CAMPUS TALES

Lilongwe

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Many moons ago, okay, not so many but many enough to be many. I was a fresha (which is slang for freshman)and I thought I was bright. For the record, I still think I’m bright.

So, after the seconding of my self-proclaimed sharpness, I decided to represent the University in a quiz challenge that would be taking place in Micahel Joseph Centre.

To be perfectly honest, I was a part of a debate team. Trust me to negotiate myself out of any trouble. Apart from that of milk spilling, at home the instance I attend to a message on my phone. This is milk that did not have the slightest signal of boiling! Also, milk at my place never spills, but boiling my mom’s milk is an extreme sport. Or maybe it is because we campus students here in Kenya are the gods of black tea and apart from the Bible we only hear of milk from beautiful tales like this one.

At this point, I must add, about 2 weeks ago, rumors from Mombasa county advised people to take black tea aka strungi after alledging it is the cure of COVID- 19. If that is true, I’m glad to announce that campus students in Kenya are marked safe. Comrade Power! Long live black tea!

But it’s not and we are not safe. We are not! Stay at home, wash your hands regularly with soap and water, avoid crowded places and follow all other stipulated guidelines until we deal with this Virus. I hate to be the bearer of sad news but no amount of black tea will keep you protected if you do not do the above. Okay back to the story, stay with me.

So, I was a debater and because most quiz challenges are done alongside debate competitions, the team assumed all debaters are smart enough for the challenge. Disclaimer: they are not. Our team was made of 4 people. There was Valarie, Miriam, Cliff and I.

We were quite a strong team, Valarie was and is still is sharp and the goddess of public speaking then there was Mirriam who was good and then there was me. At the climax of it, was Cliff, that guy was smart and well-read, not the average kind of smart, but the smart that will give you the name of Hitler’s sister in law in less than a minute. Do you know Hitler’s sister in law? No? Yeah, me too.

The only other team that had a participant that matched Cliff’s brilliance was the African Nazarene University team. The person was Rodgers and he is the reason we are gathered here today.

Rodgers was smart, just like Cliff, so much that at some point the competition felt like it was between the two of them

Other than being smart, he was a beautiful human. He had a smile that questioned the authenticity of everyone’s else dental formula in the room. His eyes carried with him a touch gentleness that most genius don’t have. You know the way these brilliant chaps always feel absent? Partly because they are always in thick glasses that may obscure the connection and partly because they seem like they are always thinking of metaphor to help you grasp the little things in life! A metaphor to help you understand things you cannot grasp in plain language remains a big joke to me.

Since we were instructed to sit per team, I didn’t sit next to Rodgers. However, from where I was seated and I must say it was several seats away, I could feel his warmth. Warmth that he radiated and most importantly, a warmth that I had not felt in my 18 years of existence. By now, you already know I was fully convinced I had met the love of my life and was ready to risk it all. Notwithstanding that I had nothing to my name.

Finally, the belief that you will get your life’s partner in Universiwasere beginning to materialize. Progress! Were it not for the fact that we were in a mood for competition, I would have already started building castles.

Here I was, a freshman, self-proclaimed bright girl tasked with the opportunity to bag me a good man. Well, at least that is how it sounded in my head! The cost? Answer the goddamn questions, be smart or at least act smart. Remember the rule, smart attracts smart. I figured, If I could be smart enough to get him to want to pick my brain, I would later work out a way to pick him off the single people shelf!

As I was preparing for my turn, I silently answered questions that were directed to my competitors. This acted as self-motivation, affirmation and reassurance that indeed I was ready for the task ahead. No! Not the quiz challenge but the one of bagging someone’s son. Time came for our team and we climbed up the stage.

The arrangement was that every member of the team was asked a bunch of questions while the rest of the team stood on your side. Again, I could answer most of the questions directed to my teammates. So by the time my turn came, I was fully convinced I was born for that specific day.

Time came for dear Njeri to face her questions, a damsel looking to impress a knight.

Question 1… pass, question 2… pass…question 8…I mumbled something then decided pass was more solid. Questions 10… What is the capital city of Malawi?

I stared blankly, but not to worry I had started staring from the moment I stepped on the podium and locked yes with Rodgers. My ovaries willingly took on a career on gymnastics, my eyes drooled over God’s creation, my mind requested for a leave, my tongue opted to take a seat and watch as the movie unveiled and my whole system and existence came to a standstill.  

Do you now understand why an 18-year-old who has survived house chores, conquered corporal punishment in school, dodged high school love from brother schools, and survived the famous Kaimenyi KCSE standardization could not answer a question as simple as; What is the Capital city of Malawi?

It was only after the beep signaled time out that my ovaries, eyes, and tongue returned to factory settings. Remember my mind had left on leave? He came back bearing gifts, a nicely wrapped package of embarrassment. I dropped my face so low, so low that I could hardly see the steps as I came down from the stage.

It dawned on me that I had embarrassed myself, let my team down (this one hurt a lot and were it not for Val I would have drowned in guilt )and lost a chance at interacting with Rodgers or anyone else. The thing is, I would rather have cleaned a denim jacket than subject myself to the shame of saying hello.

I may have left out that almost everyone in that building was polished, with a stress on the other gender. I had also managed to get a few heads to turn but as you may already be aware, I had eyes only for one. But now I had lost a chance of anyone else approaching me.

That incidence is one of the random memories that make me want to build a shell and crawl into one, anytime I’m reminded of it.

I could be in the middle of chatting and I remember the Malawi question and there and then the embarrassment and humiliation overwhelms me. At that moment, I usually grit my teeth so hard as I fight back tears. I have never shed a tear but I suspect if I ever do, then I will cry me an ocean. So next time you are wondering why I have not responded to your chat, remember Malawi happened and show some empathy you mundane!

Apart from the winner, African Nazarene University team, Cliff and Rodgers, I was the other highlight of the quiz challenge. Only for me, it was not in a good way. It felt like everyone had taken notes of my failure.

True to it, many months later in one of the national debate groups on what’s app, there was a debate and when we could not agree, things got messy, slander took over and one of the members of the group decided to bring up the Malawi topic to defame and label me stupid.

In case you are wondering, it hurt me that somebody still thought of me as a stupid girl while else all I was doing was appreciating God’s creation. You understand God’s work should always come first right? Shalom brothers and sisters.

Seriously though, I didn’t let her troll me, I defended myself because before anyone else I have a moral obligation to defend myself, to stand by and for myself, to hold me accountable and to never let anyone’s idea of who I am, define me. 

So I appeal to you dear reader, to take up the challenge to be the only representation of yourself and to not delay to let that be known by those that think and feel they should define you. This is important especially now when cyberbullying and trolling is a common trend. Remember, nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent, Eleanor Roosevelt

I also ask that you continue the good work of appreciating God’s creation, but don’t be like me, a little strategy will go a long way. So, what is the capital city of Malawi?

(This is my campus tale or at least part of my campus tale. It is also the second last story to run on the campus tale series. The final story will run on Sunday, so let’s meet here, carry some water and tissues maybe. Stay sane! Stay safe gang!)

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