4th March – Reflections

We’ve been home for three days now.

What a change in temperature!  From 30ºC in Kenya to -4ºC in London is quite a shock to the system. Fortunately our husbands brought warm coats when they met us!

We achieved a lot during our visit and it was really worthwhile.

I’d like to extend heartfelt thanks to Min, who settled in quickly, made friends with staff and pupils alike, and did sterling work at the Aquinoe Learning Centre.

Sometimes we visited the same areas of the school, at others we ‘did our own thing’ and participated in different activities.

On our way back to the U.K. we talked about our experiences in detail and at one point spent an hour discussing ideas, particular pupils and possible plans for the future.  It was a really productive hour!

It was Min’s first visit, but she was able to make many creative suggestions.

Thank you so much Min for all of your contributions.


28th February – On the Way Back

Our visit has gone all too quickly, and here we are at Jomo Kenyatta airport well ahead of time, waiting for our flight to Dubai.

It’s been a long day already, as we were up early to catch the 08:45 plane from Kitale, being accompanied to the airstrip by Josphat, Sharon, Rachel and Lilyan.

We have had a few seat belt problems during our stay, and today was no exception. The belts originated at the back of the seat in front, but try as we might, the buckle would not insert into the fitting. This way, that way, frontwards, backwards, no way! Eventually the co-pilot turned round and said, ‘Try the waist belt’. No problem now, and we felt very foolish!

The flight was fine, and the views of the landscape amazing, as we saw the crater of the dormant Mount Longonot, and many of the hot springs to the north west. These have been producing geothermal power commercially for the last four years. They are not situated to the east as magma from the volcano flowed eastwards, blocking any of the vents in that direction.

Apologies, but I couldn’t help the geography lesson!

In fact, I’ll continue in that vein. We saw some crop patterns that were very interesting. The only way I can describe them is to write that they looked like pie charts, with different greens, yellows and browns in the segments. These are apparently new and are market garden crops, with irrigation from Lake Naivasha, being produced for export.

We were met at Wilson Airport by Sakana, who drove us to the Nairobi Club, picking up his mum, Keziah on the way.

The Club was founded in 1901 and there are many reminders of old colonial days, from the building itself and wooden panelling to the plethora of old photographs and the cricket pitch outside, with its watered square. Egyptian Ibis grazed on the luscious grass there and a Malibu Stork surveyed the landscape from a tree.

We sat outside and took a leisurely lunch there with Keziah and her husband, Saoli, before driving to their house, where we supped some delicious home-made sugar cane syrup with ginger and were presented with some lovely beaded necklaces.

Min’s Last Day

I visited Delvis in the Resource Centre this morning. He suffered brain damage & paralysis as a result of smoke inhalation after a fire in his house. He’s unable to speak but can certainly smile. Sarah the Special Needs teacher was with me.

I decided to play him a video of my 7 year old granddaughter reading a simple story with colourful pictures. I think we were amazed by his response; his eyes lit up and he responded vocally with enthusiasm. It seemed a bit of a breakthrough. I followed it up by borrowing two young children’s books from the library. One was tactile & I helped Delvis to feel the different textures. His fingers are curled in but he has some whole hand movement. The other book included animal sounds which I accentuated much to his delight again. I introduced each book with a refrain including clapping & sign language. Sarah took it all on board & said she welcomed the help.

As a result Josphat has agreed Delvis can join Baby Class for the early morning singing.

27th February – Performances

Our last day at Aquinoe!

The main event of today was the performances of pupils from different classes throughout the school.

The menu was made up of dances, music, poetry and drama – such a wonderful variety. The pupils and staff concerned had put in so much hard work, and the results were super.

Min and I visited the Resource Centre this morning and discussed the development of the colour tents, and how results and progression of the pupils can be recorded. This system has been a major breakthrough and is likely to make a significant difference to some of the pupils.

I’m sorry to report that there was another breakdown with the WiFi system so another visit to Safaricom was required.

The restoration of the WiFi allowed various Skype and FaceTime communications to be made with friends and family, two of whom may be coming to Aquinoe in 2018, so they were able to get a good idea of the school campus.

Fond farewells were said to staff and pupils, who have made us so welcome throughout our visit.

Totally out of the blue, Rachel and Sharon presented us with traditional African dresses and beaded necklaces this evening.

26th February – Tailor, Grasshopper and Seeds ….

… and Wi-Fi. At last I managed to get to Safaricom and get the SIM sorted. After some deliberation, the word came that I had to pay KES50 (about 40 pence) to ‘unbar’ it. We shall see if this ‘unbarring’ lasts for more than two days.

Maurice, who has been at the school for twenty years, escorted us to town in a taxi. He is a fount of knowledge and is invaluable to Aquinoe and the Director.

The tailor is hoping to be appointed to a job in the school and I saw him for a goodly session this morning. He has been working independently in town and is very experienced at all kinds of tailoring and has some good ideas. He would like the department to make all of the uniform for the pupils and buy more material and equipment from the profits of selling the uniform. The department would then become self-sufficient.

Whilst sitting on a bench outside the administration block, this little fellow hopped up on to me bag.

Mercy, Pre-Unit teacher, invited us into her class for the last part of the day. She has been teaching about seeds and germination and has made a tiny garden in the corner of her classroom. The children raked the soil, planted maize and bean seeds in rows and Mercy added water. She has promised to send photos once the seeds have germinated.

Min here:

Jean & I started the day with teacher Catherine & baby class – a great way to feel energised with variations on familiar nursery rhymes and other chanting action songs. It was interesting to hear the young children chanting a poem about education being the key to success.

The next class for me was with 6-7 year olds who were having their Kiswahili lesson. Mercy, the teacher was the only one with a text book so the blackboard was used a lot. The children sat in silence with bare desks listening attentively. When someone answers correctly the pupil stands up and sways his/her hips as the class sings a short congratulations song. Despite the lack of text books, Mercy made the lesson interesting & fun.

25th February – WiFi Problems and Afternoon Visits

Yesterday’s WiFi problems remain. Josphat took me to town in another effort to make the SIM card behave, but unfortunately the Safaricom shop was closed. This means:

⁃ No blog posted tonight

⁃ No emails received

⁃ No emails written

⁃ No Tweets

⁃ No Skyping with family members at home, to show them Aquinoe and some of the boarders who are at the school over the weekend.

Hopefully I will manage to take a taxi to town tomorrow and find an operative who can sort out the SIM card for more than two days.

This afternoon saw us driving south to Matunda. There was one hairy moment when a lorry came round a bend, on our side of the road, overtaking another vehicle. Fortunately, Josphat is very foresighted and pulled off the road onto the dirt to allow it past.

Josphat’s dad (we’ve visited several times before) lives at Matunda, with a son, daughter and grandchildren nearby. He’s about ninety years old now and is quite a character.

Living in the town itself are Mitchell’s parents, Rose and David, with three children. Mitchell is the girl who arrived at Aquinoe in August win a wheelchair but is now walking. They invited us to their flat, four floors up, where we took refreshment.

The last visit of the afternoon was to Lilyan, Chair of the Board, who had cooked for us. We felt terrible as, arriving so late, we had to decline food since Josphat was due to make the three hour drive to Maseno this evening.

Lilyan’s daughter, Debby, gave me a lovely card.