They talk. “Ksh 500”. “No”, and I get out. “”400?” By now it’s 10 minutes after the time we’re supposed to arrive (I thought). Knowing it was still a ripoff I agree, get in and discover the seatbelt receptacle is not there. Nope, not riding in any car with no seatbelt. I get out again, really steamed. John, all alarmed gets in, fumbles around and finds one for a lap belt. ARG! What to do? We’re late. If we don’t get out of the church yard NOW, we’ll be held up by the returning procession. OK, let’s go.
As we come out the gate, I see the procession returning, just about ½ block away. Driver has to take a back road, very bumpy, but it’s about a 5-minute trip. ACH! Worth at most ksh 200 ($2), but I pay him the ksh400 (grudgingly) and get out. John escorts me inside, where my hostess has not yet arrived from her church, then goes back out. “Where are you going?” “I want to get his number so I can call him to come back when we’re ready to leave.” “Absolutely not. I will never ride with him again!” He goes to let the driver go.
Faith arrives, and is just a lovely woman who has taken in many “lost souls” over the years, fed them, housed them, paid school fees for them and given them a full course of love. This is what has turned John around. She and I talk for more than an hour while we eat her lovely lunch. When I tell her about the ksh400 taxi guy, she is as outraged as I am. “NO, that should be ksh200 or even 150.” She calls a neighbor, who agrees to take us back for 200 andhe has seatbelts that work.
I’m getting the car back tomorrow, when Hillary brings it back from Nakuru, but if I ever need a driver, I’ll hire Faith’s neighbor. I nice man, good driver and not a cheater.
Back at home I have a customer. Monica left SFG to attend a day school in town because her mom couldn’t pay the fees, but also, it’s very windy at SFG and often coldat night. Evidently it was giving her health issues (asthma?). It is amazing how much warmer it is here, but I’m guessing there is a rise of 500-1000 feet between here and SFG.
Monica wants to know about surds. I don’t know what they taught her, but she’s yet another form 3 who doesn’t understand them at all. Yet when I begin to explain, she gets it pretty fast. She wants to come again tomorrow after school.
The power had been out since early this morning. As the light faded, both because it was getting late, but also because it was getting cloudy (and later rained), I could no longer see the book. RATS!!! Ah, I’ll use my old backpacking head lamp. Funny looking but perfect. Mounted on my forehead it could be focused exactly where I wanted it. Problem solved. Full weekend.