“Ask a man a question enough times and he will tire of answering it.” Especially if that question is asked all the time in casual conversation where no answer more than the rote one you have cranked out hundreds of times before is the one that’s expected. You can’t really blame the person asking the question. Everyone asks a foreigner where they are from and how long they have been here. Everyone asks a girl with a cast how she broke her hand and everyone, I mean everyone asks me how the fuck school is. No one asks it like that though it would be a refreshing breath of air if they did. This would signal that they wanted a different answer. No one answers the questions how is school and how the fuck is school in the same way. Even if the use of the latter only signals to me that colourful language is as on the table as salt in a nyama choma joint.
Seriously though the last time I was asked this much about school I was in primary and was being visited by those adults who are naturally uncomfortable around children(granted that I was one of those children who it could be easy to be uncomfortable around) and have no idea where to take conversation except to the subject of school and how big I had grown-this last thing in a different context I like to hear. I am tired of this question now. Extraordinarily tired, I won’t answer it unless I have a huge, huge crush on you and even then its touch and go, I won’t answer it when I’m drunk, I won’t answer it when I’m sober, I won’t answer it in the day, I won’t answer it when it rains. I won’t. I won’t except now.
I can understand that people are curious, there’s my former classmates who went to KSL the year before me and want to relive their time there in a fit of nostalgia and bitchiness. There’s all the friends I now have who I met when I was outside academia. There’s people of limited conversational competence. It takes all kinds.
School is really all things(to give the broadest answer.) it’s fine because no one can really knock student life, even if it doesn’t inspire you it’s not filled with ludicrous deadlines, bosses you hate, co-workers you can’t get away from and a complete lack of control over your free time. No matter how mind-numbingly boring it can be there’s an escape, there’s an end. Unlike working there’s a finish line and that helps. You can tell yourself that for now, this is just for now. And you can enjoy the now.
Some of the lectures are mind-numbing, its sitting there and daydreaming, watching your watch watch you, ticking second after second, writing in your book, looking up at the PowerPoint, listening to the lecturer, playing a game on your phone, reading your constitution(sometimes I can be one of those super-focused folks), debating moral issues, thinking about election results, being excited about a weekend event, coming to terms with your belief system, looking out at the sunny compounds just beyond your reach, yawning, dozing and then looking at your watch and realising it’s been 2 minutes. That happens. On those days school is shit. It’s a comma that I can’t get out of.
Sometimes it’s actually pretty awesome. I like the concept of learning and I don’t even really mind the process. Put me in a room with hundreds of strangers and make us listen to one more (albeit more successful) stranger give us the secrets to life. It’s almost mystical, since I stopped going to church it’s about the last ritualised thing I go through. And it can be funny. Most lecturers have a handle on sexual and other types of innuendo(saying “come again” instead of “pardon” is not encouraged), they can be inspiring, they can go so successfully off topic you are sure they practised it and also they keep making these vague offers of drinks to come. Along with stories about some students getting arrested in Kisii when they went on a school thing because they went out looking for the red light district
It can be infuriating. There’s this concept of groups or firms. Everyone got stuck in a group not of their choosing, my group has 16 people. We are given assignments from every class and we must come to some sort of agreement about what we hand in. have you ever worked with 15 other people? There’s a reason none of the text of God the father consulting with the Son and the Holy Spirit is included in the genesis story of creation…that would have been one long book. On the plus side if whoever was writing did this they would have a wholly plausible explanation for why the earth is so many millions(or is it billions of years) older than the bible suggests. They would just say, well it took the trinity about 567 million yeas to decide whether to put the darkness in the day or in the night, and all the evolutionary missteps or process would just be them fooling around to prove why this works better than that. And how is my group? it’s like all the others: there are some smart people, there are some people who have researched well, there are people who are prepared, there are people I want to sleep with and there are people(I like to think) who want to sleep with me.
It can be Friday. There is no day like Friday. I won’t hurry in the morning, I won’t look at any assignments, I won’t bother to be on time, I won’t wear official, I won’t walk any faster than I can help it. The mind has switched off. My eyes are glazed over like I’m stoned by expectation. I sit in class and don’t really listen to anything that’s going on. The time goes by slowly but dreamily instead of any of the other watches I wear there’s a Rolex on my wrist. The seconds don’t tick they just merge into each other, sweeping away everything else.
And the girls. There are some pretty girls in my class, beautiful even. Last Friday I had packed up my books and was walking out of class an hour early, nothing that could be said would keep me there and then I caught sight of this girl. She looked bored, incredibly bored. My words fail me in description and I'll borrow from Zadie Smith who when describing why American audiences fell in love with some European actress in the thirties said “And then there is that sense of European ennui, of Weltschmerz, that no MGM player had projected before. They had vamps, they had sex bombs, but they’d never had existential depression.” She sat there smouldering, the world passing her by as she wasted time in an activity that her body said her mind found meaningless. I put my books back on my desk. The thing about her is that when she smiles it breaks through all this, and she smiles all the time so it’s not like I have any special monopoly on it. It’s just that now every single time it happens its special. This doesn’t capture the whole female spectrum of the class but sometimes I’ve learned that it’s better to be representative than to be absolute.
That in many words is how school is, I really hope no one asks again.