For the love of Economics

Some free advice to all freshmen in colleges.

Especially the fresh-faced young girls from county schools who are all too eager to get an education and prove to the world that the place JAB offered them was well deserved. Danger lurks. Even with all your good intentions. Danger lurks. Do not for one minute think that since you attend all your classes, go to the library in the evening, do all your assignments on time, after which you head straight to your room, have dinner then read some more before turning in, that you are safe. No. The fact that you are not one of those girls whose sole aim of being in campus is to have unbridled, endless partying does not exempt you from danger.

It sucks, doesn’t it?

You watch them in fascination. Wondering who bore them. They are in your face every single day. With their loud behaviors who would miss them? They treat the hostels as their palace. The rest of you are the Royal domestics. It’s unfortunate the janitor when allocating rooms did not check the students’ backgrounds.  So you are stuck with one of such girls for a roommate. To make matters worse, you are taking the same course. Which means you are the official Note Taker. This roomie of yours has no idea where to find the lecture hall for Communications 101, a mandatory class for all first years. But she knows the lecturer by his first name. Never mind that in a class of over two hundred regular attendant students, that you have never missed and in which you always secure a front row seat, you have never conversed with the young, swaggerific lecturer that most girls swoon over. When exams are around the corner, your roomie for once struts into your side of the room and borrows your notes.  To your dismay, they lie untouched on her table and she does not return them to you. And when you ask for them two days later, she asks if you could please photocopy them for her. She even shoves  a two hundred bob note into your hands and say you can keep the change. You know how far that kind of cash will take you. So you take it, photocopy the notes and place them on her table hoping she will find them some time.

But this is not about your roomie. It’s about danger. And Economics. Not the subject – no! The Elements of Mathematical Economics that the good old Professor Mukras or the Economic Theory taught by Dr Samanta, while still somewhat relevant  in my day-to-day life have been overtaken by other interests. This post is about loving your books too much that you fail to acknowledge the changing circumstances that you are now thrust into. Circumstances that are very different from the sheltered life you knew in high school especially if your school was like mine. With nuns hovering above like a helicopter, it was impossible to even raise the tiniest spec of dust without being caught. And during those four years, you developed a highly disciplined, strong values and morals character that you expected everyone in the real world to abide by.

My love back then was Economics. A love affair that was kindled by two Ugandan teachers back in the nun’s orchard. Mr Bite, Sir! who probably loved the queen’s language more than he loved economics, and Mr Busiku whose burst of laughter could make the strictest nun lose her veil for a moment. It is the same laughter and mirth injected into the Business studies lesson that made most girls, yours truly included, make it a choice subject in the final K.C.S.E. exams.

The simple Demand & Supply and Markets & Prices theories taught back then ignited a thirst for more knowledge about making choices. And when the time came to study the subject at the grand, awe-inspiring, resplendent higher learning institution that is The University of Nairobi, I put my all into it. I followed the timetable, attended all lectures, all along carrying my books in that infamous academic angle. I knew what had brought me to this big city, and nothing would persuade me otherwise.

I have said before that I have a phobia for libraries. And for an academic hoping to excel, that does not augur well. Back then, computers were rare and research was done using real, paper books; voluminous texts that you obtained from the Jomo Kenyatta Memorial library at the main campus. And the lecturers shocked, nay, scared us that without reading the many books they recommended at the end of each lesson, there would be no passing exams. And I had not come this far to fail my first exam in campus. No, Sir! This megalibrophobia (the fear of libraries until I am educated otherwise), coupled with the fact that before the lecturer could pronounce the author of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, some able bodied souls were already sprinting to gather the few copies available in the library, meant I had to devise other means of acquiring this knowledge.

The opportunity presented itself unexpectedly one day. A green-horn friend of mine decided we could still try our luck in the library. We had an assignment to complete and things were thickening as the first batch of CATs were just round the corner. It was my first time to set my foot in that place and the sheer size of it was enough to put me off. We didn’t know where to begin and the cataloging system my friend’s roommate had tried to explain seemed too complicated. So we stood outside wondering whether to drop our bags and get in or not. And that’s when Isaac (let’s call him that because I cannot be sure the name he proffered was his real name) came along.

The thing with most freshmen in campus is that they can be noticed from a mile away. It must be the air around them that forms a halo around their heads. Isaac was the kind with tiger eyes and could see the light of the halo shining through the darkest night, better than Knowles. He introduced himself as a fourth year student at the university’s Kikuyu campus and promised he would get us the book we needed. We made plans to meet in two days’ time, hike a ride on the university bus to his campus, collect the book, and hike a ride back to the main campus. It was all too simple.

When the deal is too good, think thrice! Like why would he not bring the book to you if he’s coming your way, anyway? Was he listening to your conversation to know the book you needed? And why was he too eager to help two strangers? These are questions the two greenhorns in this case did not ask, or even think about.

On the appointed Tuesday, Isaac, like clockwork was waiting at the appointed meeting place this time with his friend. With a bunch of other campus students, my best friend and I got on the bus which left for Kikuyu campus at about 5 pm. This meant dusk was quickly gathering in by the time we got to Kikuyu campus and between being ‘entertained’ with a cup of strong tea in their room (they were roomates apparently, or one roommate had been exiled – difficult to know), going for dinner in the Mess and the make-believe that someone was bringing the book from wherever, the clock struck 10 pm. By then, we learnt the bus had already left for the main campus at 9 pm and there were no other means of transport back.

The short of this tale is that, that was the night I could either have been a murderer or an accomplice to murder. A simple nail clipper can be a real weapon, girls – always have one in your bag!  We survived the night unscathed and 5.30 am found us at the Serena bus-stop heading back to our hostels. And made a pact to never talk about that night. Since I have not been in touch with my friend for a very long time to ask for permission to break that pact, I will leave it at that. The fact that no newspaper had headlines screaming, UNIVERSITY STUDENT FOUND DEAD IN CAMPUS ROOM, is testament that whereas blood was spilled, no further damage was done.

Be warned. Danger lurks in the least expected places!




Playing Catch Up

Catch-Catch. What Miss W wrote in answer to the question: “Name some games that you play at school.” Social Studies mid-term test. I have difficulties understanding these studies so I will not attempt to delve further into that subject. The word catch is what has been in my mind. I must say we did not play catch-catch when growing up, and if we did, we sure didn’t have such fancy names for them. May be nyita-ngunyite did just fine.

I am again guilty of neglecting my baby here and so I am playing catch up today. A lot has been happening with my clan, not forgetting the butterer of my bread who has been relentless in trying to fill up the hole in the bottom line and I have to play my part.

For starters, the idiot box is no more. Gone. Kaput. Just like that. No, they didn’t break into the house. And no, the digital migration war was not a turning point. Nor was Mr G too broke to pay for Dstv, thank God. The idiot box is voluntarily locked up. Out of reach. For everyone, mama here included. Imagine that! It’s been two days and I am still suffering withdrawal symptoms. Everyone in the house is. So I am wondering who we are trying to impress. Ok. It was a consensual agreement. Because the grades were dropping, homework was not getting completed on time. Piano practice was down to no piano practice. Food was not getting eaten when it should be. Talk was down to mono-syllables. In other words, zombies were starting to reign. Something had to give. And the idiot box was the culprit. Or the victim, take your pick. So it’s packed for at least one year then we do a performance appraisal.

One year. We did it again a couple of years back. 2012. Another no-idiot-box year. Until the political temperatures started rising. Mr G and I became tired of playing catch up on what was happening and what was being said in the newspapers. We wanted to hear it straight from the horses’ mouths. Not reported speech, which by the way is always misquoted, or so they tell us. And so during the weekend before the presidential debates in February 2013, the idiot box graced our sitting room again.  And oh boy! What a feeling that was!

It was like a girl meeting her first love after so many years. Years of wishing that she hadn’t been so stupid to play hard to get. Years of wondering what he was up to yet not picking up the phone to call him. Years of wondering on whose bosom he lay at night. When she hears that he has been spotted in town, she gets ready each day in anticipation of running into him. Which does not happen because life isn’t that kind. Instead, she meets him when she is ill prepared or dressed up for that matter. But her heart doesn’t understand that now, does it? It fails her miserably. Making her feet flip flop, turning her knees into jelly, tying her tongue and erasing her memory of all the words she had practiced to say at that very moment. And Mr Idiot Box saves the day. He becomes the hero who rescues the damsel in distress. And the damsel is all too happy to follow his cue (see how the likes of Christian Grey gain control?) Our Mr Idiot Box has been in control ever since as we fought for the remote control trying to play catch up from where we had left a year or so earlier.

I must admit the hiatus period had its benefits. Even Miss M who takes the saying All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl too far…surprised us. Books were read. Exams were passed…with flying colors I must say (by the way, ever seen colors fly? Must remember to look up the origin of this phrase). And nobody died from idiot box fever. Everything was looking up. In hindsight, we should have boxed the thing immediately after the political hullabaloo was over (is it ever over anyway?) and returned to our ‘normal’ life. But hey? You all know how addictive it is. You watch the scandalous Thembeka on etv’s Scandal! (forget Kerry Washington’s Scandal) one day and you just want to know what happened the following day and the next and the next. By the way, that’s the only programme I follow so I don’t even know why I am whining about missing the idiot box. But truth be told, I also secretly enjoy the The Thundermans, Sam & Cat and other such like shows on the Nickelodeon channel. Oh! Except SpongeBob Square Pants and his shenanigans at Bikini Bottom – especially when there’s food on the table. He gives me the creeps! I say secretly, because when I laugh at the casts’ antiques, it is often used against me when later I proclaim tv time out. Like, “Mum, even you know how funny this show is, please let us watch just this once!” Never mind that the episodes are repeated tens of times.

Enough said about Mr Idiot Box. I must stop thinking about him and hope the whining has finally convinced my poor heart that the break up was for the best.

Back to more catch ups. Miss N is playing catch up with mummy dear. This has been her week. Estrogen has taken over her body and it’s been drama after drama. I pity Mr G though. Hope he does not drown in the levels of estrogen in that house!

I must now catch up with the butterer of bread.