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LIFE BY LOUIS: Winter in my high school

Wednesday January 8 2020

If you think you have seen a cold and wet season, you have not heard about my former high school. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH

If you think you have seen a cold and wet season, you have not heard about my former high school. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH 

LOUIS MUIRURI
By LOUIS MUIRURI
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Happy new year dear readers.

The sun is out and it is time to bring out the laundry to dry.

After the recent heavy rains, it is time to take stock of what has been damaged by water in one form or the other and try to salvage what you can.

For those of us who are hydrophobic, it is time to take a full shower and dry ourselves in the sun like a mabuya lizard.

COLD AND WET

If you think you have seen a cold and wet season, you have not heard about my former high school.

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Aptly nicknamed 'Manyani' after the site where the school sits being a former detention camp for captured freedom fighters, it bore all the hallmarks of its former self.

It was strategically located at the slopes of the Aberdares Ranges smack in the fog migration corridor. This is where the winter season was born and brought up.

Cold rained on us in the form of huge drops of dew that settled on the vegetation outside and lasted well into midday of the following day.  

Water from the taps flowed at negative degrees Celsius. Because food came in small rations, our bodies were weakened and could not optimally withstand such adverse cold weather conditions.

Ideally, people who live in the cold areas around the Aberdares are known for eating platefuls of stew made of potatoes, cabbages and carrots every morning. This ensures that their bodies remain warm, as a sage once said that "body heat emanates from the stomach."

Because hot platefuls of food were not a luxury that we could afford in high school, we had to devise other passive ways of keeping ourselves safe during the cold weather.

One of the strategies involved bidding goodbye to the showers until the sun returned from its annual hibernation. When the cold season ended and you showered, you lost weight and turned as white as an Eastern European. 

DISCOMFORTING

Other bad things happened to us during the cold season.

We used to dry our clothes and used towels under the mattress. To this day I have never understood why we did that.

We found other students doing it that way and continued with the habit without asking questions. During winter, the garments would grow mould, elicit a horrendous smell and soon decompose.

It was the smell that was most discomforting. The dormitory smelled of a building that swines had just vacated to give new occupiers a chance to try their luck with that kind of juvenile living standards.

Our school uniforms would take forever to dry, and it was not unusual to wear a shirt that was still slightly wet with the expectation that the body heat would do the honours of drying the garment.

Drying the clothes in the open wash lines was not for the faint hearted.

Because of many 'private developers' amongst the student community, who were willing to convert any loosely lying uniforms into their personal use, we used to lock the shirts and shorts with a padlock on the drying lines in order to secure them.

If you didn’t have a spare padlock, you only cleaned the uniforms on Saturdays and keep them company until they dried.

HOPELESS SITUATION

The private developers did not stop their antics in the dormitory.

There is one incident involving the private developers that I vividly remember.

We used to remove our sweaters and hang them on the roof when visiting the pit latrines. If you didn’t, the sweater would soak in the smell from the toilets and this would bother you and anyone in close proximity for the next few days.

On this evening, as I squatted in one of the functional toilets feeling good about that particular biological function, a private developer zoomed by and took off with the sweater.

It was a hopeless situation. I could not scream because the other students in the adjacent cubicles would think that I had laid an egg.

I could not abandon the activity at hand and run after the culprit as the scene of a half dressed student chasing another student in the dark would trigger a vicious reputation damaging rumour.

I therefore did the most natural thing and calmly finished the biological assignment without creating an unnecessary fuss. I then walked back to a cold evening prep.

I later saw the culprit wearing it, but he looked like he murdered small boys like me for a hobby so I did not dare raise any alarm.

I bet the guy now works in the land ministry and has appropriated himself tens of acres of land meant for construction of schools and other public amenities, thanks to his background and experience at Manyani.

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