July 26, 2018
My summer visit is more than ½ gone! ACH! Where did it go? It always feels like this—like I’ve just arrived and suddenly I’m winging my way back. Today Hillary and I took Julie to Nairobi, where she’s spending the night in a very posh hotel. In the lobby we are all given hot, moist towels, even though Hillary and I were quick to point out we weren’t guests. Then we were offered glasses of apple juice. Julie wrote to me later she’d indulged herself in a lovely bath.
Before we took her to the hotel, we stopped at the Maasai Market, which is a must for everyone who visits here. It’s overwhelming with so many stalls and vendors, a lot of noise and a visual craziness, so many items, bright colors and STUFF! Every vendor is out to get likely looking suckers to part with some shillings. I parted with a lot of shillings and Julie did pretty well for herself. She loved it, but we all breathed a sigh of relief when we got out of the noise.
Over the years I’ve gotten a lot more tough. When the vendors get too pushy (and they all do) a look them square in the eye and with my best school-teacher firmness tell them, “When I say NO, I mean NO!” Most will respect that and back off. If I take the time to explain what I do with my items, most will immediately reduce the price significantly and thank me. One lady, from whom I bought some great soapstone bowls, even asked for my contact info. I carry my Kenya Help business cards. She was impressed that I really do have a foundation—even threw in a small soapstone hippo. I’ll buy from her again.
Poor Hillary. We’ve decided we are bad energy for him. Yesterday, when he took Julie to Narok to visit Sabore, a Maasai chief we all know (from Rotary, which he visits each year) Hillary got stopped by the police TWICE!!! He admits he might have been speeding the first time, but the second time there was too much traffic. He couldn’t have been speeding. That time the cop confiscated his license. So today he went to the police station where he obtained a copy of his license and a document indicating he’d lost his license. As we came out of the M market, he made a u-turn, which prompted an officer to stop him, saying it was illegal—indicated by a double yellow like. I protested I’ve seen people making u-turns all the time and when he perceived he wasn’t getting a bribe, he let us go, “Because of the shosho” (grandmother) he said. HA! When we passed that place again there was no double yellow line!!! Moreover, Hillary later revealed, he wasn’t even a traffic officer. They wear a special hat, so this cop had no authority to even stop us. ARGH!!! It’s getting bad! The only way to deal with them is to be polite, but not be intimidated. Hillary asserts that had I been with him yesterday he would not have lost his license. I would have asked for the name and badge number of the cop, as well as proof that he was actually going 109 km/hour. That’s about 60 m/hour. Since Hillary was pretty sure he wasn’t, demanding to see the photo they claimed to have might have silenced the whole thing.
I wrote recently about the issue of school burning. Today’s paper says more than 40 have been torched, and a member of parliament is urging the return of caning to put a stop to “indiscipline”. I doubt very much it would have that effect. If anything it would make students madder. What I think they need is teachers and administrators who actually listen to the students, more and better food, and better teaching. I’m told that in government schools teachers often don’t show up to classes. They have a much stronger union here than in the US and they can’t be fired for inattendance. Fortunately the minister of education has refused to consider allowing caning. She will offer more positive moves to reduce student anger.
I will be alone for about 10 days until Alison arrives. It’s a bit of a down time for me, as students are all in exams, so there is little to do at school. I have other things to do, including working on the brochure for SFG, visiting old friends and just taking it easy. On Monday I’ll get a ride with a friend to Nakuru where I will visit with Fr. Kiriti for a few days. That will be a time to relax, read a book and walk around the countryside.
Earlier this week Julie hiked in Hellgate National Park, one of my very favorite places to hike. She went with Fr. Kiriti, who loves going there and Hillary who had never been. Alas! About 5 years ago I had to put an end to my hike there. I feared I could break a leg (or worse) and it would be very hard to get me out. I knew I was no longer strong enough to do it. Much as I hate to concede anything to age, the fact is, I can’t do that hike. Sigh! However, Julie loved it. At about 10 years younger than I was when I first came here, she is a strong hiker, and Hellsgate is breathtaking. Fr. Kiriti hadn’t been there for several years, after a large group of hikers died in a flash flood. Most of the hike is in a deep, narrow canyon, with deep gouges in the side, worn away for eons by rushing water during those flash floods.
It has been great to see each of my guests find her place here, her personal niche where she could give her gifts. Mary, of course, found many, many opportunities at the district hospital. The nurses there loved her and she loved them. Kathleen, who works in HR, found her place at Life Bloom, helping to refine their peer mentoring program, and at SFG, doing a similar project, working with the new counsellor. Julie is a financial planner and became very interested in the Kenyan banking system and how the saving circles, so common here, could find the best place to invest their money, to earn the most interest. She visited a number of banks and “Sacco’s”, which seem to be something like a credit union. The savings circles (called something else, but I’ve forgotten it), are groups, mostly women of 12 or more who meet monthly, contributing an agreed upon amount, which is then deposited in an account. One group of 20 has bought a plot of land in Gil Gil, (up the road toward Nakuru), and plan to build. Apartments are springing up everywhere as young people leave the rural areas and flock to the larger towns and cities to find work and possibly a mate. Before Julie left this morning, she visited one other place, then made a report to some LB ladies, with recommendations about the best investment opportunities. All 3 of them have left an impression on this town.
It has been unseasonably cold here—colder than I’ve even known it. Most days I’m in a turtle neck, vest and jacket. This morning when I walked down to the rectory to collect my newspaper, I saw Mary, one of the workers here, in a short-sleeved shirt, positively shivering. “Don’t you have a long-sleeved shirt?” “No, I haven’t got one.” I remembered Hillary had been very kind, when I thought I’d lost my jacket, to find another for me in the market. Unfortunately he had underestimated my girth, so I gave it to Mary, who is much smaller. She was really grateful and I was so glad I had it. It was much better than what I’d originally thought about—giving her one of my t-necks.