IF EVERY AFRICAN PARENT WAS #1 IN CLASS…..

So, every time report card season would come, most Tanzanian parents would start with a story. I later found out many of my friends were told a very similar story. It went (or perhaps still goes) a little bit like this:
‘In my days I always came first in my class.’ And then they all add a personal twist. This was my father’s:

”I had to put in extra study time so I would read on the corridor next to the bathroom because that is where the light bulb was. I never played cards (his efforts to make sure I’d never consider poker as a social activity) and I always took all my subjects very seriously.”

Now, I have to say that after the 6th grade I didn’t buy the whole ‘all parents came first’ story because surely, someone had to come last (or second?). But the rest of it I doubt was fabricated. I grew up looking at my parents as heroes because they had to overcome a lot of things. And I suppose they told us such stories to let us know where they came from and how much better things were for us.

So, what is the moral of this story? One, dear parents, it’s okay to tell us that you worked hard in school because the pressure to always try to come first is a bit much for some. And second? With everything that is provided to us these days there is so much more we can achieve. I know some people still have the perception that Africa is full of uneducated uninspired youths who wait for aid to get things done. This is not true. Older generations inspire us to do better, and go further. Some people may still have to study by candlelight  but you know what, the hunger to improve one’s livelihood is motivation enough for them to do the necessary to achieve their goals.

Hopefully with time one day the youth will not have to read by candle light, but till then? The struggle continues.

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BROLLY ETIQUETTE

I just had a semi traumatic experience. Okay, I exaggerate, annoying maybe? I thought I would be doing the community a great service if I shared this with everyone. So, if you live in Glasgow you will understand how chaotic it gets with umbrellas. I’m short, about 5.3’’ though my friends would say that I’m shorter (whatever). So if you are my height and you are winding your way down a narrow lane in love-song like rain, these are things you should do. And if you don’t you are in danger of losing an eye..or getting a nasty potential tetanus scare.

  1. If there is incoming traffic, you RAISE your umbrella.
  2. If YOU are incoming traffic and taller than I am, you raise YOUR umbrella. Because this is what happens when you don’t raise your umbrella…

Our umbrellas CRASH..and I wibble wobble backwards. And If I made an effort to look all nice that day, I just look really silly. And then we have a weird ‘now look what you’ve done’ moment and you scowl and I scowl and the poor girl behind you suffers even more. Especially if she is my height! And it’s not like I have Sherlock Holmes powers. Like this scenario for instance:

‘’Move to the right, bump into innocent girl going to a lecture. Move to the left I bump into another umbrella and he bumps into the girl walking right next to him. Stay where I am, cute guy at 12 o’ clock has perfect vision. Probability of all three happening at once? Zero. Stay still for best case scenario.’’

Unfortunately for me I end up being subjected to whatever chain reaction happens. So I think the best solution is for really tall people to either get hoodies or just humongous umbrellas. That way I stay nice and dry and their larger umbrella covers my small umbrella.

I know it may sound silly for me to be harping on about umbrellas. But think of all the chaos before traffic lights were invented. It’s not like we can have umbrella wardens..or can we?

Oh, and I don’t know what’s up with the guy who didn’t want to share his brolly, picture came with him.

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OLD BUDDY OLD PAL

No post for weeks. Which brings me to the question, how do those daily post challenge people do it? I channel mine on pure randomness, with a purpose of course. And there was a lot of randomness the past few weeks but sharing it with the rest of the world? That took ages, or it seemed like a gigantic task. But see, in my head it was simpler. Here comes random moment, then my brain controls the keys on my laptop and comes up with something super awesome. I approve and boom! PUBLISH! PUBLISH! PUBLISH! My brain has been doing a lot of that lately and the more the days went by the easier it was not to actually type ‘anything’. Until a friend of mine posted something ridiculously funny and that little bulb in my head lit up..and my fingers just went absolutely out of control.

So, what is the moral of this story? When your blog is covered in cobwebs, watch or read the funniest thing you know. Or, you could get off your ass and actually type stuff. Either or both should eventually work.

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GOING TO SCHOOL WITH NO SHOES

Many of my African brothers and sisters would be familiar with the ‘I went to school with no shoes’ story. For everyone else who doesn’t, I will explain.

When I was in primary school, I absolutely loved ‘Back to School’ season. Or rather, new stuff season; books, shoes, bags etc. However, I also hoped that my shoes did not fit and that my bag was in a state. These were ‘new stuff’ prerequisites. I should have probably learned from my younger sister and put one too many books in my school bag. That way, by the end of the year I get a new one! So my mum would announce that since our shoes still fit, no need for new ones. And this would be followed by ‘but why? They are kind of a little tight…mumble…mumble…new ones are nicer.’ My Dad would then take over and tell the ‘going to school with no shoes’ story.

Long long ago, when my father was my age at the time, there was not enough money for shoes after paying fees. So he walked many miles to school. He was too happy to be in school to care much for the shoes even though they would have definitely come in handy. Even though I was probably ten or so at the time, it made me realise how ungrateful I was. To date, there are many children who go without shoes. That is why I love things like TOMS One for One motto. For every shoe purchased, a child in need receives new ones. But charity starts at home and instead of discarding old shoes and clothes, they would find their way to those who need them most. Even as I really would not like to disclose  how many pairs of shoes I own, I am conscious of the fact that some people go without. And yet, we live in a ‘need more…want more’ society. What we need to do is tell this story more because there is such a thing as ‘enough’.

One of the most beautiful and sad things about Africa is that you will meet people who are so happy with so little. I never had to go to school barefoot; but I hope people in the society will not lose sight of cherishing what they have as opposed to obsessing over what they don’t have.

So please share the ‘going to school with no shoes’ story. And you can be as creative as you like and include dragons and goblins. Besides, if it always sounds the same then it just looks fabricated. Just like the ‘when I was younger I always came first’ story. But that is for another day.

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‘THE AFRICA YOU DON’T KNOW’ CHALLENGE

When I initially started this blog I wanted to post material that would change people’s opinions of Africa. From the Africa they broadcast to you as being shady, dirt poor to a dynamically changing continent with promising intellectuals. I wanted to shift the mentality of the Oxfam ads (though yes, there are people who are poverty-stricken and dying from hunger..feel free to donate) to bubbly, happy and healthy little tots. So, every other Monday I will post something that will hopefully change the perspectives you have on the African continent. Either that or deliver stories that were told when I was growing up. I will be focusing more on Tanzania and work my way through to other countries. I welcome your views as well as suggestions. I will still rant (can’t help it) and I really don’t know whether or not these posts will be very effective. However, if I can change a few mentalities, some change is better than no change. As we say, ‘Pole Pole ndiyo mwendo’…we’ll slowly get there. And maybe I’ll feel better by correcting many dubious documentaries and articles. I say correcting but it’s more ‘the other side of the story’ kinda thing. So yeah, stay tuned!!

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RUNNING CONQUERS ALL…NEXT TO LOVE

So before I watched Usain Bolt do his thing, BBC decided to award me a history lesson. It was nothing like what I was taught long long ago in history class. It had loads of pictures, music, Martin Luther King and Adolf Hitler. As I gazed at the screen desperately trying to piece things together my eyes just got wider and wider. So here is how I kind of managed to solve the mystery behind the carefully planned history lesson.

Darwin put forth the fabulous ‘survival of the fittest’ theory. In the sense that the fittest survive any environment to become the dominant species, people of African descent (I’ll just refer to them as ‘African people’) can run really really fast in the Olympics. From sitting at the back of the bus to running in the Olympics. From Martin Luther King having a dream to slow motion footage of Usain Bolt and other African runners..running in the Olympics. Then Adolf Hitler comes in and they talk about genocide and how that was considered survival of the fittest. And from that, running in the Olympics. So as you can see, after everything they managed to do to the black man..the black man has prevailed by running in the Olympics! It all makes sense now, we have won! Because we can run!

Now on to the serious stuff. If only we could outrun poverty. I mean, we managed to outrun slavery, genocide and segregation (technically speaking of course). Poverty should be a breeze. In fact, I think we should turn all our politicians into sprinters, the faster the better. Maybe I saw it all wrong but whoever put that history piece together was a genius. No, not really. I honestly want to say moron but for the record I will stick to genius. How dare you! My country has no fast runners though I don’t mind being Jamaican for a day or so. What if we..could dance our way out of poverty instead? Because we all know who will win the poverty race. Because everything is a race isn’t it now? I managed to find the lesson and welcome your thoughts on it:

It is comforting though, that despite all the horrible things that have happened throughout history, we make a killing in the Olympics. And as much as I really didn’t like being portrayed as gorillas who were let back into the wild from the zoo, with comments like, ‘look at him, that Maasai warrior is just fierce!’ I almost felt like I was watching the discovery channel. But hey, I quite like the fact that running conquers all. Thank you BBC, can’t wait for the next history lesson.

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IF YOU WORK REALLY REALLY HARD….

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Is life cruel? Is it? Because somewhere along the line the super plan gets all weird and uncertain. Long long ago I always thought if you did everything right everything else just falls into place. So after working very hard and getting those high grades why are so many people included in the statistic of telling companies how awesome ‘they’ are and why it would be great for ‘you’ if they hired you? Yeah, this is a very weird ‘you’ versus ‘them’ thing. This doesn’t seem right at all. They didn’t help you in any of your exams and assignments so why should you suck up to them? Besides the obvious need of being financially independent I am really baffled. It’s a tricky one this one, do we go from telling kids ‘if you work really hard you will be very successful’ to ‘you can be average and still be filthy rich?’. Because my balloon popped ages ago. My achievements remain my own. No one really is going to give you a pat on the shoulder. No one really cares, well, not really. So let’s talk about the real issue here..EXPERIENCE.

So I propose we go with ‘If you focus on piling up a lot of experience, you will get a good job’. They rarely say ‘well, you kinda suck so we’re kinda not giving you a job’ but they say something like ‘unfortunately most of the candidates have a lot more experience than you.’ Can we hire a hit man to go kill experience for us because I think right now it’s really in the way of a lot of things. My holiday in Spain, my increased participation in stuff like sky diving and other cool stuff like that.

I know very well that in a few years I will be the one with the bullseye on my back but today I feel I have the license to rant. I don’t think parenting is easy, you want your kids to do their best. But then what do you do when they ask ‘so um, yeah, I’ve kinda done all those things…now what?’. I would love to suggest a Euro trip you know, to get things off their minds about all the explosive fireworks that were a no-show. And before you tell me ‘oh yeah, some people work really hard and get amazing jobs’ I will gladly inform you that their numbers are as good as the number of wishing stars you see in a year. This would relate to the entire population of awesome students of course. And this is in the United Kingdom,a country that believes in a meritocracy.

So what, you ask, happens to a lot of ordinary hard-working awesome students in Tanzania? Screwed, over and beyond. Okay, maybe not over and beyond but mostly screwed. Many people have a nepotism thing going on. I get looking out for your own, but it makes you wonder whether or not sometimes education defeats its purpose. We could certainly do with a lot more access to it. Maybe we’re just handling it the wrong way. Maybe I have it all wrong. You tell me. If Frank had that conversation with Charlie (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) I have a feeling Charlie would have come up with a great business idea. But then, assuming he had the same conversation with Dennis and sweet Dee earlier on, 20 years later it becomes something like…..

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Can’t say I blame them. Motivation is not like an energy drink you can purchase from a store. When it does eventually wear out you are doomed. But by all means keep pushing on because somewhere over the rainbow, boy! those fireworks will just blow your mind. Till then, if anyone finds experience, please shoot them in the face for me.

But wait, hang on, before you all think I’m just a female raging monster I do believe hard work eventually pays off. Key word being ‘eventually’. The whole patience thing is the tricky bit. I randomly listened to Nas’s ‘I Can’ and felt  no, life isn’t cruel, maybe we are just a little too hard on ourselves. Tap into all the things that can keep you going whether its your family, friends, faith, hobbies et al. Just keep on keeping on..and yeah, bounty on experience still stands.

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