Friday, March 2, 2012

You've got to learn to wait

This should fall under the write thinking category or matatu ride one, but i lose track sometimes. This was a story as it was narrated by one of the passengers in the matatu i was in, but i'll do it as a first person narration; since i realized it will/might make more sense that way.
Disclaimer: The entire narrative was in Swahili so some details are lost in translation. Plus it was a conversation
 Here goes... Psst...names have been changed by the way...ok, now here goes for real....

 Eric became MP in 1997 and was subsequently made a minister in the Moi government. As you all know being an MP at that time came with a lot of perks. He was in charge of roads and development. Nowadays Eric drives an old Mitsubishi Lancer and sells water to residents in his area for 3 shillings. What's worse, he can't afford to hire somebody to do it for him, so he does the selling personally. His wife works at a certain TSC branch in Nairobi, so the family is not that well off.
So what happened? In 2002 Eric, like many other MPs from the Moi government(Not many enough - Ed), lost his seat and that is where his problems began. You see, Eric never brought any significant development to his constituency. When electricity was brought in, it was because he had to get it to his house, and that was as far as that project went. When he dug a bore-hole, it was in his compound - which is where he gets the water he is selling to the residents.
As you can tell, Eric's problems stem from the fact that people's curses have weight. When he was in the ministerial position he lived like there's no tomorrow and therefore never saved anything. On the up side Eric has connections with the police and administration police(AP) and he is able to get people into the force. He used this strategy to help him garner votes for the 2002 election...though it didn't go that well for him because he got 26...yes TWENY SIX votes in the 2002 elections IN THE WHOLE CONSTITUENCY! Anyway, whaat he does is this, he takes note of the families that have relatives who need employment, and he takes his forms and goes to the family and get's the jobless "kids" employed. But as you noted before, that strategy didn't work(It sucked ass - ed).
One incident in particular messed it up for him, there is this family where the father has over 30kids, so he approached the with 3police forms and 4AP forms and signed up seven sons. In his strategy drawing board he figured that he'd he would get at least 50 votes from that household alone. The flaw in the logic stemmed from the fact that other residents saw it as favoritism; how could one household get so many entries while the rest of the community was languishing in poverty and joblessness.
Anyway, I had finished campus, doing a course in electrical engineering, and needed a job. So i approached him for a job and he gave me forms for joining the police force! Me! A university graduate becoming a lowly police officer getting 11k a month, GROSS(grooss, i.e., net + deductions - ed)! I turned down the offer since i would rather stay at home unemployed than waste my degree with the police. I mean, he could have offered to get me in the army or something!
My friend, John, from campus, who did mechanical engineering, took up his offer and joined the police force. As for me, I eventually got a good job in the aviation industry, but my friend...not so cool. John had been in the force for a bit when he got frustrated. One day he was walking along Jogoo road, and he tried to stop some cars(didn't think to ask why he tried to stop the car- ed). None stopped, so he got pissed off, took his gun off safe, switched it to rapid fire and opened fire on the vehicles.
You see, he was frustrated why he had a degree in mechanical engineering and had to work his ass off carrying a freaking G3 rifle with all its heaviness and risk his life everyday for peanuts. His fellow police officers had to wait for the bullets to run out before restraining him because there was a big risk of him killing them had they attempted to calm him while his gun still had ammo.
Fortunately nobody had been hurt during the rant, just damaged vehicles. After he had been restrained and arrested, John was put through a mental checkup and was put in Mathare hospital(an asylum/mental hospital in Nairobi). Upon further enquiry, I found out why John had become frustrated.

In Kiganjo(Police training academy) they don't allow calls to the cadets from outside. It so happened that John had been called for a job to head the department of a very large company in Eldoret. At the time he had been a cadet. The company tried to contact him in vain and even called his next of kin. But his father had informed the company that he(John) had gotten another job elsewhere and didn't need that one. After that the family had set aside the invitation letter and forgot the story. So john had found out way later from friends about it. He took leave from work and contacted the company but found out his position had been filled in long ago and there was nothing more they could do for him.
After that it was all downhill for him. John has several siblings all with degrees and very good jobs. They are based all around the world, USA, Australia etc and they called him from time to time to update him on their status, and here he was, a lowly police officer(just because it says lowly shouldn't imply they are, they're why you sleep soundly at night, they are poorly paid though :-( - ed). So he thought himself as the black sheep of his family, this coupled with the success of his siblings and his own lost opportunities really frustrated him. The second time he flipped and was admitted into the asylum again i was called in as his friend, together with his father.
As it turned out, John had grown up in affluence, he'd never known poverty and his father was pretty well off. In the meeting it emanated that the main reason John was frustrated was because he wasn't doing what he loved. The senior police were actually surprised when they learned of John's qualifications and it was agreed that they should transfer him to a department where he didn't really have to interact with people and and also find him something where he'd get the chance to use his academic qualifications.
He was transferred to the department of motor vehicles and he was put in as a supervisor. After that John's mental health improved and he seemed to love what he was doing. After he started slowly going up the ranks and today John is a senior in the department of motor vehicles for the police and rakes in quite a lot of money, a far cry from his first years in the force. [end of story]

What does John's story teach us? It teaches us that in life we have opportunities available, but we have to be patient and smart. John, in this story, is an exception in that he ended up in the place that best suited him. Most people rarely get that second chance. So people, we have to be careful in the decisions we make. It is really important that we follow our hearts. Desperation most of the time does not end well. If you jump without thinking you are almost always bound to hurt yourself.

[ed note]
The first half of the story was written almost immediately after the narration by a stranger on a matatu. The second half was finished about 2or 3 months later so there some discrepancies in the narration due to some bits of the story getting forgotten, and it has been greatly shortened, but the moral still stands, you've got to learn to wait. The road may be hard and bumpy at first but stick to your guns, follow what you want and eventually you will achieve it.

Keep well mes amies.

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