29 December 2010

J's Trip to Kenya - Part V

Tuesday 7th December

Heading for the Pot !
I missed my normal wake up call and as I came to, I giggled to myself recalling the morning two days previously when Moses appeared at my bedroom door with a live turkey – you’ve guessed -  it was the plat du jour that evening!

Today I was meeting up with Ruth and her sisters, for a girly lunch and then a bit of shopping. I met Ruth on my last trip – she is 14 years old and whilst still in full time education she continues to take care of her younger siblings - all 5 of them!  I wanted to catch up with the girls, take them out for chicken and ugali, followed by a bit of shopping.  We started off in the hairdressers buying chemicals for their hair.  The market trip was not very successful as the prices leapt by at least 200% due to my presence.  In the end, it was decided that John would accompany them to the market later in the week.  

The Thrill of a Supermarket
Instead, we went into the supermarket to buy essentials like shampoo and soap and toothpaste.  The younger girls became increasingly more animated and Ruth struggled to retain a semblance of control with them.  John informed me that they had never actually set foot in a supermarket before – ‘Supermarket’s are for rich people’.  With that statement, we really started to enjoy ourselves.  The trolley was soon loaded with jelly crystals, popcorn, biscuits, juice and sweeties (as well as the basics that would see them through until the New Year).  As we loaded the happy girls and their shopping into a Tuk Tuk and took photographs, it became clear, that my friends, John and Sandie back home in France, would be thrilled with the outcome of their donation!

Wednesday 8th December

I had missed John Felix yesterday and  I felt sad when I thought about having to leave him to return to France next week.  I knew Moses was happy for me to spend more time with him but it was a delicate balance. I didn’t want to overwhelm John Felix with affection only to disappear back to my ‘other’ family - he’d faced so much rejection in his short life that I did not want to get anything skewed in our relationship. I felt so blessed and surprised that our relationship had developed into such closeness.

John Felix had moved in with the other boys in the previous April.  Prior to that, he had been living with his grandmother in the slums. I talked about his sad story in the previous blog listings.  He became my ‘second born’ boy after Guy. Since returning to France in April, I hadn’t had much contact with John Felix.  It was important that he settled into the family home and learnt how to live with and relate to the other boys.  Moses told me that there were a few ‘run ins’ when he had threatened to leave initially but overall he had settled and was starting to do well at school.

During the Christmas holidays the boys are given the chance to visit relatives, however it was thought that for John Felix, this trip back to see his grandmother on his own would be too early, and so it was decided that we would accompany him and take gifts.  

As is usual, we ‘hit’ the supermarket for the basic provisions and John Felix chose a packet of biscuits to take for her which I wrapped. We climbed into the car and as we got nearer to her home, this affectionate, easy child, became uncommunicative and sullen.  In silence, we walked across the flat land to her home.  I held back as I did not want to intrude.  Once there, she invited us in but it was obvious that this little boy was not very happy to be there.  We tried to understand the background to his situation and some of it she shared with us.

John Felix’s mother was buried in the garden at his grandmother’s house – where we were now.  She had run away from her husband when John F was about 3 years old, taking him and his younger brother with her.  Her husband had found her and had inflicted terrible beatings on her. Years later she must have had some kind of brain haemorrhage, possibly as a result of the beatings and she had died when John F was 8. He doesn’t remember what happened to his younger brother.

Throughout, John Felix remained silent – his grandmother gave him neither welcome, acknowledgement nor any affection during the time we were there. The only communication she had with him was to dispatch him to find an extra chair from the house next door.  I was relieved when we could depart.  Once again, I hung back with John Felix.  ‘You didn’t think we were going to leave you there, did you?’ I asked.  John Felix didn’t respond.  Out of sight of Moses, walking ahead of us with Paul James, I pulled John Felix into my arms and we both choked back tears.

John Felix and his Grandmother
When we broke away from each other, I held his little face between my hands and told him Nakupenda (I love you).  I reassured him that he was my son now and would remain so for as long as it pleased him.  His shoulder seemed to relax as if the weight of the world had suddenly left him.  We linked hands and started to walk towards the others.  Like our own families, some Africans typically do not show any outward affection but I knew there was absolutely no connection between the grandmother and John Felix. Perhaps I will never know what really went on in their family. At the door as we got ready to leave, I took a photo of both of them – their body language says it all.

That evening, I hosted a party at Covenant to which Moses and Tatu, John and Pheobe, Paul James, John Odiambo and Anton were all invited.  I wanted to say thank you to everyone, including Mama Pat’s boys for looking after me so well. Eric and Motech were the stars helping me so much with preparation. There were 18 of us in total. We ate pasta and a pretty good salad followed by fruit.  Tatu was really relaxed and thanked me profusely.  I was so happy to repay the compliment of cooking for them.

After introducing the Africans to Pass the Parcel and musical chairs (what a cheat Moses is!), we rushed upstairs to the roof where we lit some fireworks.  As the evening was drawing to a close, I sat down with John Odiamo who had requested that I allowed him to share his story with me which I will share with you in the next posting. 

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