#15 – Just Another Sunday

Not!  I’ve been itching to get into the bookshelves in the Mji dining hall.  They are stuffed with outdated text books, exercise books, pages of old newspapers, miscellaneous junk—nothing relating to the current curriculum.  I enlisted (coerced?) John and Mary to help me dig into them.  It seems that a lot of books were donated to the home, stuffed into the bookcases and forgotten.  They’ve sat there moldering for a long time.  Initially I thought we could have a gigantic bon-fire, maybe like the Nazis in the 1940’s, but then it occurred to me that even if the books are no longer used, English is still English, Kiswahili has probably changed little, 6 X 7 is still 42.  Maybe some families would like to have them for their kids to review during the holiday. I called Odhiembo, the catechist, who came running between masses.  “Yes, keep them.” and out he ran again.  There were also agriculture books, arts and crafts, home science for grade school. We nixed those, but Odhiembo will have the final word. The tables were piled high with books and other stuff. We sorted out by course and grade, stacking them tidily at the end of the room.  We filled up a good-sized trash can and a large gunny sack but still there is junk left.  Then I attacked another set of shelves at the end of the room, finding old cups, plates, bowls, a beatup kettle, lunch containers, and the lid to a water pitcher I’ve been looking for—treasures all!  It was pretty heavy work, and the shelves were dusty.  ARGH!!  I was getting dirty and tired, but suddenly remembered I’d promised to make pizza for all of us and Catherine tonight.  I dragged myself and John to the Naivas, to get ingredients, then had only about ½ hour to rest before time to get started.

I’m not sure I wrote about the flat round, cast iron piece I bought to cook pizza on, as well as hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.  Mostly I bought it after the first 2 pizza attempts were pretty bad, burned on the bottom, stuck to the oven pan.  No, had to have something better.  Slowly I’ve been seasoning it and I have to say, it’s getting good and black, the way cast iron should be.

Googled a recipe for the dough, finding a video, short and sweet.  By the time I got the kitchen orderly, ingredients all lined up, and the beginnings of the sauce bubbling on the stove, Catherine arrived.  She watched the video, watched me make the dough and got very excited about making pizza with her kids.  I did buy a small bottle of pasta sauce (couldn’t find the pizza sauce), adding lots of tomatoes, green pepper, onions, garlic and generous sprinklngs of every herb I could find in the cupboard, basil, oregano, parsley, mixed herbs, rosemary, but alas, no bay leaves.  While the dough rose, the pot of sauce simmered and we chatted.  It was so good to have an extended time with Catherine. Even though we’d spoken a week ago at some length, there is always so much to say. 

Finally it was time to spread out the dough, which kept springing back, thanks to the generous amount of oil I used.  I reallydidn’t want it to stick again.  Everyone watched every move I made—felt like Julia Child—Catherine diligently taking notes.  The sauce was thick and tasty, we had cut up thin slices of ham (no sausage or pepperoni here), adding small slices of pepper and green olives.  Can’t get parmesan cheese, but found mozzarella and cheddar.  I must say, it looked totally authentic when we stuck it in the oven. 

I think I’ve mentioned there is no way to control the oven temp.  Since the recipe suggested 450° F, I figured, just turn it up as high as it goes and hope for the best.  Twenty minutes later we opened the oven and it was gorgeous!!!  Perfect!!,—particularly if one likes thick crusts.  Since nobody here knows about pizza, except Mary Fitzgerald, no one complained.  I tasted like real American pizza.  Italian???? I think they would not have claimed it, but since Mary’s Irish, no one here to tell me it’s not authentically Italian as well.  The only downside is John and Mary, both dill pickle fans, were thumbs down on the green olives.  I had lots!!! Theirs and mine.

 Monday

I must have been as tired as I’d felt last night.  Slept until after 9.  Had to run find Fr. Ngaruiya to get his OK on our dining hall project. Fortunately, he was fine with having Odhiembo distribute the books, but balked a bit on giving one of the shelves to SFG, which I was hoping for.  There are all sorts of math models I’ve had built over the years, pyramids, cones, cuboids, frustrum of a pyramid and a sphere (bought that already made). They’re all piled up in a corner of a math office, along with boxes of old papers that can’t have any current relevance.  In addition, there must be 6 or 7 cast off keyboards, stuffed in a box with other junk. Working on getting that sorted and stored—or even better, tossed.

At school during their after lunch study time I wandered into a form 2 class to talk about something we don’t teach in the US and while I could figure out how to do it, I wasn’t sure my way was the Kenyan way.   Turns out it was, but I kept making dumb mistakes. ARGH!  Maybe my classroom days are over.  In the end, we did correctly answer the question, but by that time the teacher for the next lesson was waiting outside the door for me to leave.

Up from SFG (away from NVA) is a school for street boys.  I learned about it years ago from a math teacher who volunteered there.  I was hoping it could provide a volunteer opportunity for one of our Mji guys who needs a chance to settle while he sorts himself out.  He caught a matatu to SFG and we were on our way.  OMG!! What roads, like I’ve described in the past, dusty, potholed, rutted and going every which way X 10!.  When we finally found it, the gateman peered in, and ran off to see whether the director would see us.  He would.

Had a very nice talk with Simon Kuria, who has been there for 9 years working with boys from the streets, mostly orphans.  They are in school all day, just like the Mji kids, so we didn’t see any, but we did see the dorms, kitchen, a huge garden, and the goats and cows they keep.  I was very impressed with the facility, much nicer than Mji, which always ran on a shoestring, hope and a prayer.  It turns out that my friend, Minalyn, is on their board, Simon knows Fr. Kiriti and lamented the passing some 5 years ago, of Jecinta Gakaku, our beloved social worker. We had a fun “do you know?” session.

At last we took our leave and went bumping and weaving back on that terrible road.  UHOH neither David nor I had noticed the place where we had turned and where we wanted to turn back to get to the highway.  “Is this where we turned?”  “I think so.” Bump, swerve, scan the landscape, dotted with low scrub.  “Hmm, I don’t remember this view of Lake Naivasha.”  David, “I think we took the wrong turn.”  Back bumping and swerving (all the while I’m stressing over the possibility of a broken axel or flat tire), but now we’re not sure where we made the wrong turn.  In a word, we were LOST.  Ahead we saw a young man walking along.  David made inquiries in Kiswahili, and suggested we give the guy a ride, letting him direct us.  We drove and drove, ARGH, I knew we were nowhere near the highway we’d left on coming. On and on, making wrong guesses about which piece of a Y held the fewest DEEP potholes.  It was a driving nightmare, but finally, up ahead, I could see the highway!  YAY! Except when we got to it, it was a totally different highway.  By the I’m convinced that it was topologically impossible to be where we are from where we began. However, I know where NVA is on this road.  The young guy hops out and we thank him. Back towards town on a smooth road, but this road requires going through the main part of town.  About a mile away, we hit TRAFFIC, like 5 pm 101 traffic, 5 mph traffic.  Turning from the highway, up the main road that leads to home requires the skills of an NYC cabbie.  I do it! (OK, Margo, you can breathe again). But this jam is even slower and everywhere matatus and piki piki’s are dashing in and out, people walk across, between cars, not even looking.  They have to navigate this every day, although I think even the natives will admit this jam was a doozy.  We inched along so slowly it didn’t register on the odometer.  Finally, a block from where I have to make a right turn (across the traffic in this left side driving country), we see the problem.  At 5:05 pm, the street repair crew is busily filling the holes they made last week.  So far as I could see, nothing was done to require these holes, but it definitely kept the crews busy!

Now we are at the right turn, leading to the church gate.  A line of cars, trucks and the rest sit, not moving for as far as I can see.  In the meantime, I am holding up everyone on my side.  Then opposing traffic begins to move and some angel realizes he loses nothing, not 5 second, to let me by.  Ahhhh! Safely through that gate and up around to Mji.  I’m totally exhausted.  It’s 5:30 pm and I’ve eaten nothing since my 9:30 am breakfast.  I give David some money to get home and head for the refrigerator. Oh yes!!!  Two thin slices of ham from last night, cheese, the last 2 bread slices in the bag and some dill pickles.  I’m in heaven!

And so it goes!

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