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Laid back; chilled out.

Monday, February 27, 2006

BOOT CAMP, KENYA STYLE

Growing up in Maragua definitely had its perks – and its shortcomings. The local Primary School I went to was a complete pushover, thanks to my larger-than-life imagination and the association with my older siblings. Besides, Mom was a teacher at the same school back then and I was forced to be smart, literally. She was much harder on me than the other students and that really sucked, but that made me perform better in school.

I literally waltzed through the first half of primo, Std. 1 thru 4. Not to say I was always first in class – far from it. I always did OK though, with little – if any – effort on my part, and was just starting to get used to the idea that school was easy. Unfortunately Mama >d® [M.D.] mistakenly thought me a young prodigy and often verbalized that I should be shipped off to a more challenging school where I could realize my full potential. Not only that, but I was starting to get into trouble and sometimes came home all cut up from neighborhood scrapes or with my uniform torn or dirtied. After a number of such eventualities M.D. was like hell to the no, >d-money needs out of this school. And that, ladies & gentlemen, is how I found myself in boot camp.

After much research and word-of-mouth, [she had climbed a couple of rungs up the ladder and packed considerable clout] she settled on a school in Murang’a – St. Martin’s Boys Hostel.

That name right there should’ve set off multiple alarms in M.D.’s or my head, but it didn’t. Hostel? Whoever names a school Hostel?! Isn’t a hostel a place for the incapacitated or the ill; a Hospice?

Before I knew it, I had a bucket in one hand and an all-metal box in the other standing in line waiting to get my student ID # along with 100 or so other newbies, all the while stealing glances at the formidable-looking faculty members, all of who wore stern expressions. After the ID-ing we were herded off to the dorms and shown our respective bunk beds. After all the orientation and familiarization was complete, life in that hellhole began. That was the end of life as I’d known it and the beginning of what I can only describe as Armageddon. Let me fill y’all in.

*This was a Catholic school. There was a Headmaster and Deputy and everyone else below them as is customary, but the one that really ran that joint was a Catholic monk. ‘Monk’ would probably best describe what he was, I think, coz he went by the name of Brother Martin.*

I was 10 years old then – just an FYI. The day began early – 4.20 am. The bell would go off and a split-second later the lights in the dorm would come on – stark white fluorescent lighting that actually hurt when they first came on – that’s how bright it was. Now, Brother Martin was always on the prowl at this hour, preying on those poor souls that were a little slow in getting up. If that poor soul happened to be you your little ass was toast. He’d pull you out of bed and give you 2 of his best, right then and there, underwear or not.

After that we’d put water into buckets and clean the dorm. Yes, that early. We had till 4.45 am to finish the job and then we’d go to class for early-morning prep. As anti-morning as I’ve always been this was easily the worst time of the day. No one could, or would, dare doze off coz Bro-man was still on the prowl and would light that ass up if he caught you dozing off. Prep would proceed till 6 am when we would all shuffle off, zombie-like, toward the chapel. Like I’d said, this was a Catholic school and Catholic or not, Christian or not, early morning mass [and every other mass for that matter] was mandatory. I wasn’t raised Catholic but best believe I was reciting Hail Marys in a few short days. I had no excuse not to anyway coz they gave each of us a booklet with all the Catholic ‘recitals’ in it. Besides, good ol’ Martin would drag you out the chapel kicking and screaming and light it up if he caught you not pleading with Mary to pray for you. Over time this recital became personal coz you started praying in earnest; the phrase Holy Mary mother of God pray for us sinners… ceased from being a forced recital to a cry for help.

Mass was usually over in 40/45 minutes and we'd trudge to the dining hall for some of that oh-so-delectable institutional porridge. The cooks usually served the muck while we were at mass and by the time we got to the DH and sat at our designated spots with our personalized bowls the porridge would’ve morphed into this half-ug half-porridge sugarless and milkless barely-ingestible thing that I absolutely detested but HAD to put down. That was the rule – everybody eats or everybody gets punished.

After choking that down the day got better coz the classes began. That’s one thing the institution had going for them – great teachers. Of course we got our share of classroom horrors like getting beat over low grades or making noise in class but it was good for the most part – with the exception of my Std. 6 B-Ed teacher who was so passionate about the subject he wanted to shower all of us with it, literally. I never did fathom how so much spit could come out of a single mouth but believe me, there was enough for all of us! It didn’t help much either that I sat at the center column, and in the front row, which meant I usually was the brunt of all this ‘affection.’ I specifically remember a phrase he said that somehow stuck with me: [or is it stuck TO me?]
“…. and you feel a lot of pain….”
Not pretty. Some words should’ve been erased from his vocabulary.

Lunchtime: usually murram or ug. I’m a shags modo so the murram is like 2nd nature. Not so for the ug – I never could eat too much of it, and definitely not that institutional ug that tasted raw, was spiced-up with weevils and had numerous uncooked spots in it – as in you cut a piece off and flour poured out. Need I remind you the everybody eats or everybody gets punished motto? Veggies – they were grossly overcooked and humongous – they cooked the carrots whole and didn’t shred the cabbage at all, or so it seemed.

Then it was back to class for the afternoon session. This was the laziest time of the day coz we were all stuffed and it was usually hot. It wasn’t too bad though, save the infrequent instances when the Deputy caught you dozing off. Some guys were slick though, like this one dude that could sleep with his eyes wide open. Lucky bastard. Wish I could’ve done that.

After classes were finally over with we all had to do what was loosely described as ‘General Cleaning.’ There was nothing general about it at all, believe me. If anything it was very specific, and we each had designated spots that were supposed to remain spotless all the time; something like ‘Adopt a Highway,’ only then it was more like ‘Pick up the trash or your ass is grass.’

After that we could chill and goof around. This was easily the best time of the day coz we just acted a fool or picked fights or instigated them. In short, normal, healthy boy stuff. This lasted till we had to go for the evening mass and, after a couple of hundred Hail Marys, we'd hit the DH for supper where, again, we either had ug or murram depending on the day.

Soon after it would be time for the dreaded evening prep. It was easily the most treacherous and the longest, but it could also be the most entertaining depending on, of course, how much homework we had to do. People dozed off all the time and other cats played tricks on them while they were asleep – funny, funny stuff. The funniest, by far, was smearing a dab of Vicks Vaporub right below Sleeping Beauty’s eyes. When dude awoke he’d at first be fine, but then the vapors would irritate his eyes and he’d rub them absentmindedly but inadvertently smear the Vaporub into his eyes and in a matter of moments he’d be in agony and would make a beeline for the nearest bathroom.

Sometimes we’d be making a racket and Brother Martin would burst in through the door, larger than life and brandishing that [infamous] flexible cane and give us 2 of his best, every last one of us. Either that or he’d find people dozing off and order us to open the windows and to keep them open. That, of course, meant that we’d be sitting ducks for the mosquitoes and all sorts of other insects. You’d almost think they’d be waiting outside hoping the brother would let them in coz they flew, crawled or hopped their way in soon as the windows were open. Not only that but we’d be freezing our asses off. [@ CK – “Brrrrr!”]

Prep was over at 10pm and we’d almost make a run for the dorm trying to go get some shuteye. Best believe I’d be knocked out soon as my head touched the pillow and I’d try not to think about the following day which would be a virtual replicate of the one we’d just got over.

Now, if that isn’t boot camp – and it was - I don't know what is. That’s the closest I’ve ever come to being in one. It’s just wrong to do that to a 10 year old. M.D., see how it really was like for me? I know I started getting better grades but at the expense of becoming Brother Martin’s bitch? Fair trade-off? I think not. But then again, to quote my friend G.R. who we go back like 8-tracks, all that shiznit is what made me who I am today. [I hope she meant in a good way.]

Weekends were always unpredictable, of course depending on The Brother’s mood. The one constant though was that on Saturday afternoons we’d have an hour-long singing session. You’d think that would be fun but it wasn’t, coz we sang some retarded songs that came from a songbook, if that’s what that was, compiled by none other than – you guessed it – The Brother himself. His taste in music was questionable, and I’m being extremely generous when I describe it as such. Shoot, how else can you explain a song that went like this:

Laughter makes the world go round
So the wise men say;
Laughter is the recipe
To make us all feel gay.

30 comments:

Keguro said...

Of course, your former torturers would now point at you with pride: look at the man we made!

Never fails.

Maragua? I thought that was a name people just made up. It exists?

(City boy, through and through)

guessaurus said...

*wipes tears from eyes*

I read this post in two sections, I had to go out for lunch coz I was laughing so hard I couldnt breathe. Then came back and laughed some more. Although I get all your references to boarding school and all that (went in when I was 12) I still cant believe this story. Hilarious to a t (yes I realise there is no T..)

Brother Martin (bless him) sounds like a nightmare - him and them 'sects (both the religious and the insecta lot) - how many 'masses' did the masses have to go through each day?

About the Ug with desert islands - that made me giggle no end - and you remember how they used to be like porridge that just 'splats' on your plate.

Please dont make me do this...

I am getting horror images in my head of boarding school..

As for that last sentence: dude you should have been taking notes...

ciiku said...

LOL!....ha ha.... >d®....You were right I guess..... U can put a smile on my face... even at the worst of days!!!.....
Too much! He he...

And what do you mean equating me with SLICK?!

spicebear said...

damn, and i thought i had it bad in boarding school ... aki i now feel spoilt. 4.20 am? i used to have a whole extra hour of sleep and even then i was in high school.

i can realte to food thats otherworldly though, i remember refusing to eat ug or murram outside of school for a while cos the horrors were too much.

great one you have here, i am most definately coming back to read again.

Prousette said...

Did you ever find out why there was a Hostel to the name or did it mean boarding?

I will never complain about my boarding school ever again because this is far much worse . Never had to attend mass or any from of church for that matter and we had meat on the diet 3 times a week.

No child of mine shall go to boarding school before the legal age to me that is 13+ yrs if I can help it.

Anonymous said...

my my i >d you andI had the same experience of primo. I went to all girls boot camp run by nuns(sisters) and these are the worst people you will ever meet. They treated us like dogs/prisoners.
woke up at 6am, you had 30mins to get ready for church, mass at 6:30. 7.15 breakfast the uji/porridge horrible, we had to clean the school before 8am for assembly where they checked on how clean we we were,and sometimes you wont believe this, they checked underneath our uniform ya ya ya they did, ( damn bastards excuse my french)ohh! they were no male teachers in the school.
half the teachers were nuns horrible, till to this day you will not convince me nuns are saints to me they are animals/monsters.
Lunch and supper was just like yours >d, except probaly they used to feed you enough, we were kids growing I mean our bodies were developing and they were not giving us enough to eat. (My mum used to think when I go home that Idont eat, coz I was so skinny).
we had to go for rosary in the evening and I agree with you >d the prayer after I while was asking mary to have mercy on us and save us.
well I can tell you more horrors we went through but this is not my blog, will say this, what >d went through multiply that by 2. no child of mine is going to a nuns school


one more thing!! the nuns who are supposed to be saints used to get pregnant, now tell me is that how you run an all girls school??

Brother Jero (BJ) said...

I know Maragua for Banana's. Period. As for me mtaa was the arena where it all went down early.

As for the laughter, I totally agree with you. Also helps relax the booty.

Anonymous said...

Up at 4:30 am and the made up songs that made your heart burst with joy??? What part of that kind of school life conjures up happiness? WOW!! [long pause... whilst shaking head] then another Wow! I'm speechless. Then again as bad as it was/is some bad a$$ children here should be shipped to such school, it might install some humility and fear in them. Fearless kids are scary! CK!

mutumia said...

I'm so sorry >d® but I'm with Guess here. I was laughing so hard, my ka-empathy bone fell off... where to start, where to start? kwanza that song? ITNOTLIV (Invoking the name of the Lord in Vain), Ngai Baba!!! Whaaaaattttt??? LOL and then again... I mean, sheesh--- I went to Boarding as a grown up but stil!!! 4.20 a.m.????

But seriously though, those catholic nuns who end up in African schools are usually very bitter, angry people--- and we pay the price for their lost dreams ( I keep saying--- some quick mbobos before the school year would work motivational wonders!)... As for the Mass-Rosary Daily thing- check did that too. And nuns-in-training i.e. form fours used to draaaagggg those 10 hail Mary's like the pope was visiting -none of that theLordIsWithYouBlessedAreYouAmongWomenAndBlesse-- naaahhh it was Theeee Looordd Isss With Yoooooouuuuuu (like a Gregorian chant ITNOTLIV- Ngai Baba! the agony!!!!) PLUS---- don't forget Sunday benediction and when it's that time of the year- Stations of the Cross. And every November those --- ghouls- would make us go to the graveyard (we had our in-house graveyard WTF?!!) to say "Prayers for the dead"...I still have calluses (sp) on my knees (LOL @ "pray for us" being a cry for help and not rote recital:))... Following up on the theme of pervs from anon above, my buddy who went to a primo boarding tells of how they used to be inspected to ensure they weren't sleeping in "wonder-wear" (maa swear!) and to re-inforce this commando notion, the nuns told them that be-drawered chicks would have to sleep in a ka-corner of the dorm that was haunted and that a chicken with red ngorobas and a red handbag used to ply that room.

So not making it up... mea culpa for blogging on your blog.

sheesh... >d® --- I am soooo sorry, you should take your story to Oprah :)

mutumia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mutumia said...

^^ sorry typos like a mutha and I swear, this is my last comment... Um.. what I wanted to say is that those nuns were EVIL!!! They had the audacity to tell us that every time we wanked or caught strokes before marriage, the Blessed Virgin would call our dearly departed grandmothers and dead relatives (looking at those whose mothers/fathers had passed on for emphasis) and they would watch from heaven to see what their sinful daughter was doing!!! Ati when we got married, the sacrament put a veil/ curtain on the strokage ensuing.

Do you know the troubles that caused me? Eh??? Before I could get that whole dearly departed/ saints/ assorted Holiness as voyeurs FALSEHOOD out of my head??? Do you know how I had to fumble in the dark before ---er... you get the gist.

EVIL!!!!!! I rebuke them in the Name of Mugo wa Kibiru

>d® said...

>Keguro: I beg to differ; Brother Martin would probably take one look at me and be like: aren't you the boy who used to sneak Walkmans in class? Go over there and grab the wall! Shika hapo!!*
*He always said that.
Yes, Maragua IS a place. Not that you should know it; it's not exactly too conspicuous. Matter of fact it's now a district of its own. We're blowing up!

>G: The good brother was definitely a personification of everything that I, at the time, thought was evil. I know he loved whopping young boys. Typical Catholic priest attribute, eh? [my bad]
Please, don't remind me of the porridge. At least the ug/murram was palatable, weevils notwithstanding, but that sh*t was straight torture going down. I honestly don't know how I did it!

>Buff: I try girl, I try!
And don't even feign innocence at the slick association; Buff=slick, slick=Buff! ;)

>d® said...

>Spicebear: Thanks a bunch for checking in!
And you know what was so messed up about it? We HAD to eat it all up! I'm glad you could refuse to eat that stuff up tho coz yo, I wouldn't wish that food on anyone, and that's the truth!

>Prou: Nah, never did try to find anything out about that godforsaken place once I got outta there!
Meat 3 times a week?! That would've been beyond my wildest expectations at the time, if anyone had asked me what I could change about the meals! Good for you tho Prou, 4 real. And Hell No, I'd never send my own flesh & blood there! Maybe it was good for me but still, Hell No!

Anonymous: "...they checked underneath our uniform?! What?! That's outrageous! Shoot, at least all we had to do was look OK, as in you could jipaka Vaseline right up to where the skin ended and the socks began.
Nuns getting PG?! OMG!! Did the ones that get pregnant conveniently 'disappear' for a spell?

>d® said...

>BJ: Oh yeah, Maragua is official banana central. You'll never see as many, or as cheap, bananas in any other town!

>CK: Wsup girl. Yeah, some kids these days need a similar experience, 4 real. I intensely dislike bad-ass kids.
Shoot, I probably needed it too; not that I was ever uncontrollable tho. At least I don't think so.
Yeah, I cringe at the thought of singing those songs, best believe it. In addition to that one was 'Ma Baker,' 'Brown Girl in the Ring,' 'Pink Cadillac' and any other contemporary-old-school song [if there is such a thing] you can think of. I guess Bro-Martin was with it back then, huh?! :)

>Mutumia: Ha ha, you're so right - I hated it when they dragged the recital! Get it over with already, I silently demanded, all the while seething!
Did you ever experience Easter? We literally simulated Jesus' treacherous trek to Calvary, kneeling on tarmac/concrete/gravel every couple of minutes till we got back to the church!
[Be-drawered - hilarious]
Inspected to ensure 'under-clad?!' How exactly would they do that - get over, demand you get out of bed and grope you?!
Ha ha, good ol' Martin told us the same tale of our dearly departed[s] watching our every misdemeanor, to say the least! I still think about that these days when creeping or whatever! [Well, when I used to, anyway! ;) ]

acolyte said...

My guy!I went to a Catholic school and I never had it this bad, but then it was a private school.If I ever have to feel Im in church it has to be a catholic mass these pentecostal circuses just dont cut it for me!But good to know that you were tortured into the man you are today...

Anonymous said...

>d. yes to nuns who got PG apparently dissapeared, they never came back. The story was they got transfered to other schools,that was the cover story. you know as we grew up we came to discover later that some priests/fathers were the baby daddys. hahaha!! I guess these priests did not have boys (woops should not say this!!!)



do you know they used to tell us if we touch boys were going to get PG.
that ancestor thing is halarious we never had one!!

you know what was funny was when nuns are teaching us about sex, how could they know about it if they dont experience?? all I know they scared us, till you start thinking of becoming a nun!! yah right, not until you leave the hell and find out the truth!!



ohh! don't remind me of easter, kneeling on hard gravel you know torture that was torture.

some of these kids here need some of that boot camp.

its nice blog >d keep itup

D said...

>d
Let me just say i was LMFAO by the time i finished reading your blog. Mind u, i was at wk. I feel u on the Catholic style-boarding school. Granted I didnt go to one or nothin, but i grew up in the compounds of an all girls boardin joint. I remember we'd exchanged experiences of boardin school life. Being the age i was, i internalized enough to make me hate it. Nothin on my moms who ran the joint, but she couldnt control wat the matrons in the mess halls did, the kids did, etc. Gotta understand the position i was in as the Headie's daughter. Life was bad for 6 years. (I got to play around in the office, so that part was ok). I definitely couldnt handle the prep schedule tho...let me give u props on that. The rest, was just hilarious. Hostel?? in my mind = brothel...lol. (Seems as if this is our form of communication, so hope all is kosher w/ u) One! (lol.)

kipepeo said...

first of all, ur school was called a hostel?? that is just incredible in itself...as for catholic school...i feel you. im not catholic, but i can say a mass now!! u even find urself mouthing the priests words!!! but oh my goodness, cheered up my really weird day! thanks!!

D said...

>d...
I forgot to comment on the Hail Mary part...lmao at that too...u n i will have to have a competition on that. I used to lead rosary sayings, so...we'll see bout that.

So wat u givin up for Lent...Mine's easy....U!!!

>d® said...

>Aco: Tortured is right. Broke my spirit - till high school anyway!

>Kipepeo: Isn't that funny - as in you'd hear it so frequently you can recite your own personal mass?! Lord knows I still remember most of that, many years later!

>d: Forgive me coz I know I'm not exactly in your good books, but that was pretty funny - giving me up for lent!
Speaking of which, isn't there something in the unofficial 'What [Not] to Give Up for Lent Handbook that states something to the effect of
'You can't give the same thing up more than once?'
Keeping in mind you gave me up for Lent 2 Easters ago?

In any case, 'C-Mode' is over with. I'll holla - promise.

D said...

Nice of u to remember...and no, there is no book...lol. Dont u wish there was one??? lol. I'm not givin up chocolate or coffee, so u'll do...which seems timely and convenient, given the recent happenings. Nice try tho...u gave me and my boss a good laugh

Brother Jero (BJ) said...

Have a nice weekend dawg.

>d® said...

Thanks BJ. You too.

Irena said...

@d I feel you on this one
.I went to a school in the slopes of Mt Kenya and our headmistress was straight from hell literally. Your mass recital reminds me of High school where most of our weekends we had "kesha" for the headi and most students were "saved" and it seems like the weekend was only the time the holy spirit descedend. Let me not blog on ur blog but this entry has reminded me so much but of my high school days..
Nice!!!

Farmgal said...

I read this last week and been thinking about the horrors u endured....and I thot my school was something!
lol and the not so general duties....I remember them all too well.

Anonymous said...

This goes out just as it was then i went through it at "the saints" hostel. true as you said it. I hate from the day i was called - ki-newcomer (mono) true til i left as a Candii (candidate, std.8).
Gone are the days when i used to know everyones admission number i the whole school. i wonder where Brother martin and kazulu, headii, gathenge, kajesu are and if dorm A,B and C still exist.
I can be reached @ venpaulanzio@yahoo.ca

Anonymous said...

Managua is a beautiful city and people are amazing..I do fell sorry for your experience but living in Nicaragua(managua) wich has so many problems by itself i'm not surprise...like people always say,you have to overcome your trauma and move on.Take the good and dispose the bad..I'd meet many nicaraguenses and heard so many stories specialy at the 10 years civil war wich finishes many lives and destroyed many women in your country..many sad stories...like yours..here in kenya there are plenty of sad stories like yours..Pero como dicen,pasalo bien ahora y pensar que no hara esas cosas con tus hijos y que la vida es bella...que dios te bendiga...

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Anonymous said...

This is where I was also bred. Where fear makes you realise your potential. I was the last student after we sat our first exams in class 5 but after the caning I got, was admitted to alliance boys. This method of teaching is weird but effective.

Peter Mugo said...

Great school. It shaped stubborn boyz like me.

I am happy I went through it.