Notices and No Notices

This afternoon, a Monday, I got a phone call from our headmaster- of the primary school that we manage concurrently with the children’s home- telling me that a teacher of another primary school had just called him to inform him that they were coming to visit the Home and School tomorrow. Wait, Tomorrow? I asked. They can’t be serious. Yah, no, they are, he said. The teacher will call you shortly, she just asked for your number. Okay, I said.

Sure enough, as soon as we hang up she called me and informed that yes they’re coming to visit us tomorrow. That’s great, we appreciate you wanting to do that, really we do, but isn’t that short notice? I asked. Why are you giving us such short notice? It’s 3pm now. She told me that they too had just confirmed it. As in, she had been wanting and planning the trip and requesting for it, but her school administration had just confirmed it at 2.30pm today and she called us immediately. But you don’t have to worry, Madam, she said, you don’t need to prepare anything, the pupils carry their own packed lunch and it’s a brief visit, they just want to bring some donations for the Home and to visit with the other pupils. It won’t be a problem at all.

Okay. How many students are you bringing with you? 90. She said. Yes, I think 90. Hawatafika 100 (they won’t reach 100). I gasp on my end. In my head I’m thinking, 90 students and I am supposed to not worry, not prepare ? How? How do I do that? Not worry and not prepare, I mean. I told her that I’d need to call Hoseah then I would call her right back.

I call Poriot- who is away at work- and present the scenario to him. I tell him that we could tell them to come on Wednesday or Friday. As in just not tomorrow. I don’t know what difference a day will make, really, but tomorrow just seems so abrupt. Now Poriot is (much) more easy-going than I am, so he says, You know what, it’s not cool that they’ve given us such notice but just say Yes. They’re coming to visit out of goodwill. That’s the main thing, hey? Don’t let it stress you. Isikupandishe pressure (Don’t let it raise your blood pressure). Oh wait, actually this could be good for you- because of the pressure problem, you know? He chuckles. (The thing is, I have been having hypotension (low blood pressure) problems leading to episodes of dizziness and faintness. So he was making reference to that). Hahahaha, I tell him. Very funny. Can you believe him? Making a joke, such a joke, when I am in the middle of having a heart attack over a visit of a group of 90-to-100 people? Men. Anywhoo, he manages to make me see that there is really nothing to stress about, especially as we don’t have to prepare a special meal or anything, and that that’s how people seem to do stuff (in the non-corporate, or just this part of the world) and we should just go with the flow. There are much worse problems in the world. True that, I concede.

So I call the teacher back and tell her it’s okay, they can come tomorrow, we will be happy to receive them. Then I call our headmaster and tell him that I have confirmed and that we will just disrupt classes after tea break till lunch time and he assures me that the same group came again last year when my mum-in-law was the Director, and the year before too and they always give short notice. The reason, he says, is because they don’t like us to go to too much trouble preparing an elaborate welcome and meal for them- an extra expense- that’s why they prefer to give such short notice. Okay. That gives it a different perspective. A much softer perspective. In fact, now I am touched that they don’t want us to go to trouble. Though, well, one can’t not go to trouble when expecting (100) guests, whether you hear about it a month before, a day before or just an hour before. I make arrangements so that for lunch we’ll, at least, cook rice- which we would have cooked on Friday- instead of the scheduled githeri (maize and beans) as the three or four teachers accompanying the pupils will eat with our teachers while the visiting students will have carried their packed lunch.

As I was processing this, I remembered a similar scenario a month or two ago, when one of our Board members, an older man, just rocked up at our house. He wanted board members’ signatures for minutes of a previous meeting, so he figured Poriot’s wife should be at home- which she was- so let me just go get her signature. Never mind that he has my phone number and Poriot’s phone number and maybe could/should have called beforehand. I like surprises, don’t get me wrong. I do. Like when it’s my birthday, Valentine’s, anniversary, Christmas, Mother’s Day… But those middle of the day official business surprises where you find me really dressed down…those ones are a bit tricky. I wasn’t going to wear my Sunday Best outfit with red lipstick for him had he called beforehand, but I also didn’t like being found wearing my grey, baggy (very baggy as in like two sizes bigger) sweatpants which my mother and two brothers have been scheming to throw or give away for years and have just never found the opportune time to do and a white Equity polo shirt. You can imagine how flattering I looked. Plus I still had my headscarf on- from morning. From night actually. Anyways, I gave him the signature and after some polite- that is, me struggling to be very polite – small talk he left. After which I immediately called Poriot to express my outrage and surprise, and he empathized with a heartfelt I hear you, I hear you.

Now the funny (and ironic) thing is that last week I was talking to a good friend of mine who has been wanting to come visit us in Londiani. And she was like, How’s your August looking ? I was like August? August?! We’re in June. Who plans that far ? I told her, Dude, we don’t need to make a big deal out of it. Just tell me on a Friday that you’re coming on a Saturday and the next day, get on a matatu from Nairobi, alight at Londiani Junction some four hours or so later, and we pick you from there. She was like Oh no, my June and July weekends are all full as at now. I said, Okay then, yah let’s plan for August. After hanging up I was like, Men, people like to complicate things. Si you just hop on a matatu and go visit a friend. It doesn’t need to be a whole laid-out plan with an itinerary. But cultures are different. This friend of mine happens to be American. And in America, people really plan. And I guess in other parts of the world too. Which is good, I think?

Well, the long and short of it is that after all that, I caught myself wondering today, Shibs why are you fretting. You’re the one who believes in spontaneity. But you also now don’t like spontaneity? How two-faced of you. But it depends, you know? On the person and situation. No? Anyways, as I wait for our visitors tomorrow, here’s to staying open to notices and no notices. And to remembering the important thing, which is the intention of the visit, notice or no notice. I suppose we could agree that the intention, the thought behind the visit, and the end is what mostly counts. Tales from Londiani.

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