This is Part 4 of the My Life In Nouns series. Thanks for making time to read. November is schooling me in many things, and I’m loving it. Today I was at the Kampala International Theatre Festival at The Square. I met a writer with The East African. I saw a man swallow a sword. Upon that background, my day was good. Let’s get to the nouns, shall we?
I was loud, yet I still feared standing in front of people. I was the girl who laughed loudest when people threw comments at those on stage. I knew being in the audience was safe so I promised myself I would never leave. One Thursday, like this one, I was tempted. It was (kiromo) the day before the end of the school term. I was part of the writers’ club and we’d gathered news to be read during the end of the term assembly. I was very good at gathering: anything to avoid reading because that meant standing in front of people, it meant thousands of eyes eyes fixed on you, thousands of ears listening attentively in hope of catching mistakes. When I brought the file to the reader, she said she couldn’t read because her parents had come to pick her. I wasn’t moved. I figured they’d just scrap the news off the agenda. She asked me to read but I refused. I couldn’t. I tried to get someone to read in vain so the file got stuck with me. The teacher on duty already had the agenda. After the anthems, and the prayer, it was time for news. I froze!!! Those who saw me with the file told me to hurry to stage, which wasn’t really a stage I later found out. You had to stand in the middle of the whole school. The assembly was arranged such that everyone sat facing the center. Whoever was in the middle faced the head teacher and the teachers who sat behind her. Shake you say? My dress didn’t shake, it trembled with the fear that boiled inside me. I walked to the stage. If the file wasn’t hardheaded it would fallen out of my quivering hands. “Breathe in, don’t breathe out. Then read,” I prepared myself. I breathed in, then read. And read. And read. And didn’t die. I could stand in front of people after all. Towards the end of assembly, names of indiscipline students were read out and mine was among them. There really was a first time for such things. As my colleagues and I walked to the stage, I felt no fear. I’d taken that walk before. Even though I scrubbed drainages that afternoon, I wasn’t the same ever again. When I got home, dad had heard about my indiscipline. The teacher who had done the reporting had also mentioned what according to him was “excellent reading.” Excellent reading is not much coming from a mathematics teacher, no? 😂
To overcome difficulties is to experience the full delight of existence. – Arthur Schopenhauer
In my first year at the university, I was on my best behavior: attending lectures, doing coursework as soon as it was given, actively participating in discussions, being on time for everything. I spent most of my days at campus, so I constantly met new people. One afternoon, as I sat by myself listening to Abel Chungu music, a guy came and sat across from me. In politeness, I took off my earphones. “Hi, let’s go get you something to drink,” he said. “Do I look like I need something to drink?” I meant to ask but I was already on my feet, following him. When we got to the restaurant, I took time to observe him. He wore dark glasses, a dark blue t-shirt, black jeans and brown leather sandals. He smiled a lot, as he told me about himself. We spoke only of him: his parents, his siblings, his course, his stress factors, his… When I finished my bottle of water, he handed the waitress who stood by our table one thousand shillings. He had taken water too. The waitress asked him for more money. Without looking at me, he whispered to her that I was to pay for my drink. Without asking questions, I paid for my water. Why hadn’t he said: come buy yourself water, or let’s go buy ourselves water, or let me push you as you take yourself out? I still wonder. Of course it’s my fault, I just assumed “let’s go get you something to drink” meant come I buy you something to drink. No wonder I stopped spending a lot of time at campus (looking thirsty in people’s view). No wonder I stopped letting strangers “take me” for drinks. No wonder I learnt to ask questions. No wonder I still laugh at myself.
He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever – Chinese Proverb.
Recently, I was wondering why we had lots of books in primary school yet we studied only four subjects. Then my siblings reminded me how each subject had a separate book for revision, class work, then homework. I hated time for revision, partly because I hate questions. I particularly hated Science revision. Our science teacher had issues dealing with loss. When his plastic hangers broke, he brought them to class and renamed them juice. For every wrong answer you gave, you got free juice. Sometimes there was variety, you had to pick from green, orange, black and red. They all tasted the same anyway. One afternoon, he walked into class with a question paper and orange juice. The first question he read out was, “what substance do bees use to deal gaps in the hive?” No one raised their hand. His reaction still makes me think he was just in a bad mood. “If you know you don’t know the answer, stand up!” he shouted. I saw people rise to their feet. Jerry (the smartest in our class) stood up. Then Inno (the second best in the class) stood. The whole class was on its feet, except me. Teacher Joseph went around the class giving everyone juice (hitting arms with his broken plastic hanger.) When he finished, and asked who hadn’t received juice, my neighbors, in pain, were quick to say my name. I still thought I knew the answer. “If Jerry doesn’t know the answer, how can you know it?” I heard someone ask. I walked to the front, like I’d been asked by the teacher, and wrote my answer on the board – PROPOLIS. If Jerry didn’t know the answer how could mine possibly be right? I wondered as I strutted back to my seat. “Her answer is correct,” the teacher said. I smiled. I was happy for myself. That day, I found out I was/am capable of being smart on my own, not in comparison to Jerry or any one else. Just smart.
To be truly and really independent is to support ourselves by our own exertions. – Jane Porter