Monday, 24 October 2016

Catching Up With Friends (Or Their Kids) From Three Countries!

We have had guests popping in and out of our house for the last couple of weeks! Call it a coincidence or call it God's plan to distract us from the admission issue, look beyond our own problems and spend some time away from the second and final legal fight we, a huge group of affected parents, put up in India in the Supreme Court (and lost!). The Chief Justice of India assigned the writ petition hearing to the same judge who had thrown out the colleges case the first time around and who had been instrumental in pushing the national level medical entrance exam exam through at the last possible minute. And this despite numerous warnings from the education industry that it would lead to chaos and a huge mess. The result was that he refused to even admit the Non Resident Indians/ Foreign Nationals case, despite one of India's top Supreme Court lawyers, whom we had hired, pleading for our children. Does one stab one's own baby by admitting an error was made where the genuine NRI's were concerned? Obviously not! And so all the affected children, hundreds of them, have been forced to reconcile to the fact that they have lost a year and have hit their books again. The medical application process will soon start for next year in various countries, barring a few for which it is already over for 2017...
Our first guest was from Dar Es Salam, the son of my husband's former colleague. His mother and I are great friends and though it has been eight years since we have met, we have been in constant touch throughout. Their family faced immense tragedy last May and it was only by God's grace that this young man survived the car crash. His older brother was not so fortunate.. (My post: It's over in a heart beat and then a mother's heart bleeds...). The boy I last remembered as a high schooler in his Indian School uniform  in Tanzania from eight years ago was now a young man! Though he declined to stay with us, he did drop in a couple of times during his three day stay in Nairobi and I took him shopping for some entrance exam books he needed (is every one plagued by them?!!)  and it was a sheer delight to interact with him. As we chatted with him, I was struck by how much we all begin resembling our parents, as we grow older. His speech, his expressions, a faint almost unnoticeable south Indian tinge in his accent, all brought his own Dad strongly to my mind and a couple of times I felt as if I had gone back eight years in time and was chatting with my husband's colleague and morning walk partner...His large, animated eyes made me feel as if I was looking at my own friend, his mother. I had to pull myself back into the present and remind myself we were in Nairobi, not Dar, and I no longer had a toddler and an elementary schooler around me! But yes, like it or not, whether biological children or adopted, we seem to become mirror images of our parents, at least in mannerisms and physical appearance, if not in attitudes and behaviour!
Our next guest was my son's Dutch friend who had come all the way from the Netherlands. He and my son along with two other friends had been close friends in school in grade 2, 3 and 4, before he had to move back home as his parents' jobs here ended. Two and a half years ago it had been a very tearful goodbye for all four of the boys, at the farewell party organized by his parents. I remember the boys sitting together on the lawn at the venue, their backs to us all, loathe to say a final goodbye! Frequent Skype chats helped all the boys to keep in touch with their friend in Europe and as a thirteenth birthday gift, he chose to come to Kenya with his mother, who comes here annually as part of her job, so that he could briefly reunite with his friends! Another friend's mother hosted a birthday party for him in the Ethiopian restaurant because he loves the food there and the four friends were over the moon to be together again! His twin sister, on the other hand, chose an Iphone as her birthday gift and stayed back in the Netherlands with her Dad!
It was a delight to have this charming, freshly minted teenager who I've known since he was about to turn eight, come and stay overnight with us. It was as if the intervening two and a half years had never happened and he was still in school with the other boys! He candidly told me he had no friends in the Netherlands yet and I really hope this trip will make him feel more settled in his native land. Making new friends does not mean giving up your old ones, a lesson we all learn if we are expatriates on the go!
As I listened to the boys chattering away nineteen to the dozen, I was struck by how much my son's friend sounded like his Mother! If I closed my eyes, I could believe I was listening to her speak. After two plus years in Holland, a trace of a Dutch accent has definitely crept into the speech of a boy, who when I knew him, had only attended the American school in Nairobi and spoke with an American accent! The boys played cricket,gorged on the Indian lunch and Italian dinner I had made, snacked on junk food, drank hot chocolate and had a Hobbit movie marathon or tried to, till I chased them away to bed at 1:00 am in the morning! A very hard part of expatriate life is saying good bye and it was good bye again the next morning... But we were so glad this child had made this short trip especially to meet his friends and we hope they keep getting such opportunities to meet.
Our American friends who moved to Uganda from Kenya over two years ago came to visit the next day and completed our trio of guests from other countries! Our kids were in the same school though in different grades and had it not been for a bicyle my son had overgrown that I was selling through the school reporter. it is doubtful that we would have met during the short year that they were here. But it was destined that we did meet, became good friends and since we still live on the same continent and the entire family comes to Nairobi when they can, and our husbands travel for work to Nairobi and Kampala, we do manage to meet every few months. We plan to visit each other's native countries when time and funds permit!!
It is hard for people who are firmly rooted in one place to understand what we go through, year in and year out.  While farewells are not easy, technology does make things seem less dismal and the advantage is no matter where in the world you choose to travel, you willl have good friends waiting there for you, just as you will await them in your own country, current and native both....
So who is coming to visit us in Kenya/ India next?

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