Tag Archives: kenya

Oh, the Power of Retrospect: Why I Will Always Love USIU


At the end of August 2010, I finally graduated from USIU with a degree in ‘blah blah blah’. I shared the moment with my drinking buddies, best friends, former best friends, comatose class mates and other bits of USIU furniture.

In our day, bitching about USIU was an acceptable pastime. We couldn’t get enough. The not-quite-right food in the cafeteria, with all it’s creepy cats. The barely dressed freshmen at Fifi’s making eyes at the Nigerians. Too much work. No internet. Library books weighing a tonne. Bzzzzzzzzzzzz….the sound of endless whining and moaning.

Anyway, fast forward 2011, and  I was logging on to my current school’s intranet to upload some assignments. My friend asked me, ‘did you have that shit back in Kenya?’ I said, ‘Hell yeah, and it worked most of the time!’

And that got me thinking…

A little comparison between USIU and my current school wouldn’t do any harm….

1. Show me the money: Every year in June, GoK lets us know that we have to pay a little more for bread and beer. And USIU adjusts the budget, upwards. Because students still need to eat poisonous mince meat in the cafetereria. And the the little issue of the multimillion dollar library (that was) being built. Not to mention the expansive hockey fields, multimedia center and the like.

But my peoples up here? Finally got a ‘triple crown’ rating. It’s a big deal, because only six other schools in France have it. It’s prestigious and presumably says something about the quality of education here.  Their reaction? Increase the school fees, increase the number of students (minimum sixty), reduce the number of trips and fire a couple of lecturers. Also, charge for all the other previous freebie stuff. Oh, and nothing else changes. Capitalism much?

2.It’s all in the fine print. You said Internet: Students are often a bunch of whiney little brats who will complain at the slightest defect in facilities. ‘What do you mean I have to carry three free course texts per subject?’ What is this? ‘A three storey, fully stocked library with private study carousels?’ ‘Jesus Christ! You threw in a shitty dispensary AND a free gym?’ ‘Have mercy Lord, we can subsidize our club trips and activities?’ Off with their heads I say! Communists!

In the land of accreditations,  there are at least 4 000 students here. Our library is spread out over one floor. I can see the entire collection by doing a matrix 360 degree turn in slow motion.  But don’t worry, we have ‘wi-fi’ and you can log on to do ‘research’ (facebooking each other about the professor’s gay earring) as long as you are willing to try connecting for at least half an hour. Really, I should have brought my safaricom modem.

Our projectors turn the most artistic  ppts into a hideous mass of yellow, and the cool lecturer who wants to show  a movie? He cant- our sound system died a slow death somewhere at the beginning of the century. You want to exercise? Take a walk to town. Feeling sick? Practice your French with the public health system. But don’t forget to pay your triple crown fees, s’il vous plait.

4.Rainbow Nation: We go starry eyed talking about diversity. We salivate over posters of happy, multicolored university students. Triple crown has got diversity. Lots of it. It’s a mini UN up in here. It’s a pity we spend all day with exactly the same people.

I don’t know, I liked rotating classes in USIU. Seeing spaced out Psych students and strung out IST guys. Collaborate with nerdy accounting types. I liked that I could pick and choose my classes, and there would always be that weird guy at the back of the class with ‘out there’ opinions.

But I’m back in primary school. Same faces, different day. Over and over again. 9.00 to 5.00. At least we get to go to ‘open bar’ parties with ambulances waiting outside to treat the regular alcohol poisoning and sprained ankle.

The thing is, we are like a hundred little schools crammed into a couple of buildings. There is the MGE which is not the same as the Msc, which is better than the IFI, which ranks better than the ISCPP which is not as bad as the ISCE…so we live together, but only because we have to- and our directors battle viciously for financing, so not much love lost there.

5. Event Management: You know how they say ‘too many cooks spoil the broth?’ They knew what they was talking about. Things can get tricky when the person in charge of examinations is not the same person in charge of assignments who is not the same person in charge of course outlines who is not the same person in charge of the classroom who is not in charge of the timetable and no one knows where your lecturer is. Let’s put it this way- I sat an exam in October 2010 and I don’t know if I passed or failed- even though school ends in May.

So Kudos to USIU, who had my certificate ready in April- a whole 4 months before graduation.

And then there was Fifi’s, where we all happily complained about Gillie and Ken and not knowing anyone in the bar anymore. Nothing will ever compare to having a drink with my people there. Call it nostalgia. (And, as soon as I leave triple crown, I will have another basket full of nostalgia too)

…One thing I won’t miss though, is that ridiculous song we called our Alma Mater. I mean, really???

Of course, I will remember all the good and beautiful times I had here. And all the nutty professors and all the afternoons spent discussing the nuances between branding and selling. Most of all, I will remember all the things that forced me to grow up, or as my professor says, ‘You brats need to learn to look at the bigger picture- and stop complaining so much’.

btw: what do you miss the most about school?

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Its the ‘Pre’ in Preparation


You know that feeling that you get when something that you knew would happen but somehow had not absorbed finally happens?

That’s where I’m right now. Its goodbye old life and hello continental Europe.

But I have this thing where  I’m a coward when it comes to saying goodbye. I’ve sneaked away from people on several occasions. I hate the finality. And the tears and ill advised confessions of shit that you should just have kept to yourself.

I had to woman up and tell my friends.

We decided to go to Naivasha as a farewell trip. The idea was to go to Mombasa, but since I had been burning through cash like Hilton’s blind daughter, that was out of the question. Consider the 16hour round bus trip and suddenly the Rift Valley was looking alot more enticing.

I love Naivasha. The drive down is beautiful. Kijabe’s tree plantation, (the right sequence of hand signals can get you some highgrade bursting with freshness…) the Rift’s dramatic landscape, it all makes me glad to be away from the city. And best of all, it is only an hour away from Nairobi.

Naivasha is many things to many people. Exclusive golf at the Great Rift Valley Lodge. The Lake Naivasha Yatch Club with its dinosaur KC crowd and uppity Nairobians. Naivasha Sopo’s overbearing gilt, embroidered toilet paper and cuisine that’s trying too hard. Hell’s gate and Crater Lake. Binge drinking disguised as camping at Fisherman’s and Crayfish camps.

…Not on our budget.

For us, Naivasha is the home of Nyama Tayari, hookers and hustlers, cheap beer in underground clubs with ‘animal feed’ rubber stamps, and crashing in dingy bar & lodging outfits with outside bathrooms. It’s breakfasting in one chef cafes that make surprisingly good omelets. It’s a place you can light a cigarette while walking on the main street, because you really don’t care.

In Naivasha, you must ignore the mountains of rubbish to enjoy an ‘expensive’ beer at the Happy Valley Bar. Where, when you climb a minibus, you ignore the fact that you are squeezed cheek to cheek with the multitudes and their burlap sacs.

Its a three street town that can be mastered in a few minutes, and when a sewage pipe bursts, you wade in human excrement until someone rouses themselves long enough to solve the problem.

It’s where budget tourism means going to the lake and taking ‘snaps’ for a hundred bob. Haggling with beach boy hustlers and strong arm business men for boat rides and park fees. If nature calls, better hide behind the bushes, because, why would anyone have the preposterous idea of building toilets at a public beach?

It’s a place where ornithologists converge convulse in delight when they see the African fish eagle and the malachite Kingfisher (yeah, the one on that horrible strawberry wine shit that knocks you out). And all the other pretty birds who’s names you will forget by the time you have your first beer that evening, which is really all you wanted to do all day long.

Not a bad place to say goodbye to your best friends, I guess.