MATERNAL MOMENTS: PART 1

It’s all fun and games until labor contractions begin. By hook or crook of it, it gets evident that the chickens have come home to roost. That the day of havoc is alive and well. At this situation the baby is usually stretching off, armed with eagerness to breathe life outside the placenta. Speaking of which, the placenta is that place where everything is controlled from the atmosphere to the lack of harshness from realities like demos, teargas, cash crunch, frenemies, global warming, traffic, inflation, idle politicking, sanctions and blackmail. Besides, if hues and cries and piercing pains are anything to go by, a lot is left to be desired in the labor ward.

So, a day to the EDD your wife will confess to having craved for chips and since she cooks them so effortlessly, you’ll encourage her to let the unborn baby have what she is desiring, be it chips. And in a few, the table room will be filled with sweet aroma emanating from the kitchen where your wife and her bulging belly will be cooking for the baby and yourself, her last meal before she crosses the bridge to parenthood. Halfway the cooking, she will drop the long cooking spoon and run to you, holding her back with one arm complaining of a sharp pain. The impact of the pain will be enough to smoke out a bit of tear drops in her eyes and have her form a paranoid face. All this will happen at the backdrop of dawning labor pains that will have no clear recognition to first-timers. So anything close to pain will be enough to call a press conference and make a quick call to Eston, your cab guy. It will also be prudent to let the chips burn out in the kitchen as compared to handling the pain from your wife. Later, you’ll walk to the kitchen to serve what will have been saved from the savage of burning out. However, you’ll only manage to have some few bites courtesy of the tension building on.

Two hours later, the pains will have become more frequent at intervals of 30 – 40 minutes. By then, you’ll have consulted Doctor Google who will have it that the pains are called contractions. And that they’ll be signs of true labor if they come at a time when the EDD is expected. Upon reading that, your heart will skip with fear and excitement. The two feelings will interlock and do a Jaguar – Babu Owino fist out at your dismay. Further, Doctor Google will have it that, it will be highly important if one times the intervals of the contractions and probably, record them somewhere. The following will be the reason; For first-time mothers, true labor is placed when the spacing of the contractions is at the intervals of eight minutes while for the rest of the mothers, true labor kicks in when the contractions space in between ten minutes interval.

While you’ll gladly communicate this to your wife, she will have none of it and so will you. You’ll rather seek an interpretation from the nearest hospital in your list of options. What will follow will be you picking the small suitcase that will have ‘mother & baby items’ and place it at the doorstep as you make a call to Eston. He will not disappoint. At 11:44pm, he will have showed up at your gate. Both of you will make a brief prayer committing everything to the Lord and requesting for His protection and guidance in this uncharted path. You’ll walk out quietly, careful not to trigger any curiosity to your neighbors. In less than 10 minutes, you’ll have arrived at the hospital waiting to be attended. While at it, you’ll hear screams from the labor ward, of mothers pushing hard and cursing in equal measure. You’ll turn to your wife and pretend not to have heard the noise, just not to scare her further.

After an examination, your wife will be reordered to revert home as her cervix will have had zero opening and that the so-called pains she will be experiencing will be premature. In fact, the doc there will be like; “we need 10cm opening.” You’ll drive back home dejected, scared by what type of pains and magnitude to expect; wondering how your wife will handle them; bothered if that cervix spacing will ever be possible to attain and further agonizing if Eston will pick your call at 3:30am if the pains become intense and unbearable. No sooner you arrive home than the pains will drift closer together in intervals of 20 minutes. You’ll practically not sleep that night apart from massaging her back and persistently timing the pains and hoping hours ahead will speed up. You’ll miss daylight and all its safety.

At 5: 25am, you’ll have fully prepared and made way to the hospital again, this time not ready to revert back to the house without a kid in the arms. Luckily, she’ll be earnestly admitted and pronounced as to be experiencing true labor. She will be issued with those fluffy and oversize maternity gowns that will make her look like a Langa’ta Women’s prisoner. No pun intended. You’ll notice buds of fear placed at the corners of her eyes. You’ll try to ignore them as you whisper words of encouragement that in fact, will do little to suppress the fear in you too.  As that unfolds, her phone, as well as yours, will keep on buzzing from curious family members and friends eager to know if the baby will have popped out yet. While the calls will create more anxiety, you’ll advise your wife to switch her phone off and leave it to you, to convey the information as to when it’ll be appropriate. A friend of hers, actually twice her age will call you requesting to know if you picked a woman friend to help your wife as you embarked to the hospital. You’ll lie to her that you did so. As soon as you hang up, you’ll wonder how in the 21st-century husbands can’t drive their women to maternity wards in peace and in the company of nobody else apart from maybe their pet dog, one Poppy!

Not even your mother in law or your own mother will have the closest of information on what will be transpiring at this moment but instincts will be screaming something to their heads. While at it, you’ll stop the nurses along the way, humbly requesting to know the fate of your wife. Some will be receptive while others will be as cold as a club bouncer. The latter will have no feelings to let nor sympathize with your poor self. But there will be some who understand keeping up with a pregnant woman for nine months and overseeing all the hullabaloo and drama that comes with it, is no mean achievement. One such nurse will be Nurse – Angeline. She will have lots of things happening on her taste of hairstyle which will make her stand out anyway. Upon posing the question of the fate of your wife, you’ll notice her honest smile and reassurance even before she speaks. You’ll also notice the narrow gap between her front teeth that will make her smile more customized and memorable.

That evening, you’ll walk home to meet your house literally walking to you demanding to know how everything turned out. “Did the baby come?” the matrimonial bed will ask. “What is the gender?” the utensils will pose to you. “What is the weight of the baby?” The electronics will beg to know. The half-eaten chipos of yesternight will still be on the table mapping out what will seem to have been the most hectic 24 hours of your lifetime. Meanwhile, you’ll sit down and draft short messages conveying great news of the birth of your baby, a few hours ago, to people around you who seem to matter most. Before then, you’ll have called your mum as the first recipient of this privileged information and she will recite a gratitude prayer right on the other side of the phone conversation. She will be glad of her son, finally walking into parenthood while she is alive to witness it as it unfolds. To God be the glory.

By Day 2, your wife will have made lifetime friends from her hospital bed from the likes of Milly who despite losing a new baby born, will be a walking piece of inspiration. She will be extremely prayerful, overly kind and unbowed by the circumstances of losing a child. She will have coastal origins from her Swahili command to her plus-size demeanor. Then there will be sad stories of women who have braved marriage violence for their entire pregnancies. There will be more cold ones like of kids born with deformities and had their mothers take off leaving them at the mercy of the hospital. There will be some to extremely sympathize with; like of women who’ve endured bleeding from their fourth month of pregnancy compelling them to be hospitalized to the end of their gestation period; while others won’t deliver until their blood pressure stabilizes. Then there will be this slender, light-skinned Form two girl, admitted in the same ward with your wife. She will not have a child lying next to her. You’ll learn that she survived a rape ordeal, got impregnated in the melee and had the dignity of carrying the pregnancy to the ninth month. She delivered one and half years ago, an innocent baby boy. But why the girl will be back in the hospital is because she will have pains around her belly which in a few days ahead, will be booked in the theatre after it’s established if she has developed some tumor in her stomach, through an X-Ray process. Your wife will also have made friends with one woman who gave birth to 1.5kg underweight infant baby and got trapped in the hospital since the bill was too high for her and her family to settle. The last you had about it, it was way past sh.100,000.

Looking forward to Part 2 of Maternal Moments!!

 

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GRYZ WAHURA: A TRIUMPH OVER DISABILITY

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This article should have been published last week but something eroded the whole rationale. 30th June was fast approaching with thick torrents and fury. What to do when your whole extended family and friends who haven’t called you in fifty years finally emerge from nowhere and keep your phone buzzing unusually! So, around this time of the year, I usually feel quite proud of my career since very learned doctors who spent years in medical school studying complex stuff like, deciphering Human Cell Biology; TSC employed teachers salivating and edging in to meet their pensions; Beautiful, yellow-skinned lady bankers who apparently have no appetite for longer dresses who live for swindling the rest of us to take loans and subsequently sending their goofed and mean-looking credit officers to keep tabs on why the loans are not being serviced; Arrogant entrepreneurs whom you’ll spend years trying to explain to them what is I-tax, passwords and the need to have an email…name them. They will finally discover my number and call naively asking what is requested of them to file these returns. When you mention of P9As, they’ll condense and assume that is something close to a clearance form from CID. That was last week; Maddening crazy and overwhelming. Credit to I Tax portal – It was fast and efficient this time round unlike last year.

Further afield, we are putting up with July weather. Of course you and I under estimated the cold until we bumped on images about the Icing in Nyahururu and the acute low temperatures. What’s with Nyahururu and clouds falling on people’s heads and roads. Isn’t that invigorating? Well, by now you know I was raised in Nyahururu. In actual sense before global warming encroached, made a safe landing and settled, July was one of those months we all dreaded for. I recall my brother and I back then in lower class, where by 6:15 am we would painfully live the house to meet the annoying school bus. A time like July, we would shiver from the teeth to the intestines. Mind you we were on shorts, slogging through the mist and biting cold. By the time we boarded the bus, we couldn’t feel our legs.

Time for Gryz! Back in 2009, in the lifts of the tallest building at that time of Ngara area code was Vision Institute of Professionals. An accounting school where CPA was discovered, nurtured, instilled and exported to the rest of the colleges. In fact, most of these colleges which sprouted out after (Thanks God it was pre-Matiang’i era) had their founders cum lecturers start their careers at Visions. This was the epitome of excellence in the accounting field. Then, having been new to Nairobi, using lifts was quite fulfilling for me. Particularly because I was brought up in the village, Nyandarua County to be exact which has no single hill expect an ant-hill. So, being here boxed in a lift, my height dwarfed by humans with a taste for Nairobi fashion and fancy phones and school bags; I wanted to be like them.

It was on such moments that I met Gryz Wahura. Not that we exchanged pleasantries but at least I got to know of her. She was overly short, light complexion and with feeble legs. While I was joining Visions, she was clearing. Clearly, she was astounding by any standards. CPA not being a cup of tea course, we all wondered how she made it here. What cooked in her ambitions? She must have real fire burning in her belly and a self-drive that would move Kenya economy to first world. Watching her along the corridors, one could tell that was a walking gem eager to learn and change lives.

Eight years later(2017) I inboxed Gryz on Facebook requesting to have her featured in my blog. She had no qualms. I had her draft something for me about her life which I used to come up with a questionnaire to squeeze in more juice for this article. Ladies and gentlemen, here is Gryz’s story told for the first time on an online platform.

Gryz Wahura was born 29 years ago in Nyakahuho village, in Gikondi location, Mukurwe-ini Nyeri County. From the ages of two to fourteen years, she was raised by her grandmother. She is from a single mother who was the bread winner of the entire family. She was born a normal kid, crying and playing like any other until the age of three. This is when her mum realized that her beloved daughter had a spine problem. After back and forth to quite a number of hospitals, she was pronounced as to have a deformity in her spine. Her spine was curving in as she grew instead of forming straight. The spine being a very sensitive part of the body, nothing much could be done out of fear it could cause paralysis to her whole body. Growing up in the village at such a time had its pros and cons. First, there was stigma caused by lack of not so many cases akin to Gryz’s in the village. On the other hand, everyone got used to her physical challenges and she was treated like any other pupil in school including being punished like the rest if she featured in the list of noise makers or not completing her homework. She was active in co-curricular activities namely sports, drama and music festivals. Being treated like a normal kid helped her physiological wounds heal faster. In such formative years of one’s life, it is important to feel indifferent. But you can’t be indifferent in adulthood. Ama? You need to discover yourself, cut your own niche, embrace your personality and goals and remain self-reassuring. To that extent, it is difficult being an adult hahaha.

Something happened on the eve of her KCPE exams. She got a paralysis on her legs. Gryz was in and out of hospital for eight months for therapy and medical checkups, where she was confined to a wheel chair. Gryz later joined a special school for persons living with disability for her O levels in Thika, which was a big chunk of advantage to her because of the facilities and meeting classmates with similar challenges. While here, she lost meaning to life. And as she puts it, “at this point I lost meaning of life. I was a bright kid but I was never serious with my studies in high school, after all to my thinking, who would employ a person on a wheelchair despite their education!”

What was your initial experience on the wheel chair

At first I could not seat on it, I was in denial that I was paralyzed. It took me around six months to accept the situation, until when I joined high school and found other students with severe disability.

I cleared my high school in the year 2004 and I didn’t know what next. At this time I had moved to Nairobi and the stigma from the society was just too much, I didn’t know how to face the world. I had no idea what to do with my life more so since I didn’t know of any college or university which accommodated persons with disability. Between January 2005 and May 2006 I shunned myself from the society and the only place I used to visit was the hospital for my therapy.

 How long did it take you to accept your condition

After continuous therapy I started regaining my senses and I could walk again using crutches. I went through a lot of counseling through workshops and training which played a big deal in accepting my condition. I accepted who I am and realized that there’s so much to life than disability and made a decision to continue with my studies. At this point I didn’t care about public perception so long as I pursued my life.

I indulged Gryz about her adolescence experience.

High school was fun. Being in a mixed school, one could have more than one boyfriend and several secret admirers who would keep writing notes to you without revealing their identity and leave you to do all the guessing. I was very confident in high school which made it easier for me to interact easily with everyone around.

Later she joined Visions which disappointingly, was not disability friendly. This meant, if the lifts were not working, she could only be left with no choice but to use the stairs at times to sixth floor.

In July 2006 I joined Visions Institute of Professionals as a KATC student. At first I didn’t know what would be the reaction of the VIP’s family would be, but what mattered the most is that the management accepted to admit me, the college was accessible and I had a goal in life. I made friends at Visions, several of whom are still good friends to date. And very few people didn’t want to be associated with me.

You searching for a job

Luckily, I didn’t hustle for job. A friend from my current place asked me to apply for a job vacancy which was advertised internally and I got the job. Joined Kenya Education Management Institute (KEMI) in January 2012 on a One year renewable contract as an Accounts clerk. Got confirmed on a permanent and pensionable basis as an Accountant 1 in July 2014.

Gryz is very active in Sports

In the year 2010 I joined Para sports as an athlete I participated in field events i.e. short put and javelin throwing.

In August 2010 I was a Gold medalist at the Great Lakes Athletics held in Nairobi. In the same year, I was appointed the National Treasurer of the Kenya Cerebral Palsy Sports Association.

In 2011 I joined the umbrella body that is the Kenya National Paralympic Committee as a Committee Member. This position came with several responsibilities, among them coordinating a youth workshop in Rwanda, youth training camp in Korea, African youth training in Nairobi and a Team Manager for the 20th Common Wealth Games held in Glasgow, Scotland.

Tell me about what motivates you in life

My Mum is my all-time motivator. She encourages me in all ways. I wake up every morning with her words in mind “Grace your life is greater than your disability”

Social Life

I love life and touring is part of me and that’s why I joined the Maina Kageni Road Trip Tour. Have been to several exciting places in the country and few other places in Tanzania and Rwanda.  

Tell me more about Maina Kageni Road Trip

I joined the team when they were on their third week of the tour after I heard Maina talk about it on his morning show on radio. It’s very simple to join, since you only have to pay.

How have you been handled by the rest of the crew in the road trip

Maina and the entire management have been very supportive and extremely friendly. I remember the first time when my friend (a wheelchair user) and I joined the crew, Maina was very encouraged.

Most memorable visit

When we visited Kyanguli Secondary School where the fire tragedy happened in 2001 and killed 63 students. The images were very disturbing. It was overwhelmingly emotional.

Tell me about a typical day in office

I wake up at 6am and retire back at 12 midnight. I get to the office by 8am. Being in a Finance Department, I’m busy all the way to evening.

I also do more in this institution than just accounting stuff. I’m a member of committees like;

  • Disability Mainstreaming Committee
  • Integrity Assurance Committee
  • Information Security Management
  • Tender Committee

 

Currently, Gryz, is pursuing her Finance degree at KCA University.

 Nick Vujicic perhaps one of the most popular persons living with disability worldwide having been born without arms and legs but two small feet, at some point succumbing into severe depression from bully in school, survived all this horrifying childhood challenges and by now is a huge motivator to legions of us.

I will leave you with two of his quotes;

If I can encourage just one person then my job in this life is done…. There’s no point in being complete on the outside when you’re broken in the inside.

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Are you a young person, with a compelling story that you strongly believe should be retold to a larger audience for the sole purpose of inspiring and educating. Reach up to me on wandrewism@gmail.com

WHICH WAY OUT: FEW OR MORE KIDS

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Early April this year, my family and I embarked on a trip to visit my Shosh, up in the hills of Othaya. A green desert of tea farms, and dwindling coffee plantation, up and down we were, taking sharp corners underneath unbothered deadly rivers making their way to distant lands. Othaya, a very fresh environment courtesy of the unrivalled abundance of rare indigenous trees, tall and gigantic, placed on top of hills and down south along the slopes, bending and singing smoothly – what a purified air! And this journey is never enough without passing by Tums. Well Tums is a small getaway, sandwiched by weather roads, red in colour and inside a sleepy village called Giakaja. Here, the best of kuku and mbuzi choma invites you from the parking bay, and soon you spot the busiest of waiters speeding like rally cars, balancing their trays with the dozens of orders playing in their heads. Tums being a gazebo-like layout, the laughters from happy people enjoying every bite of the meat and ambience waft easily all across. Normally, Nairobians who live for discovering hide outs, will be found here on a Saturday afternoon, flanked by their glossy wives, and their beguiling looking, smooth skinned girlfriends with sweeping elegant weaves, and their boys in expensive pants while some will still insist on puttting on coloured shorts in the year of our lord 2017. Usually, their tables will be dotted with Tuskers and silver-like melting meat. They will smoke arrogantly, speak louder, laugh more and ask for more beer and choma.

Now, we make our way to Shosh’s place, eat, drink, chat and then by coincidence happen to meet a number of my cousins who have also checked in for other engagements here. So, as the evening gets weary, one cousin rises to give vote of thanks but sneaks in an interesting conversation. That as cousins, they are considering awarding whichever family that will reach the target of having at least five kids. Currently the top contenders which is a tie of a few, has four kids each. Actually they are three families out of thirty something. SADLY, SHOSHO PASSED ON RECENTLY AND IN FACT LAID HER TO REST ON 16TH JUNE 2017. Rest in eternal peace dear pillar of my heritage.

Moving on…Our generation is breeding far fewer kids. Two utmost. Three if one is damn rich. Some one. Well the commonest reason being the “harsh economic times”. Quite logical. I mean how and why should one agonise over raising more kids when Unga is neither affordable nor available. When you can’t place food on the table, why more? Dear Andreaders, can our economy encourage contemporary parents to get more or few?

Well, I sampled a few of my friends asking them: Given a choice considering the status of our economy, would you go few or more kids? Kindly give reasons. Only one out of twelve respondents was for four to five kids regardless of the economic status. Three respondents were for very few kids. The rest had no clear answers. Simply put, they were nor here nor there. Just a bit confused. Sometimes back, my siblings and I visited mum by surprise. She was extremely happy and sensational. One thing I fondly remember her saying was; “Assuming I had one or two kids, would I be this happy?” You can imagine a family of slightly many siblings , armed with their spouses and curious teenage-like kids, and few more delicate and restless ones less than a year old, who can cry all night. We were scattered in one house, unbowed by the crying ones annoyed by the new environment they were not used to and the laughters and dealing with not-so-familiar faces plus the undoing of low temperatures of Nyandarua. Kids can be sensitive? My mum now savouring the beauty of watching her grandchildren whirl up and down while the shy ones sat attentively as they gazed at the hearty conversations. The shy ones in this instance had to be the teenagers getting acquainted to adolescence stage of life.

While working on this article, I stumbled on a research report named, Kenya: The Demographic of a Country in Turmoil which gives a chronology of Kenya’s population. Digging in, between 1970s and 1980s Kenya had one of the fastest population growth rates in the world. It experienced an economy slow down thereafter, which prompted the government to advocate for family planning to lower fertility rates. In 1960’s an average family would have 8 – 10 kids. As of 1990’s, that dropped to about five kids. With the AIDS epidemic which eroded health and mortality progress, Kenya has had to review life expectancy from an average of 60 years in 1980s to 53 in 2007.

But while the poor are having more kids, the middle class are siring few! Seemingly, the former are putting up with a fight of survival while the latter are toying with pro-westernized ideologies where getting more kids is no longer fashionable and worse still – very demanding and expensive, so to speak. But demographic pundits have it; that with an effective government and stable economic environment, population increase leads to steady economic growth.

The worry is, many alike, in our classes of life are bringing up fewer and lonelier families. Where, a couple gets two kids, educates them and by the time these children join University at about 19 years, the parents being anywhere from 45 – 51 years, are left to live alone while the kids run to Nairobi. These are the same kids who never get married nor visit home. So the closest these parents get to meet their grandchildren, unfortunately, will be in their sorry state – feeble and draining their family savings to medical bills besides dealing with two kids who haven’t stabilized in life. Forgive me for entertaining the thought that, there is fun in more numbers.

Thinking rationally, clear advantages of having relatively more kids include; Family projects become easier and attractable to finance based on the numbers, the few less-fortunate in life get pulled up by the rest of the siblings, the diversity of careers and lines of incomes brought about by different interests for each sibling increases chances of survival, such a family has a bulk of knowledge and forum to exchange ideas and increase business networks. Moreover, economies of scale have never been more plausible than in families – Utility bills are far cheaper in a house of more, than of few. Clothes and toys can be passed on to the younger ones. Parents who are pro-more can be in a position to enjoy freedom earlier since the teenage kids can be left to guard the little ones as they attend a dinner date, or rush for urgent issues out of the house, and can be caught up in traffic without worry of house girl drama.

Medical researchers have disclosed that growing up with a brother or sister can reduce food allergies, multiple sclerosis and some cancers. Obesity and depression is potentially reduced by exposure to more siblings. Parents with one or two kids, spend lots of money in Day-cares while the pro-more can have that aspect taken care of easily. Research have shown that ‘siblinged’ children will have stronger soft skills and keener emotional intelligence than single children. In most cases, siblings make up the best of friends. Mistakes and confessions are first told to close siblings meaning a good support system can be nurtured within siblings. Further, one or two kids can choke from over attention and pressure. Relatively more kids dilute the attention awarded to each kid hence aiding in making a child mature quicker.

Few or more, the jury is out.

 

FROM BOYS TO HARDENED MEN

High SchoolWhen I read Jackson Biko’s article named From the Equator last week, it awakened spirits and resuscitated memories I had long forgotten, apart from perhaps what I penned recently on my FB page andrewismme.wordpress Facebook Page in regard to how allergic we were to water for these four, eventful years. What Biko evoked made me find it fair, to share with my readers instead of just summarising it in three sentences in form of a comment.

Makes sense? Yes….!

Ready! Here’s a much summarised story of my High School life;

On 6th February 2004, on a sweltering Friday formed part of a nostalgic week that Matatus were on strike coinciding with a time that Form Ones were reporting to their new schools.  In the wake of confusion, mum instructed one of my uncles to give me a ride to school (about 27 kilometers away) in his bicycle. Eleven years down the line, I can hardly recall what the rationale was, of I being ridden by my uncle all the way as we left mum with my voluminous Blue box figuring out how she would make it to Nyahururu town. She made it. At about 1pm, we met her having bought the mattress, a red bucket and the rest of the NECESSARY shopping.

What followed soon after successfully being admitted and handed over to a Form Three lad to escort and orient this green and naive boy, was quite dramatic. As we made our way to my new dwelling place, I braved words hurled at me, screams and all manner of intimidation you could ever imagine. It was baptismal with fire. Incidentally, a dude whose face I couldn’t manage to paint in my mind in that melee, requested to assist carry my bucket. To my surprise, he disappeared in the thin air. That was the end of my poor, red bucket and I. Short, cold and painful relationship. It was kidnapped even before I used it to wash a handkerchief leave alone the uniform. Despite the fact that it had a very gigantic and visible admission number, it vanished like Czar the Coast musician, never to be seen again.

I quickly got accustomed to the maddening harassment and playing hide and seek with extremely rogue Form One bullies. This made me endear reading the Bible daily, reading and rereading verses that warned and rebuked the unrighteous (read Form One bullies) and the unmerciful. The more I prayed about my safety, the more harassments I endured. I remember one day, after we reported from April holidays my mattress went missing. That was the second and the last mattress mum was to buy me in a span of 4 months. Soon after the night preps, I met my helpless blankets stashed at a corner of the bed sobbing and whining in darkness. Luckily, a friend of mine who was in Form Three helped me get two conjoined pieces of mattresses that didn’t resemble each other. Conjoined!! Never mind, that was high school for me. Mum never heard of this to date.

We made it to Form Two amid renewed excitement that we had been left off the hook by the bullies. At least the new Form one admission dates were round the corner. To our shock, we came to realise Form Twos were the most loathed lot of students since they had no authority to stop a Form One not even to command him to wash a plate. Speaking of plates, I never understood, as a school culture, how majority disliked cleaning their plates leaving that to poor Form Ones who would wash to over 50 plates at a go. For a Form One, making it to the evening preps without being abducted by a no-nonsense Form Four to do a task which ranged from cleaning his shirts or being sent to another dormitory which came with its fair share of more harassments, one would consider himself lucky to get to class safely.

Gradually, life became bearable and even enjoyable. We got acquainted to the culture unawares. We invested time to a wide range of interests from Sports Clubs which I was one disillusioned fellow, to Drama Clubs. I was a huge fanatic of Debate Club whereby I served as the Vice President after I was rigged out from the Presidency post. I was also an active member of Drama club which took me to Provincial competitions in Temple-road Nyeri and Thika High. Science subjects didn’t like me as much, but I remember our school steadily making it to the Nationals for all the four years. The likes of John Ngoru an avid reader of this blog and an erstwhile classmate, a relatively quiet guy but scarcely sharp and bright bagged an avalanche of medals from Science Congress to Mathematics contests.

Soon enough, anxiously waiting for letters from our so called catches from Music and Drama Festivals in 2nd term and Sports events at the end of 1st term became a grueling experience. Letters were normally read out every Friday and Saturday parades and waiting for your name to be mentioned was like waiting to hear your name announced as the SportPesa jackpot winner. Interestingly, we were also cool enough to earn space not once or twice in the much popular Insyder magazine then. I remember saving my meager pocket money to buy a copy. I so much got fond of them that I kept dozens of copies back at home for visitors who popped by during school holidays.

The idea of not taking supper from the dining hall became so much fun. We would gather as a bunch of 7 – 10 boys and move with speed, holding our plates with one hand and hiding our faces with the other, making it a bit difficult for the teacher-on-duty to make out the faces. We were experts in making long strides (me included) in the air, not stumbling, maintaining the speed and the balance of the plate while not having clear sight of what’s ahead. It was thrilling to cut corners with the teacher. The sound of dozens of running legs and mischievous laughters after outwitting a teacher was an endearing hobby. Weirdly, food tasted better when taken besides stuffy beds, smelly socks and in no to so clean plates haha. We didn’t even notice. Better still, Thursdays were days to be longed for, for the mere reason one would get a piece of meat. This meant some students would camp at the Dining Hall counter from early as 4:30pm. Since I had this petite physique, it was a tall order for me to endure the stampede, all for the love of meat.

Strikes were common in this school. The deadliest happened when we in Form One when the Form Three had a feud with the rest of the school bringing everything to a standstill. They paralysed the school at night by interfering with the power system. The school was thrown to total darkness amid stoning of window panes. They pulled an El-Ade attack by plucking off a metal water tank and using it as a shield as they advanced towards the perceived enemies essentially stopping the flying stones. I was caught in the melee and had a stone landing just few millimeters above my right eye which left a tiny scar to date. For some few minutes I braced for the worst, convinced my eye had been gouged out. I found myself bleeding profusely, lying on a wet ground and surviving a stampede from a crowd that was running helter-skelter.

Still on strikes, there is one time we were chased out of school at night by teargas and gunshots for causing mayhem. How some of us managed to climb the three meter school fence in half a second made me appreciate adrenaline is real. We had to run for about 15 kilometers, bringing down residents’ fences and wreaking havoc on crops as we looked for escape in the dead of a night. We soured the plains, some breaking their legs from caving in to unforeseen holes while we lost track of others. For about one and half hours, cops were hot on our heels in pursuit of these untamed boys. We camped at the hills of Mt. Thodio where the low temperatures of the night tormented every part of us. We slept in the middle of nowhere like herded livestock for one long night, cracking jokes and pondering on what fate had for us. Talk of Mt. Thodio experience.

While some were naughty enough to wake up at 3am to milk the school cows for the love of milk or to savour the idea of dismantling newly replaced power sockets or to leave tap water running; High School heavily impacted on whom I am today. And as Eleanor Roosevelt would put it – The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.