A True Story
on Mar 16, 2021
There was this schoolmate of mine at Starehe Boys' Centre named Cyrus Mugo who was a year ahead of me academically but a dozen more years ahead when it came to radiating confidence. He was among the starting six players of the Starehe volleyball team that made it to national championships for three years in a row. Owing to the aura of confidence that he radiated, Cyrus Mugo was promoted to be the captain of his house at Starehe. And he managed to balance sports and leadership activities with academic excellence because he scored an 'A' in the mighty KCSE exams.
Given all those impressive qualities that Cyrus Mugo possessed during his years at Starehe, I have always wondered why he was never promoted further to be the school captain of Starehe - a leadership position that opened doors to getting accepted in such elite universities as Harvard, Yale and Stanford. Anyway, that's none of my business and I am happy for Cyrus Mugo that he is now a qualified doctor after he pursued a demanding five-year degree course in Medicine and Surgery at the University of Nairobi - the Harvard of East and Central Africa.
I have narrated those details of Cyrus Mugo after remembering a question he loved asking in Sheng' to inattentive volleyball team-mates while playing games. He would ask in a commanding tone, "Mbona unazubaa like a zombie?" - which loosely translates in English as, "Why are you idling like a zombie?"
While I can't recall Cyrus Mugo ever directing that question at me when we served in the volleyball team together, I have found myself remembering the question again and again not only for its poetic alliteration but also for having found it pertinent to our day-to-day living. I mean that in life, just like in a volleyball match, we ought not to idle like zombies. Instead, we need to be active and alert lest we risk becoming poor, getting conned, falling sick, succumbing to accidents, having moral lapses or being taken advantage of by others.
When I talk of idling, I am reminded of a time in 2007 when I visited Mr. Chris Walters, a helpful gentleman from England who was then volunteering as a Music teacher at Starehe Boys' Centre. As I settled on a seat in Mr. Walter's house, I saw a poster on the wall that said, "Don't just sit there; do something!"
That poster had such a huge impression on me that I later on printed a notice with a similar message and hung it on a wall in my room here at home. Its message explains why I strive to keep myself busy these days. Like I always carry a book with me when going for a trip or visiting a barbershop just in case I am told to wait. I have taken to heart the observation of Stephen King, the best-selling novelist who said:
Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn't carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.And keeping my mind active has on most days improved the quality of my sleep at night. I intend to continue staying active not only by reading but also by engaging in such hobbies of mine as writing, singing, walking and playing the piano.
Don't get me wrong - I don't mean to say I will always be on the move. No! I will also carve some time for relaxation. And I will not consider it idleness so long as I am relaxing while having beautiful thoughts flow in my mind like River Nile towards the Mediterranean Sea.
My dear reader, I urge you to also strive to be active during the day, especially mentally because thoughts create our lives. Let us avoid idleness, for as the saying goes, an idle mind is a devil's workshop. So as my Starehe schoolmate Cyrus Mugo would put it in Sheng, "Tusizubae like zombies!"
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on avoiding idleness, you might also enjoy another one I wrote two years ago on "Benefits of Physical Exercises". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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Ochar: My High School Hero
A True Story
on Mar 11, 2021
Every now and then when I feel bored or in need of something stimulating, I sometimes take my mind back to my high school years at Starehe Boys' Centre. I think of all the knowledge that I acquired in those years, the people I interacted with as well as the activities I got involved in. Such activities as giving speeches, playing the piano and going for hikes with the Survival Club. I find it scarcely impossible to think back on those years without feeling inspired.
Recently, I found myself remembering Gideon Ochar, a charismatic Starehe schoolmate who was transferred to our house to serve as our captain in 2003. Ochar must have been promoted to be our house captain because of his leadership and organizational skills. He exuded confidence and intelligence. And I admired the way he walked briskly and with ease.
As soon as Ochar was transferred to our house, he came up with a well-thought-out duty roster. He took time to explain to us how it worked. Ochar's duty roster was a genius idea because of the way it rotated duties among junior boys. Previously, some of us junior boys would be subjected to doing the same tedious work week after week.
Ochar went ahead to lead us well. I remember him exhorting us during one evening roll-call that we be greeting each other when we met in the streets of Starehe. And it was during his tenure as our house captain that we won the inter-house cleanliness competition - the first time our house did so in over fifteen years.
What I came to like most about Ochar was the way he saved me from doing punishments. Like there was a time a prefect called Mulatya caught me wearing a shirt with a dirty collar. When Mulatya took down my name intending to fix me for a punishment, I rushed to Ochar and pleaded with him to save me from the punishment, while giving him flimsy excuses on why my shirt had been dirty. Ochar empathized with me and had the punishment waived. And after that narrow escape of being punished by Mulatya, I never wore a dirty shirt again.
And then there was a time I used to get into loggerheads with another prefect named Nyoro over petty issues. When Nyoro threatened to fix me for punishments, I would take him to Ochar who would patiently listen to us argue. I can't recall what Ochar did to resolve our conflicts. All I remember is that Nyoro never fixed me for any of those punishments he threatened me with. Ochar saved my day.
One night in 2003 after we came from preps, we found Ochar's study on fire. It was actually a small fire which was discernable because of the smoke it was emitting. But had it not been for our timely intervention of calling Ochar from wherever he was and raising the fire alarm, the small fire would have escalated into a big one that would have caused devastating damages.
After we successfully extinguished the fire, Ochar reported the incidence to higher authorities in the school. He informed them that the fire was caused by heating water in a small, crowded space in his study. Fortunately for him, the authorities listened to his grievances with a sympathetic ear and had an extra study built in our house recreational room.
Ochar emerged from the fire incidence in one piece and continued leading us well. Towards the end of his tenure as our house captain in 2003, he organized a house party that was different from any other that I attended in my years at Starehe as it was held in the assembly hall, not in our house recreational room. All housemates attended the party, a testament to Ochar's organizational skills.
As Ochar was preparing to leave Starehe, I commended him in his valedictory book for having achieved much at Starehe. He had been a librarian, a computer student, a handball team member, a fire-fighter, a Survival Club leader and a house captain. And he still went ahead to score an 'A' in the mighty KCSE exams.
After he left Starehe, Ochar landed an opportunity to pursue a post high-school education at a school in South Africa. Sometime in 2004, a fellow housemate called Wilson Kanyi apprised us during a house meeting that Ochar had won a scholarship while in South Africa for excelling in rugby. It seems the skills Ochar acquired at Starehe served him well in his time in South Africa.
Later on in 2012 when I reconnected with Ochar via Facebook, he told me that God had opened him doors where none seemed openable. It impressed me to know that Ochar still believed in God, and I envied him for the success that had come his way. I hope that I, too, will soon witness God opening doors for me while I pursue my career as a writer and a musician. Adieu!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on Ochar, you might also enjoy another one I wrote four years ago on "Leadership Lessons". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.