Editor’s note: Students from St. Gregory College Preparatory School in Tucson are joined on their journey to Kenya by students from two other schools – Catalina Foothills High School and Atlanta Girls School.
June 15, 2013
By Alexia Anastopoulos, Catalina Foothills Class of ‘14
Today we had the great fortune of cheerleading for the high school students at Irigithathi Secondary School while they dug out the foundation for their newest schoolroom.
Why, you may ask, did they do the digging instead of us? Well, we came across as inadequate manual laborers, which we all would admit was true.
While these Kenyans spend their weekends and school breaks working their small family farms by hand, which involves wielding a heavy hoe to turn the soil of the fields, I don’t think any of us Americans have used a hoe or a shovel for quite some time.
So, whenever anyone of us got our hands on a shovel or a hoe we were subsequently approached by a student of the school and asked, “May I assist you?” You are then obligated to say, “Yes,” because no wasn’t an answer they would accept! Although, as the morning wore on this occurred less.
Watching the Kenyans gave us time to process, and by the time the Irigithathi students started to get tired we were able to step in. More and more we were using the tools longer, we were breaking up the hard soil and then shoveling it out, and then shoveling it once again to a waiting wheelbarrow. And just like that, we too could stake a claim on what will soon be Irigithathi’s newest classroom.
We redeemed ourselves significantly when our chalkboard paint arrived. We painted a total of 10, 20-by-4-foot boards at Irigithathi Primary School, which left a lot of time for messing around. It was only right that each and every one of us walked away with chalkboard paint somewhere on our faces, arms and legs.
Our work during the day was paused twice, the first time for chai and a musical presentation by the students of the secondary school.
The school had recently taken part in a musical competition, and they wanted to show off their hard work. Four or five groups presented everything from dance to poems to solo singing.
After their presentations summed up, us mzungus (Americans) performed an inspiring rendition of “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay. Let me tell you, I had the chills. But we held our own and we were received with a resounding applause.
Our second break was for lunch, which was a stew of Kenya’s staple foods: beans, maize, potatoes, and more beans.
We finished our day at the home of one of Mr. Robert’s friends, Solomon Mworia. Mr. Mworia and Mr. Roberts first met in the early 1990s when Mr. Mworia was a student on one of Mr. Roberts’ wilderness education programs on Mount Kenya. In fact, Mr. Roberts explained that when he first thought of bringing American students to Kenya to teach, he reached out to Mr. Mworia, who was then a headmaster at one of the schools, for assistance. They have known each other for more than 20 years and now laugh at the grey hair beginning to show on both of them.
Mr. Mworia’s home was very different from the homes of the other people we’ve visited so far. After driving through a more congested part of Naro Moru town, we arrived at a fairly large home with electricity, tile floors, and a very nice bathroom.
Needless to say I am surprised everyday by this country and the many contrasting ways of life here. Mr. Mworia’s wife prepared a delicious meal of potatoes, meat stew, rice spiced with cardamom and ginger, whole-wheat chapatti and cabbage. We returned to Batian’s View with happy tummies and a great end to our day.
I’d like to end this blog with a simple game of three truths and a lie…
1. I washed my face with turpentine
2. I got a smooth ride home on a motorcycle
3. I broke a hoe trying to break the topsoil
4. I fought ants for a roll of toilet paper
Which one is the lie?