The Graduation


Thinking back on how the day ended up playing out, I’m not sure I have the energy or the words to really convey the emotional content. It’s exhausting just to reflect back on it, much less to tell it.

We got to Eldoret in pretty good time, about 3 hours for a 60 mile trip. I checked into my hotel and then we proceeded to Moi University where the family would be spending the night at a hostel abutting the U. About 45 minutes in each direction. they emphasized that I had to be on time for the ceremony which would begin promptly at 8am. They were expecting several tens of thousands of guests as there were over 5,000 graduates. Oh yeah, there’s only one two lane road to the campus, so full of potholes that sometimes you have to drive right off the road altogether to get by…

The next morning I got up at 4:30 am to make it to the school in plenty of time to find them in the mob, park, and make our way to the graduation pavilion. I arrived at 6:30, Fred met me in a satellite parking lot (muddy field) and we motored off to get closer to the graduation area. Of course the parking lot gate was padlocked by then and no, the guard wouldn’t let the guest through. We would have to make our way all the way around the back of the campus via dirt road (muddy path) and through another way. OF COURSE WE GOT STUCK IN AN EPIC MUDDY WALLOW; was there ever any doubt it would end any other way? With a great deal of pushing, pulling, shouting and no doubt swearing help in Swahili from some amused bystanders I finally 4-wheeled it out and we carried on. Settled into my seat at 7:30 I was so grateful and surprised that not only was I not late, I was even early! Fred ran off to clean up and get into his gown and assured me that Mark and the others would be along shortly…

Many frustrating, weary hours later I asked Mark by phone, “How can you be an hour and a half late to a place when you’ve been here since yesterday?”

The ceremony started right on time, there was a procession of the faculty in their regalia, some speeches, some stand up comedy, mostly all in Swahili. Then, one department at a time, all 5000+ graduates were announced individually by name. At least I was sitting in the shade….

There were so many people trying to use the cell phone network at the same time that I had great trouble reaching Mark. It turned out that the family was so late to the gate that even though they had admission tickets no more were being admitted as all the seats were occupied.

Eventually we were reunited after the ceremony ended, the proud graduate photographed in cap and gown and much fussed over and we decided to return to my hotel in Eldoret for a celebratory meal: I had known full well there would be no chance whatever for a bathroom break of any kind during the day so I hadn’t eaten anything at all and only sipped lightly at a water bottle since the previous evening.

Later I brought them back to the University hostel, came back to the hotel again, my second round trip of the day and gratefully hit the hay, knowing that I would have to be back to pick them up again for the trip to Kisumu at 7:30 the next morning.

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