#27 2014 Back in Menlo Park and Finale to Blog 2014
August 21, 2014
My current condition seems surreal, just a moment ago it was 6:30 Tuesday morning and I was rushing around the children’s home compound, crazy with last minute items, and suddenly it’s 4:45 am on Thursday and I am awake in Menlo Park. I’m quite sure I didn’t teleport—the trip back was LONG, but having arrived here, I find myself out of context. Many years ago I read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and I think I may have been in one.
The plan was I would leave Naivasha at 9, drive myself and my 4 girls to Nakuru, pick Fr. Kiriti, who would then drive me to Nairobi airport. When I’d gone to bed the night before I was packed except for —. Surely arising at 6:30 would ensure plenty of time. NOT! Phone calls, interruptions, delays, forgotten this and neglected that. ACH! Had to go to SFG to drop off all the items I’d borrowed through the summer, graphing calculator, books, plus books I’d brought to either be added to the library or given to teachers with small children. Had to see Ruth, we had to talk, and of course good-bye hugs and promises to miss each other and “see you in June!” with whomever was around during the break. Back at the compound, rush to get some of the dust of the car, gather the girls into the car (herding cats approach) and finally we were off at 10.
Veronica, Margo, Yvonne, Quinter and Edith pose for a final pic, while David helps Tylon
wash dust from my car.
In the background is the donated wood pieces used for cooking in the children’s kitchen.
We made very good time, as most of the trucks seem to go early or late and we buzzed right along until we came to a police blockade. These are routine. I thought nothing of it, except to be part of the accumulated vehicles trying to squeeze by. Ostensibly these are to check for contraband and bad guys but in reality they are but another opportunity to collect bribes. Rarely does a car get stopped, just trucks and matatus. The blockage consists of 2 long metal strips with lethal spikes, each the length of 1/2 the road, arranged one each direction about 10 feet apart, requiring the driver to snake through very slowly. All the vehicles jockey for position, like a bunch of ill-trained first graders grabbing for a treat. Hodge-podge. And I was in the middle when suddenly a very grouchy, menacing police pointed at me, “Pull Over There!!!!” Confused, I pulled over and another burly character approached the car, asking for my driving license. I handed him the photocopy I carry in the glove. “Where’s the original?” he snarled. “I don’t carry it with me lest I am carjacked.” Of course the implication is that if they weren’t so busy collecting bribes they might be able to prevent same. “Do you realize you were in the wrong lane? That’s a felony!!! Since I had been in the middle of the rest (who were not stopped) I knew he has spotted my mzungu face and gray hair, figuring he could intimidate me. Sorry buddy, wrong girl. He took my DL, yelled at me some more and walked to the back of the car, just standing there. I was annoyed because I was already late, so I got out. “Just what was I doing that all these other cars, that you are not stopping, aren’t doing?” “You were in the wrong lane. See that? That’s a felony.” I looked in square in the eye with my best school teacher glare and said, “I know what you want.” We did a brief stare-down. I won. He knew he had no basis and he knew I knew it too. I reached over and grabbed my license from his hand and said, “I’d like to leave now.” He waved me away, I got in and drove off, heart pounding to be sure, but more from the exhilaration of the encounter than from fear of being arrested. He was the felony committer, not I, but I let him go, just like he let me go.
Fr. Kiriti confirmed he could not arrest me, and had a good laugh at my recounting the tale.
We dropped the girls at the matatu station to find their ways home, and were off, first stopping for lunch at a lovely resort with a panoramic view of Lake Elementita. It’s beautiful, but is so salty that no fish can live in it, although Fr. Kiriti says it’s a home for flamingos so maybe some brine shrimp are there. As we ate, he pointed out what looked like a big fat squirrel, dining on a plant just below the terrace where we sat, but he said it was a big fat rock rat and I was glad it was more interested in the lunch than us!
Then back to Naivasha to get my suitcases, which wouldn’t have fit in the car with the girls and their stuff, last minute hugs from Julia and the kids who happened to be home and
off to make a quick visit to Catherine’s One Stop Center—except it’s way off the road, with only a few cow and goat trails to define the route. I had thought maybe she would be there, but only the workers were on-site, so back in the car, back bumping along to the unroad and off for my last 2014 view of the Great Rift Valley. Oh, my it’s hard to leave, even though I recognize I couldn’t live there permanently. Each time I wonder how I will be in 10 months. Will I be able to return? Lots can happen in 10 months, but each year I keep showing up and I’m assuming I will again in 2015—until some year, I don’t! We all live with uncertainty. This is mine.
My plane was scheduled to leave at 11 pm, but Fr. Kiriti couldn’t drop me that late. It’s not safe for anyone to drive in Nairobi at night, not even for him. Besides, he was spending the night with some friends in a monastery across town and dinner was at 7:30, so after stopping for a snack, at 6 pm I was in the queue for the first of many inspections in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
I won’t bore you with the numbing details of the wait to board, the 5 hours to Dubai (with little sleep, despite my exhaustion), the 3 hours in the Dubai airport and the 16 hours to SFO. In the experience it seemed to last longer than my 2 ½ months in Naivasha, but in fact it was just (?) 48 hours from my bed Tuesday morning in Naivasha to my bed in Menlo Park Wednesday night. I’d had an interesting seatmate, a young girl who had spent the year in Indonesia and was on her way back to NYC for her final year and Union Theological Seminary, after a visit with her California parents.
As always my son, Mark, found me wandering about the International Arrivals area more than 2 hours after landing. There was a baggage delay and of course one of mine was among those. Yet, I was grateful to not find my name on the list of those whose bags were still waiting in Dubai! One has to celebrate the little victories.
My house looked very welcoming, along with Amor Luz and Abel, filling in for my renters who’d left Saturday, in the kitty-sitting. My raised beds that I’d left with a few small plants, started from seeds is overflowing with luscious green vines and delicious lemon cucumbers. I feasted on tomatoes and still-producing raspberries while I searched the yard to Rufus. Sophie, ever the homebody was on my bed as usual and happy for a good ear scratch and face pet, but Rufus was not in any of his usual haunts and didn’t come when I called. Hmmm.
Bleary-eyed, I drove to Kay’s to collect my mail and cell phone, trying to stay on the right side of the road after driving 2 ½ months on the left. Even well-slept I find that transition disorientating, so concentrated on following everyone else, figuring they were probably doing it right (no pun).
The usual arrangement for first night home has been Mark drops me and I join them for dinner later, but he has joined an orchestra and Wednesday is rehearsal night. But great son that he is, he’d made me a delicious spinach soufflé, an old family favorite from my mother’s recipes. Amor and Abel had to leave for awhile, so I tried, unsuccessfully to do the Suduko while I ate soufflé and a wonderful banana bread Amor had baked to honor my homecoming. Planning not to sleep until 9, I tumbled into bed at 7:30 and now am wide awake at 5:30 am, after having spent an hour producing this. I’d been awakened by Rufus, stalking my head. He was happy to have his mommy back, which he told me as he purred through a thorough washing of my face. He seems in very good condition. He’d had very bad feline asthma all last winter, but finally rebelled at the pills I was trying to give him. I had hoped the summer weather would cure him, at least temporarily and that seems to have been the case. He’s such a great cat.
I’ll be back on PDT in a week or so, but in the meantime, if we meet, forgive me if I seem even more vague than usual. It’s the jet lag.
And now dear readers, I bid you farewell until June 2015, God willing an’ the creeks don’t rise, as our ancestors were wont to say.
= Love to all