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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Back to Roots II

Today we actually got to sleep in; 7am! We left our lovely *cough* Central Hotel after a decent breakfast that was included with the room. We arrived at Kahira Ini Primary School by 8:15 and there were already a lot of students there! Now remember, this is SATURDAY! Because of the track meet on Friday, the headmaster arranged for us to come in today and he also invited parents. Unfortunately there was also a church function today so many were not able to come. When we got there we started filming immediately but there were so many kids interested in the camera that we took some time first to let them check it out! It was cute how curious they all were. Jon had his camera and I had my little Canon and we would film a group of children and then play it back for them while they all giggled and vied for the best viewing position! We interviewed several teachers there and you could see how excited both parents and children were while waiting for Catherine to arrive. We scheduled to be there long before her so we could do all the other interviews and establishing shots. We did not know that they had planned an entire assembly and were expecting Catherine to speak formally to the children and parents. When we learned that she was only minutes away, the headmaster got all of the children and parents seated. When Catherine arrived there was such an excitement in the air you could hear the buzzing! The teachers all greeted her and Anthony and Charles Githii, the headmaster, walked the grounds with Catherine as she reminisced.

Finally the children were rewarded when first Anthony was introduced to speak and then Catherine.

They did not speak in English so I had to rely on the reactions of the children and later learned what they were told. Anthony warned them about staying away from the gangs that had been causing some trouble in the area lately and Catherine spoke to them about working hard in school and nurturing any talents they have that they should not be afraid to start small and not give up. She urged parents to let their children follow their dreams and to support them and she was very humbled that so many people came out to see her on a Saturday when they could be doing other things. She also announced that she was donating 100,000ksh to the school to use for things that they need most! There was a question and answer session after and the children seemed curious to know more. Once again, we were there longer than I had anticipated; I just underestimate the amount of time people want to spend with Catherine especially when it comes to kids!

Before leaving we were invited to have some drinks and a snack so of course we accepted (remember it is impolite not to anyway and we were very hungry by that time!) When I say drinks, it is not the kind of drinks you may be thinking but it also was not tea! It was soda which is very big in Kenya, especially all things Coke a Cola! Before leaving, Catherine wrote her donation check as promised and presented it to the headmaster. She said she would follow up and see what they use the funds for.

It was once again getting late and we needed to visit Catherine’s birth home so off we went. Catherine rode with us in the van so she could commentate and Anthony drove their 4 wheel vehicle. We made a stop at the little shopping strip so Catherine could buy some groceries to bring to her brother’s home as she never shows up empty handed. It is customary to bring basic needs to those who do not earn as much as you do. She got what she needed, I got drinks for everyone and then we continued on our way.

As we neared our destination the ground was soggy and muddy and lo and behold we got stuck! Anthony was driving ahead of us and didn’t notice so he kept going until he was out of site. We all got out of the van and Jon and Willy pushed while Michael (driver) tried to steer the way out. Catherine and I stood out of the way and watched the mud flying! She was on the phone so Anthony called me to ask where we were and I told him our predicament! He drove back but the guys were finally able to free the van and we continued to the birth home.

It was different from last year in the fact that the project her brother was working on that prevented us from driving up the hill was complete but we decided not to even try taking the van up the hill! Anthony drove up but we walked! It is a beautiful piece of land that sits up high and overlooks the countryside; just breathtaking. Catherine walked us around the property and showed us where she and her siblings lived, how they gathered water and where she grew food. The original structure she lived in as a child is still there but her brother, Anthony uses it for storage now and built another house on the land where he lives with his wife, Grace (also known as Mama Lillian) and two children, Hilda and Lillian. Word quickly spread that Catherine was visiting and soon a former neighbor showed up as well as Catherine’s uncle, one of her father’s brothers! Catherine gave her uncle some groceries and she gave the former neighbor some cash (again, custom to help those less fortunate). Then Mama Lillian prepared tea for all as well as sweet potatoes that she had roasted on the fireplace that is their stove. The house is in the same style as the one Catherine grew up in with the kitchen in a separate building. We enjoyed the healthy snack and then had to say our goodbyes so we could make our last stop of the day.

When we got back down to our car and were about to leave, we ran into Charity, Catherine’s Aunt that we ran into and interviewed on our first visit to her home town.

She asked me to come to her house (just up the road) for a visit and some tea and I felt horrible having to decline. I know it is not polite but we were on a very tight schedule and it would be getting dark soon and we still had to visit Anthony’s parents who had been waiting for us. I promised that the next time I come I will take her up on the generous offer.

We drove back through Karatina and on to Anthony’s parents who still live in the home where Anthony grew up. I still don’t know how people find their way around these places as there are no street signs and people just know which coffee field to turn at! I had not seen Anthony’s parents’ home in daylight and when we arrived it was very pretty! They have a little orchard/garden where they grow some vegetables and also have some passion fruit trees! They showed us down into the garden and I watched Anthony climb a passion fruit tree like a little kid (even though he was wearing dress clothes and shoes!)

He and Catherine knocked down a lot of fruit and I tasted my first passion fruit which was surprisingly good! We then interviewed Anthony’s parents, Jane and Kenneth and learned some interesting things from them. Anthony definitely gets his sense of humor from his father; in fact, they are almost one and the same person! His mother seems to be very practical and we learned that she used to be a runner as well! We shared some tea and biscuits and a little bit of time and then needed to head out so we could get back to Nairobi before it got too late. We left Catherine and Anthony there to spend a little “alone” time with the parents and Anthony said he would see us on the road as he passes us! I laughed and we got on the way :) Sure enough, about 40 minutes into the drive, we saw them pass our van! Kenyan drivers! :) We stayed our course and arrived back at Wasini at almost 10:30. It was a long day but well worth it!

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