Strathmore and Inoreero

When You Want Something So Bad and You Don’t Get It, Then What?
Friday 11th July 2014

On Wednesday evening this week, I called someone to clarify something but it ended up being a very interesting (and I use this word generously) phone call where I raised my voice and the other person raised their voice too and I got very upset and by the end of the almost 30-minute long phone call, I felt drained, angry, sad and unsettled. I shared the summary of the conversation with Poriot because it’s something that affects us both and he was so discouraged himself that he actually had no words to say to me. Normally when he is down, I cheer him up and vice versa but in this case, we just both felt out of bandwidth. Like most extroverts, I express my upset-ness by talking about it- and I mean talking about it extensively. Poriot on the other hand absorbs everything first, mulls over it and says the least in those moments. So it works out because we are not competing to express to each other how upset we are. Anyway, we decided to sleep over it and discuss a way forward in the morning.

The following morning (yesterday) when I woke up, I remembered a time in my life when I had felt as unsure and unsettled about the (my) short-term and long-term future. The memory of that time, or shall we call it period/season, came to me so vividly that it startled me. I literally sat up in bed to take it in. I almost woke Poriot up to share it with him, but I figured he didn’t need another reason to be upset – a wife who won’t let you sleep at 5am when all you want and need to do is sleep.

The memory was of the time when I finished high school about 12 years ago. Yes, 12 years ago to be precise. Don’t look at me like that. There are people who finished high school many more years ago so don’t you start counting my age, like I now need a walking stick 🙂 What used to happen in our time- and I think still does now- was that after high school everybody went to college to do a certificate or diploma short course on computers or accounts and/or a language or any other professional skills course. This was because, first of all, we had to wait till February of the year after finishing school to get our KCSE results, and then we had to wait another year and a half or two years after that before joining university- unless your parents could afford to take you to a private/parallel program in which case you could start right the year after finishing high school. I fell in the category of those who were going to wait to join public university- and that’s the category with the majority of Kenyans so no need to feel sorry. So we needed to be doing something productive in those two years of waiting, else you would go mad- or more likely drive your parents mad.

In any case, everyone from my high school went to Strathmore College (now Strathmore University). Or at least it felt that way to me. So sometime in November/December 2002 after KCSE I went and did my interview for the IMIS (Institute for the Management of Information Systems) program at Strathmore and there I met with many of my schoolmates and friends from other high schools who had also just finished Form 4. It was a competitive interview and the results would be sent by mail i.e. you would get an acceptance or reject letter in the post. I left for South Africa to visit my aunt in mid-December and came back to Kenya in mid-January 2003. The SA trip was a special treat- but that’s a whole other story that I will share with you in a different post. On returning to Kenya, I checked the post office and found no letter. I called Strathmore and found out that I had indeed been accepted for the IMIS program but since I had not confirmed my attendance by the date they had given, which had passed the week before; my position had been offered to someone on the waiting list. The admissions office was very sorry and the best they could do was offer me evening classes. But I couldn’t do evening classes because we lived all the way on the other side of town and it was going to be literally impossible for me to go classes in the late evenings.

At this realization, my heart sunk so low it probably reached my knees- which must be relatively easy for it to do as I am not very tall. You see, in my (very interesting) view then, everyone who was anyone went to Strathmore. And if I went to Strathmore, I would be at par with my colleagues when we needed to look for jobs after college; it would be that extra feather on my cap. I wondered why God had allowed my letter to get lost in the mail, why I hadn’t come back from SA like a week earlier, why my life was ‘starting’ on such a sour and unlucky note. (You see ‘real life’ started after high school). Strathmore was- still is- a Catholic institution, an excellent school academically and otherwise, is strict and has a very good reputation. All the things I had dreamed of. Further, to know that I had actually passed the interview but missed a spot made it worse. But such as it was, I embarked on looking for a different institution to do my computer studies.

Mind you, I wasn’t crazy about computers or information systems and the whole shebang; it’s just that at the time when you finished high school that’s what you did. Actually prior to that, I took Computer Studies up to Form Four- and it was a choice subject- yet I couldn’t be further from computers in terms of interest, but that was then and the advice was that you better study Computers or you’ll be obsolete in the fast-changing technological world! Whoever said we all needed to do programming in C, C++, Java, information systems and all that, I don’t know, but yup, there I was. There we all were.

I finally settled to do a course in IS (Information Systems) at the Kenya School of Professional Studies (KSPS), which is a college in Ngara/Parklands now known as Inoreero University. It was nowhere nearly as esteemed, strict, or ‘classy’ as Strathmore and having come from a very strict, prestigious, Catholic high school I felt a bit short-changed and out of place, (pride, how haughty we can be sometimes), but I figured I’d make the most of it. But every day when I spoke on phone with my friends who were at Strathmore, something tugged at my heart. I was convinced that that was where I was meant to be. Any time a lecturer cancelled or was late to a class at KSPS I’d say to myself, I bet that doesn’t happen at Strathmore! Every time I saw students being cheeky about exams or assignments, or being too carefree about attending class, I said to myself, I sooo don’t belong here, I should be at Strathmore!

My ‘saving grace’ was that I had also enrolled for French classes at Alliance Francais. (Remember after high school if you could afford it, you generally did Computers and/or Accounts and/or a foreign language, usually German or French, or if you were really adventurous, Spanish or Italian). So I would go to KSPS in the morning from 8am till noon, and then I’d walk to town CBD and attend lunch time Mass at the Holy Family Basilica. Mass started at 1.15pm and ended at 1.45pm. At that point I would walk up Koinange Street or on to Loita Street and then arrive at Alliance at about 2pm. There was a salle (room) where you could go practice French by talking with fellow students from other classes or you could do your homework there. So that’s what I did till 2.30pm which is when my class started.

My class went from 2.30pm till 4pm and I’d go straight home after that. Not because I had anything urgent to rush home to but I was just one of those kids that go straight home after school. I didn’t hand around and hang out at Alliance or go to eat fries or ice cream as many of my classmates did (maybe because I also didn’t have the money to throw around like that). After French class, I would walk to the roundabout near the Fire Brigade and Old Nation House to board my matatu to go home, no detours. Okay, slight detour- Poriot and I met in this French class. We became friends but he tells me that at that point I used to walk around with a sign on my forehead that just said “Keep Off”. We laugh now, but at that time I guess I did give off those vibes because I was such a focused, disciplined, uptight, ‘good’ girl. Anyway a lot happened in between from then till now- as you can imagine- seeing as we’re now married. But that’s also a story for another post.

Getting back to the main story. I got into a daily routine of class at KSPS, Mass at Holy Family, class at Alliance and then home. With time, I became comfortable and less bitter about not being at Strathmore. I met other friends from high school and primary school at KSPS and made some new friends too and actually started to enjoy the (yes, computer) classes and the rhythm of it all. It was actually a special time in that my two brothers were both away at boarding school so it was just my mum and I at home. In the mornings, she and I would read the Bible and Daily Bread devotional together over breakfast before she left for work and I left for college. In the evenings, we’d make and have tea and supper and talk about our day and about a myriad other things in our lives. She and I had always been very close but we became even closer during this time and it is something I forever treasure.

During this time too, in March, I went for the UWC (United World College) interview, with the encouragement of my high school principal and deputy principal, and on exactly 1st June I remember receiving a call telling me that there was a package for me to go collect at the General Post Office in CBD. It was my package from the Armand Hammer UWC-USA which delineated my scholarship and had all documents that I would need in order to get a student visa to go to the US. A few weeks prior to that, a letter had come in our mail telling me that the Kenyan national committee had nominated me for the scholarship at UWC-USA. The package from the US was therefore final confirmation that indeed I had gotten a scholarship to go and study the International Baccalaureate (IB) at an international school in New Mexico, where I would be one of 200students from 88 countries and where we would take part in all sorts of cultural, academic, community and creative activities. If I say that I was stunned beyond words, it will be an understatement. I cried a million tears and said Thank You Lord about sixty times per second that day. Who was I, this simple girl, this simple girl who didn’t know anyone in government or at ‘the top’, that I should receive such favor? Such fortune? Such grace?

Following this news, it became apparent that there was really no point in starting the second semester at KSPS because I wasn’t going to finish the course as I was going to leave the country in August that year. I had just finished my exams for the first semester and I had done well in them. I also sat my French class exams for the first level and did okay, not spectacularly but okay. Now, the thing is, Strathmore was a lot more expensive than KSPS. Had it all worked out as planned and intended, my mum would have paid for the whole year- given how eager and sure I was about going to Strathmore. But you see, it would have been a waste of sorts as I wouldn’t have finished the Diploma anyway just like I didn’t finish at KSPS. Ultimately, I came to the realization that when I missed Strathmore, God was likely saying, this is not your portion. Yours is coming. Be patient. If only I had had the foresight to see that when I was feeling so dejected. If only I had known that all the days I walked from Ngara to Holy Family Basilica through Globe Cinema roundabout, up Slip Road, past Jevanjee Gardens, that there was a different plan for me, I wouldn’t have burdened my heart so much with questions of why and why not.

So back to yesterday morning, 10th July 2014, as I vividly recalled that time in my life and how it all ended, I thought perhaps the disheartening conversation that took place the previous evening with the person who upset me is meant to set me for something greater, or even if not greater just different than what I think my life, our life, should be right now. Much as it is unclear and unsettling, I choose to cling to the faith that things will work out- even if not in my timing and not in my style.

Relevance of all this to you as a reader? Well, maybe there’s something that you’ve just missed out on. A job application that didn’t result in a positive response, a relationship that is not going the way you think it ought to, an internship/scholarship/fellowship/promotion/opportunity that you thought was just right for you yet they chose someone else over you, something that you feel is yours and should go this way or that way, but it’s not working out right now. Well, I’m saying that maybe it’s just not meant for you, your portion may actually be different, or the timing is not right (yet). When the time is ripe, trust that things will work out as they are meant to. Be ready to accept that the ‘working out’ may be in a completely different fashion than you’ve imagined it. It may be greater, it may be smaller. But it will work out. In other words, don’t worry if you’ve missed ‘Strathmore’. Enjoy your ‘KSPS- Holy Family- Alliance-Home’ moments now. Your ‘UWC’ moment is coming. And when it happens, you will look back and reminisce. And hopefully, you will remember to be thankful. For both the wait and the end.

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