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In A World With No Photographers

Retired Menlo-Atherton High School teacher Margo McAuliffe describes the challenges she faced trying to take a class photo — in Kenya.

One of the things I do every year is photograph the form 4’s.  I have it printed in the US, put into a frame and send back one for each graduate as a memento. 

Imagine there is no photographer who comes to do that!  I also have an enlarged copy printed to hang in the school lobby.  I’m so glad I began that tradition, because now it has become just that — a tradition. 

The current administrators have a sense of history, and realize that in years to come the pictures of each graduating class will be valued.  In time the first classes will hang someplace else, maybe the library or the dining hall, and just the current classes with be in the main hall which even now is getting full. 

As usual, I kept putting it off until one day I realized I have only a short time more.  I scheduled a day, wrote a note on the blackboard in both form 4 classrooms, only to have an unexpected staff meeting at lunch, which precluded the picture taking. 

I had also scheduled a staff photo the next day, but that was A DAY!  At lunch time it was not a cats and dogs rain, it was elephants and giraffes!!!  It poured, it pounded, there was thunder and I thought the heavenly hose had been turned on above SFG! 

At the appointed time I announced to the staff, “OK, time to go out for our picture!” 

For a moment they thought I was serious.  Then they had a good laugh.  Eventually we managed to get a good and I now have my class of 2012 and staff of 2012 pix. 

Unfortunately, several girls were not there, having been sent home for fees.  But you can see most of them in the photos here.

I love how they have arranged themselves so perfectly.  The middle row was eager for the session to be over, as they were kneeling.  Hard on the knees!

I had to do the staff picture twice.  In the first set several teachers were looking at the ground, chatting or otherwise not looking at the camera.  I made appropriate sarcastic comments, so that the second time they were ready to perform!

I work mostly with the math teachers, of course, and particularly Pauline this year.  At first I thought she was very quiet and a bit shy, and she is, but she also has an impish streak.  I had been told she had been in the convent, so I ask her one day. 

“I was in for 3 years, but I was too cheeky for them.” 

This accompanied by a knowing grin.  She is new this year, but is a wonderful addition to the math department.  Maureen came to us first “on attachment” (aka, student teaching) 2 years ago.  We got on well and I was so glad to see her as a full fledged staff member last summer.  Christopher teaches math as well as physics and is full of energy.  He is doing an additional degree, so is part time.  He wants to be an engineer.  William sits right next to me so gets bothered a lot when I have questions, but is very good spirited about it.

Friday afternoon my friend, Agnes, arrived from Nakuru.  She had been at a meeting of women working to promote a peaceful election next spring, with Wanjiru, Catherine’s second in charge at Life Bloom.  These are 2 powerful women who met several years ago, after I arranged for Agnes and Catherine to meet.  We solved all the problems of the world, after which Agnes and I shared the leftovers from the wonderful dinner Julia (matron here at children’s home) had prepared for me. 

I had a repeat of a little scenario I’d had with Jecinta.  She came in one day as I was preparing some butternut squash a la Judy.  She steams them, peals and mashes with butter.  Yummy!  Jecinta saw what I was doing and said she didn’t like pumpkin, which is how it’s known here. 

“OK, just taste one bit and if you don’t like it, I’ll make a sandwich for you.” 

She ate a whole bowl and announced she was going to prepare it for her daughters.  Later she reported they had also turned up their noses at the idea.  Don’t know whether she prepared it for them or not. 

When Agnes saw what I was preparing, she said Kenyans think of it as poor person’s food, it’s too dry, I don’t like it. 

“OK, just taste one small bite.  If you don’t like it, I won’t be offended.” 

She took, ate a good portion and reported she would prepare it for her children. 

Now I am waiting for my 3 dinner guests: Teresia Hinga, Kenyan professor of religion at Santa Clara Univ.; her colleague, Pacifica, who teaches gender studies at Kenyatta University and is Catherine’s professor; and Catherine.  I’m fixing “pumpkin”.  Report to follow. 

Teresia and Pacifica were to arrive between 3 and 4.  I had said to Catherine earlier I wasn’t sure whether they were coming on American time or African time.  At 5:30 when I called Teresia, only to be told they would be arriving at 6:45, I had my answer.

Stay tuned for further updates.

3 hours later...

All 3 arrived at 7, having met at the gate.  Although I had been piqued at the tardiness, it was over the instant they arrived.  It was a wonderful gathering of 3 very strong and bright women and I was honored to be a 4th member of the group.

 

More tomorrow.

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