Meeting in Nancy's House
I think this goes down as the second most memorable birthday I have ever had – the most memorable was my seventieth, also in Kenya.
It started with an unexpected gift from Allan; we had agreed to scrub birthdays this year but he had got me something from the African Curio Shop on his trip to Mitaboni last week, a lapis lazuli necklace.
Peter was due to come and collect us at nine and so after breakfast and Allan’s walk to the river and back we were waiting happily to go to the Boys’ Home and possibly spend ten minutes with Nancy at her “celebration”. Solomon and Chris called round at about ten to nine to wish me Happy Birthday, closely followed by Mercy and there was a loud rendition of “Happy Birthday to you” African style. We left Solomon and Chris with the kettle on, ready to make tea as Peter arrived while we were singing and wanted to get off soon.
We drove to Nancy’s house, where we found her waiting, both for us and for her other visitors. We parked the car and walked something like a hundred yards across a field to the house. This is in a small complex with her sister-in-law’s house next door. Everything is built of wood and there is a dirt floor. Nancy took us to see her kitchen, where Kenyan tea is on the boil, and then to her sister-in-law’s kitchen where mukimo is being prepared. She showed us her chickens, quite healthy looking in spite of being kept in cramped conditions, and her rabbits. She is quite knowledgeable about the rabbits, knowing the breeds and how much meat they will give. She takes Peter and Allan a walk around the little houses, round the shamba and down to the river. In the mean time I go into the house with the other ladies who have arrived. They are all members of a group who are mainly HIV positive and whose purpose is to support others who are HIV positive and to help them realise that they have a value in spite of being infected. This is a very valuable work in this part of rural Kenya, where, although it is reducing, there is still a lot of AIDS around. I have a good chat with these ladies, who are quite happy to talk freely and honestly about their condition and their work. There are a couple of small children playing on the dirt floor and a little tortoiseshell cat sits by the door looking attractive. On the wall, amongst the ancient calendars and posters is a photograph of Allan, which we gave Nancy last year. He is rapidly achieving the sort of status the Prince Philip achieved in Tonga on the royal visit.
When the men came back we made our first tentative attempts to leave for the Boys’ Home but were thwarted, first by Nancy bringing me a huge pot of mukimo to take home and then by a Bible reading and short address by one of the ladies, Milker, whose name is derived from her success with the cows. She gives a good talk on John 14, interpreting it as she goes along. We then pray together and finally, after a good two hours, we leave, laden with mukimo, a potato and pumpkin leaf mixture with maize kernels interspersed in it. This is most filling but also very pleasant to the taste.
We get to the Boys’ Home at last and Allan is able to get some work done with Mary and Peter. I sit in the hall and manage to prepare several worksheets for when I return to school next week. We have a good meal of rice, potatoes and beans and meet up with John 2 and Abdul, a young man from Ruanda whom we met on our first visit to Kenya in 2009. They return to the house with us and Nancy assures us that she will visit us in the evening so as to sing “Happy Birthday” to me. I set to in the kitchen to prepare a meal for the five of us. We have the mukimo and I get some curry and vegetables that mueni had made for us and we had put in the freezer. I am not sure this will go round five people and Nash and Chris arrive while I am cooking, but they are not staying to eat and in fact Nancy calls to say she cannot make it and so there was just enough for the four of us, allowing for the healthy appetites of young African men. We completed the meal with mango and then Allan struggles with John’s laptop, which is running very slowly, with no obvious cause.
Abdul and John will be staying the night in the spare room and as I type are making up their beds.