How I Once Messed Up in a Job
A True Story
on Jun 21, 2019
After I left Starehe Institute in April 2007 and before matriculating at JKUAT a month later, I went looking for piano-teaching jobs in Nairobi that I could be doing part-time when I was at the university. I was lucky in my search because I landed three such jobs. Today, I will tell you about one in which I totally messed up.
Well, there was this lady called Mrs. Kisaka who once heard me play hymns on the piano. She was so impressed with how I was playing them that she asked me to teach her daughter at her home where she had a piano. Grateful for the offer, I requested for her contacts so that I could get in touch with her afterwards and arrange how I could start teaching her young daughter. She gave me her business card which I still have to this day.
A week or so later after Mrs. Kisaka heard me play hymns beautifully on the piano, I followed up with her on the teaching job offer using the phone number on her business card. She texted me the directions to her home which was located in a leafy sub-urb in Valley Arcade, not far from Nairobi City.
Armed with those directions, I boarded a bus and headed to Mrs. Kisaka's home on a Saturday evening that year 2007. I was feeling very elated that evening which must have made Mrs. Kisaka to be impressed with me. But I didn't do any teaching that day. We just got to know each other a little more and arranged that I would be teaching her daughter on weekends in the evening. She also asked me how much I would be charging her for the lessons. I told her Ksh. 500 per lesson that would last for one hour.
Charging her that amount was a big mistake considering that students in Nairobi used to pay about Ksh. 1,200 for a half-an-hour lesson. But then, I was just a greenhorn in teaching piano to young children from affluent families like Mrs. Kisaka's. And that inexperience led me to make more grievous mistakes while teaching her daughter. Allow me to tell you more.
One evening when Mrs. Kisaka came to check on how I was doing, she perused through the notes I was writing for her daughter. Given the haphazard and untidy way in which I had scribbled the notes, I could tell she was unhappy with me. I tried to make up for that untidiness by writing neater notes for her daughter when I went back to the university but that did little to help me secure the job as later events would demonstrate.
Some evenings, I used to turn up at Mrs. Kisaka's home in a confused state of mind. I particularly remember one such evening when I found Mrs. Kisaka seated with her family in the living room. She engaged me in a conversation during which she asked me whether I had taken her daughter's music exercise book. I told her 'no'. Then she told me I couldn't teach her daughter because she was sick. As I left her home that evening, I thought that Mrs. Kisaka and her family were talking about me and how miserable I looked - a thought that made me feel guilty and ashamed.
And you know what? A few weeks or so later, I discovered the exercise book, which Mrs. Kisaka had asked me about, in my collection of books at the university. I am sure she must have thought I was a thief and a liar but to tell you the truth, I hadn't known I had it and had carried it by mistake.
At yet another evening when I turned up to teach piano, I forgot my calculator at Mrs. Kisaka's home. The following morning, I texted her at around 3.00am informing her that I would come for my calculator later on that day. Have you noticed another big mistake there? And that was texting her at that ungodly hour.
But the worst mistake I made was trying to teach complex stuff in a hurry to Mrs. Kisaka's young daughter. Instead of tutoring her how to play simple compositions clearly, correctly and up-to-speed, I allowed her to stumble in desultory fashion through more technically advanced music.
Little wonder that when I turned up to teach piano one Saturday evening, two or three months into the piano-teaching job, Mrs. Kisaka asked me to go away - politely and firmly. It dawned on me that evening that I had lost the job. The following day, I sent her a message apologizing for my confusion and thanking her for the opportunity to teach at her home. And that, my dear reader, is the account of how I messed up in one of my first jobs after I left Starehe in April 2007. Adieu!
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Thefts I Recall From My Boyhood Days
A True Story
on Jun 18, 2019
It was an evening in 1993 or 1994; the exact year has gotten lost in the mist of my memory. But I recall vividly Mum giving me some mangoes that evening at her grocery in Kiserian for me to take them home, a three-kilometre walk. As I was heading home with the mangoes in my hands, I met a boy who struck up a conversation with me.
When we reached a T-junction a few hundred metres from Kiserian, the boy asked me to walk with him on a different route that passed through a slum we used to call Vietnam. I agreed to walk on the route because I knew it like the palm of my right hand. Then while we trod, the boy offered to help me carry the mangoes Mum had given me. I again yielded to his request and gave them to him.
Guess what! When we reached a certain point, the boy suddenly ran away with the mangoes on a path that branched from the road we were treading on. He did so quickly and unexpectedly. I had been cheated! And that turned out to be the first theft I witnessed in my life.
That evening when I went home, Mum did ask me about the mangoes she had given me. I lied to her that I had eaten them, a statement that made her scold me. How I wish I had told her the truth! But then, I was just a small boy with little experience in life.
I still meet that boy sometimes in my walk in Kiserian these days. Of course he is a grown-up man now. But I have never bothered to befriend him and remind him of the way he once stole mangoes from me. I have chosen to keep him at arm's length. Like last Sunday when we met in Kiserian, we looked at each other in the eye without exchanging a greeting.
Then at another time in the mid '90s, some other boys again stole from me. It was on a Sunday afternoon. After attending church in my home-town Catholic parish, Mum gave me a carton at her grocery for me to take home. As I was walking from Kiserian, two boys pounced on me from behind, snatched the carton I was carrying in a split second and took off with it. I didn't bother to run after them. Neither did I shout for help. I just continued walking home as if nothing had happened.
The evening of that Sunday, Mum did ask me about the carton as she had asked me about the mangoes a few years eariler. This time, I told her the truth: that the carton had been stolen.
I was never mugged again on my way home from Kiserian in my boyhood days, which I attribute to luck because my home-area was constantly raided by thieves. Like my neighbour Deya was harassed by robbers so much that he had to relocate to another place. And I don't know what made Deya's home a prime target for burglars because they never came to our home.
On one night in 1999 when Deya's home was raided by thieves, my father and a few other members of my family went to help. Whether they succeeded in warding off the robbers, I have never known. But I remember hearing that the thieves threatened my father that they would come to our home the next time. That got us worried.
In the days that followed, we lived in constant fear of being attacked by thieves. My father hid all important things at home, mostly books, in places he thought the robbers would not bother to look at. Like he hid some books in the cowshed. As it turned out, the thieves never came.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on thefts I recall from my boyhood days, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometime back on "The 8th Commandment". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.