Today was a day devoted to family and home improvement. First of all, I should mention that since my arrival in Nairobi I have been the guest of Margaret and Patrick Mwago, their happy children Njoki and Eddy, and their super nanny Susan (I use the names that we have settled on, but actually all of them have wonderful African names that I simply cannot remember). Margaret and Patrick are in their mid to late 30's; Margaret works as an Administrative Assistant in the University of Nairobi and Patrick is Principal Counsel for the Nairobi City Council. They both decided to build a house in the country two years ago, and this is where I am staying. It is a wonderful, relaxing place, but it is still quite rustic. They have power but no water, so they collect the water they use from the runoff of the tin roof, have an outhouse, and we take our showers using a pail of lukewarm water.
Margaret has been desperately trying to get the house presentable to receive visitors, and was quite frustrated because the carpenter kept putting her off. So today we went in search of a different carpenter, bought particle board for the ceiling of the room where Charleen will be staying, bought glass panes for the window, and put the carpenter and his assistant to work. I offered to help, but the puzzled looks promptly put me in my place so I tried not to get on the way of the professionals (I think Chico and I would have done a much better job, but then again these guys had no power tools).
We then went to the market in a neighboring town, again making full use of the fact that "we have a car". I wanted to find a cyber café (a fruitless search since in the one place the internet was down, and in the other the power went off just as I was logging in), so I and Patrick were left in charge of the kids. Njoki is a girl, she is seven, and she is as cute as she can be. She speaks fairly good English but at the beginning was quite shy (we are over that stage now, and she is beginning to teach me Swahili). She is fascinated by my camera, and like to see herself in the screen of the computer. Edwin or Eddy is a boy, four years old, and he is a holy terror. His ability for getting into mischief is uncanny, and to top it all he is as unpredictable and destructive as Kilimanjaro. Indeed, he must have some sort of mild stomach flu, so from time he simply "erupts" the contents of his stomach over table, clothes, or the upholstery of our car (and I wonder how such a little boy can have such a big stomach!). Still, he is very sweet and friendly, and it is fun seeing him get into trouble.
The last member of the family is super nanny Susan, who is referred by all as "Mamma". She is about 55 years old, so is considered an old woman, but she has the energy of a 20 years old. Susan speaks very good English, and she takes care of all our needs quite effortlessly. She is up at dawn and doesn't go to bed until the last of the family retires, and has that sixth sense of all good Mammas that tells her exactly how and when someone of us needs help.
I invited the family to dinner, and we went to a typical Kenyan restaurant to have grilled goat. It was a huge place, with life music and a play ground for the children, and I got to see what a happy, fun loving person Susan is. She was right there playing with the children, swinging in the swing or looking after them in the slide, and when they finally came in she was the only one that jumped at my suggestion of dancing (I had first asked Njoki, but she was shy). With Susan and I dancing the rest of the family got up, and we all had great fun. A great family Saturday!