A Bad Day That Ended Nicely
A True Story
on Oct 6, 2020
Yesterday, I woke up earlier than usual because I was travelling to a certain studio in Nairobi to produce a hymn I had composed. Before leaving home, I uttered a prayer that my journey may be a success and that all may go well in the recording of my hymn. I had to pray; I just had to since I believe in the liberating power of prayer.
The morning was bright and clear as I left home. From the way the sun was shining brilliantly in a sky that was mostly blue, I could tell it was going to be another hot, sultry day here in Kenya.
I walked to my hometown of Kiserian to board a matatu bound for Nairobi. After about two and a half hours of travelling, I arrived at the music studio at around 10.00am just as we had agreed with Sylvester, the owner of the studio. Sylvester was also punctual; he didn't keep me waiting. And punctuality is one of the traits I admire in people in addition to honesty, kindness, tolerance and a sense of humour.
Although both Sylvester and I were set to record my hymn, there arose two problems. The first was a personal one: I was feeling groggy and fatigued. Imagine as soon as we entered the studio, I felt like collapsing on the floor for a nap. I don't exactly know why I felt fatigued in spite of having had a restful sleep the previous night; maybe it was due to the hot, dry weather. Anyway, I put on a brave front by pretending to be well when I met Sylvester yesterday morning.
The other problem was a power failure in the studio. There wasn't enough electricity to power the fluorescent tubes and run the studio's desktop computer. Feeling disappointed, I told Sylvester that I had made a long journey and didn't want to go back home without having recorded my hymn. So I chose to wait till electricity was back in reliable supply.
As luck would have it, Sylvester left me alone in the studio while I waited to see if the power connection would be rectified. It was luck on my side because I had time to doze, albeit lightly, which helped me ward off the fatigue I had arrived in the studio with. And that fatigue has made me resolve to be grateful for those times I am alive with power, energy and excitement.
I must have dozed for more than two hours because when I picked my phone to check something, I was surprised to see it was 1.20pm. How fast time flies sometimes! On learning it was 1.20pm, I removed from my bag a packet of milk, several slices of bread and three small bananas that I had carried for lunch. I feasted on them with gusto.
After having my lunch, I took out Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and re-read the passages that I highlighted when I first read the book in 2018. I always find it wise to carry a book with me whenever I go on a journey; it keeps me occupied on those inevitable moments of inactivity.
Time continued flying as I re-read the book. Before I knew it, more than two hours had passed when Sylvester called me at around 3.40pm. He asked me to postpone the recording of my hymn. As to where he was, I didn't know. Agreeing with him since the power connection hadn't been rectified, I closed the studio with a padlock he had placed on an organ as per his instructions. Then I headed home.
Despite having not fulfilled my mission of recording my hymn, I went back home feeling rather energized. My moods were elevated when I remembered a favourite quote of mine that says:
O God, when I lose hope because my plans have come to nothing... then help me to remember that your love is always greater than my disappointments - and your plans for my life are always better than mine.I reached back home at around 7.00pm just as it was getting dark. And I was feeling so buoyant in spirits that I couldn't believe I was the same guy who had felt tired and bone-weary earlier on in the day. For me, yesterday turned out to be one of those days that begin badly and end up nicely.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on a bad day that became good, you might also enjoy another one I wrote two years ago on "Some Bad Days I Once Had". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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How I Learnt to Play the Piano
A True Story
on Oct 1, 2020
How can I forget the 1997 August school holiday? It was during that holiday that I began my life-long love affair with the piano. I was nine at the time, and in Standard Four at Noru-Moru Primary School. Over that holiday, I heard there was an opportunity to learn how to play the piano in my hometown Catholic Church where I attended mass every Sunday. So I decided to turn up for the piano lessons.
I was giddy with excitement on the morning of the day I was to begin piano lessons in the church. Excited because I looked forward to touching a piano which I had hitherto seen mostly on television. As I left home that day, I must have been walking on air at the prospect of seeing a piano within range of my hands.
Well, I didn't get a chance to touch the piano on my first music lesson which we were taught by a brilliant and dedicated seminarian called Br. Peter Assenga. We were quite too large a class for each of us to have a touch of the piano. All Br. Assenga did during our first few lessons in the church was tutor us Music theory.
I must have been an excellent student given the way I swiftly grasped the rudiments of Music theory. And while we progressed with our music lessons, I eventually had the golden opportunity of touching the piano. Actually it wasn't a piano but an electric Casio piano keyboard which I greatly admired.
When we re-opened school after that 1997 August holiday, Br. Assenga continued giving us music lessons over the weekend on Saturday mornings. He taught us several tricks on the piano such as playing the major scale using chords. Thankfully, the number of students in the music class dwindled, so the few of us left had more time to touch the piano keyboard on those Saturday mornings.
Because I didn't have access to a piano at home or at school, I would practise playing the major scale on a table while assuming it was a piano. That visualization helped, for I quickly learnt how to play chords despite my limited access to a piano.
During one music lesson over the 1997 December holiday, Br. Assenga was so impressed with my progress that he called some other students of his to come witness me fluently play the major scale on the piano with both hands. After I was done playing the scale, he inquired if I was as good in school as I was on the piano. A fellow music student named Douglas Warui informed him I had emerged top in my class the previous term, which was true.
When I entered Standard Five in 1998, I made more progress on the piano by learning how to play several Catholic hymns. One Saturday afternoon that year, I apprised Douglas Warui of my desire to accompany the church choir on the piano while it was singing a hymn I had learnt to play. Warui told me that Br. Assenga wouldn't approve of me accompanying the choir. Despite Warui's discouragement, I went ahead to accompany the choir the following day during mass.
And wow! Contrary to what Warui had predicted, Br. Assenga was elated to see me accompany the choir. He kept cheering me on from where he was singing with the choir. The evening of that Sunday, he suggested to one of my siblings that my family slaughters a chicken for supper in my honour for me having confidently accompanied the choir on the piano.
Although I made remarkable progress in mastering the rudiments of music theory and in learning how to play the piano, I have to admit there was one area in music that gave me trouble. That was learning how to sing solfa. Back in 1997 and in 1998 when Br. Assenga was teaching us, he used to ask us to compose a melody and sing it to him at the beginning of every lesson. It was a simple assignment which should have been fun but one I didn't enjoy owing to my inability to sing solfa.
I vividly recall one Sunday afternoon in 1998 as Br. Assenga was chatting with us (his music students), he had me sing aloud a melody that was in a certain book. While I succeeded in reading the solfas right, I sang them wrongly which made Br. Assenga decry my lack of skill in singing solfa. I just wasn't musically gifted.
As I continued playing the piano, I gradually understood how the solfa are sang. By then, Br. Assenga had already left our church and gone back to the seminary to finish his priesthood studies.
And my dear reader, that is how I learnt how to play the piano which, to me, is the most marvellous music instrument ever invented by man. So much have I come to love the piano that I get electrified whenever I see one in the places I visit.
Looking back on my life, I find it a wonder that I mastered to play the piano despite my limited access to one. If I had had a piano at home when I was a boy, I would now be a pianist of Mozart's caliber. Or maybe I would have become so accustomed to seeing a piano that the instrument would have lost the special appeal it had on me.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on how I learnt to play the piano, you might also enjoy another one I wrote two years ago on "Childhood Memories". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.