Bear with me, if you will, as I recount on yet another wonderful experience I had at Starehe Boys' Centre. I am just developing a hobby of reflecting on my past days, the heart-warming as well as the buttock-clenching ones, with the aim of either gleaning valuable lessons or enjoying my life again. And that hobby, which I am finding more refreshing than watching a wacky movie, is inspiring me to live an honourable life while still a youth so that I can get to enjoy it again when I grow old through beautiful memories.
I joined the Starehe Boys' Survival Club in my first term in Form 1 back in 2002 after magically passing an interview conducted by commandos - as the club leaders were called. And with time, I came to enjoy the camps and hikes we had in the club. Well, I didn't enjoy the hikes because they involved a lot of trekking through hilly countrysides but the camps, during which some commandos wore stetson hats that made them look like American cowboys, were quite another thing in that I enjoyed them especially the night camp-fires around which we would sing funny ditties while making fun of commandos who were selected in Form 3.
Like one Survivor teased a commando on one of those camp-fire chants by saying, "You see the grandmother of Commando 'X' - she grew thin and thinner and thinner and thinner and thinner until she disappeared!"
So much did I come to enjoy being part of Survival Club that at one time, I wanted to be a commando in the club. I however gave up on the ambition when I realized I couldn't withstand joining the Starehe Boys' Fire-fighting Squad (see photo above) which Survival Club commandos were expected to join. But with all the confusion and timidity that Starehians saw in me, I doubt whether I would have been selected a commando anyway.
I therefore left the club in Form 2 but after having gleaned the following leadership lessons which I hope to apply in my future family of which I will be the head, God willing:
- Rise early
- Be physically fit
- Ensure everybody in the family has a meal before sitting down to eat
- Create some time for family fun in which everyone is free to tease each other
- Keep disagreements with wife and bedroom affairs out of notice by children
Later on in 2012, I became interested in memorizing the values and mission statements of Survival Club as they may have been outlined by the club founder in 1989. So I visited Starehe Boys' only to find that the club had been displaced from the cottage we used as headquarters in our days to a small room partitioned in an old classroom.
With that kind of change, I sensed the club had lost its glitz and glamour. I informed Ken Ogutu, one of the commandos in '02, about the change but he didn't seem surprised. He just told me they used to refer to the cottage we used as Survival Club headquarters as the Bush Embassy. I found that Ogutu's remark amusing because it implies that if you wanted to go to the bush, you first had to get a visa from the Survival Club headquarters.
And by the way Ken Ogutu, who I have approached to be my legal advisor, went on to study law at the university and was accepted at the renowned Harvard Law School for a post-graduate course. My friend, that's the end of my story, and I have had a nice time telling it. Thanks for bearing with me.
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Forswearing Foolish Ways
I first reported at Starehe Boys' Centre as a student on a lovely Thursday afternoon on 17th January of 2002. Back then, I didn't realize how fortunate I had been to be admitted to the school which treated new students as brothers. It's only in recent years when I have heard of how some of my friends were bullied in their first days in high school by their seniors that I have thanked God for taking me to Starehe which had a tradition of assigning every new student to a second-former who would orient him to the ways of the school.
My second-former was one friendly Leon Osumba from the Luo community of Kenya who was a bit hearing impaired but compensated for that disability by wearing hearing aids. He went out of his way to introduce me to other schoolmates in Chaka House that I was part of. His amiable demeanour explains why I have a visceral hatred for any sort of discrimination on the grounds of age, race, faith, tribe, gender, disability or sexual orientation. And it also explains why I wouldn't mind marrying from the Luo community, provided the lady is a person of fashion and sense.
The captain of Chaka House back in 2002 was one Michael Mwangale who received the first-formers of that year amicably including me. He used to hold regular meetings with us during the first half of Term 1 in which he would mentor us on a myriad of issues including the spread of HIV/AIDS. Like I remember him telling us that it is unwise to ruin our lives with two minutes of sexual ecstasy. And the night before we broke for mid-term holidays in that term, he organized a small bash for us in which we feasted on biscuits and drank plenty of tea. Oh, how I miss those good old days!
I shall always remember Mwangale for a funny comment he uttered during one roll-call. It was a day before we broke for a half-term holiday, an exciting moment especially for us first-formers. After Mwangale was through with whatever important stuff he was telling during that roll-call, he closed his remarks by saying, "And guys, do have a nice half-term. Go say 'hi!' to your sisters."
Again I say, that was Michael Mwangale: a didactic, commanding but sometimes funny young man who in 2002 served as the captain of Chaka House at Starehe Boys' Centre.
But perhaps the Starehian who gave me the best reception in the school was one Jesse Nyoro who was six years my senior and whose photo I have displayed above. He introduced me to Music teachers when he heard that I could play the piano. And he made some very congenial compliments about me to my fellow first-formers. Later on, he encouraged me to accompany hymns on the piano during assembly by giving me a music score of hymn no. 59 in Starehe Boys' hymnal: that wonderful old hymn in limerick form whose first verse goes as follows:
Nyoro treated me like a brother despite the fact that I was a confused new student while he was a famous senior in Starehe pursuing a technical course in the institute division of the school. He still remains my friend who has counselled me on several occasions in recent years.
Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways;
Old now is Earth, and none may count her days,
Yet thou, her child, whose head is crowned with flame,
Still wilt not hear thine inner God proclaim:
Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways.
Like he called me on phone the other day to inquire how I was fairing in life. I told him that I am still working hard and praying for breakthroughs, to which he replied, "What breakthroughs are you praying for Thuita? Don't you realize that your breakthroughs happened a long time ago? Do you know how many people wish they could own a website like you do and write as you do? Stop this business of saying you are praying for breakthroughs."
He proceeded to tell me of two disciples who walked with Jesus without realizing they were with Him until He gave them bread. The point he was trying to make in that reference to the two disciples is that God has already been with me and I only need to open my eyes wider to sense His presence. For whatever reasons, I cannot remember reading about that story of the two disciples walking with Jesus without realizing it in spite of having studied the whole Bible from preface to index.
I however tried to clarify to Nyoro that by praying for breakthroughs, I meant earning money. And I wish I had told him like by winning a lucrative advertising contract in this blog but he cut me short when I mentioned the word money by replying, "Thuita, money only accounts for 10% of happiness. So long as you have food to eat, clothes to wear and good health - those alone are big breakthroughs."
After reflecting on that Nyoro's advice, I am thinking that maybe I should begin counting my blessings instead of focusing on what I don't have. Or maybe I need to forswear my foolish ways and proclaim my inner God by being grateful for the gifts of everyday life as that wonderful old hymn I have mentioned exhorts in its first verse. Actually, that's what I strive to be doing. So should you.
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I love reading mottoes of learning institutions because of the immense wisdom they carry which I try to practice in my day-to-day living. Let me share with you, my dear reader, the mottoes that have inspired me most and some reflections on how we can apply them in our lives.
First is the motto of Starehe Boys' Centre: Natulenge Juu (Let Us Aim High) that is beautifully engraved on the school's crest which was one of the aspects of Starehe I admired most during my years in the school as I have pointed out in the caption of the crest photo above. I love the motto because it resonates with my ambitious nature that I have possessed for as long as I can remember.
Second is the motto of Rose of Sharon Academy in Nairobi where I taught piano for a year in 2015: Nurturing Excellence in Spirit, Wisdom and Grace. It is borrowed from a verse in the Book of Luke. A wonderful motto, isn't it?
Third is the motto of Harvard College: Ve ri tas (Verity and Truth). I have tried to apply that motto in every area of my life which explains why I am always truthful in my words and deeds. So even though I was rejected at the college when I applied twice for undergraduate admission, I am glad to be living the Harvard motto.
Fourth is the motto of Patrick Henry College: For Christ and For Liberty. I love that motto because it resonates with my belief in Christ and in respect for other people's faith: be they Muslims, Buddhists or atheists. And that explains why even though I believe deeply in the Bible, I have never tried to impose my beliefs on anyone. I am now striving to win people to my way of thinking, which roots from my faith in Christ, through my words, deeds, humour, warmth of personality and good will towards all people.
Fifth is the motto of Liberty University: Knowledge Aflame. I have been inspired by that motto to acquire knowledge by reading, reflection, socializing and listening to music as well as by occassionally watching movies and sports. Talk of keeping knowledge aflame.
Sixth is the motto of the United States which is poetically well-stated in her national anthem as follows:
So much do I love those lines of the United States anthem and their accompanying melody that I usually find myself singing them out loud when walking and showering. And that's why I trust in God a lot these days.
Then conquer we must,
When our cause it is just;
And this be our motto:
"In God is our trust"...
Last but not least is the motto of the Scout Movement: Be Prepared. I try to follow the motto by dressing well even when going to buy something in a nearby kiosk because I never know: I may meet my soulmate! That's why I also read regularly, why I carry three business cards in my wallet and why I am always striving to nurture my strength of spirit to shield me in sudden misfortunes such as the loss of a loved one. I advise you to be prepared as well.