Part 2: High School Memories
A True Story
on Aug 18, 2019
I extracted the photo above from a website I created in 2006 for my high school class, the Mighty 4F Class of '05. Recently, I have entertained in my mind memories of my interactions with my classmates during our high school years at Starehe Boys' Centre. And today, I thought it wise to share with you those memories.
My high school classmates were very bright boys back in 2002 when we were in Form 1. At one time that year, I heard one of them discuss about a Swahili novel we were studying in class. From the way he was talking excitedly about the novel, I could tell he was finding it interesting. But imagine I wasn't understanding anything in that novel. Poor me!
So bright were my classmates that I had to read a lot to catch up with their brilliant minds, often waking up as early as 5.00am to do private reading while most students were asleep. But even with my heavy reading, I still ranked in the bottom ten of my class during our Form 1 year.
And because most of my classmates were too bright to defeat academically, I resorted to cheating during some tests when we were in Form 1. This is what I would do: If, for instance, we were having a Biology test, I would put an atlas on my desk and the teacher distributing test papers would think there was nothing wrong with me placing a Biology test paper on an atlas as the two are unrelated. Then during the test, I would put my answer sheet in between two pages in the atlas and raise one end of the atlas in such a way that the teacher supervising us would think I was doing so to prevent my deskmate from having a peek at my answers. But guess what! In between some pages in the atlas were bits of paper in which I had written Biology notes for referring to during the test.
As luck would have it, I was never caught cheating, even by Fr. Joseph Carriere - a stern and strict elderly Canadian priest who sometimes moved from class to class to catch students cheating in exams. Looking back though, I think doing such kind of cheating probably confused me as I had to be cautious not to be apprehended. Little wonder that it didn't help me fare well in the tests during my Form 1 year.
Another form of cheating I tried in Form 1 was during English lessons that we were taught by an American called Mrs. Susan Moore. Well, I noted that whenever we read a passage in a textbook called Integrated English, Mrs. Moore would ask us to write down the meanings of vocabularies in the passages. She would then mark our answers and record our scores as part of continuous assessment tests.
So when we broke for one half-term holiday that year 2002, I picked a dictionary and found out the meanings of all the vocabularies in the passages we hadn't yet read in the English textbook. I wrote the meanings in small bits of papers which I glued next to the relevant passages. But guess what again! When we reported back to school after that half-term holiday, Mrs. Moore never asked us again to write down the meanings of vocabularies in passages in Integrated English. And I have always suspected she refrained from doing so after observing what I had done.
As bright as my high school classmates were, I always felt our class had only one true genius. That was George Yuka.
Unlike other top students in my class who excelled by virtue of consistent hard work, Yuka aced his exams out of natural brilliance. His main weakness was slovenliness. If he had combined his natural brilliance with disciplined study habits, he would have been an academic whizz-kid.
Once when we were sitting for a Mathematics end-of-year exam in Form 1, Fr. Joseph Carriere came into our class and angrily accused Yuka of cheating. He really disturbed him. And probably as a result of that disturbance, Yuka only managed to score a 63% in the Mathematics paper. Had he scored at least an 80% in the paper as other top students were scoring, he would have topped that end-of-year exams - or so I reckoned.
I will always remember George Yuka for an initiative he took in Form 2 during one night prep, two or three days before we broke for long holidays. During that prep, he stood in front of the class and started describing each of my classmates. Because people at Starehe used to comment of how mentally mixed-up I was, I feared that Yuka would hurt my feelings by telling my classmates I was always confused. Happily, he said something virtuous and positive about me, though I can't remember what it was that he said. That was very wise of George Yuka.
As our high school years rolled by, I bobbed up in academic rankings of my class. By the time we were in Fourth Form in 2005, I was appearing among the top six in my class. I don't know if that happened because I grew brighter or my classmates became dumber. All I know is that I never did any kind of cheating in exams during my Fourth Form year. Also unlike in Form 1 when I used to get out of bed as early as 5.00am to do private reading, I never woke up before 6.00am during my entire Fourth Form year.
In the last term of our years in high school, I got to interact with some of my classmates when we met regularly in what we used to call the German Room where I enjoyed playing chess with George Yuka. One Sunday afternoon while we were in the German Room, Yuka shared with me a joke about a certain man who sold groundnut near Starehe gates. That joke set me laughing. It really was funny. Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to retell that joke.
When we were sitting for KCSE exams, George Yuka used to regularly complain about the exams when I interacted with him in the German Room. With the way he complained, I was so sure I would trounce him in the exams for the first and last time in our high school career. But alas! When KCSE results were released a few months later in 2006, he ranked ahead of me in the list of top 100 students in my province that was published in the newspapers. He scored an 'A' of 84 points while I got an 'A' of 82 points.
All in all, my high school classmates were bright fellows. I once told my high school deskmate Martin Wamoni earlier on in this decade that if the Mighty 4F Class of '05 were a school, we would have emerged tops in the country in 2005 KCSE exams. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you have enjoyed this part 2 of my high school memories, you might also enjoy "Part 1: High School Memories". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Benefits of Writing
A True Story
on Aug 15, 2019
When I bought my second android tablet in August 2015, I downloaded a journalling app called Penzu with the intention of using it to save articles that inspire me in my wanderings around the internet. So far, I have saved quite a number of articles in the app, including one on the health benefits of drinking purple tea.
But the Penzu team doesn't know I use their app to save interesting articles by copying and pasting. It thinks the contents in my Penzu app are my own original work. So whenever I don't paste something into the app for a month or two, I usually receive the following email:
Hi John,That email has encouraged me to keep writing. Only that I don't do it in my Penzu app; I write in this lovely blog of mine. (Psst! Don't tell the Penzu team, okay?) And given the joy and peace I derive from writing, I can attest that those benefits of writing that the Penzu team mentions are true.
We noticed that you haven't written in your journal recently. Did you know that [writing] has many health benefits, including:
Just click the button below to jump straight into your Penzu journal. It'll be like you never left!
- Less stress and improved moods
- Reduced blood pressure & improved immune system
- Improved memory
The Penzu Team.
Well, I first took up writing as a hobby in 2006 when I was in Starehe Institute. Before then, I had only written compositions in my primary and secondary school years to be marked, either during exams or in preparation for them. When I took up writing as a hobby in 2006, I mostly wrote stories to my high school classmates. I shared the stories with them via email. You see, I have always found writing to be fun when I have an audience.
There is one particular story I wrote to my high school classmates that I will never forget. I wrote it one day in 2008 when I was an undergraduate student at JKUAT. That day, I didn't attend any classes at the university. And what a beautiful day it was! One that will forever remained etched in my memory.
I wrote that particular story in a computer lab in JKUAT library, for I didn't own a personal computer back in 2008. Even though the computer lab was strictly for master's and PhD. students, I didn't get into trouble for using it the whole day. The lab attendants were friendly to me that day, including one I teased that she looked as though she was naked because the colour of her skirt resembled that of her skin.
Because it had been more than a year since I had last written to my high classmates, I began that story by saying, "Hi bros! Long time..." And then I went ahead to sex it up with lies and exaggerations that I found funny. I so thoroughly enjoyed writing the story that I did not notice the passage of time. It only dawned on me that a lot of time had passed when a computer lab attendant notified me she was closing the lab as it was 4.00pm.
The evening of that day I emailed the story to my classmates, I walked on air - so much that I could hardly keep still. Too bad that the days that followed weren't as good as that day.
Over the years since that day, I have felt a recurring sense of excitement whenever I have written a great story. These days, my happiest moments are when I share a story in this blog and someone out there appreciates it. And what is more, my writing hobby has made me feel in control of my life as though I am tooling around in a well-engineered car that makes doing 80 feel like 50.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on benefits of writing, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "Benefits of Physical Exercises". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.