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Thursday, May 29, 2008


Today, Wednesday May 28th, we got a later than desired start because Anthony's ex-boss called him in and he had to go see her. We didn't get on the road until almost 12:30. We had a lot of stops to make in Nyeri which is in the Central Province of the country and where Catherine grew up, and where Catherine's brother still lives on the same property where they call grew up. Our first stop was to Kahira-Ini Primary School where Catherine attended from 1st through 8th grade. We pulled up to the gate and were greeted by Alex who was a teacher when Catherine attended. We came to find out that out of the 9 teachers at the school, 7 of them taught Catherine! When we drove through the gate we could see some children starting to gather as they were very curious about the big car. As soon as we stepped out of the car I was swarmed by 330 school children! I was informed that they don't see white people in this part of the country so they were extremely curious! I had one girl ask me to please shake her hand, they were mesmerized by my digital camera and as soon as I raised it to take a photo they squeezed even closer to me and all started smiling and got all giggly! There were SO adorable! They followed me everywhere I went. When the headmaster showed Catherine and I into one of the classrooms, the other students waited outside the door for me. The teachers were awe struck by Catherine; the children by me! Catherine spoke to the children in the 6th and 7th grade classes and gave them inspiration and motivation to continue to do well and stay in school. We toured the entire school and much of it was as it was when Catherine attended. There is no electricity. The rooms where the students learn now are almost identical to when Catherine attended however last year they actually put glass in the window cut-outs and put cement on the floors. The two older buildings remained as they were; no electricity, clay floors, no glass in the window openings and an aluminum roof with holes in it. It was an amazing experience seeing these children and how determined they are to go to school. Most of the children did not have shoes as Catherine did not when she attended. We had to leave to be able to make all our stops but I loved being there! My main motivation for finally going, besides the time factor, was that I had to go to the bathroom SO badly but I knew there was no electricity, I knew it was an outhouse, and the last thing I wanted was for 330 kids to be standing outside of an outhouse listening and waiting for me to re-emerge!!!!!! We left the primary school and drove down narrow, clay covered roads that had no street signs anywhere in sight and arrived at the secondary school where Catherine attended. The atmosphere here was completely opposite from the atmosphere at the primary school; it was much more offocial and formal here. We sat with the principal and the deputy principal and then the athletics director joined us. Unfortunately none of the teachers Catherine had still worked there. We politely accepted a soda and spoke to the principal explaining what we were looking to do. They were very happy to see Catherine even though the head principal seemed a bit insulted that she had tried to get in touch with Catherine on several occasions to join a committee and Catherine had not arranged a visit due to her schedule. Before we left Catherine "reminded" me "Stef, didn't you have to use the bathroom"? I was hoping she'd forgotten because I was going to try to hold it not wanting to use the outhouse but at that point I was cornered so I said "oh yes". The principal turned to go find some TP but I assured her that I had my pack of tissues ;-)

By the time we left the school it was getting late and we headed over to Catherine's oldest brother's
house. Anthony's house is set at the top of a hill and there was a huge dirt pile blocking the way so we left the car and trekked up the long hill to the house. (Look closely, thats our car t the very bottom of the hill!)
Once we arrived it was a beautiful setting! You could see out for miles of beautiful trees and fields and their house was very pretty as well. Catherine showed me the house where she grew up which sits right next to Anthony's house and remains unoccupied. We were invited into Anthony's home and met his wife and his children Lillian 9 and Hilda 6. The girls were initially so shy they wouldn't even enter the room. They finally did and sat right next to mom so I held out my camera and asked who wanted to try it first. They loved it! I will say that the younger one, Hilda, took to photography quite naturally from the first time she picked up the camera. Lillian had a much harder time and I think got a bit frustrated with it. But it did break the ice and they seemed at ease around me afterwards. The photos above are self portraits the girls each took with the camera! By the time we left there it was almost 7:00 and I learned that we had to be back for Catherine and Anthony to pick up her brother and another runner at the airport. We still had to stop and meet Anthony's parents! On the way to his parents we stopped so Anthony and I could recharge our cell phones. He went to get the minutes and Catherine and I stayed in the car. There were young boys tapping on our window asking us for money. They would not leave. Finally Catherine cracked her window and said something in Kikuyu to the one boy who would not stop tapping on her window. I have rarely heard her speak so strongly! She said that a lot of these young boys choose to live on the streets because they do not want to obey their parents so they beg for money and live on the streets rather than have to follow the rules of their home. We finally got to Anthony's parents' house and just before we hit the entrance to the house the skies opened up and let down torrential rains! We hurried inside and were greeted by Kenneth and Jane. I won't even list their last names because it is very confusing how the surnames are assigned here! We were shown inside a lovely home that was much more modern than the previous one's we had been to here and in Olkalau. The house has electricity and the TV was on, a digital camera was charging, a cell phone was charging, there was a radio and I saw a computer. They still lived traditionally in other respects but they did have some modern conveniences. Jane served a beef stew with potatoes and cooked bananas. Everyone here has bananas it seems in this region. The primary school gave Catherine a huge bunch, her brother did and Anthony's parents gave us each a bunch of bananas to take home as well. She also served arrowroot which tasted similar to potatoes. And of course came the tea. The bowl of food was so huge I could not finish that or my piece of arrowroot! I had to force some tea down or it would be perceived as an insult! Kenneth has a great sense of humor and i can definitely see where Anthony gets his from! We did not want to leave but it was already after 8:30 and they had to be at the airport because the flight was due in at 9. They figured by the time they got out of customs and got their luggage they wouldn't be too late but we had to get going. The rain thankfully had stopped and we said our farewells. Once we got in the car Anthony was feeling the pressure of having to get to the airport. I had seen how fast he drove throughout these back roads BEFORE dark but now it had also just poured! Now keep in mind that these are dirt roads that are encroached by trees and vegetation so you can barely fit two cars side by side on most of them until you reach the highway. When Anthony hit 140kph you can imagine how scared I was! We made it back to my hotel around 10:05 and they dropped me off and headed off to pick up Samuel (Catherine's brother) and Jane an up and coming runner both also under Lisa's management. It was an amazing day once again. I truly love going out to the countryside and meeting the people in Catherine's life. It has been an amazing experience!

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