#11 – Another Mji Kid Checks In

John, Mary and I did go to David Mungai’s for lunch.  He lives on the outskirts of Naivasha in one of the many housing developments springing up everywhere.  Someday the town will rue the lack of zoning laws and infrastructure (like planned roads).  Most of the housing consists of u-shaped buildings constructed around an inner courtyard, strung with clothes lines.  Perhaps there are 6 or 7 units on each side, doors all opening on the common area.  Generally there are many children hanging around, peering shyly at this funny looking mzungu.  Today there were few.  Perhaps the residents are young professionals, like Mungai, just getting themselves settled into adult responsibilities. 

These apartments spring up any old place, then roads kind of appear, as trucks and cars begin to drive to and from.  The roads are every which-way, like cattle trails and of course, rutted, potholed and full of protruding rocks.  A driver must negotiate around the people walking in the middle of the road, along with the goats, cows, chickens and dogs, but fortunately few cars. Children are everywhere, and I’m driving so slowly it barely registers.  Finally we come to a tarmacked road and just as I breathe a sigh of relief, I see a steam shovel digging a big ditch along the side and cars parked on the other side so I feel totally hemmed in.  A man signals me to proceed, but the shovel is going back and forth, perpendicular to the road and I am very nervous.  But—-at last we are safely past.  Just one more driving terror.  They’re not even terrors anymore.  Just normal day-to-day driving in Naivasha.  I’m not sure why I get so tense.  Miraculously, nothing ever happens.  Amazing.

Knowing that parking at the Naivas on Saturday afternoon (or any afternoon) is impossible, we go off to another supermarket, Jaama, with a larger lot. At the entrances to all supermarkets, each person is “wanded” to be sure we’re not there to blow up the place.  I always kind of laugh, hold my arms out and wait for the “wander” to laugh too.  They always do.  Jaama has way leaner hamburger than Naivas, and today it looked particularly nice. AND we found proper hamburger buns, not thick like Kaiser rolls, but flattened like their supposed to be and in whole wheat as well.  Naivasha is really coming up in the world.  As we check out, the bagger tells us that if we buy a loaf of a certain bread (not the one we had bought), the HB buns would be free.  Evidently they are promoting that new product.  John sprints back to get it and returns with a loaf, I swear, 19 inches long!!!  Never have seen such a long loaf of just regular sliced bread.  Despite the fact that we go through bread very fast here, I wonder whether we’d eat it in a week.

 Not finding hot water bottles, which I’d promised to buy for SFG, we drop John at the Naivas to buy them, plus the pickles, without which we cannot eat our hamburgers.  I’ve turned them into dill pickle addicts!!!

As I’m about to head home, Mary pipes up from the back, “Margo, did you forget to drop me at my grandmother’s?”  Yeah, had totally forgotten.  And I’m headed for the very worst intersection in town, where I must now make a right turn instead of a left to go home. Because they drive on the left, it’s the right-hand turn that crosses traffic.  What a snarl, with busses, matatus, trucks, cars and those @#$$^@%^& piki piki’s everywhere.  ARGH!!!  I’ll never make it across with 4 fenders intact.  I make a quick decision to go left, turn around in the church parking lot and come back down. Even without having to make the impossible turn, going down this main road is about as hazardous as any driving I’ve encountered.  But, as usual, I make it to the highway and proceed in the opposite direction from Mungai’s house.  As we go along I remember Mary’s grandmother has a houseful of children, mostly her grands, left to her to raise by parents who have died from HIV/AIDS.  Grandmother isn’t as old as I am, but she is quite obese and walks with a crutch.  She supports them all by selling carrots in the market and I’m sure lives on the margin, close to the bone.  “Mary, take that big loaf of bread to your grandmother. I’m sure the children will make short work of it.”  Indeed grandmother was happy to have it and I regretted not thinking to get more staples for her at the market.  Next time.

I stay only briefly, since we can communicate only through Mary.  She had requested Mary to come today to help prepare food for tomorrow’s big event.  One of Mary’s aunts is bringing a gentleman friend to grandmother to obtain permission to marry.  This ritual is observed in most families here, and generally if permission is not granted, the marriage doesn’t happen.  I’ll have to wait until she returns tomorrow afternoon to learn of the momentous decision.

It begins to rain as I slowly make my way once again through the hellish traffic congesting the main road up through town. Amazingly, it clears a lot by the time I get to the church driveway.  But clears only means that I’m not being bombarded from all sides. There is still a lot of traffic, as I sit, turn signal blinking and arm out the window, to be sure some nutcase, wanting to save 2 seconds, doesn’t pass me just as I’m making my turn.  Yes, they do that all the time, particularly the piki piki’s.  Almost always some on coming nice person flashes his/her lights, indicating I should turn.  Otherwise I could be there, holding up traffic for 15 minutes. 

Home is along a lovely rose-lined drive, then around the old church with the fence covered in fully flowering bougainvillea and up to the Mji gate, where I see yet another Mji kid, whom I mistakenly call Patrick.  Only later does he correct me.  “I’m Josephat.”  RATS!!! I do that every year the first time I see him.  Every year I tell myself not do to it anymore, but….

I’m delighted to see him, of course.  He’s a shy boy of maybe 19 or 20, probably the most handsome of any, studying mechanical engineering—sort of.  He’s learning to maintain large machinery, at least at the first level, called certificate.  Eventually he will do one or more levels to become able to get a good, solid job.

As with all the others, he comes in to report on how things are going.  After a long day, I’m generally ready to head for my bed, so the kids just sit at the end and tell all.  His big concern is he will be repairing machinery he doesn’t know how to drive.  This is a big problem for him if he hopes to get a job or even an attachment (internship). His exams begin on Monday and if he doesn’t have the fees to pay for the course in driving those machines before he leaves school, the cost is hugely different—about $250 if he’s still registered, but if his exams are over and he leaves school, it will be $680.  ARGH!!!  I think this will be ironed out, but it’s been a big worry for him.

We begin to prepare our dinner, the hamburgers for which we found the lean meat and proper buns.  Josephat has eaten hamburgers, but isn’t familiar with the drill, mayonnaise on ½ the bun, catsup on the other, tomato slices and pickles (which he’s never eaten). John cooks his famous cabbage with onions and tomatoes.  The HB’s are the best so far, of the 3 times we’ve prepared them.  I’m getting used to the large round cast iron flat plate I bought for pizza, but forgot to use last time.  It’s great for HB’s too, with enough space around the edges to toast the buns.  Actually a great dinner, and the best part for me is that the kids do the clean-up. It’s even better than having a dishwasher—which I’ve not seen in any home here.

As we sit chatting Josephat asks me about the pictures of my 4 grandchildren magneted to my refrigerator.  He remembers when my oldest, Maya was here.  She taught them card games, the favorite of which was Spoons.  I’d hear them from my room, squealing with delight as someone achieved 4 of a kind and sneaked a spoon.  Like musical chairs, there is one spoon fewer than players. The spoonless one is greatly chagrined but determined to be more watchful next time. 

I notice Josephat staring at all the pictures, saying something to John in Kiswahili—a sure sign he doesn’t want me to understand.  So, of course, I ask.  He is greatly admiring Kate’s 8thgrade graduation picture.  He says he likes her smile and she is really cute—true enough.  “Josephat, she’s only 14!!!” Oh.

Sunday morning

Mass this morning was, as usual, long and a bit hard to understand.  I didn’t get out of my “house” early enough to go buy the printout of the readings, nor had I remembered my hearing aids. I did get there early enough to sit in Jim’s special pew.  However, Lucy, with whom I’ve shared that pew for 3 summers, was sitting 2 pews back. I know nothing about her, other than her name, but we always greet with a smile and a handshake—required in any Kenyan greeting.  Coming out of the church, particularly into the bright sunshine is a bit dicey for me now, so I was grateful when I discovered Lucy by my side.  She held my hand as I carefully made my way down the broad steps, and after depositing me safely at the bottom, went on her way (after another handshake).  I waited a few minutes to see Joyce, whom I’ve not met since I came.  I do love re-visiting all the folks I’ve come to know.  I met Simon Peter, my long-time math teacher friend, who accompanied me almost to the Mji gate, and Charity, one of our top students at SFG from about 2012.  She’s a beautiful young woman now, finished with university, now living and working in Nairobi. 

Mary is still with her grandmother, making sure the aunt’s gentlemen friend is suitable and John has gone off to a baby shower—carrying a small package of pampers for a gift.  Such a sweet guy, who loves babies.  He’ll make a great husband and dad.  I just hope, when the time comes he finds a woman who will appreciate him. 

Now off to put some laundry in the machine.  Have to do that during third mass so not too many people will see me and be shocked at my doing such menial work on Sunday!!

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