#18 – Many Events, Cont’d

In addition to everything going on here, I’ve been dealing with a letter from the IRS telling me I owe over$12,000 in back taxes and threatening mayhem if I don’t pay up by August 6.  My tax preparer emailed me a Power of Attorney form, which had to be printed in Hillary’s office (I have no access to a printer) signed, scanned and sent back.  Of course the IRS had made a mistake (Oh sorry, we didn’t notice….. ARGH!). I had known all along it would be OK, but was nonetheless greatly relieved when she wrote “case closed”. 

Then there was the phone call from one of my 8 renters, complaining that one of my cats has twice pooped on his bed. Yeah, pretty annoying, but really a message, “I’m not a happy kitty.”  What can I do from 10,000 miles away?  I just hope they are OK when I get back.

                                                                           Monday, August 5, 2019

Today was the big day, first day of Math Camp (nee tuitioning).  It began about 6:30 am when Lydia arrived to go with Julie and Niki on safari to Maasai Mara.  I wasn’t quite awake enough to entertain, but soon their driver arrived and they were off. 

Saturday I had arranged with Fred, one of the workers here to unlock the 3 rooms in another building where there are 3 blackboards, and make sure there was a table—all ready for this morning.  “I’ll take care of it”.  This morning—-3 rooms locked, no table in one of them!!  GRRRR!  These were the rooms for forms 1, 2, and 3.

Students began arriving at 8 am for our 9 am beginning. I had made a big deal about timeliness, “It starts promptly at 9 am—not 9:05”, but I didn’t expect 1 hour early.  Linda and Miriam, two very top math teachers from SFG arrived to teach forms 2 and 3, while Margaret, Mary’s older sister, marine bio major and very good at math, agreed to teach form 1.  I chose form 4.  That group meets in the Mji dining room, just steps from my door and besides I love teaching the form 4’s.  I figure that if I organized this and am paying the other 3 teachers, I get to teach the level I want.

About 15 form 4’s showed up, a bit fewer than I expected, but if history is any predictor, I could have 50 form 4’s by the time the 2 weeks are over.  I think there were over 40 in all, but haven’t added up the numbers.  We began by talking about some topics I’d need to use to discuss other topics down the line, surds (square roots) and the beginnings of logs.  Too bad more people weren’t here for the intro.  Oh Well. 

After we all finished I offered to feed Linda and Miriam an American lunch.  “Ever tasted a grilled cheese sandwich?”  Neither had and they told me they didn’t know how to use cheese, so had not eaten it. They watched intently as I buttered the outsides of the bread, putting sliced cheddar in the middle and using my great griddle.  So glad I bought that.  Just like Lydia a few days ago, they gingerly tasted, then ate with gusto.  Realizing I would need to offer lunch for 10 days, I wondered what to do for tomorrow.  “Do you like peanut butter sandwiches?”  Linda, grinning, “I’ll eat the peanut butter before it gets to the bread!!”    Agreed, BNB for lunch tomorrow.  What after that?  Tuna sandwich?  Hamburgers? ACH!!!  10 different lunches? That greatly exceeds my cooking capacity. I’ll willingly accept ideas from my readers.  Oh, egg salad sandwiches, ham and cheese.  More?

I’ve not written about our visit to the Maasai Market.  Several weeks I went I with Mary Fitzgerald on a Tuesday.  Who knew the Tuesday market is smaller than Thursday market?  As always the traffic was at a standstill, so Hillary, our stalwart driver, took a “short cut”.  As we came around a corner I saw something I’ve never seen in Nairobi, an honest to goodness American style stop signal!!!  I exclaimed and Niki, who, as a first-time visitor, is photographing everything, sticks the camera out the window to get a good shot.  OOPS!!!  Three female cops are suddenly all over us, yelling, “Why are you taking a picture of us, pull over right there, you’ve just committed a felony, you must proceed right to the Millimani court, blat, blat, blat”.  They grabbed her camera and continued to berate all of us. 

Hillary, feathers only a bit ruffled, responds, “Why are you yelling at us, where should I pull over (there is no possible place)?” I jump out of the car, calmly (NOT) explaining, “She’s here for the first time.  I pointed out the stop light, she took a picture of the light, she didn’t want a picture of you, she’s photographing everything, as tourists do, blat, blat, blat.”  Of course they just wanted a bribe, but when they saw that wasn’t forthcoming, the 2 calmer ones pulled the really aggressive one aside, returned Niki’s camera and waved us on.  Julie and Niki were frightened, and maybe I should have been, but I’ve been pulled aside before.  I knew they weren’t going to take us to court, much less to jail and I knew they were looking for a bribe from naïve tourists.  They had no case.  Yes, police don’t want their pictures taken, don’t want to be identified for good and bad reasons.  I wished I had said, “Tourists are Kenya’s major source of income.  Why are you berating 3 tourist ladies who clearly aren’t interested in you?  Do you think your government would condone this mistreatment?  What are your names and badge numbers?”  There is a lot of talk in the papers of toning down the aggressive police and firing those caught seeking bribes.  They didn’t ask for one, but it was clear to me and Hillary that was what they wanted.  Julie and Niki didn’t know that and I’m sure they were imagining themselves confined to a small, dirty cell along with all sorts of other miscreants.  Was I taking a chance?  Maybe, but I am not going to be bullied by some snippy cop!!!  I also know they weren’t going to arrest mzungus (actually, the plural of mzungu is wzungu).  On to the market.

As we drove, we talked about it as another adventure.  I always try to see these annoying incidents as that—another story for my blog, another thing to tell my grandchildren from my old rocking chair—whenever I get to my rocking chair days!

The market was big and noisy.  It’s held in the top floor of a multi-story parking facility, so that every sound echoes between floor and ceiling.  Maasai dancers perform for about 10 minutes every hour, with loud drums and singing.  Makes it hard to think, let alone talk to anyone.

I had some business with Njoroge, the man  from whom I’ve bought crafts for years.  We had to sort out some issues and I needed more of his goods.  Earlier this year he had suffered a severe hand cut (bad scar) which prevented his making his usual stuff, so he had very little merchandise, compared to previous times.  I bought almost everything he had, which probably allowed him to leave early—not a bad thing.  Julie and Niki wandered around, following my advice, “look for at least ½ hour, don’t buy anything until you get a sense of what’s there.”  The magnitude and variety of goods is overwhelmingand if the hawkers sense the least hesitation they are all over you like flies on old meat. However, as J and N began to see what they wanted, they were reluctant to bargain.  I butted in a few times when I knew the initial asking price might be as much as 5 times what the seller was willing to settle for.  He/she was hoping to glom onto an innocent tourist who had no idea of the value. 

When I first went to markets back in 2005 and 2006, I had Jecinta, the social worker (a ruthless bargainer) and Ben, the then-accountant for this parish and our driver.  They told me many times, the hawkers would say to them in Kiswahili, “Why are you helping this Mzungu?  Tell her to settle for more and we’ll split it.”  They would patiently explain, as I already had, that it wasn’t for me, I wasn’t buying to take home to sell for 10 times what I was paying, that all the money would come back to Naivasha to pay school fees (and initially to build a girls high school).  Almost all immediately changed, many thanked me for doing what I do and then bargained in earnest. 

Julie and Niki thought I was ruthless, but they’d never met Jecinta.  SHE was RUTHLESS!!!  Sometimes I’d say to her, “Jecinta I don’t need the rock bottom price, I just need a reasonable price,” which would make her mad.  I did want the sellers, mostly the women, to make a reasonable profit. I just didn’t want to feel fleeced. Two years ago, I let myself pay way too much for some merchandise.  The seller’s stall was just next to Njoroge, so when I returned last year, she recognized me.  When I refused to even look at her items, she learned the hard way.  I’ll never buy from her again. 

John has gone to Nairobi to reunion with some people he used to live with, while Tylon, one of the Mji kids studying to be an auto mechanic, has arrived to talk to Hillary, and get squared away for the September term.  We’ve had so many people in my “one butt kitchen” that we could hardly move. Whoever sat at the corner spot could reach the water dispenser and the refrigerator without moving.  At the other end the sink was easily accessed as was the stove.  Today we are just 4.  It will seem very small.  Mary and Margaret are preparing hamburgers on their own.  I’ll be eager to see how they do.  I have shown many people how to prepare them.

(after dinner). The hamburgers were great, even though the girls couldn’t find dill pickles in the market.  The ones they bought were OK, but not the real thing. When we finished, I excused myself, making them promise not to do the dishes—I would do them later, after dealing with email.  Now I can hear the water running and the clink of dishes.  Oh well, I do hate doing them.  I tried, but I think they don’t mind doing them  If they did, they wouldn’t do it.

Mary, who is a big tease, argued with me. “Tell me 5 reasons.”  “1-it’s my turn. 2- my fingernails need to be cleaned, 3-you made the dinner, 4-I’m a nice lady (yeah! Right!).  You’ll need to think of #5.”  I guess they’re doing the dishes because they couldn’t think of #5 either.

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