It is getting late and the dusk is giving way to swift African night as we stop near an embankment on the side of the detour along the main road. We meet the presbytery catechist, who has been summoned by mobile phone, and clamber across the excavations onto a narrow track winding towards a humble mud and wattle hut within a tiny shamba.
Natasha is waiting for us. She is five years old and has cerebral palsy. Her grandmother Lydia looks after her. Natasha’s specialist chair was bought recently by St. Peter’s Lifeline from Nanyuki, where they take her for therapy. Her grandmother Lydia sits beside her.
Natasha cannot speak. She was abandoned by her teenage mother who had tried to abort her several times. The child has a lovely smile, and her eyes light up as soon as she sees Father Frankline and the catechist. She stamps her feet with loud jerks in ecstasy, demonstrating her delight. There is another contraption nearby for her to “play with” and use to strengthen her arms and legs. After a few months when there might be a vacancy, Father Frankline says, she will go to the special needs place in Nanyuki, and maybe end up walking and talking. The project has discovered many disabled children, hidden away by the ashamed parents. I do not take out my camera, but Father takes this photo of us with their happy co-operation.
As we leave, the grandmother gives us a bag full of cow peas. “They are for you,” says the catechist, handing me the bag. A sudden pain stabs at the sole of my shoe. I take it off and examine it yet again, but there’s still no sign of a thorn. I walk gingerly for a few yards, but the pain has gone.
Supper is the same delicious meal again. I hand Father Frank the cow peas, and tell him about my limp, fearful it may be some mysterious physical injury beginning to manifest itself. He takes the shoe and, while we chat, probes into the sole, extracting from its depths a long thick thorn which has gone in sideways. My relief is immense and I thank him profusely.
I present him with a copy of each of my books. He starts reading aloud, stumbling a bit over the words. He says the books should be set for Kenya schools, and shows me the current government education choice of 2017, full of editorial mistakes. But I tell him there are many stumbling blocks before such a thing could happen.
The church is sandwiched between the school (in the foreground) and the presbytery (far left)
I sleep well that night and rise to attend 7 o’clock mass with six others. Father welcomes me in English, but the service is in the vernacular. He reads the parable of the rich man who asked God to warn his brothers on earth to remember to do good works, so as not to end up in hell. The other ladies who have lovely natural singing voices, are appreciative of my presence, and I feel part of the community.
Breakfast at the Lodge is again with Albert the owner, a retired government servant. We chat comfortably together, and he thanks me for helping him with advice on how to improve the facilities.
On the way back to Nairobi past acres and acres of rice on the Mwea plains, we pass a bright yellow school bus. I have noticed several of these, bearing names of different schools. I ask Joseph why the buses are abandoning their school colours. Someone must have pushed through the legislation to make money, he tells me. Schools are required to take their buses to designated places to be repainted, and the process is expensive. But because it’s law, the citizens must comply.