#29 Sunday in Kosetei and Back Home to Naivasha Monday, August 20, 2012
Message from Fr. Kiriti:“We have 2 masses tomorrow morning—one to an area where I have not given them mass yet and one to a school where I have been. We leave at 8:30.” I slept pretty well, despite the warm night and the chorus of frogs. Again I had to water the bush early in the morning, then fell back to sleep. Fortunately Fr Kiriti called through my window at 7:30. I had set the alarm on my phone, but never heard it. The cold shower was fast. I was on time for breakfast and ready to hop in the sister’s truck at the appointed time. I asked whether he took a collection at these masses and he said he thought they had not done that in the past, but he firmly believes the people must begin taking more responsibility for themselves and for their church. It will be a very long time before that small parish will be self-sustaining, if ever, but they need to give—it can’t be all one-way. I stuck a couple of bills in my pocket so the people would get the idea and we drove off, my bags in the back.
We picked a man standing by the road who would direct us to a small church built (very badly) by the previous priest. Off through the bush we drove, again surrounded by thousands of goats, some cows, and occasionally a small group of camels. It was a repeat of Thursday, except it went on and on and on. Fr. Kiriti kept glancing at his watch. He is very punctual and he was fretting that he’d be late for this mass as well as the one following. It’s so hard to describe the countryside, rocky, hilly, full of small acacias, and vast. Occasionally we would spot a maize field or a small group of mud huts, round and grass-thatched. Always a passel of small children stood by, staring at the truck (an unusual sight) as the mzungu inside (even more unusual—perhaps unique in their experience). Finally we arrived—the first, although we were ½-hour late. But almost immediately people began to appear from the bush. Each looked in the back of the truck to determine what food had been brought (none). Some left (men) but most stayed (women and children). Our guide was one of 3 catechists, who began organizing the benches and the table (altar). Mass began with barely a quorum (maybe 15 at most), but by the time it was over there were close to 50. I sat in front, so wasn’t fully aware of the late arrivals until it was over. An older gentleman seated next to me began directing traffic for the new arrivals until Fr Kiriti had to quiet him so mass could begin. He is the chairman of that small community and seemed to want to establish his leadership position.
Always there is a woman who begins the singing and others join in. The leader seems to know it’s her job and they always sound wonderful. Fr. Kiriti tries to engage the people in dialogue, but he is new to them and they were a bit shy. He actually forgot the offertory until after communion, at which time the catechist put a small basket on the floor and Fr Kiriti deposited something from his pocket. I got up and dropped in my offering as well. We were the only ones.
At the end he turned to me, “They want you to greet them.” I should have anticipated it, he always does that in small groups, but I had not prepared any remarks. It didn’t matter, since I had to first be translated into Kiswahili and then to Pokot. I expect some was lost along the way.
We hopped back in the truck—and I found I was getting pretty good at grabbing the bar above the glove compartment and boosting my fanny, all in one movement. Catechist in back we drove another 20 minutes to a small school where maybe 30 people waited. Since school is closed for several weeks holiday, desks had to be hauled out from a storage area, a small room where the head teacher stays. The school is just nursery, class 1 and 2, so the desks were tiny. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to fold myself in, and the man across the aisle, with long, skinny legs never succeeded. This congregation grew to more than 50 by the end and they seemed much more savvy. The singing was beautiful, as always and the clapping kept everyone together. At offertory time, there was no basket, so a hat was commandeered from one of the congregation. They seem to be more used to it, although not very many came forward. It certainly didn’t cover the petrol used to get there, but it was a beginning. Again I spoke briefly and the people were wonderfully warm and welcoming. Several very old ladies shook my hand with a strong grip and grinned (toothlessly) and with pleasure. It was wonderful to be there. I’m sure most of the children had never seen a mzungu let alone shaken hands with one, but each one solemnly offered a hand—no giggling here. This was serious business. Unfortunately, my memory card on my camera was full, so could take no more pix.
By this time it was close to noon and I was wishing I’d been a bit more vigorous with breakfast. We were facing a 2 hour drive back to Marigat and an hour to Nakuru—then another to Naivasha. Fr Kiriti pushed it as best he could, but often we were going 5-10 km/hour. It got hotter, but there were practically no other vehicles on the road for the first 1 ½ hours, so no dust to speak of and we could have the windows down—no AC either! The empty petrol drum in the back came loose, so we stopped to secure it again, but our tying job couldn’t compensate for all the bumps. It had been sitting in line with the side, so I suggested we put it sideways so we could secure it to the front of the bed. Good thinking, Margo. It worked.
Chatting or just peacefully watching the unending hills dotted with goats and the occasional small hut, I was startled back to reality, “Uh! What happened to the brakes?” Oh, dear! Remember we were in a borrowed truck. Fr Kiriti takes excellent care of all his vehicles, but the sister’s haven’t been so well trained. Pumping, he slowed us down and stopped. Slowly he started up again and tested. They worked fine and gave us no more trouble, although he had to use them constantly. We never figured out what happened and it gave us pause. Responsible person that he is, he called the sister’s driver and listed all the things that needed attention before it could safely be driven again. And we prayed it would get us back. I had begun to wonder what I’d do if I didn’t make it to the plane the next day.
The truck had no power steering, and the potholes were everywhere. It is an exhausting drive for him and I offered to take over for awhile, but he wisely demurred. It has been years since I’ve driven a stick shift, and with no power steering he didn’t think I could do it. Probably right. Suddenly he called my attention to the speedometer which was fluctuating wildly and then….the motor quit. We were in the middle of no-where, more arid than in Kosetie by far. I had left my running shoes back in Kosetei for him—he hadn’t any there, and now I had only open-toed sandals with totally inadequate support for my feet and ankles on this rocky uneven road. Oops! Under the hood he quickly discovered the structure holding the battery in place was missing one of the verticals. It had rotated around to rest on one of the terminals, shorting out the battery. ARGH!! Oh, no, the wires to the terminal had burned a bit too! What to do? “We can use some of that rope in the back to tie it down,” was my offering. I quickly untied a fairly thin piece, which secured the top piece and was tied to some other thing sticking up. It looked to me like a disaster ready to happen, but we hopped back in the truck he turned the key and to our amazement (and great relief), it started! We stopped once or twice to check our makeshift repair. My concern was fire, but it wasn’t hot and held fine.
And then we got to Marigat! Whew! It wasn’t exactly civilization, but it does boast a hotel with a reasonably suitable bathroom, which I had investigated on the trip out. I asked the clerk for the key to the ladies, but quickly returned to report it was flooded and could I please use the men’s? She looked a bit apprehensive and warned me, “Please be quick.” I was. And off we went to Nakuru.
You’ll be glad to know we had no other unfortunate events with the truck and finally we turned into the Pastoral Center in Nakuru where the car awaited us. We were hot, dirty and hungry and after shifting all our gear to the car, proceeded to the Chinese restaurant where we had eaten a few days before. Familiar with the menu, we quickly ordered, ate and were on our way, this time with me at the wheel. The northbound traffic from Nairobi was heavy, but we were south bound and made good time. It was just getting dark when we pulled into the parish compound and drove around to Mji Wa Neema. After a brief panic when I couldn’t find my camera, he was off to home in Mai Mahu (another ½ hour) and I was left to complete my packing—mostly done before I left.
Every few minutes brought a knock at the door and a kid who wanted to talk. It was 10 before I wearily climbed into bed. Long day!
Up early this morning to wash my brillo-like hair, I was ready, bags at the door by the time Fr. Kiriti arrived. I had planned to stop at Safaricom to have my modem reactivated as I failed to top up on time. (Don’t ask—it just means it didn’t work). I don’t understand I just do. However, this being the day after the end of Ramadan, most shops were closed. Oh well, all my emails will just have to wait until I get home
In Nairobi we stopped to shop again. The previous priest had left the house and larder bone-bare. Fr Kiriti even needed waste baskets, cruets for wine and water, and supplies. He had wanted a device he’d learned about to pump up tires, but it was ksh 18000 (over $200). It wasn’t in his budget. I pointed out I have filled my car tires with a bicycle pump, which he has, so that problem was solved. Pumping up a Prius is hardly like pumping a truck tire, but he’s strong and has helpers. Dumping the purchases in the car, we had lunch, then off to the airport. And now I find myself almost to Dubai. Where did the summer go?
One week later, in Menlo Park.
I’ve spent the better part of the week sleeping. Didn’t know I was so tired, but finally I think I’m on west coast time and pretty much back to myself. My next to last email had no pictures, so in addition to this one, I will send one that is basically just pictures, with brief titles. That will complete the 2012 version of Margo’s blog. I thank all of you who have told me how much you enjoyed reading my ramblings. I really need to write it, so am grateful to have readers.
Many have suggested that I write a book. I have to say the thought is overwhelming to me. I can take one day at a time and fairly well organize it, but 8 summers!!!! NO!!!! Too much. It takes a real writer to sort through the tons of material I’ve generated. Not my gift!
Good bye until next June.