#9 – Problems & Visitors

Having taken my time this morning, I left here about noon, but had to see Mwangi, the mechanic who keeps the car running, to pay him for doing that important job, then stopped to see Joyce, the seamstress to order 50 more African shopping bags.  She has a small shop, right next door to a jewelry/clothing shop owned by her friend, Milka.  This is my first time to see them both this summer, so I couldn’t run off immediately. Consequently I arrived at school very late, almost 1.  They had assumed I wasn’t coming, and Millicent, one of the math teachers had to chastise me, which she loves to do—a big tease.  My practice has been to work on math with individuals or small groups of students from 1:10 to 2, during a free time.  Sat down with a form 3 girl who asked me about a “relative rates” question. Generally these are questions about 2 vehicles moving at different rates—you know the dumb questions that are so hard for kids, “If train A leaves the station at ….. and train B…..”. These are the questions cited to show math is complicated, hard and irrelevant.  True on all counts for this kind of question—-except it does help kids learn to think and reason.  The very first question she asked me about, I couldn’t see—just couldn’t figure it out. I asked could I have time later to think about it and I’d answer it tomorrow.  Yes, of course.  After careful analysis, a drawing of the situation, I confidently performed the required calculations and…..got an answer that I didn’t believe.  Math teacher A comes along and I say, “Can you see what’s wrong with my reasoning?”  He reads the question, then, instead of correcting my reasoning, tells me how they do it in Kenya.  While I can understand what he did, I couldn’t see at all why that would work. Teacher B comes along and does the same thing.  Soon I find myself giving my Teacher Philosophy 1A lecture, about teaching is worthwhile onlyif it conveys understanding of a concept.  I didn’t get the concept.  Finally teacher B listens to my reasoning.  She doesn’t find a flaw.  In fact, she sees there is an analysis and a concept, but she doesn’t quite get it.  We agree we’ll discuss it again (she has to go to class).  Later she tells me she teaches it according to the way the books says to do it (no explanation of why), but admits it never made sense to her either.  AHA! Progress.  Just FYI, we looked up the answer in the teacher’s key (which is about 80% reliable).  I didn’t get the correct answer doing my way, nor did teacher’s A and B, doing it the Kenyan way.  For anyone who is interested, I’ll write the question at the end of this.  Anyone who can explain how to solve it and sends me the solution will receive my undying gratitude!!

Not long after I get back home, a knock at the door.  It’s David Mungai, one of the Mji kids who completed a 5 year medical studies degree (doesn’t confer an MD).  I had expected him to come last week, but he didn’t show and no call/text.  Actually I was delighted to see him.  He looks so good at age 26, wearing a nice fitting suit to his job in the Naivasha Water Department.  He seems happy, and is very open with me about some issues we had discussed last year. He seems to have resolved them very well.  We had a long talk, he stayed for dinner, and the 4 of us chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, potatoes and carrots which we added to some browned stew meat.  John added herbs and spices while we all joked and laughed.  These kids, who have lived together as siblings for many years, love to tease and challenge, just like any other siblings.  Such a fun evening.  He has invited us to his house for lunch next Saturday. 

Wednesday July 3

About the problem.  It wasn’t hard at all, and my answer was, in fact, correct.  I hate it when the answer in the key is wrong!!!  Turns out teacher A had forgotten the Kenyan method, which I had discovered, reading the book.  Imagine that!  I had a harder time convincing them of the method, than I did the student later on. But both methods yielded the same answer, so I think mine is valid.  I still did include the question at the end of this, but you’ll wonder why it stumped me. 

Diana, studying to be a preschool teacher, had told me about the wonderful school where she teaches, not far from SFG.  It’s run under the auspices of a US foundation, Oasis for Orphans, which seems to be a very big organization, running schools and orphanages all over Kenya and perhaps other countries.  Diana praised Ann Smith, the director, so much that I went to see the school and meet Ann.  What I met was a slender blonde woman, probably in her 40’s, judging from the ages of her children, intense, totally devoted to her school and the children and showing her Kenyan teachers it’s possible to have an orderly classroom without beating the children.  Her particular school includes a home for children who either have no home or have abusive parents.  Many of the children have been traumatized and act out accordingly, but the school has a counseling staff and a policy of love, not punish.  Those I saw were probably 3 to 4 and were sitting, lying on the floor, carefully coloring in the typical US coloring books.  They giggled and played like contented kids.  Diana had told me when she began with her class 10 4-yar olds, she despaired they would ever settle.  She said they hit and scratched each other, even biting. Sometimes she was the victim.  She cried at night from frustration, questioning her choice of vocations.  But over time her gentle ways have prevailed.  She loves her class and can now see how love works better than beating kids into submission. 

Ann and I spoke for some time about everything—made a real connection. She and her family, husband and 4 children came to Kenya 9 years ago (I think I have that right).  Her children attended international schools, the Kenyan schools being far behind US education and very harsh.  Their foundation supports school fees, like we do, but on a much larger scale, and they actually run orphanages and schools themselves.  The backers are evangelicals.  She told me they’d had big problems finding high schools for the children they take in, and were considering starting a high school themselves.  When I told her about SFG she was perked right up.  They already have one girl with us, but she has never been there, nor did she know much about it.  She wants to visit next week, meet Lydia and see whether they want to send more kids to us.  If they find that Archbishop Ndingi is a good fit for the boys, it would ease their issues greatly.  It might be the beginning of a good partnership. 

While we spoke, it began to rain, so loudly I could hardly hear her.  The way up from the main road was the usual dirt road, pot-holed and rutted, full of jutting rocks and very steep.  I began to wonder whether my car could make it.  So, when the rain began, I suddenly thought about the steep dirt road turning to mud.  ARGH!!!!  In truth it was a bit of a nightmare going back down.  I drove so slowly it didn’t register on the odometer, but even at that I could feel the tires slipping sideways.  It was scary and I was greatly relieved to finally get to the tarmacked main road.

Back home in main Naivasha, 10 minutes later, I found it had not rained at all.  Amazing mini-climates all over this area.

I also found a refrigerator and cupboard as bare as Mother Hubbard’s. RATS!  We managed to scrounge up a meal of rice, with onions, bits of sausage and some egg scrambled in and spiced with soy sauce—my version of fried rice, but no Asian would ever recognize it, though it was tasty enough.  Fortunately neither John nor Mary has ever eaten anything non-Kenyan other than what Judy and I have fed them over the years, so to them, it was fried rice.

Later, Tylon, another of the Mji kids, called to say he wanted to come visit for a few days.  I suspect that food during his break from engineering school may be a bit short and he wants to come home.  It seems the universities are on a long break right now and some of our older Mji kids are scrambling a bit for living.  I could be hosting 10 or 12 before long.  That’s fine, except my tiny kitchen has space for 4 to sit, 6 is a squeeze.  We’ll need to open the Mji dining room and cook in their kitchen if too many more appear, but I love it that as they learn I am here, they call, drop by or text, checking in.  We’re planning our annual Mji reunion for August 12, the day after the ETW reunion.  I have been here 3 weeks, 1/3 of my visit.  Where has it gone.  It feels like I’ve just arrived.


Problem:  How long will it take a car to overtake a truck under the following conditions.

At t = 0, the car is 10 meters behind the truck and is traveling at 100 km/hr. The truck is 10 meters long and traveling at 50 km/hr.  The car is 3 meters long.  Essentially, what is t when the car’s back bumper passes the truck’s front bumper? (answer from teacher’s key:  24 sec).  My incorrect answer 1.656 seconds (not at all reasonable). 

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