“I once had an interest in medicine. Tell me what it entails,” the lady suddenly bursts out after a sip of tea. I, together with my friend, was invited for a cup of tea by one of our neighbours. We gladly accepted and continued to indulge our cultural love for free things.
First of all, let’s have some background information for our international readers. In Western Kenya, a cup of tea is a big deal. It is such a big of a deal, it might just be important card to play to land you a wife. In fact tea-taking is an important ceremony graced by traditional dancers and captivating beats from the Isikuti drums. The men dance with vigour as the ladies sway with elegance. The children delightfully and unanimously sing along to the chorus of the celebratory song: Mwana wa mberi ni shikhoyalo. The elders of the home gather together around the priceless possession, and just before you know it…
Ok, I may have exaggerated a little. We don’t sing and dance while taking tea. Although, if you are contemplating settling in this part of the world, it will be wise to invest in a proper tank to store enough tea for the never-ending visitors.
We can now go back to the original story.
I delightfully recount my experiences as a medical student. I laugh inside as she listens in horror to the cadaveric encounter every student is greeted with in the first year of study. I begin feeling important as she carefully follows my philosophical nuggets about the life of a medical practitioner. I then divert the talk to the catch phrase lecturers have popularised with the sole aim of chasing students away from the love of medicine into a lifetime of pursuing business.
“You just cannot survive in this career if you want to make quick money,” I inform her.
I end up joining her in a session of silent nodding of heads after finishing my statement. It then hits me that I have just forgotten that I was the one speaking.
“I suppose that life is just not for me,” she retorts.
“What then is your plan for the holiday?” she asks inquisitively. “A hospital attachment perhaps?” she suggests.
Let’s pause a little for some more background information. Dear readers, Kenyan universities are just the best! In my university, The University of Nairobi, you are given an 11-month break, halfway through your first degree, to go and think about the mistake you are about to make in pursuing medicine while the rest of the country is pursuing stolen funds from the national treasury. This move has successfully rescued many lives from the future of constant strikes and loggerheads with the government for better pay and working conditions. It was my turn to think deeply about my life.
“No. I think I’ll go for something more lucrative,” I respond. I’m clearly suffering the effects of living in a capitalist economy.
I am thinking of juggling between a short contract at a local bank (which will see me discharge clerical duties) and directing the proceeds towards creating employment opportunities at the family farm.
To understand how this with works, you need to know that there are casual labourers in this country who work to earn a dollar a day. But that is a story for another day.
Right now I’m just taking a sip of tea and wondering whether this experimental double life as an employer-turned employee will work out.