St. Gregory students arrive at Batian’s Viewby kenya on Jun. 06, 2013, under Life
Editor’s note: Students from St. Gregory College Preparatory School in Tucson travel to Kenya for three weeks every summer, where they teach in rural schools, help build classrooms and learn about life on the other side of the world. Here is the next installment in their Dispatches from Kenya.
June 5, 2013
By Fred Roberts, St. Gregory Dean of Students
Like clockwork – but only better - our flight landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi 10 minutes ahead of schedule. We quickly disembarked under chilly overcast skies, a welcome change from the blast furnace heat we left in Tucson. The line for immigration consisted of one person already being processed, and our group was through in a matter of minutes. We were by the baggage carousel even before the first bag left the innards of the luggage delivery area. Soon all of our bags were accounted for and we queued up to change money, which only took a few minutes as well.
With our bag-laden carts we departed the airport into a throng of taxi drivers all looking at us anxiously. And like Moses parting the Red Sea, our trusty driver of nine years, Mwaniki, approached through the crowd and led us to our waiting vans. Less than a half hour after walking off the plane we were tucked into our two Toyota mini-vans headed north to the town of Naro Moru and our final destination of Batian’s View.
From left to right, back row: David Cornell (chaperone), Jake Rogers, Noah Deitch, Pierce Maguire, Grant Ross and Finian Lowery. Front row: Bella Newberry, Alscia Earnest, Quinelle Bethelmie, Julia Nestor, Alexia Anastopolis, Cecilia Nicholson and Meg Aliffi.
I noticed that Nairobi’s sprawl extended farther than I recalled from last year, but after 50 kilometers, we were passing large pineapple plantations soon to be followed by small family farms growing corn, coffee and potatoes. The recently concluded rainy season left the land lush and swollen, with even the smallest of streams running proud. It was a nice sight to see, knowing that most of the country’s population depends on the rains for their livelihood.
We stopped at a small hoteli (restaurant) for the group’s first taste of Kenyan chai and mandazi, the latter being a fluffy pastry much like an oversized doughnut. The warm tea and sweet bread brought a renewed energy to the group and soon everyone was talking excitedly about the flight, their new surroundings, and the fact they had finally reached their destination.
We reached Batian’s View just before noon and we were finally able to take out our bags knowing that we only needed to carry them as far as our cozy living quarters, only 20 meters in different directions. The staff at Batian’s View were lined up to greet us and the students now faced the task of learning the Kikuyu names of the nine new members of our team. I promised the Americans that there would be a test the following day.
Co-manager Mary Wairimu showed the students their new homes for the next three weeks, and then co-manager Peter Kafuna gave the group a tour of the facilities and grounds. As we explored the forest lining the Naro Moru River that runs along the property, we were serenaded by a group of colobus monkeys, which were up the river. A crested eagle that had recently built a large nest on the property also greeted us.
It is midday and the students have a few hours to unpack, unwind, and finally slow down. The latter, however, didn’t seem to register with the five St. Gregory boys as they quickly got out a Frisbee and ran around to let off some of their pent-up energy.
In a few hours we will take a hike across the river so the students can get their bearings and have a taste of their new surroundings. Soon after we will have our first traditional Kikuyu meal when the sun sets promptly at 6:30 p.m. My ultimate goal, as I told the students, was to stay awake until 8 p.m., at which time I’m sure we will all be ready for a long sleep.