We all slept like babies and when we woke, we all had electricity. The power flickered once, and I’m sure everyone held their breath for a brief moment, but it was only once, so things continued on without a hitch. Once again, we met downstairs for breakfast. Our room seems to be the meeting spot before heading down. This was a day that Karen was especially excited about. We were heading to Masekonde Primary School – more specifically, their Special Needs Class. We had been planning on spending two days with the students there, but they’re on holiday. Their teacher, Veronica, who happens to be Isaac’s sister-in-law is bringing students in so we can see them. Their parents will be there, too.
We met Isaac downstairs for breakfast before heading for the coffee shop. We also stopped at a shopping center to purchase a modem that is more reliable than the one I already have. We were meeting Veronica and the children at 11 so, “We have plenty of time,” Isaac said. It was 10:30 when we entered the plaza, but his sister was working at the gate so we stopped to say hello and let her know that we were playing with her daughter as we walked her grandfather’s land the day before. We teased Isaac, too, because he couldn’t remember his niece’s name(s). For the record, Regina’s daughter is Quinn.
We ran into the grocery store for some cold water and plastic containers (I’ll get to that later) while Isaac got started on the modem. It wasn’t that I didn’t think that we had enough time, but I was pretty sure that we didn’t have enough time. The grocery store was upstairs, so when we came down the steps, Isaac was still in the Safaricom store. “5 more minutes,” he said. It was 10:50. You won’t be surprised that we left the store at 11:15.
|Sharon & her sister|
Veronica was there waiting when we pulled into the school compound. Karen cheered because her favorite student, Brian, was there. The mothers stood in the shade of the building as we drove up. The children were standing on the veranda. They were visibly excited to see us, too, pointing and smiling and waving. We got out of the car and were immediately greeted with hugs from the children and greetings from the parents and Vivian. After 15 minutes of simply saying “hello,” we entered the small teachers office adjacent to their classroom. We gave veronica pictures that we took 6 months ago, and she and the parents loved them. We then gave a gift bag to Veronica and brought out a bag that Karen and Andrea put together. It was loaded with supplies to help teaching Special Needs students. I don’t know if it was because she officially has her certification now, but Karen spoke with Veronica as an equal, and Veronica reciprocated. Karen showed her each of the things she brought, as well as how and when to use some of the more unique items that she had never seen before. For example, she brought these bags of tiny beads. Literally, they were about the size of a pinhead. This is what we needed the previously mentioned plastic containers for. She removed the beads from the bag and placed them in the container. Then she added water and put the lid back on the container. 15 minutes later, the beads had absorbed all the water and were growing exponentially. She removed the lid and had us put our hands inside. The beads felt slimy and squishy, but when you removed your hand, it wasn’t wet. Students that are anxious or upset can put their hands in the container and the feeling/sensation of the beads is very calming. We had Brian come in and give it a try. He loved it! Special puzzles, plastic animals, and assorted educational games were also among the supplies. Veronica was very excited.
We then called in Sharon’s mother to speak with her about an opportunity that Karen pointed out during our last trip, and Andrea put into action. Sharon is a 24 year old with Downs Syndrome. She’s a wonderfully bright, sweet young woman who spends her days in an elementary school setting. Veronica and Karen spoke about her potential during our last visit, and Andrea found some friends eager to help sponsor her at a school that can help her better realize that potential. The fees associated with such a school are beyond mother’s ability to pay, but now that’s not a problem. We spoke to her about it to make sure that she was “on board.” We had her at, “Jambo” (Hello). She clapped and smiled when we told her the news. Once we worked out the details, we brought in Sharon to speak with her about it. She was elated. Our hearts were jumping out of our chests with excitement! Sharon and her mother rose from their seats, when Andrea started to dance, and they both joined in! It would have been wonderful to capture that moment (my camera was in my lap) but I was way too caught up in the moment. It was beautiful. We introduced Father Sergio and she immediately said she was also Catholic! A blessing for her and Sharon followed – Isaac helped translate. Karen had also brought a children’s book about a young girl with Downs Syndrome. She showed it to Sharon and flipped Sharon had to bring the book very close to her face to see, but smiled wide as things came into focus. A few questions later, we learned that although Sharon had an eye exam, they were unable to afford glasses. We added that to the list. We are excited to report the following: 1. Sharon will be hading to the hospital tomorrow and will have glasses by tomorrow night. 2. She will be enrolled in the new school in Nakuru next week and begin classes on January 8th! If you’re not cheering, you should be. Me, I’m sobbing like a baby.
While we were inside, Sam and Sergio were out front with the other children playing with a soccer ball we brought. Even though we were in the office, we could hear the children laughing and cheering. We came outside in time to watch them play. Sergio would head the ball to them and they would chase it down and try to do the same. Their energy never ran low – it was as if they were solar powered… at it today was a very sunny day. It had to come to an end, though, so we said our goodbyes and gave as many hugs as we could. Karen didn’t want to let go of Brian. He occupies a very special place in her heart, and it looked as though that heart was breaking as she climbed into the van without him. Sam smiled through her tears and was quick to say how happy she was to be spending time with these very special friends of ours. I get the impression that they haven’t seen the last of her. Time will tell.
Everyone was quiet on the ride out of the school compound, so we broke the silence with a quick snack. Isaac referred to it as a “light lunch.” French fries. Lots and lots of French fries. As a matter of fact, everyone got their own plate. It probably was more appropriate to call it a “quick lunch.” I’ve eaten more fries in the last 5 days in Kenya than I have in the last 5 years in the US.
We weren’t far from the hotel, but we were also running a little late for a meeting with Vivian Mpetti – the government official who has been very helpful with the Maternity Center. Rather than run them back to their rooms, they decided to come along for the ride. When we got their, Vivian was still on her way from an off-site meeting, so Isaac called his friend to bring his taxi and drop them at the Park Villa. It’s Isaac’s taxi, and the car is on loan. Fortunately, we trust Isaac implicitly. I’m not so sure I’d have put 3 women in a strangers car in an area they’re not familiar with… and yet I did. Isaac said, “No problem. He’s a good man and you can trust him.” Isaac would never put anyone at risk, especially people he loves like family. Andrea said, “I love you,” as they drove away. There was a hint of finality in it and fortunately, everyone was laughing.
Vivian arrived soon after they left. I was pleased to have another opportunity to see her before she moved on to her new position as the governor’s advisor. She said the new person will be arriving next week and she will be sure to update the on our project and push things through. She’s a wonderful lady and would make a great governor herself. “This is a patriarchal society, but anything is possible,” she said. Anything is possible, indeed. We stayed much longer than I expected the conversation was as lively as ever. It really has been a pleasure to work with the local government here in Narok. Vivian has been incredibly helpful and very proactive. She really would make a great governess.
Isaac then took me to a new restaurant for this evening’s dinner. He wanted me to take a look before we made the reservation. I’m only now realizing that the restaurant’s name is, “Governor’s.” If that’s not a sign that Vivian’s going to be a governor at some point, I don’t know what is. We placed our order and headed back to the hotel. I then realized that Andrea’s been jonesing for some chocolate cake. “Who’s got the best cake in Narok?” Isaac took me to Naivas. It actually appears to be a step below Nakumat, but they’ve got a great selection of pastries. All of their full cakes were already purchased, so I opted for 4 smaller pieces of cake – German chocolate cake, white cake and something with a custard-like substance in it. I placed an order knowing that Isaac was going to pick it up on the way to come get us. Veronica was joining us so that we could discuss the arrangements for Sharon’s new schooling.We got picked up promptly and headed right to Governer’s. Andrea saw the box as soon she got in the car. "Is that chocolate cake? Please tell me." I just smiled and watched the excitement fall across her face.
Dinner was good. The goat was excellent, the chicken was not so much. I opted for fried rather than the stew-ish stuff we've been having and it looked delicious when it arrived. It was tasty, but it was also quite tough. The good news was that the cake would help us forget about the chicken, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Before we broke into the cake, Andrea suggested that Karen show Veronica some Snapchat filters. After the first one, I thought I was going to wet my pants. I didn't even know what filter she was using, but the expression on her face was absolutely priceless. You could tell each time Karen changed the filter because Veronica's voice went up an octave each time. It was hilarious. Even she acknowledged the laughter. "I can't remmeber the last time I laughed liked that. We were all laughing together.
Ni me choka sana. I am exhausted. See you tomorrow.