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Remembering My Firsts

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Life brings tears, smiles and memories. The tears dry, the smiles fade but the memories last forever. Today, let me share with you a few memories I have of my firsts.

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One Sunday in 1994 when I was in Standard One, my younger brother Symo and I, together with our wonderful parents, visited a rich relative of ours who lived in Nairobi. During the visit, I got to use a water-closet toilet which was a first for me because before then, I had only used pit latrines at home, school and church.

I was mesmerized by the water-closet toilet. The following day, I narrated the experience to Reuben Mwaura, my best friend when I was in Standard One, only for him to inform me that he had used a water-closet toilet before.

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One day in April 1996, my eldest brother Joe Kagigite, Dad and I flew to Mombasa - an experience I wrote about in a recent story in this lovely blog of mine. Flying in a plane that day was a first for me. I found the inside of the plane refreshingly elegant and heavenly compared to the public service vehicles I had been used to. And I noted most of the passengers in the plane were whites.

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While on a school holiday in August 1997, an opportunity opened up for me to study piano at our hometown's catholic church. I was excited at the prospect of learning the piano which I had hitherto only seen on TV. And when I turned up for the first lesson, I felt honoured to touch a piano electric keyboard, albeit for a short time.

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Some time in 1998, I, together with several other boys with whom I played piano at my hometown Catholic church, phoned Prof. Charles Nyamiti - a priest then stationed at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Nairobi. Talking on a phone that day was a first for me. Mark you, those were the days of land-line telephone booths, before the era of wireless mobile-phone communication.

That evening after I talked to Prof. Nyamiti on phone, I beamed with joy all the way home. And I could hardly wait to share the experience with my siblings.

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Some time in 1999, I had my first passport photo which was required by the Wildlife Club I had joined at school. Well, I can't recall ever getting excited at having a passport photo because I had already been captured on camera before. All I remember was that when I showed the passport photo to my classmate George Gitonga at school, he looked at it for a moment and then blurted out, "You look like a dead person!"

Apparently, George Gitonga had only seen passport photos in the obituary section of newspapers. That's why he remarked that I looked like a dead person in the photo.

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One Saturday afternoon in early 2002 when I was a first-former at Starehe Boys' Centre, I had my first swimming lesson which was a requirement for all first-formers in the school. Getting into a swimming pool that afternoon was a first for me which I had looked forward to. All told, it was a gratifying experience.

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Later on in 2002 that year while I was still a first-former at Starehe, I gave a talk to the whole school during an evening assembly. That talk turned out to be my first public-speaking experience.

Well, I was very nervous before the talk as I sat in the podium of the assembly hall. But when I stood up and began talking, my nervousness vanished like darkness at dawn. All went well for me. The following day, a prefect in the school congratulated me for the speech.

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And finally in November 2005, I bought my first mobile phone with the pocket money I had saved in my final months in high school. The phone may have been primitive in comparison with modern-day smart-phones but trust me, I treasured it with the love of a mother for her child. For the two years or so when I was in possession of the phone, it rarely left my pocket even when I was in Starehe Institute despite the fact that carrying phones in the school was considered illegal.

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NEW! NEW! NEW! For those of you who missed my social media update two days ago, let me take this opportunity to inform you that there is a new slide-show on inspiring quotes in the video's section of this blog. Just click on the "videos' link on the menu at the top of this blog to access the slide-show.

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The True Meaning of Success

With permission, I have extracted this picture-quote from Emilyquotes.com. All rights reserved worldwide.


Yesterday evening as I was heading to the airport to bid farewell to my younger brother Symo who was departing for the British Island of Bermuda, I thought about the true meaning of success. One thing I know for sure is that the meaning of success changes from person to person. What is success to one individual may mean nothing to another.

Take for instance the London Marathon held once every year. For professional athletes taking part in the marathon, success to them is about finishing first and breaking the world record. But for the elderly people in the marathon, success to them is about finishing the race, even if it means taking seven hours.

I remember one morning several years ago while attending a group therapy of Users & Survivors of Psychiatry (USP) in Nairobi, I heard one woman comment of how sick she felt on a flight from Dubai to New York. Guess what! If it were me, I would feel high to be in such a flight because I have always had a yen to travel around the world. But imagine this woman felt sick in that flight, meaning she didn't consider flying to the United States a success.

In 2004 during my high school years at Starehe Boys' Centre, Dr. Geoffrey Griffin - the school's founding director - travelled to London for treatment. Around that time Dr. Griffin left for London, the school official magazine ran a story titled "Director's First Trip Overseas in 40 Years."

At first, I found that magazine headline unbelievable because numerous opportunities for travelling abroad used to arise every year at Starehe. Like during my close to six years stay in the school, there were teachers and students who travelled to South Africa, Germany, China, Austria, Canada, United States, Great Britain and Australia.

Coming to think of it, maybe travelling abroad didn't mean a thing to Dr. Griffin. Maybe for him, success was about managing Starehe into a centre of excellence. That's why he delegated those travelling opportunities to other teachers and students.

When I was in JKUAT pursuing a Bsc, degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering, I am sure some of my classmates felt very successful to be in the engineering class, especially those who were first in their families to attend university. But for me, I didn't feel much of a success to be in the local university. My idea of success was studying in such prestigious colleges as Harvard where I could school with people of other races under a renowned faculty consisting of Nobel prize winners. That's why I spent my first year at JKUAT applying to top colleges in the United States.

Guess what again! The same prestigious Harvard that I yearned to attend is the same Harvard that Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out. Maybe for them, success was not attending Harvard but founding multi-million dollar companies that impact lives.

Yes, the meaning of success changes from person to person. What is success to one individual may mean nothing to another. For me, Ralph Waldo Emerson aptly captured the true meaning success when he wrote:
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
Then Bessie Anderson Stanley, in a message which parallels that of Ralph Waldo Emerson, also aptly captured the true meaning of success when she wrote:
He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth's beauty or failed to express it;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.
In other matters, I am still working at losing my weight in the goal I narrated in this lovely blog of mine in a story accessible by clicking here. So far, I have religiously gone for jogging after every two days. As for eating a lot, I am still working at breaking a bad habit of waking in the middle of the night to gobble food. For me, being lean is my other idea of success!

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