|Entrance to Maseno University's Main Campus|
On that day, I was one year shy of being two decades old. By 6:30am my father and I sat at the easy coach waiting lounge in Railways- Nairobi.
At 7:30am i would begin a vital journey in the life of every young Kenyan: I would be en route to Maseno to start my four year undergraduate degree journey.
I was happy I made it to university, but I was very aware that studying an undergraduate degree was not a stellar accomplishment, at least not anymore- well apart from for my grandmother and a few villagers who still thought university students were ‘watoto wa serikali’ (the government’s children) entitled to free chicken and lots of money given by the government.
We were at the waiting lounge an hour earlier (or more-trust me); with a father like mine you could not dare be late in anything- especially to board a bus we had paid for. Travelling on that day, would make sure we got to Maseno a day before thousands of young Kenyans who would be my comrades for four years. My father single handed decided we would arrive at Maseno one day before the material day, not because he was nervous but that was just his rule in life and by default my rule too. According to him; being the earliest bird came with multiple advantages.
When our bus was 30 minutes late, I began to give him faces that shouted (you see how worthless it is to arrive so early!!). And my statement that went like “mimi nilijua gari lazima ichelewe- wakisema 7:30am wanamaanisha 8:00am” (when they say 7:30am they mean 8:00am). Did not deter him from telling me stories of how he always caught the worms in life for being an early bird. He warned me that if that was not my philosophy in university I would fail in multiple things.
-of course he was right… But it took incomplete assignments and hypertension during exam periods to learn!
Later while in the university I would also learn that admitting loudly your parent accompanied you for admission to first year was very uncool and wasn’t a line that could score you a hot boyfriend in campus. By the time I learned this I had already announced that I was a daddy’s girl brought by daddy to campus.
At 8am we took our seats.
I confirmed one last time that I had all documents needed for admission. I cannot stress enough that according to my dad some things in life have absolutely no room for errors. Like arriving for admission then you realize you left an important document at home!! (this makes so much sense in my adult life).
One of those was my calling letter that read ‘Bachelors of Arts Degree in Economics’. Those bold letters told me that my dream of studying journalism would be dashed.
And it was, when I applied for inter faculty transfer I discovered as a regular student admitted by then JAB- Joint Admissions Board today Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS), I was a few cluster points short to qualify for a Bachelor’s degree in journalism.
The first few weeks as freshman were a combination of excitement, disappointment and discovery that saw me in pursuit of an identity join the intercessory ministry under the Christian union. I did not last more than two weeks there and I assure you I will tell you the whole story in another post.
Everybody knows that when you go to a new place, making new friends is inevitable. The same was true for me in my first semester. I hopped from one friendship to another in search of I don’t know what.
One of the friendships that did not last was with this one lady who was totally obsessed with ‘looking fashionable’ – I was also obsessed with the same ‘devil’, only I was too busy seeing the speck in her eyes. She would go to Luanda every Thursday even if it meant skipping class.
Why did she go to Luanda? - You ask. (Let me explain)
Luanda is 15 minutes’ drive and 20 shillings from Maseno University. Every Thursday is usually a market day and there are cheap clothes sold; from as low as 20 shillings. When you are in Maseno and you need to look good at a low cost, Luanda is the place you need to go. But brace yourself for scorching sun as hell, possible pick pocketing and a run into a guy who has lost his mind to weed.
At that time, I could not fathom why this friendship was annoying: Was it coz this chic rubbed her Lunda elegance on my nose or was it the fact that I could not buy clothes like her as I was afraid of being broke while still in session? (But today I know why).
Anyway, before I joined campus I had heard stories of how comrades ran out of money and ended up having strong tea with a mandazi or two for three meals a day, or were totally dependent on food from the school mess (that dependence meant one was financially challenged), I most certainly did not want to be that comrade.
Plus what 19/ 20 year old wants their reputation to be tainted with such? - (“ule msee hukula mess” Jesus no!!).
So I was something between a strategic miser and a keen financial planner (of course this changed gradually, but not totally). In fact I can guarantee you that at one point, I worried more about being broke than failing my exams. First year Me is responsible for nearly half of the financial discipline I have today.
No matter how afraid I was of being broke, the nightmare came true, on double digit times in the four year long journey. In fact I believe at one point my situation was so bad it would seem hilarious to a church mouse.
When I left high school, I worked in a local school and I remember telling my colleagues fast forwarded tales of: How I would join the university and the reveries about my career would come true.
The university is indeed that place that paves the way for a comrade to achieve his or her dreams.
But it is also the place where dreams are broken, to be mend or not. In the four years it was that place for me. In the resounding clang of my broken dreams I still found joy.
In pursuit of satisfaction that I couldn’t get from my degree course I ended up being a presenter with Equator FM. Darn! I remember that night before my first day at the radio station – I literally couldn’t sleep, I tossed and turned in bed repeatedly going through my content and imagining what could go wrong and creating a solution for it.
Well – a lot of things went wrong. Like I left my microphone on when I was off
air, I was a nervous wreck and somehow the music just had issues (later I learned that it is I who had issues, not the music). Of course I got better and greater – and regardless of how terrible the first day was, I was a radio presenter for three years.
I also became a content creator, thanks to my good friend Churchill Ongere who in 2012 invited me with a couple of other people to start BAMU (the Bloggers Association of Maseno University), this basically marked the beginning of blogging in my life.
…I still owe Churchill a cup of hot coffee.
In her commencement speech to2008 Harvard graduates J.K Rowling – wished the graduates blossomingfriendships. Friendships that could traverse the experiences the world wouldthrow at them. Supportive friendships that would make life’s riddles bearable.
After four years, as I sat at the graduation parlour, roasting in my mammoth of a graduation gown waiting for the chancellor to give me the power to read bla bla…. (Seriously I never got that thing he said). I remember asking myself questions about this past time that lasted four years that would never come again. I wondered - whether I made the most out of it. Whether I grabbed every opportunity. Whether I was happy with every choice I made the best choices. Whether I was happy with the young adult I had become. I did not have precise answers to these questions but one thing I knew for sure I had made great friends.
On that day, one sat few rows in front of me, another few rows behind me and the other in the column on my right hand side. I made friends who since I graduated I have turned to in times of distress, whom we share ideas and laugh. If one day nothing else ever counts, I know this will.
My dear reader from whatever place in life you are reading, this just like J.K Rowling wished 2008 Harvard graduates the best friendships:
I wish the same for you!
Here is a paragraph from that commencement speech –
“…the friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children’sgodparents, the people to whom I’ve been able to turn in times of trouble,people who have been kind enough not to sue me when I took their names forDeath Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by theknowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would beexceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister.”