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Eight Nuns Celebrated 25 Years of Sisterhood

"I'm embarassed to admit I dubbed her Sister Roly-Poly the first year..." - Retired Menlo-Atherton High School teacher Maego McAuliffe, describing one of the sisters in the Naivasha parish.

Yesterday was the ceremony in Thika, outside Nairobi, about 1 ½ hours from Naivasha. 

Many staff members from went to be with Sister Magdalene, but she probably didn’t see us among the 3,000-4,000 people who were there.  That’s a quick estimate, counting chairs per row and number of rows, then number of sections. 

The ceremony began with dancing girls, with two token boys, from an elementary school.  They were terrific, but it was almost impossible for me to take photos without being pushy like the professional photographers.  I try not to be an ugly American type. 

After the dancing girls came the three nuns who were doing their final vows and eight who were celebrating 25 years of sisterhood.  One is Sister Pauline, who spent many years in the Naivasha parish, mostly teaching catechism.  She is very short and very round and I’m embarrassed to admit I dubbed her Sister Roly-Poly the first year — couldn't remember her name. 

There was much speech giving, singing and dancing and then the vows, followed by a 2 ½ hour mass.  All in Kiswahili, so I can’t report anything about it.   The bishop was the celebrant.  Evidently he did a great job with his one-hour sermon — there were laughs throughout.  He spoke parts in English, but the punch lines were always in Kiswahili.  Essentially it was over three hours of not understanding anything…a time for reflection. 

I confess that some of my reflection was, “I wish this thing were over!” 

Father Kiriti has determined we should leave right after communion, like many Catholics do!  He had good reason, as we had to drive to his family compound in Mai Mahu to pick up his pick-up.  I had to drive the Rav4 to Nakuru, while he made a detour into Naivasha and then met me at the Pastoral Center (PC) where we spend the night. 

It began to rain just as I was arriving in Nakuru.  I was a bit unsure where to turn for the PC and missed it.  It’s on a stretch of road that has few opportunities to make u-turns.  Had to drive several kilometers more to a round-a-bout, so even though I left ahead of Fr Kiriti, he arrived before I did and had a moment of panic when I wasn’t there. 

Driving back, I was still looking for the right place, when the phone rang, “I’m at the PC, where are you?  Are you all right?” 

This came right as I was to turn, so I’m watching traffic, looking for the road, and talking on the phone — worth at least a $250 fine in Menlo Park!  But I arrived and we walked in to get our rooms, only to learn that two men who had come right before us had been given the rooms reserved for us.  It wasn’t a problem, except the person in charge of the keys had gone home and had to come back to open the key-storage.  Another reflection time.

Finally we had the keys, dumped out stuff in our rooms and headed off for dinner.  He went to a hotel he knew, but it was a disco place, with a huge TV and very loud music.  We said NO and went on to a Chinese place — yep, right in the suburbs of Nakuru!  And you know what, it tasted just like American Chinese food.  Tasty.

At 6:15 my phone rang.  Sr. Helen, my Kenyan nun friend stationed in Jamaica, was wanting to say hello.  She works with HIV/AIDS victims, which is very hard, as you can imagine.  I can’t say I was much of a conversationalist and she was most apologetic for waking me.  Actually it was good she called.  I had set my phone to awaken me at 6:30 PM  Oh, good job, Margo.

After a rather skimpy breakfast we set out to do the shopping, including buying a new mattress, which Fr Kiriti has generously installed in my bed, but he will use it after I leave.  Most mattresses here are foam, which form a groove in about 20 minutes, so the “sleeper” must stay in that one place.  My bones have vetoed that and I had had to buy an inner-spring mattress when I first came.  Slept much better after that.  He remembered how comfortable the inner-spring mattress in my guest room is and decided he wanted one for himself. 

When the Holy Ghost fathers left this place in Father Kiriti’s capable hands they left very little for him.  We had a huge shopping list, but fortunately he’s like me, no pondering, no scratching the head, just pick it and move on.  It makes for fast shopping and occasional mistakes, like the printer I bought on arrival.  It eats ink breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack.  It has no mode for OK copies, just good.  It has no setting to make more than one copy — just keep hitting the button.  Halfway through the summer I determined I would donate it and ended giving it to Ruth for her office. 

Even with our efficient shopping methods, it was a good two hours before we got everything, including parking in a no-parking zone while Father Kiriti ran off to pick some things he had been requested for the Kosetei youth who are having a seminar in the parish.  I was left to guard the truck.

"If they come to lock the tires (Denver boot), tell them the owner is a police officer.” 

Oh, right, tell a police person that.  Did I want to end up in a jail cell?  A boot squad did come by and were preparing to do the dirty deed when I intervened. 

“The owner is a priest and he’s coming right back.  Please don’t do this.”  They waved their hands and walked on.  Five minutes later another guy came.  He checked to see that we had paid sh 80 to park at the supermarket.  The he saw me and I think it was a skin dispensation.  He didn’t boot us.  Finally Father Kiriti came back and you can be sure I got full mileage out of it!

About noon we got off for Kosetei in East Pokot (yes I have determined it is East and not West, despite their being no East Pokot on the map, only West).  At first it was a bumpy tarmac, but the potholes grew larger as we drove north.  Those of you who were among my first readers will remember I dubbed the road from Naivasha to Nakuru The Road From Hell.  It is now a good road, but it was terrible.  The road from Nakuru to Pokot now has earned that questionable honor.

I observed the road and the driving.  It’s a manual shift truck and I haven’t driven manual for years, but I could see that it’s exhausting, so I volunteered.  My offer was refused, but he said I will drive part of the way back.  Further report upon my return to civilization on Sunday. 

The drive was hot and long, but the countryside is beautiful, acre upon acre of acacia trees, low shrubs, cows and goats.  I saw more goats today that in the whole rest of my many years.  The animals are the wealth of the people, so they don’t want to eat or sell them.  They just expect the government and the missionaries to give them food. 

Father Kiriti talked about how destructive to the indigenous way of life to give food.  It has been necessary during times of drought, but now in good times, the people expect it.  It’s an African form of the Cargo Culture of the South Pacific islands.  In East Pokot, it is possible to grow food, using dry farming methods, but the people would rather walk for miles, then carry home free food.  Today was a distribution day.  We drove by a number of centers full of people waiting for their handout.  He has begun a slow process of trying to move them back to their roots.  Not an easy task. 

We arrived at 4 and found the youth seminar in full swing.  There are some 200 young people from this area, learning about HIV/AIDS, FGM [female genital mutilation], wise decision making and other pertinent issues.  In the early evening one of the seminar leaders brought out some games.  This one (as seen in the photos) involves getting four of your color discs in a row, vertically, horizontally or diagonally.  The kids really liked it.

The parish compound is really lovely, lots of trees, many buildings, all made from river rock, shaped like squashed loafs of Edam cheese.  The ground is awash with stones, which makes me wonder whether it was a river bed at some time. 

Already Father Kiriti is well-known and clearly loved and respected.  He has an easy way with his parishioners, waving, stopping the car to chat, doing small things to help them understand he is a caring person.  When we drove up a long winding road to the chapel we saw the young people walking down.  As we got into the truck to come back, about 10 of them hopped in back, SOP in this area.  The fact that no one was thrown out nor injured is a tribute to their dexterity and balance.  (See photo)

There were 10 of us for dinner in a small round house with thatched room that badly needs a new thatch - one of many projects he is contemplating.  Last year I dubbed him Father Winchester, after the famed Winchester Mystery House in San Jose - he never stops building, but not for the same reason. 

Afterwards we sat in the semi-darkness on a screened porch, enjoying the evening and the lovely air.  It’s the first time all summer we’ve had a chance to talk withoug phone interruptions every two minutes.  He says one of the things he loves is not having phone network.  All the way driving here, until we had no network, the phone calls just kept coming in.  Often he was driving on a terrible road, needing to shift up and down constantly, trying to steer, shift and hold the phone.  God clearly didn’t plan ahead.  If He had, we’d all have 3 hands!

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