|A good-looking young man next to Uncle Angelo's grave at the Jesuit community|
Chris and I went to the immigration office in Nairobi last Monday to get our visas renewed for another three months in Kenya. At the front desk I paid my 2000 shillings ($25) and handed them my passport to be stamped with a new visa. I then proceeded to have my fingerprints taken before coming back with a receipt to pick up my passport and leave. As I approached the desk, I was hoping for a quick exchange in anticipation of a nice lunch in Nairobi. What was I thinking? Things seem to never be so easy in Kenya. After a few minutes of looking for my passport behind the desk, the worker informed me that my passport was given to another American who happens to be an older African American woman (what an easy mistake to make). Needless to say, I left the immigration office that day without my passport. I eventually got it back after a week of dealing with the US embassy and the Kenyan Immigration Office. ONLY IN AFRICA!
|Teenage Boys of the Village doing yardwork. Africans prefer machetes to lawnmowers.|
Chris went back to the Village that day, but I decided to stay at Nyumbani Home in Karen for some R&R. Karen is the lush suburb of Nairobi in which Karen Blixen lived. The trip was much needed and proved to be very relaxing. In just 6 days in Karen, I may have succeeded in gaining back the 15-20lbs I have lost over the last 3 months. I went to the local Italian restaurant twice. I was in heaven as I devoured an assortment of Italian foods which included prosciutto, salami, pizza, pasta, and fresh Italian bread. I also familiarized myself with the city as I spent two enjoyable days walking all around the city center.
As you know, my Great Uncle Angelo D’Agostino created the organization Children of God Relief Institute-COGRI. The first project was Nyumbani Home in Karen which was opened in 1992 (a home for orphaned HIV children), followed by the outreach program in the slums of Nairobi called Lea Toto, and most recently Nyumbani Village. Uncle Angelo’s right hand woman who helped implement his grand ideas was Sr. Mary Owens. As many of you have learned, D’Agostinos tend to be stubborn, loud, opinionated and obnoxious. It takes an extraordinary person to compliment and humble a D’Agostino. Sr. Mary is nothing less than extraordinary. Sister took over COGRI in 2006 just prior to Fr. Dag’s death. She has been the acting Executive Director for over 4 years and has succeeded in continuing the vision of Fr. D’Agostino. The headquarters of COGRI is in Karen at Nyumbani Home, and I was privileged to spend time with her and other devoted staff members that have been around since the early 1990s.
One evening Sr. Mary took me to the Jesuit community in Karen to see where Fr. Dag, who was a Jesuit, is buried and spent years of his life. In the early 1990’s he managed the Jesuit community before starting COGRI. Throughout my 8 years of Jesuit education I learned two main things: how to enjoy a nice adult beverage and how to enjoy nice food. This Jesuit community seemed to have the same priorities. I asked Sr. Mary, “Do the Jesuits eat well here”? She turned and replied with no hesitation, “Oh yes”. As sister took me around the complex, I experienced its beauty as we paused to watch the sunset over the Ngong Hills.
|Sr. Mary Owns (on the right) and her three Loreto sisters|
|Mass at Nyumbani Home. Fr. Jim, Sr. Mary and Nyumbani Home children.|
I stayed around on Saturday to celebrate the anniversary of Fr. Dag’s death. I spoke a few words before Mass began. Mass was followed by salami, ham and provolone cheese. My behavior and excitement as we approached the antipasti tray made it apparent that I was the only Italian of the group.
My trip to Karen was wonderful, but I am happy to be back in the Village.
|The children dancing at the ceremony on Saturday with a picture of Fr. Dag in the backround.|
Until Next Time…