one of our favorite sights

Sunday, September 16, 2012

First Days of School in Eldoret

Liam went to school on Tuesday, all dressed up in his new uniform and sporting his new backpack. I can't say he was very excited about either but he's never been one to be overly excited about school. He had a mean case of the jitters, too... I accompanied him on the long walk along the muddy path and although still somewhat treacherous, it was at least not as busy as it became later in the day. We left the house at 7:15 and it took us exactly 1/2 hour walking at a clip. I had wanted to depart early in order to arrive a bit early, but alas, that did not happen.  No doubt, our good friends and family  are shocked by that!

Liam is attending a small private school called Potters Academy. We pay a  small fee, and for that fee we get some individual attention. We went directly to the administration office and met the receptionist and then soon after Mr. Wambua, the Director,  and his Vice, whose name I can't remember. Mr. Wambua and I had been in email communication since January and Michael of course had met him a couple of times. He was very sweet, giving both of us a hug. He then invited us into his office and after checking about our fee payment, he told us about how the school is structured, the schedule, the after class activities (this is from 4-5 which is why the day is so long) and promised that Liam would have a "strong student" as a buddy for the first week to show him the ropes. I had several questions but am learning quickly about how to behave in a heirarchical society so I sat quietly until he was finished and asked if we had any questions. He was very welcoming and after asking a few more questions, about lunchtime and breaks, etc, I felt like I'd better go and let Liam make his way. So I thanked him for the warm welcome and departed, turning immediately the wrong way out of the school BUT after a few paces figured it out and turned around to make the trek home. The roads all sort of looked the same to me at that point but now , after 4 days, I am able to make my way more easily.

kids in assembly Fri. a.m.
Unfortunately, Liam has not felt well the last two days so he did not go to school. He had a tummy issue and since the bathrooms at the school are not in good shape ( pit toilets which freak him out a bit, and no soap and water) he really was uncomfortable going. I had also had tummy issues last week and we are not sure if it is a bug or the antimalarial medicine we've been taking (and advised not to take now). ANYWAY he will go back tomorrow and hopefully continue to nurture relationships with his new classmates as that is the main goal of this. He says the schoolwork is below his level and he is actually starting in the third term of this year. Mr. Wambua said he had to do well and work hard so that he can contiue on . He won't be allowed to if not. He seems to feel confident that it won't be a problem and while at home has been reading all of the texts. He will struggle in KiSwahili, clearly, and maybe in Kenyan history but otherwise he should be fine if he focuses. He came home (we walked home together) not feeling great but was cheered by the fact that the other kids were nice and there is NO HOMEWORK. The length of the school day bothers him but as we say, "it is what it is." Mr. Wambua has called us both days that Liam has been absent so I am very appreciative of his caring attitude. I am sure he's aware that this is a BIG adjustment for Liam. We have to purchase a Student visa for Liam so I am working on getting that with the help of IU. We are hopeful that the relationships that he makes there will be enough to sustain him here and hopefully he will have long term friendships come out of this experience. Liam has never been into school like a lot of kids are. He does the work and is a good student but he'd rather be working on a project and /or be outdoors. So, this will be a challenging and growing experience for him no doubt!
kids arriving on campus

view from front door of school
Liam went to his second full day of school yesterday and came home feeling better about it all. It is an extremely long day (he got home at 6) and he was discouraged to learn that he had to go on Saturday 1/2 day as well. He told me this morning, as he prepared to leave that  he had "sworn he'd never go to school on Saturday!" LOL! Oh well, never say never is the name of the game when you are living in another culture! My impression from what he is saying is that he is going to make some good friends and he will be able to deal with the work. The term that just started is extremely short, just 9 weeks and then they have a two month break so we are working on figuring out what to do during that time. The school is very traditional in its style of teaching (rote) and there are some issues with the facilities and teachers which come with the territory. I think one thing he may be learning is that our school system, despite its failings, is not so terrible after all. So, we will see how it goes. As I mentioned, the main goal here is for him to make some friends his age as there not any teenagers among the AMPATH or IU Kenya families! More than likely we will get him enrolled in IU's HS program sooner than later so he can get his required classes underway as well. I'm sure he'll let you know how he's doing. I will keep you posted on various other aspects of our lives soon. Take care and enjoy those lovely September days!
Admin building at school


  1. Liz--Amy Cornell from Bloomington and WWfaC here. Love your blog. I plan to read and follow. Thanks for these first few entries. What an adventure!

  2. Hi! This looks great! Good job, Lizzy!
    From what Liam said on FB, the Christian fundamentalism at his school seems pretty heavy-handed already. And how much will it infect what happens there day to day? I'd hate to see him forced to put up with something he feels is really wrong (like beatings for the "sinners"). I hope he can deal with it without compromising who he is. What if he can't? Is that school his only alternative? In the U.S., we can choose to accept that kind of garbage or not.

  3. It's not so heavy handed as other places that MG looked at. It just feels like it to him since he's never been in a private school. There is no public secondary and all the other schools are way more fundamentalist, unfortunately. Today he went and he said he "learned something" in the Christianity class which seems worthwhile considering it is the majority religion at home also. He may just do one term and then do online classes. We want him to make some friends though and that is the only way to do it, going to school. So, I think he'll be ok. We will keep you posted. Love ya. Could you see the pictures? liz

  4. Awesome Liz! But what airport did Michael pick you up? Where did you fly out? How long we're the flights? You have been to Africa before but I have not. What were immigration and customs like. How are you communicating? Do you know the language or is there enough English? Glad to keep in touch this way!
    Love, Amy Mueller

  5. We flew from Paris to Nairobi and spent the night at a hotel that IU had arranged for us. We then got up very early and took an IU arranged taxi to the airport and flew to Eldoret, where Michael met us. The flight was short and sweet and the airport is a little out of town. WE had a long line for our visa in Nairobi, but no issues at customs. Educated people in Kenya speak English, everyone speaks Swahili, and everyone speaks at least 2 other languages. I try to use the little Swahili I have and am starting classes again tomorrow. I hope to get very good at it. I have not been out in the world a lot yet, but most of the people that I will work with , volunteer with, will speak English I think. So, that's the scoop! Hope you are doing well in your new job!

  6. Hi! Finished reading all the entries and have these technical comments.

    1) The "Reply" button does not seem to work, so I am replying to YOUR reply down here.

    2) As I mentioned in the first entry below (they are listed most recent first), I can't find your pictures. On my page, when I open your blog, there is nothing showing on the left side except the background picture (what is it?).

    On the right side "Blog Entries" are listed 1st, at the top, then under that is your picture with the caption "About Me." You can click on "Liz Nolan-Greven" and/or "My Complete Profile" on the right, beside your picture.

    About the school issue. I know you will do what's best for Liam, of course, and figure that out as you go. I'm sure he will survive going to a Christian school. :) And I do hope he makes friends there.

    But I think that the idea of him "needing to be with people his own age" is debatable. Many educators believe that at his age it is advantageous to be out in the world contributing and learning rather than being cloistered with other youngsters. I mean, what about all the emphasis on community service work and internships, etc., currently in vogue in progressive education?

    In my first teaching job at the Sandy River School, a REAL alternative school, I learned that when they had a high school, ALL the kids were out of the building most of the time. This was way back in 1980.

    My point is, there are probably many ways Liam can be active there and make friends and contribute, and possibly learn more about the culture than being in school every day. Working with Michael or you for example.

    Enough said. You guys are troopers and I can't even begin to imagine doing what you are doing. I love you very much, and just worry about you!

  7. still working on the pictures issue. Seems like someone said they found them? I will look via Michael's internet tonight and then if I can't find them will post on FB and keep working on figuring it out. love ya!

  8. Pictures look great, Lizzy! Good job! :)

  9. I love picturing YOU sitting there quietly until the head of the school was finished!!! haha. I bet Liam is just wanting to explore! He will be fine and a better person later on for having this experience at school. It's good practice for having to deal with other perspectives, however crazy they may be, when he's out in the world.
    Love you guys!