Notes on Nairobi (4): Grandparents’ Day

Our first day in Nairobi was a Friday and the last day at school for Catrin before she starts a week’s half term break. Vee and I flew out just before the start of half term because the Friday morning was designated as “Grandparent’s Day” to quote the flyer (I’m sure that should be “Grandparents’ Day” but a school can’t get its punctuation wrong, right?).

So Kennedy picked us up from our hotel at 8.30 am. It was immediately apparent that four features characterise Nairobi roads: there are no pavements, there are lots of pot holes, there are plenty of speed bumps, and there is tons of traffic (hence the local expression “pooh-lay, pooh-lay” meaning “slowly, slowly”). The driving is so aggressive that all vehicles have scratches and indentations

At the Montessori Learning Centre (MLC), we were all welcomed at the entrance by the inspirational headmistress Mrs Ali. We were surprised at how large the school is. There are 225 children and 55 staff in classes according to age with the names (starting with the youngest): Sunshine, Ruby, Topaz, Emerald and Diamond (Catrin is in Emerald). As well as the classrooms and administrative buildings, there are extensive grounds with lawns, trees, play areas, and a swimming pool.

We had not seen Catrin for two months and I wondered how she would react to us but, when we arrived in her classroom, I received a huge hug and it was clear that she was thrilled to see us. For our part, we found a little girl of four and three quarters who was already taller, more fluent and more confident.

I volunteered to read a story to the class, so all the children sat in a semi-circle in front of me and Catrin sat on my knee. After the story, all the children sang us a song called “I have a body”. As the song concluded, Catrin announced to me that she was going to “throw up” so I rushed her to the toilet at the end of the hall. Sadly I was not In time for the projectile vomit but I soon cleaned her up.

Then it was time for all the grandparents to gather in front of a small stage. Although about 50% of the children at the school have parents of Asian descent, the vast majority of the attendees at this event for grandparents were of Asian descent with a few black grandparents and a mere handful of white ones. Everyone was incredibly friendly and conversational.

Mrs Ali opened the programme with something she called “two minute chit chat”. She walked round with a basket containing six slips of paper and invited grandparents to pick out a paper and talk briefly to whatever was on the paper. Naturally there was some initial reluctance among the grandparents so, in the spirit of international fraternity, I volunteered to take the first turn. My piece of paper read “my favourite teacher”, so I talked about an English teacher who used to tell us “Remember that the majority is not always right”.

Next we had a Zumba session for the grandparents before the children arrived from their various classes. On the stage, the children sang the national anthem, recited the school creed, and then sang several songs. The song involving Catrin and her class was sung to the tune of “You are my sunshine” with verses in which the word “sunshine” was replaced by “grandma” and “grandpa”.

Once the event and refreshments were over, Catrin wanted to play on every item in every play area, climb the tree with the most branches, and explore all the hidden corners of the gardens – and she insisted that granddad join her for every single activity (which I was more than happy to do, of course). Then, around midday, Catrin’s mummy Emily arrived with a picnic for us to eat on the lawn. It was a lovely 23C (twice the temperature in London) with a welcome breeze.

After lunch, Emily drove us to their home in Westlands where Richard awaited together with their two dogs: a German shepherd called Luna and a Labrador called Harley. There was more food – the local dish called ‘ugali’ which is boiled maize – and then thankfully the opportunity to have an afternoon nap. Suitably refreshed, Vee and I joined Richard and Catrin in taking Luna and Harley for a walk on the red earth by the local coffee plantation.

Finally we went for an early dinner at the Westgate Shopping Mall which was the location of the terrorist attack two years ago (there is no memorial to the victims) and which, following a major refurbishment, reopened only three months ago just before Obama’s visit. We had a good meal at “Urban Burger” before we were dropped back at our hotel at 8 pm.


XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>