Skills I Never Acquired
A True Story
on Aug 1, 2020
Some of my earliest memories are seeing my senior brothers play with small toy cars on the compound of our home. Theirs weren't the sophisticated toy cars that I see parents these days buy on the streets for their kids. Instead, theirs were home-made stuff. They made the toy cars using wires, with lids of plastic containers as wheels. And they made them with such skill that their shapes resembled those of real cars.
My senior brothers were also adept at drawing pictures as well as building furniture and small huts. I remember with nostalgia how my senior brother Paddy used to construct small huts as we grazed cattle during the December holiday of 1993. He constructed those huts with blades of wild grass that grew abundantly in the field where we grazed the cattle. Whenever it rained, we would take shelter in those huts - small though they were.
I also remember one morning in the early '90s when my senior brothers Joe Kagigite and Bob Njinju took turns drawing each other on paper. They had with them coloured pencils that my parents had bought for them. And oh my, how impressive those pictures were!
When I grew up to be a primary school-going boy, I somehow lacked the will and aptitude to make toy cars and draw pictures. Like there was a time in 1997 when we were required to make toy vehicles during Art & Craft lessons at school. Guess what I did! Well, I just presented my senior brothers' toy cars in school.
Perhaps due to my lack of dexterity in drawing pictures and making toy cars, I never used to understand anything in Art & Craft lessons that we were taught in school by a teacher named Mr. Gathigi. Imagine during the subject's multiple-choice exams, I would do a lot of guesswork.
My inability to understand anything in Art & Craft wasn't for want of studying. I used to read a lot on the subject, especially books by an author called Malkiat Singh. But it was as if what I read entered my head in one ear and out in the other because I would retain no knowledge in my head. The little that I recollect in my readings on the subject was how frequently I came across the statement "...also referred to as..." in Malkiat Singh's Art & Craft books.
Fortunately, that Art & Craft subject was scrapped from the primary school syllabus when I got into Standard Eight. Had the subject not been removed from the curriculum, I wonder how I would have fared in the national primary school exams known as KCPE which I sat for in November 2001.
Besides drawing and making toys, another skill that I never acquired when I was growing up was cooking. I was such a poor cook that sometimes when it was my turn to prepare meals at home, my family members would complain about the quality of my food. Unlike my senior brothers, I wasn't great at cooking ugali and chapattis, two of the most popular meals here in Kenya.
My senior brothers also knew how to bake cakes, which they did during my birthdays in the late '90s. Because we never owned gas or electric ovens, they would improvise one by putting ashes in a big sufuria, place it over charcoal fire and then put in it a small pan with the cake ingredients. And the cake that would bake in the improvised oven would turn out to be as sweet as those baked by professional bakers.
Paddy, my senior brother who I have said was skilled at making small huts in 1993, became gifted at cooking drop-scones in 1997. He would painstakingly sift sugar and wheat flour to get rid of large lumps, prepare a dough with the sifted contents and other ingredients, slice the dough into numerous pieces, then fry the pieces. And voila! What would come out of the cooking pan were drop-scones so delicious that I wish I were having them for breakfast tomorrow morning.
I don't know where my senior brothers acquired the skill of baking cakes and cooking drop-scones. Maybe it was from their lessons in Home Science, another subject that was scrapped from primary school syllabus when I got into Standard Eight. Given how poor a cook I was, the Home Science subject would probably also have given me a hard time in school had it not been removed from the curriculum. Lucky me!
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Cultivating Inner Peace
A True Story
on Jul 27, 2020
When I was in my second year at the university in JKUAT in 2008, I used to spend a lot of time alone. I enjoyed roaming in the university's pristine meadow where most students never ventured. The following passage from the autobiography of Bill Clinton was to me then, as it is still today, an inspiration and a spur:
That passage led me to think that something good could come out of my worrying and wondering. So I have continued carving out some time for solitude to do the sorting out that Bill Clinton said a good life requires.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lie about himself.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own. 
To be honest, I have not always enjoyed solitude due to recurring emotions of guilt, hate and worry. I remember the many times I have agonized over the sins I have committed, over how others have treated me with contempt and over how things may go wrong. Such kind of thinking has drained joy out of my soul.
Not all my moments of solitude have been unbearable, though. There have been times I have thoroughly enjoyed my own company such as during some evenings in 2016 when I went for my evening walks. Imagine I would feel so excited during those evenings that I would walk on and on by taking a longer route to my home. What a pleasant feeling it was to be overexcited!
But one problem I noted with trekking for too long due to overexcitement was that it would affect my energy levels the following day. If, for instance, I felt euphoric on a Monday, I would have a lousy Tuesday. Another problem with overexcitement was the way it made me overly talkative. I would engage in needless chatter and send text messages to my friends. So feeling overexcited was doing me a disservice, pleasant though it was.
What I am now craving in my moments of solitude is a never-fading sense of inner peace. I want to be at peace with myself and the world, whether alone in my room or out there in the street walking. And here's my game plan on how I will achieve that peace.
- Thinking positively: I will spend my time reflecting on my strengths, not my weaknesses; on my achievements, not my failures; and on my virtues, not my sins. Life is too short to dwell on the negative.
- Developing optimism: I will believe things will pan out well for me, regardless of how gloomy life may get. After all, doesn't my Bible say that all things work out for the good of those who are in Christ?
- Being grateful: I will dwell on the things I am blessed with, instead of pitying myself for the things I don't own. And I have a lot to be thankful for such as good health, food to eat and fresh water to drink.
- Associating with positive people: I will keep in touch with people who uplift me and bring out the best in me. No longer will I try to win the respect of people who don't value me.
- Not taking anything personally: I will not permit other people to hurt my feelings with their words. So should someone say something negative about me, I will see him as the problem, not me.
- Putting everything in God's hands: I will cast all my worries to God because He cares for me. So I will not go around with a sour face wondering if things will work out.
 I have extracted this passage from page 150 of My Life by William J. Clinton, published in the United Kingdom in 2005 by Arrow Books.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on cultivating inner peace, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "Enjoying Solitude". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.