Feb 05 2009
It was a marvelous day painting with my “special needs” friends at the City Primary School. They have each really developed a painting style, which continues to astonish me. The one tricky moment was when Simon (my favorite) was painting one of the most exquisite paintings I’ve seen anywhere…and it was changing…and he was painting…and I was watching nervously. I didn’t want the painting to change anymore and so I did something that is completely wrong and bad…I grabbed the painting from him and said, “OK, all done” and he turned around in his seat and made a sound that was a little surprised shriek and I pretended that nothing had happened and quickly put another blank white paper on the table in front of him. I’ve got the painting, I’m guarding it and I just felt badly for a very short time.
When I went outside to start my car and drive to KAPC (my office) the car wouldn’t start. I was surprised at my reaction, which was, “Oh well.” There was a young man standing nearby (on the school grounds) and I told him that my car wasn’t starting. He took the keys, got in the car, tried to start it and said, “The car won’t start.” Then he said, “Wait here” and he ran off. Five minutes later he returned with a man in a blue jumpsuit…apparently a mechanic. By then four of the teachers from the special unit had heard about my dilemma and had congregated around the car. The head teacher of the school also showed up. The mechanic opened the hood and within fifteen minutes he had determined that the wiring was screwed up and that I needed a new starter, or part of a starter. Who knows? But, he did get the car started and directed me to drive about two blocks away to a gas station/car shop. Four of the teachers and the original young man (Joseph) piled in the car with me and soon we arrived at the mechanic’s shop.
We hung around there for about an hour while there was a great deal of discussion about the new starter and bargaining (on the part of Joseph). Meanwhile several men wandered through the gas (petrol) station with large numbers of designer jeans (real ones) piled on their shoulders and so the four teachers (women) and myself decided that it would be a good time to do some shopping and we created a little changing area between two of my car doors. I myself tried on 7 pairs of jeans including Tommy Hilfiger (or whatever) and Levis. None of them fit well and that’s when one of the teachers said to me, “They are all too small. You have gained a lot of weight.” Nice. As if the day didn’t already have enough challenges.
I’m still not sure how four teachers and a guy (I’m not sure what Joseph has to do with the school) can just leave their classes unattended and go driving around for several hours in the middle of the day.
Then, the car quote was agreed upon and I was about to leave and walk to KAPC (Kenya Association of Professional Counselors), my Fulbright affiliation. The KAPC office is only a ten-minute walk from that mechanics shop. But the teachers would not allow me to walk alone…and they all agreed that it was too far. So five of us (the four teachers and I…Joseph was to stay with my car for the day until it was completely sorted out…) walked to the main road and flagged down a matatu (a 14 passenger van which is the common means of transport in Nairobi).
When we arrived at the KAPC office, the four teachers said goodbye and went (I assume) back to school. Later in the day (4:00) I received a call from Joseph telling me that the car was ready and waiting for me. I jumped into a matatu and arrived back at the petrol station and there was Joseph and the four teachers all waiting for me in the car.
Six thousand shillings later (my new friends all looked disgusted about that figure and there were some bad sounding Swahili words thrown around at the mechanic as we pulled away), my car worked just fine and I took everyone out for a beer.