I did not become a doctor, but that’s okay
I Recently visited the village where I was born and brought up. I have some good memories of this place, and looked forward to meeting old friends, specifically those that I went to school with.
When I got there, I called an old friend, and invited him to have a soda with me at a certain joint that had been there since we were students.
As we went in, I pointed out that it was my first time, in my 40-plus years, to enter this pub. Back then, this was an adults-only joint. Period.
Woe unto you if were seen by any adult near this place. You would be branded ill-mannered and get a good beating.
As children we knew, even with eyes closed, the no-go zones.
My friend and I burst into laughter as we swapped stories of being beaten for loitering in shopping centres and how any adult could beat you for any misdemeanour, however flimsy.
The making of math prodigies
We recalled how our primary school teachers motivated us to work hard in school, and especially excel in English and maths.
To date, I still do not need a calculator to do sums, addition or multiplication, even when doing project budgets.
Our maths teacher expected us to get all the sums right in the twice-a-week quizzes he administered. If you failed a sum, you multiplied that by four canes.
Woe unto you if you failed more than five questions. You were paraded in the staff room. There, the subject teacher would ask his colleagues if any of them wanted a piece of you.
Before you cried, “mama”, they would all fall on you. As you screamed in pain, you would swear that you would never fail again. The beating was so humiliating; you had no option but to perform better the next time.
It is no wonder then that by the time I was in Class Seven, I would get all the answers right in every math quiz or examination.
You can now appreciate how hard it was for me to go back and tell them: “I did well, but Aids didn’t spare me, that’s why I didn’t become the doctor that I intended to be, but instead became an activist.”
But my knowledge in math still comes in handy in my everyday life. I wish I could convince Peter, Joshua, and later Issa that it is possible to do sums without using a calculator.
Nowadays, if our children are “taught” this way, parents protest. It was great walking down memory lane with this friend and others who later joined us.
As I expected, they asked me lots of questions, the inevitable one included: “What did you do with all that math and English?” They wanted to know how what I do is related to this knowledge.
“It prepared me well to tackle Aids from a personal, village, and regional level,” I said, partially joking.
Well, I could see that the mention of Aids made some of them uncomfortable, and since I could clearly see that the topic did not sit well with them, I brushed it aside and moved on something else.
It was a good visit, nonetheless. It felt good to be home and among people that I had grown up with and shared fond memories with.
It felt good to be around people who did not view me as Asunta, but Wambui; how they had always known me.
Yes, I miss the good old days and wish I could go back in time. Back then, when our main worry was to find time to play, and when we would anxiously wait for the moon to shine so that we could be allowed to play hide and seek outside.
I wished I could travel back in time when I did not have bills or loans to pay. But of course this was not going to happen, and I had to be content with the memories.
As we parted company, I promised to send an outreach mobile voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) team.
“Let’s see how much work we can do together in making my math dreams come true; math in the sense of reducing new HIV infections, which will equal a HIV-free generation,” I told them.
This is the diary of Asunta Wagura, a mother-of-three who tested HIV-positive 25 years ago. She is the executive director of the Kenya Network of Women with Aids (KENWA). Email: email@example.com