#6 A Visit With an Old Friend – Well, A Longtime Friend
I’ve known Kennedy since he was 14, in 2006. I’d gone with Fr. Kiriti to a house on the Naivasha Prison grounds. He often celebrated mass at someone’s house. It was the first year I had taught math during the August holiday and I feared no one would show up, so I had asked Fr. Kiriti to announce my plan. Anybody who wanted to “revise” math should show up at 9 am at Archbishop Ndingi chemistry lab. The home belonged to Kennedy’s family and his mother heard the announcement. A few days later a tall boy came knocking at the door of the rectory where I was staying, asking to see Margo. “I heard you were teaching maths. May I join your class?” “Be at Archbishop Ndingi at 9 am on Monday.” Instead, he waited for me outside the door and accompanied me to Ndingi, a nice walk of about 35 minutes for me. Probably 25 minutes for him, but he kept my pace and we chatted along the way. Every day after that he waited for me to walk along. He was such a likable boy and I saw something special in him. The mere fact that he wanted to get to know me, he wanted the math and he was a serious person, although with a wonderful smile—all of that impressed me.
The following year, he came by to inquire whether I was doing the “tuitioning” again. I was and so again we walked the path up the road to Ndingi. As was my wont, I asked where he saw himself in 10 years. He said he wanted to be a writer.
Then the spring of 2008 came, with the post election violence. As luck would have it, Kennedy’s family had gone north to Kisumu for a family funeral, thereby possibly saving their lives. They are Luos, living in Naivasha, a largely Kikuyu area. In the month-long siege, more than 1200 were killed, many in Naivasha and many Luos. They escaped with their lives, but lost everything. Neighbors who had been their friends looted and burned their house. They lost everything, even the father’s job as a prison guard.
They settled up north in Luoland, near Kisumu, but Kennedy couldn’t continue high school. No money for fees, the problem for thousands of young people here. He wrote to me and eventually I agreed to sponsor him, although I had long before made a decision to sponsor only students at Ndingi and SFG.
Eventually he graduated from high school and I knew he needed to go to university. He is now in his 2nd year of medical school.
And so Kennedy came to visit me today, taking a matatu from his dorm in Thika to Nairobi and then on the Naivasha. It was so good to see him and to have a chance to catch up. But first, “Are you hungry?” “Well, yes.” “”Do you know what a hamburger is?” “Yes.” “Do you like them? Shall I fix you one or I have peanut butter or cheese. What sounds good?” “I’d like a hamburger—with cheese on it, please.” While he ate we caught up with his life and mine. He LOVES being in medical school, loves the hospital environment, and thinks he wants to be a surgeon. He said the nicest thing to me. “When I finish med school and am a doctor, I want to be just like you. I want to found a hospital like you founded a school (I didn’t really, just raised the money) and send young people off to medical school.” “You could establish a hospital in Luoland, couldn’t you?” “That’s actually my dream.” Wow! Talk about casting your bread upon the waters!
Kennedy knows David Mungai, second oldest boys here at Mji Wa Neema and a 1st year med student at the same school. So when he was ready to leave, we walked up the road, just like old times, first stopping in the street market across the road for the eggs Maya and I forgot to get earlier. The woman had many eggs prominently displayed, all cracked or with a hole. Back behind her were the whole eggs. I bought those. I probably paid a premium, but that’s OK I just wasn’t up for broken eggs.
We walked up the road, dodging trucks and matatus on the side until we found the shop where David works. He had been expecting only Kennedy so was surprised to see me. But David and I are buds too. He later texted me to say how happy he was that I visited him in his shop.
Earlier, as Maya and I returned from the street market, laden with many fruits and veggies (but sans eggs), we saw people emerging from a wedding in the church. Maya hopped out to take pix, which I hope she will include in the posting she’s working on. The bridesmaids had on beautiful red dresses as did the beruffled flower girls. With little girls dresses, the more frufraws the better.
When I was walking back from visiting David, I saw 3 of bridesmaids and one flower girl sitting dejectedly on a low wall, waiting for someone to collect them. The wedding had been over for some 3-4 hours!
Earlier in the week I had invited Fr. Peter to come to dinner with the children of Mji Wa Neema. We agreed he would come Friday at 7. Jecinta and I had discussed serving hamburgers, but I knew I didn’t have time to figure out how to make them for so many people and I wasn’t sure how many would like them. So we agreed on chicken, rice and veggies. It was a delicious meal, prepared on African time (8 pm) by Agnes and the older kids here. Julia has gone home for a few days to visit her ailing father, so it was a lot for Agnes to put together, but she did a great job. Maya and I had an inspiration to bring ice cream and biscuits for dessert. This is usually Judy’s treat, so Judy, we did it in your name. Maya picked out 3 flavors and I bought a huge box of biscuits (foreground). I was sure there would be lots of leftovers – NOT. Those kids had stacks of biscuits and ate all the ice cream. Note Ruth in the upper corner finishing off one of the containers. Neither Fr. Peter nor Jecinta had ice cream. Most Kenyans dislike cold things.
I thought the dinner quite successful and I hope it is the beginning of more interaction between Fr. Peter and the children.
All for now.