My very first Saturday in Nairobi marked my second visit to Precious Blood. Coffee-to-go in hand, I forgave the early start to the day because of its monumental significance. The library prefects had to wrap all of the books they received from our first wave of donations (260 total), before they can be put in the library to be borrowed. For most of them it was their first time seeing the books at all, and witnessing their reactions was all the reassurance I needed that we are making a difference. Books do matter. They do want to read. And they were acutely aware of the bestsellers that up until today they didn’t have access to. They were as excited about Shakespeare as they were about Eric Larsson.
I can’t help thinking that these girls have much more sophisticated taste in books than I did at their age. I certainly couldn’t quote the Iliad at 15. I absolutely cannot quote the Iliad at 25. There was already buzz about who was going to borrow what first, because book borrowing would not start until the following Saturday. Some were vying for Hunger Games, some for Pride and Prejudice, some for the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers. On my first visit to the school, I asked one student what book she had read last. She couldn’t remember the name because the front cover was ripped off. The author? Madeleine Albright. It was an old book she borrowed from her father. She thought it was alright. I thought it was alright that as 16 year old Kenyan public school student knew infinitely more about the first female Secretary of State in America than I did. Correction – than I do. I can’t wait to hear about how the use of the library starts changing once they can borrow these books.