When I Grew Up…

By Dickson Otieno

I have written this for the longest time possible. In my mind. I didn’t know I was doing it. The pieces just came together. Slowly. One day at a time. Bringing together memories and thoughts from the past and from the present. Building up dreams of the future too. My brain has been full of activity. This story and that story. This thought and that thought. This memory and that memory. Fragments here and there. Piecing up together. Joining each other like Lego. Coming to birth.


Why Do You Do What You Do?

The last thing I would ever do is belittle anyone’s profession, unless, of course, it involves vices like stealing or killing people. I have no idea, then, why someone thought I did so last week. It made me wonder why we are so vulnerable to the slightest whiff of criticism of our careers.


Thoughts on Education

Parental involvement 

When I am not listening to VeggieTales and other silly songs, I am usually reading the Onion, America’s Finest News Source.  One recent article on the Onion, (it’s a satire publication) was about a teacher by the name Jon Broderick who has been reaching out to promising kids that just need a little guidance since 1996, and to be honest, none of them has really blossomed into anything. Quoting the teacher, the Onion says that “Every year, I tell myself I’m going to be the reason a struggling teenager excels beyond all expectation, and every goddamn year, I’m wrong.”


Women at Work

What do you want to be when you grow up?” I ask my kids in my Sunday school class the other day.

Their little hands are wiggling up in the air, the mostly six-year-olds eager to share their dreams with me.

“A doctor,” one girl says, and another and another.

“A pilot,” a boy shouts, and of course there are several more.


My First Job

The most traumatic transition I have gone through in the recent past is moving from campus life to working. That is folly to a normal adult who is used to working to earn a living but it is the truth. I landed a job this past holiday which was quite a task. I was supposed to work from eight to six with no real break in between. Half the time was spent on my feet attending to all kinds of people. The first day on the job I was so beat, I could not stand up for about an hour once I got home.


Bad Manners

There are memories I hate to remember. Bad memories. Fortunately or unfortunately, those are the ones I remember. Most of my family members can remember tiny little details from the past but I hardly remember most. What I do remember more than most are the memories that were made behind closed doors. Those memories that were bad and you know were bad even as a six-year-old. Back in the day, it was called bad manners. Maybe you know what I am talking about. If you are Kenyan, you totally do.

We would watch those raunchy scenes on TV where they did not reveal exactly what was happening (unlike today) then we would re-enact them with the kid next door. Or at least what you thought was happening. You would hold on to that boy and do something that would pass as a kiss and weird touching, like you saw on TV, but fully clothed. Then hope you did not get caught. Of course it was not sexual intercourse. We had no idea what that was. And as little as I was, I knew it was wrong. If it wasn’t we would definitely not hide in the store. And yes we were caught and reprimanded by my mum. I remember I peed in my clothing that day as she went on and on about how wrong what we were trying out was. She did not, however, punish me in any way.

Funny enough, it used to happen all the time, even in school. You would hear whispers of so and so being caught ‘doing bad manners’. Then we grew older and wiser and those things were forgotten. But not really. Every once in a while, some random person will remind you. I hate it. Sometimes I wonder why we did it.

Is it perhaps because it was a no-go topic? Is it perhaps because we were very curious to find out what our parents did not think we were trying to explore that early? Do kids do these things today? Can it be avoided? Do kids just want to do what they see adults do? Just like cha mama na baba. I am pretty sure not every child tried to do any form of these silly explorations.

I know for sure that my mum learnt a thing or two from this firstborn and proceeded to always sensitize my siblings after me against it. I also know that I would have turned into a very wayward girl if it were not for my mum. Mum gave me all the information that most parents shy away from right on. In fact, at some point, I remember telling some girls what periods were in class three. In whispers. Because speaking about such things in school was taboo. It would spark ‘a case’ where you’d be paraded in front of the whole school and caned for speaking about bad things.

A bit later on in upper primary, there were more ‘cases’ that make neither head nor tail in retrospective. Most were about kids coupling in theory. Some keyholders that had Jack and Rose pictures were actually banned in the school. Lol. Others were about drawings in the urinal. You know what I am talking about, don’t you?

You see, sexuality is a topic you can never avoid. You cannot afford to pretend that a child has no private parts and expect them not to find out soon from someone else. Kwanza I have a problem with the way they are not even shown in those ‘Parts of the Body’ topics in books and charts. You know that child knows there’s something we are all trying to hide from that point on. I know it would be weird to point them out, right? Why is that? Probably because they are private, Shiku.

Even if you do not tell the child the big name for her vagina or penis, whatever you choose to call it, tell her that no one should touch it. (You should, however, call it what it is. I was taught to call these parts ridiculous names back in the day. Funny names.) Tell him all the time when you give him a bath. And later when she is a bit older, tell her what it is really called and why it’s private. And why it should be private till she is old enough (and married in my book). This will prevent friends from talking him into touching. Or even worse messed up grownups like that househelp who infected a kid with STIs. Lord!

I am not one to shy away from this topic because I know better. Even if I hate the memories, I need to talk about it. Innocent and harmless as they were, some kids were not as lucky. They went through real sexual abuse from grownups and still labelled it as bad manners, never to tell anyone till later in life. The stories on newspapers are evidence. There’s nothing to hide. I am not a parent yet but I have first-hand observer experience on how to handle it. Approach with care but do not pretend sexual curiosity does not exist in the young. Answer them when they ask or someone else will.


(By the way, my WordPress had ‘refused’ to publish this post until Sasahost helped me out. I guess it was wondering what’s gotten into me. 😀 )

Moi University

The Average Fourth-Year…

  • Is on his last semester of his 8-4-4 and age is catching up. Either that or he has thrown caution to the wind. He has no idea what courses he’s taking. If he has, he has no knowledge of their titles, leave alone their codes. He never missed classes in earlier years but today, attending lectures is the exception, not the rule.
  • Will remember that registration forms are filled on the day before exams, she will then scribble on some course registration form very fast, forge the signatures then fill in an examination course form. It will then hit her that she has not paid her fee yet. She’ll rush to that tiny National Bank and stand in an endless line. Back in the day, she paid her fee a month before the opening date, a good faithful freshman.
Moi University

Bye-bye Holiday, Hello Fourth Year

Finally, I began my fourth year of study last Thursday. While that is just theoretical in many ways at the moment, I have the key to my room, a mattress the size of a blanket and a positive attitude to match. The timetable may very well take a week to materialize and classes another week to take off.


Teachers’ Strike

So everyone seems to assume that just because teachers were on strike, they were in bed sleeping. Well, they were not. At least the ones I know were not.

To them, teaching is a calling . Whether people think lowly of the profession, whether the government decides to treat them as lesser people, whether no kid growing up today wants to be a teacher, it still remains a great vocation. (OK, slight exaggeration. There are kids who want to be teachers when they grow up. My six year old sister is one.)

I was and still am raised my two high school teachers. They met in campus (I always smile at the idea of meeting my lifelong partner in campus. Clearly I did not pick that particular gene).

Every day, mum and dad leave the house to go give their all in school. Every day, they come back with interesting stories. Other times it is loads of papers to mark. Once upon a time, I spilt a glass of water on some papers dad had left on the table. I do not even want to imagine what dad told his students; all I know is that I did not even get punished for it.

Mum is the listener; the teacher counsellor. She wants to help and she always helps in whatever way. Mum bonds with her students. So much so that she has been maid of honour at a former student’s wedding.

Dad is the funny man. Once he taught me geography during some holiday tuition sessions. He is the guy who will teach about rotation and revolution of the earth and demonstrate it. Yeah, in this case, he assumes the role of the earth. He spins while at the same time going round in a circle. Get the picture? I would say I laughed at the demonstration like the rest, but I really did not. Inside, I was thinking ‘Oh God, dad is embarrassing me’.

Well, when I come to think about it, it is not always about me. I bet none of the students in that form one class ever forgot about revolution and rotation. He made it fun.

Through all this, I have always known that teaching requires sacrifice. Even when you are transferred to a school you did not want; even when you have to work with students who do not seem interested. The joy comes when you bump into them in future, full grown men and women, successful citizens, who still remember you.

Somehow, a teacher always remains a teacher to me. That teacher who took me home the day I puked all over the classroom floor. The teacher who ensured I could write and gave me the confidence to do so. The teacher who made a bet with me, that he would do something for me if I passed my exams.

A teacher remains a teacher to other people too. Many people do not even know my dad’s name. He’s simply ‘Mwalimu’. I may never be a teacher apart from the Sunday school teaching I do, but I appreciate teachers. I never thanked them enough though, maybe someday I will.

I celebrated when the government agreed to hike the teachers’ salaries. Not because I had something to gain from it. Maybe I wanted the kids out of the house soon. Whatever I wanted aside, the teachers deserve every coin. Even when you think that they already have enough from the tuition fees and all, they deserve the raise.

By the way, the teachers I am talking about woke up every day to go to school. Even with the strike, things had to be kept in check you know. Now that’s dedication.

Moi University

Diary Entry

(Too bad I abandoned my diary for this place. Here goes…)

I am trying really hard to love a place, to go about my day without complaining but a myriad of things get in the way.

I wake up, the doors are all locked except the main one, for a week now.