I spent my early primary education between two schools; Rang’ala Boys and Fr. Scheffer Boys Boarding.
Rang’ala Boys is a little known school along Kisumu – Busia Road. We had a bald-headed head teacher called Mr. Peter Adika; he was short and walked with a slight slouch – sort of like he was carrying a sack of potatoes on his back – and he had an ugly white moustache. He was an old man with the cackle of a starving hyena but proper mastery of the Queen’s dialect. He drove an old beat-up Peugeot which, legend has it, he once rammed into a tree while probably under the influence but we never proved that theory because nobody ever saw it happen or saw him drink.
Then there was Mrs Pamela Ogutu; an English teacher who referred to all her pupils as “Toto.” Which means she said the word “toto” more times than ‘Adverb’ or ‘Preposition’ or ‘Compound Pronoun’ in a 40-minute class. “Good morning, toto.” “Bring me your essay, toto.” “Fetch me a cane, toto.” “Who taught you how to sag your shorts, toto?” “Kissing is bad, toto.” “Espionage is not the French word for Spinach, toto.” She walked with a limp because she hurt her left leg in a past accident but she was one of the loveliest souls you ever met. She ran a shop outside of the school and you would pass by at break time and she would give you chai and mandazi for free and ask about your education and call you “toto” a little more because, apparently, the last 89 000 times weren’t enough.
We also had Madam Florence Opar; a woman with the arm of a whale. That woman slapped or pinched you and you had to check if that part of your body was still intact because it could’ve peeled off and fallen at the border of Kenya and Somalia and grown branches. Opar taught Kiswahili. She quickly climbed through the ranks and became Deputy Head teacher and would invite some of us well-performing pupils (hii udanda nimeanza tu juzi by the way) to her house during her kids’ birthdays and stuff our tummies with juice and biscuits and we would wear those ridiculous birthday hats and sing even more ridiculous birthday songs and then be on our way.
Finally, Madam Sarah and Mrs Omollo. I have never seen any single person attend more church services and sing in more church choirs than Madam Sarah. She taught Class 3 kids and you could tell she was one of those teachers that genuinely loved their job. Mrs Omollo remains one of the most gorgeous teachers I have ever met; shapely waist and fruity voice and cute tiny lips resembling those of a fish. She bore the most beautiful girls in the entire village, I kid you not. Men and boys alike, quite literally, fought over Nyangi and Valary. Not me though, at that age I was still too busy trying to figure out who between Brock Lesnar and Chris Jericho would lift the World Heavyweight Title in Wrestling.
One morning I heard my Mum and Dad (Rest Well, Japuonj) discussing plans for taking my big brother – Austin – to boarding school. I didn’t know what that was by then, but a few evenings to my brother’s reporting date the old folks came back home and handed my brother a bunch of new shit – a box, mattresses, shoes, socks, shiny soaps, toothbrush, pencils – and I ran into that room and said, “Hold up, guys….wait a minute….that’s all for him? Because he’s going to this place called ‘boarding’? Well, now, I want to go to boarding…and I want all that shit as well.” (OK, full disclosure, I didn’t exactly say ‘Shit,’ Omondi Were would have spanked my ass to oblivion.)
So I caused a fracas until, long story short, we both landed at Fr. Scheffer Boys Boarding School in Asumbi, Homa Bay County. I ran away two years later but that’s a story for another day.
Fr. Scheffer was like a mini-prison; you weren’t allowed to have cash with you, at any given time, or things like juice or blue band or bread or anything even remotely resembling food. You ate what the school gave you and, if you didn’t like it, you starved. Simple. Breakfast was always hot steaming porridge served in mid-sized green and red and blue plastic cups. There was some lousily made tea at about 11 a.m. that was, for the most part, composed of just water and two drops of milk; finding sugar in that tea was like trying to trace the NYS money. Which means if they served you tea one time and you tasted sugar in yours then you would count yourself the luckiest person in the world because, that night, a senior government official in dark shades and a dark suit and a creepily long dark trench coat driving a dark sleek Mercedes Benz would show up in your dreams and say, “You have been chosen to serve your country. You have been chosen to take part in something bigger than yourself. You will be forced to lie to your family and friends and your girlfriend for their own protection because you will be serving a bigger cause. Do you understand these rules?”
And then, for lunch and supper, we had ugali and sukuma or cabbages or some other ridiculous vegetable that nutritionists will lie to you that are good for your health when, really, they’re just part of some bigger conspiracy network to rid the world of meat and keep it all to themselves. Sundays were a bit light; because the breakfast tea, although still as tasty as sand, came with bread and lunch was rice and beans and supper was githeri.
At Fr Scheffer, we had some interesting teachers as well. There was Mr. Bernard Olang’; a freakishly clean teacher (the kind of clean a man should not be) who happens to be the first man I ever saw with an Ideos phone; it was precious and very rare back then. Not many people had it, but Olang’ did and he made sure everyone knew he had an Ideos. He would receive a call and take that baby out, in full glare of the entire classroom, lift it up to his ear so delicately you would think it was worth gold. Later, when our paths would cross again in high school (story for another day as well) he would have transformed into the kind of teacher that said things like, “Olang’ is handsome, Olang’ is what?” and expect you to shout back “handsome.” He would also say, “Olang’ is clean, Olang’ is what?” “Olang’ is rich, Olang’ is what?” (Yeah right, with an Ideos) “Olang’ is successful, Olang’ is what?” “Olang’ is brilliant, Olang’ is what?” and a million other things that he may or may not have been but you didn’t question, you just responded obediently like a good boy staring back at a teacher wielding a cane.
There was also Mr. Akello, nicknamed ‘Baba.’ To this date, I am yet to find a single teacher that can cane a whole goddamn school… at once. Yes. Baba whopped the ass of every single kid at Fr. Scheffer one salty Sunday evening in 2005 because he felt the communal work had not been done properly. He whopped our little innocent behinds and sent us back to redo the work as he supervised. He also had this creepy habit of licking his lips a lot and blinking a thousand times per second and shaking his shoulder. And that, dear folks, was how you new shit was about to get real; when Baba came at you while licking his lips and blinking countlessly.
And then there was this nun. Which is where our story actually begins. I wrote this part first and figured it was too short to make an entire blog post so I figured, “Why not dig up some old meaningless shit to waste their time with? If they’re on this blog it means they have nothing better to do with their time, No?”
Full disclosure, I forgot the nun’s name and, no matter how hard I tried to reach out to my past schoolmates, nobody seemed to remember it so for the sake of this story (I was gonna call her Sister Margaret but ‘Margaret’ sounds like the kind of person who clears leftover ugali from the sufuria when everyone is asleep so) we’ll call her Sister Mary.
Sister Mary was the kind of nun they don’t prepare you for. See, we grow up knowing nuns are nice soft-spoken people who feed us the Holy Communion in church and wear long white robes and glasses and smile all the time. Not Sister Mary; she was cut from a different cloth. Sister Mary rarely smiled so, on the few occasions that she actually did, it was difficult to even tell whether it was a genuine smile. You ever meet those people that are always just too angry so when you see them laughing you’re wondering if they’re planning on strangling you in your sleep? That was Sister Mary.
Of course she taught CRE. What else would a nun teach? I haven’t come across a nun that taught Science or Kiswahili or Math. I would, however, like to meet a nun that teaches Science/Biology; more specifically, the human reproductive system. I would love to hear her mention the ‘penis’ and the ‘vagina’ and how the two collude to rid the rest of the world off happiness by bringing forth those tiny little creatures that cry all the time and shit things that smell of a nuclear aftermath. (I mean, kids only eat milk, where does the smell and the yellow colours in their shit even come from?)
So one night – after the usual evening preps – we go back to our dorm and right there, at the centre of the room, is the biggest pile of shit we ever saw. That thing was so monstrous if a bomb was on the other side you wouldn’t see it. Hell, if that bomb on that other side blew up, the people on this other side wouldn’t even notice because it would all be absorbed by that shit. That’s how big the darn thing was.
Sister Mary was on duty that week. She was on one of her usual strolls when she heard the furor coming from our dormitory so she climbed up. Like us, she wasn’t ready for that shit (pun intended). That sight smacked her across the face so hard she almost fell backwards. Then she composed herself and asked, “Who did this?” and we were all quiet because we didn’t know and, even if we did, we weren’t snitches because snitches get stitches and our bodies were too frail to get stitches then.
Sister Mary put the dormitory captain to task on finding out who wasn’t in class with everyone else during evening prep and a list of three individuals was presented to here, right there and then. Then she put on her detective hat, grabbed a flashlight and went on a fact-finding mission.
So Sister-Mary-turned-Inspector-Gadget ordered all three folks on the list to lower their shorts and bend over. Yeah, we thought she was kidding at first too. Until she began whacking them to “lower your shorts and bend over,” then we knew shit was real. The boys lowered their shorts, bent over, and Sister Mary went looking. She shone the spotlight right into their ass-cracks and put her fingers in there and started poking around. Apparently, according to Inspector Gadget over there, that shit (the pile in the middle of the dorm) looked fresh so whoever did it must have some residue left in their asses. So she shone here and poked back there and shone and poked back left and tickled down there and did that over and over again to all three boys. She did this for all of only 5 years until she finally stood up straight and said, “They’re clean.”
For a second there I almost went like, “Hold up, “they’re clean?” We gon’ stand here for 5 years waiting for you to poke around our boys’ buttholes and all you’re gonna give is “they’re clean?” Really? C’mon.”
And so the story goes that the mystery of the bugger who had shit in the middle of our dormitory remained unsolved because, apparently, Inspector Gadget over there did not find anything in the time she spent shining her spotlight down the rabbit hole. I transferred from that school almost a year later with a lot of regrets but the one that has always bugged for all these years is what did Sister Mary find down there? No, Really, what did she find? Because I find it difficult to believe that she went through all that and came out with zilch.
But, also, and more importantly, what happened to Sister Mary after that? Did she just go back to the convent later that night and have a beautiful night’s sleep? Did she, perhaps, warm her dinner first – nyama and ugali – and dive in without as washing her ungloved hands and dive right in? Did she, maybe, quit the nun-hood a year or two later and meet a handsome man with strong jaws and soft paws for hands and bear him beautiful kids and huddle them all near the fire during Christmas and tell them the story of what she found down those rabbit holes? Did that experience change her as a person? Did it continue ringing and ringing in her head till she finally ran mad and stole knickers of fellow nurses at the convent and now walks around with them on her head in Asumbi town?
If anybody out there who also went to Fr. Scheffer knows where our good ol’ nun went to, please tell us, how is she? And what did she really find?
Bonus paragraph (This part is absolutely useless, it will not change your life in anyway, it’s just me being petty in the face of pettiness);
I left a club with two ladies the other day. And, before you get your crackers in a crunch, it wasn’t like that. I’d had enough so I asked one of them to call me an Uber home and they asked if I could drop them off and, because I’m a nice guy, I said ‘Sawa.’ Only problem was you had to pass my place to get to their place. So I got off and let them continue with the ride and asked them to call me when they got home and tell me how much the ride cost so I can pay for it. The problem with being a nice person is that, sometimes, people think you’re also stupid so they take advantage of that generosity. Those mamis got home and called me with an amount I spend on transport to and from Kisumu. And I paid alright. Then kitu 30 minutes later, after I figured the Uber guy had already left the scene, I called him back and asked him to send me the statement and he did. I know that those mamis are regulars on this blog and I just wanted to let them know I know.