Celebrating East African Writing!
So you Form Fours are doing Exams? How soon! Well, best of luck. And it ends there. Lorot Son of the Hills can’t help you beyond that, sorry. It is some tough talk but that is it! And it irritates me when you have like 57 Success Cards and I have none save for the one I “engineered” to be sent to me by none other than myself.
Mmmmh. K.C.S.E. reminds me of one of my colleagues. This guy was the timekeeper in St. Kizito’s Hostel. We nicknamed him Kamnyama or Ritually Tattooed. How those two names came to be is a note for another day. He always slept at 11 pm and woke up at 3.00 am for his morning preps. He never missed any class. If he was not reading he was going to the loo or eating or playing (games were compulsory). Mock Exams and the chap has a C-! We are in our little cubicles in the hostel. Our chap is frustrated, hands in the head, lost in his own world of frustrations. Ritually Tattooed finally raises his hands as if on supplication and says:
“Wazee, nani hajui sisomangi. Nani? Mimi nalala saa tano naamka saa tisa kusoma. Kwetu tunakula sokorya. Sasa hii C- nifanyeje sasa?” (Good people, who doesn’t know that I read? I sleep at 11 p.m and wake up at 3 p.m. At home we eat Sokorya (that is wild vegetables that grows behind the hills on some tree called Akoretee). Now this C-!)
Our school wag, Lopisto quips:
“Umetesa hii akili yako sana kamnyama! Wacha ipumzike. Saa tisa, saa tano, vitabu vitabu…hata mpaka imechoka” (You have overworked your brains. Give them a break. Sleeping at 11 pm and waking up at 3 am.)
So much for the Kamnyama/Ritually Tattooed/Lopisto storyline.
Enter CHEMISTRY PRACTICALS. Lorot Son of the Hills is in the lab, as usual looking sharp as ever. But Chemistry was always a nightmare. Somebody introduced mole concept, molarity and titration and after sipping generous amounts of acids and breaking dozens of burettes. I look at how far I have come. Lorot, Son of the Hills, it shall be well with you, if you survived that you can survive anything.
But I never survived K.C.S.E Chemistry practicals. I read through the paper. Today I will be true or false. First, I never saw the boiling tubes in their rack.
I raised my hand and shouted.
“Sir, I don’t have boiling tubes with me”. My Chemistry teacher walked slowly towards me and showed me a set of more than 12 boiling tubes carefully laid some inches before me.
“Lorot, don’t be stupid, what are these?”
“Boiling tubes, sir”
“Use your eyes young man. Use your eyes. Next you will tell me you don’t have the question paper!”
I take that as some form of morning greeting and move on. I pick a “substance” (in Chemistry, they call it substance, I don’t know why) burn it then read the question. The question wants me to fill the colour of the flame. But the substance is already burnt!
Now Tororot, God of the Rising Sun, what colour was that flame? Red, orange, purple, purple blue, light orange indigo, yellow orange, orange yellow? I maintain my sharpness. Trust Lorot Son of the Hills. I burn the “substance again” and see what flame it “appears” to have been. Next question.
Next question, I follow simple instructions of mixing this chemical and that. And what colour do I get? Blue. But I look around the laboratory and see purple, purple, purple, purple. And I’m thinking: Is it possible for me to be right and the whole class to be wrong? No way. I try again. Colour? Blue. Heck! By the Hill of Kacheliba, what is wrong with me? I try one more last time. Colour? Blue. I write in my answer script: Purple. And I proceed to draw a graph.
I have no correct data so I “extend my eyes towards the direction of my neighbor as if I am about to find an answer to all world problems” and see the range of his figures. Then I proceed to draw a graph that looks like the back of a tetanus-infested roaming dog. I feel bad but that is just it. 5 minutes to time and there are a couple of “substances” I haven’t burnt, at least 3 clean pages that require filling in. I don’t care now. I noisily write a title to my graph, arrange my papers well and give a smile to the sharpest mind in Chemistry in my class. He sees my pseudo-confidence and he almost panics. I laugh inside myself and say: If only he saw the way I burnt the “substance” and drew the graph!
While outside I shout for all who care to listen.
” Hizo praco jo! Yaani hawa watu walishindwa na maswali ama nini? Maswali rahisi kama kudunga pano. That was the cheapest paper ever!”
©Lorot Salem 2010
If you would like this piece to be the Story of the Week, please vote below on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak, and 10 being excellent. The numbers will be tallied on Friday and the story with the highest figure shall be Crowned Story of the Week. Be sure to fill in your name and verifiable email. You can include your critique/comment after the vote.