N is for Nairobi
I stood outside the heavy glass doors. Heat. Oppressive heat. Squinting, I wasn’t surprised to see that the Nairobi airport was in such a state of disrepair.
Alone, I shifted uncomfortably from one foot to another as the minutes, then an hour ticked away waiting for the luggage to arrive. I thought of the special photo album I’d spent days making for Mary Kavorti. The album would give us something to talk about when we met for the first time. I leaned over and felt an odd-shaped bulge in my carry-on. Yes, the perfume that came in a glass-shaped slipper. Did village girls like perfume? She was ten. All little girls liked perfume, didn’t they?
Seemed odd that a Kenyan village girl had a western first name. Though Mary was an orphan, she had a family of sorts–a younger brother and a grandmother in her late 60s. According to the caseworker, the grandma had aged overnight. Bitten by a spider, her leg now appeared as if it had a form of elephantiasis. She painfully moved about with the aid of a walking stick.
Mary took on the task of fetching water from the pump two miles away.
My suitcase. mostly filled with clothes for the villagers, arrived and I set out for the hotel. There, I grabbed the phone and checked in with my sponsored child’s head office. The very next day, the caseworker, a translator and I would leave for the village.
I was finally going to meet my sponsored child!
We’d been writing for two years–both of us hesitant, seeking words to build bridges between our diverse cultures and backgrounds–but keeping at it.
Earlier I had sent a battery-operated tape recorder with our college secretary who returned for a visit to Kenya. “Please give it to the caseworker in Nairobi,” I’d instructed, “she can deliver it to Mary the next time she travels to the village.”
I had since learned Mary loved music. I decided to buy some cassettes with children’s music to go along with the tape recorder.
When I arrived at the office, I met Florence, Mary’s caseworker. With tiny plaited braids wound around her head, Florence warmly drew me into her embrace. “We’ve been waiting to meet you, my dear,” she said in excellent English.Stocky, she wore a plain white short-sleeved polo shirt over a long tan skirt and sturdy brown shoes. After rounds of introductions, we headed out.
“You say you want to purchase some music cassettes for Mary?”
With her hand lightly on my shoulder, Florence steered me through the busy City Center. “Be careful,” she warned, “Keep your purse close to your chest. You didn’t carry much cash in your wallet, did you?”
I shook my head. We entered shop after shop. Each time, we left without making any purchase.
As we walked, my eyes fell on a wall lined with shards of glass from broken pop bottles. I’d seen that before. The broken pieces usually protected homes of the rich. But a few holes in the graffiti-covered wall revealed a tent city and houses with roofs made from corrugated tin hidden behind the graffiti-covered walls. I tried not to stare.
Florence steered me through the crowd for what seemed like forever, pushing me forward at a clipped pace. I tripped on curbs I couldn’t see and strangers darting across my path. The congestion and heat were getting to me. She must have seen the fatigue on my face. “You look exhausted. Is it the jet lag?”
“No, no, I’m fine,” I tried to reassure, stumbling yet again. Smog and pollution had been irritating my eyes all afternoon. “Do you think we’ll find any music for Mary today?”
We seemed to be on a fool’s mission.
“I have just one more place,” she said at last. We walked out of that shop with two cassettes filled with music!
“It’s back to your hotel,” she said. “We leave for the village early tomorrow morning. It’ll take nearly four hours there over a pretty rough road. Motion sickness pills might be helpful,” she warned. “Be prepared to meet the entire village. They’ve never seen a westerner,” she added.
At my hotel door, Florence handed me the cassettes. “You did bring batteries for the tape recorder, didn’t you?”
I looked at her blankly. “Batteries?”
“The village has no electricity. At all.“
“Can we buy them there?”
Her look of disbelief gave me my answer.
Yikes! I’m probably the only sponsor to spend an entire afternoon combing Nairobi for children’s music without thinking of buying a single battery so my ‘child’ could listen to it!
When have you, like me, forgotten to provide an essential component to making something operate? Were you able to solve the problem or did you have to do without?
You have just read, “N is for Nairobii,”by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright April 20, 2015. You can see who else is participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge HERE.