Tag Archives: first class honours

Bragging Rights: First Class Honours

If there is anything getting a first class honours degree has given me, it is bragging rights! This being July, my graduating month, allow me to bask in this moment. The graduation ceremony is on Thursday the 28th, and so tomorrow(Wednesday) is rehearsal. Whenever I’ll be meeting my comrades (fellow graduands) I’ll wait for them to say “Second class, upper division honours” before pausing dramatically and saying “first class honours baby!”

I had dreamed of this blogpost over and over again. I had the perfect title for it: Yeah Baby, First Class Honours! I was going to put a picture of myself in the graduation cap and gown, starting straight into the camera, looking beautiful, solemn and intelligent at the same time. Ha well, dreams change!

Graduation gown, hood, cap
Graduation gown, hood, cap

In the seven months since I finished my undergraduate degree in computer science (on Dec 17th, 2010), I have been up and about.

I spent most of the first 3 months of 2011 in Rwanda, where I worked with a small INGO in the Northern Province where I had the pleasure of meeting President Paul Kagame. I made many friends there, and when I get time I hope to go back and visit.

I came back to Kenya in mid-March and like most of my former classmates, asked myself what it was I really wanted to do. I applied for a number of jobs/internships and did one interview. I knew I wanted to travel and I later got an internship with a research institution based in Nairobi but with offices in Ethiopia and I was going to go there for a month. But then something else happened and I had to put that on hold.
I got a scholarship to do a master’s degree at the Safaricom Academy/Strathmore University, starting May this year. That’s what I’ve been up to. It’s a very hands-on kind of course, and I’m loving it.

The course is structured into modules (as opposed to semesters) and we’re currently in the second module. For the past one-an- half months, we had instructors from MIT/MIT-Sloan Business School who taught us both technical and business stuff. If you want to see what we were doing, check out this page. Our project is E-BIMA and we’re still in the early stages of development .

About a month ago, Google called me offering me a software engineering job, but because they realized I’m now back in school, they said an internship offer would still do, where I take 3 months off and then come back to continue my course. I have done two over-the-phone interviews, passed the first one and waiting to hear the results of the second one. If I get the internship it will be the icing on my graduation cake! The perfect graduation present.

I’ll be walking on sunshine during my graduation as my three names are called and I’m conferred with a first class honours degree in computer science.

Wally B

This is the first time I’ve dedicated a whole blogpost to one person. But if ever someone deserved one, it’s my friend Walter. He’s one of the most patient people I know.

Walter and I during his graduation at the Hilton

I’ve known him for five years now though I can’t remember my first meeting with him. We’ve been classmates and friends throughout our time in undergraduate in the small dusty town that is Juja, in the mostly-male university nicknamed Juja Boys and One Girl. We’ve spent days and nights debating politics, analyzing algorithms, arguing about the weather, copying assignments, studying for exams, watching movies, swimming at The Hotel Senate, raving in various night spots, having meals at the Hall 7 mess, walking the then freshly-painted-pink corridors that joined Hall 6 where he stayed and Hall 1 where I stayed most of the semesters.

Last year, I had a to-do list. Kids, don’t try this at home, the list that is. It was all about the things I should do before I got old. Once you’re done with undergraduate you’re ‘old’, doesn’t matter your real age. Some things you are not allowed to do. Ask me, I’ll give you an example. Like for instance ‘privatizing’ wine glasses from The Senate Hotel, or sneaking into the swimming pool area with ‘unauthorized’ drinks. On my list was climbing the water tank at Studeez.

Image from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wauwatosa_Water_Tank.jpg

At about 30 meters above the ground, I was the only courageous one to have made it up. My friends all refused/chickened out. I removed my shoes, cautiously I went up the ladder, pausing every so often to take in the view and not to look down. I finally made it to the top. The tank is placed on this mesh, around which is a rail. I stood here and looked at the campus, knowing I would not be enjoying this place much longer. Then I heard someone call out, “Savvy!”

That’s the other thing, Wally B calls me Savvy, even if my real name is Harriet. He was here! He finally made it.

In the silence, as we stared at the starts twinkling in the distance, the peaceful campus (it was around 3am) glowing softly in the security lights, we shared a moment I cannot describe. That silence that connects two people in the only way that silence can.

Thought heights don’t scare me, I didn’t relax until I was safely on the ground.

Walter is the last man standing among my group of friends from college. By last man standing, I mean he’s the only one I know who never touched alcohol or smoked cigarettes/the_other_stuff. He’ll be the quiet guy in the corner taking pictures and enjoying seeing us making fools of ourselves. Not a sadistic joy, no, he’s not that kind of guy. More like an indulgent kind. Because at the end of the night, he’ll be the guy we’ll rely on to get us home safely. We’d dump on him our phones, wallets and valuables and trust him wholly.

That’s another thing about Walter, or Wally B as he likes to call himself. He’s reliable. Trustworthy.

He’s not just another nice guy, he’s intelligent. We’re graduating with first class honours this coming month. In my class, I was in this group of friends we called the G8. Wally B, Monch, Emily, Mwema, Kriss and I. Pato and Phyll were in another course but in the same department. We hang out together whenever we could. We revised for exams and did group assignments as G8. Monch and Emily are also graduating with first class honours, the rest second class upper division. Sorry readers if I come out as proud, but heck, I’m proud of my friends :-) We’re still close. We’re all in Nairobi but we’re so caught up in our lives that it’s hard to meet all of us at once, so the next time we’ll be meeting for sure is rehearsal day. (Rehearsal for graduation)

G8... only person missing from the pic is the one who took it: Walter!

Walter is the go-to guy whenever you need anything. Want the latest cracked edition of Windows 7? Call Walter. Want any software? Walter. Tutorials? Walter. Revision papers? Walter. Need help installing and running software X? Walter.

There is so much more I could say about Walter, but some stories are better half-told. For who knows, someday I will run out of stories to tell and I will remember Walter and dedicate another blogpost to him.

He was one of the first to get interested in the mobile apps development craze. Long before we woke up from our theoretical haze (comp science can be very theoretical), he had developed a J2ME app for this and that.

Recently, he was among the students selected for the Java ME training by Nokia. I can’t wait to see his app on the Ovi Store. Tomorrow, Tuesday 28 June, they graduate from their training. I have been invited by Nokia as a blogger, but that is not the reason I am skipping class to attend the event at The Hilton.

The reason is Wally B. Congratulations mon ami!

P.S.

You can follow him on twitter

G4S No Limits Graduate Recruitment Program

Recently, I bumped into a friend who, after congratulating me for joining the Safaricom Academy, asked me why I did not spread the word. When I was applying, it was one day to the deadline so maybe I did not have the time to put up a post informing all those interested.

So anyway, G4S is recruiting fresh graduates for their program. You will not work at G4S exactly, but G4S will do the training then hand you over to “a blue-chip global business environment in diverse areas”.

If you cannot attend the event at JKUAT on Wednesday, you can still apply online here.

Dear students,

On behalf of G4S, I would like to invite you to a university activation campaign for their “G4S No Limits Graduate Recruitment Program”. The activation event is scheduled to take place at JKUAT Juja campus onWednesday 8th June 2011 from 1:00p.m. This event is open only to students in their final year or those about to graduate.

G4S is offering fantastic opportunities for successful candidates to work in a blue-chip global business enironment in diverse areas. Attached please find the activation poster and a flier giving further details about the program and details on online application. [send me an email if you want the poster] . Application closes 30th June and trainings are to begin in July 2011.

Ksh.30,000 up for grabs for those attending the event on 8th June at the Juja campus.

You are encouraged to share this mail with friends other students in the graduating class.

See you there!

Technology and I

Warning: this post might be long

Many have asked why the name Savvy Kenya? Well, a few years back I wanted to be computer savvy. When I was in high school I studied computer studies dropping French in the process. I just couldn’t deal with pronouncing r as eerrrrgh! Like it’s something disgusting! I remember doing my form four project in Pascal, and the days when we’d make the console beautiful by displaying green/yellow text on the black background. There was no internet connection in the labs those days, so there was no place to copy paste code from! How things have changed in just over 5 years!

We were only six of us taking computer studies, and we’d spend lots of time in the lab, experimenting with the console while playing Mario Mike, Dangerous Dave and Pacman. If you never played these games you’ll never know the joy of real gaming!

Image from guestgarden.com

So after form four, I finally got an email address. That was in 2006, the same year I got my Safaricom line which I retain to this date (you know the trials and tribulations of Kuhama, I could write a book about this). Of course those days, it was all about Yahoo!.com. If you needed to join Gmail you needed an invite. I became a frequenter on Yahoo! Answers where I called myself Comp Savvy.

I started blogging in 2007 when I met this guy on whose programming ground I worshipped. He could code in all the languages I knew and he had a really funny blog. He’s the one who sent me an invite to Gmail. Anyway, in May 2007 I was finally admitted as a regular student at JKUAT to do BSc. Computer Science and started blogging about my campus life in 2008. I still used the name Savvy but someone at wordpress already had that ID so I chose savvy08.

I joined Facebook, but it has never really caught on with me. When I did join twitter in 2009, I found someone already using Savvy as their username so I decided Savvy Kenya. Well, enough history. So, am I really computer savvy?

Booksmart Vs Streetsmart

When you go to study computer science in university, you go to learn the mathematics and the science behind computers. You learn about how the first computers were designed on pen and paper theoretically long before the technology to build them was created (think Turing Machine). You learn to understand how operating systems work, how to evaluate the running time of an algorithm (big O notations and such) etc. To assist you in visualizing all this you have to do a number of mathematical units including Calculus, numerical linear algebra, scientific computing, probability and statistics etc.

You’ll be introduced to the basics of everything- computer technology is a wide and growing field- so you’ll be introduced to the mother(s) of all current programming languages- C, C++ and Java. If you’re doing IT, Visual Basic (got to make it soft for the er… I better not complete this). You’ll get to know networking concepts, hardware (switches, routers) and software(protocols). You’ll be given the basics in databases and you might be given an assignment in Ms Access (who uses that anymore?). No, you will not be taught Ms Word, try XYZetech College maybe.

After this, you will be given at least 3 hours per unit to do your lab work. For most students, they will take the time to look for the latest website that will allow them to bypass the proxy server so they can log onto Facebook. For a few, they will sit down and do some assignments. Some will Google, copy, paste and run the code.

Usually, university work is 90% theoretical. Assignments (if and when marked) carry only 10%. The continuous assessment tests (which you write on pen and paper) are about 20% of your final and the final written exam is 70%.

Should this system change? Should students learn more practical stuff so that they can be ready for the industry out there? Are there people who score highly in exams yet cannot do anything practical? What about modern technologies, should they be incorporated into the curriculum?

Incorporating modern technologies into the curriculum in university is like writing a book in Sheng. In a few years, it will be obsolete. So they syllabus should be based on the ‘science and mathematics’ behind computers, subject to regular revision, of course.

Should students learn more practical stuff? Yes. I would suggest the practical assignments be made to contribute at least 40% of the final score. Do away with CATs instead and let students do projects. Let them do their own research and develop a new method/application/anything useful.

Are there people who score highly in exams yet cannot do anything practical? Is the reverse possible?
Yes on both accounts. There are people who get first class honours degrees but cannot code and do not know how a crossover and straight through ethernet cable looks like except on paper. There are people that can code in languages like prolog but cannot hold pen and paper straight during exams.

My Advice?

Technology is a field of passion. If you do not have the passion for it, you’re in the wrong field! Unless you want to get stuck giving ‘user support’ to Ms Word users in government offices, I suggest you choose a different career path. If however, you are satisfied with working the phones at an ISP then go and do your Diploma in IT in peace :)

Does it have to be coding?

No. There are many computer-related jobs out there that do not require your coding. They however, need your brilliance, creativity and analytical skills. Database administrators, network specialists, software engineers (believe it or not, these guys are important), system analysts…. The choice is yours. Just because coding is not your first choice does not mean you suck at computer science!

Is Computer Science and IT the same thing?

It’s like saying Landscape Architecture and plain old Architecture are the same thing. Ask an Arch student in JKUAT and they’ll explain the difference to you. It’s like saying a Mercedes Benz and a Toyota are the same, iPhone 3Gs and IDEOS U8150 are the same thing. I could give you more examples but by now you get the difference. If you don’t you’re an IT graduate. IT graduates help users understand systems that computer science graduates develop. IT graduates install the OS, comp science graduates build the OS.

That’s not how it works in real life though! In the IT field, it’s a level playing ground. As I said, passion will get you anywhere.

So What About Me?

No, I am not totally clueless when it comes to coding. I understand all the intricate stuff. Trouble is, when in school, I did the minimum I needed to do to pass (okay, so I got all As in my math units). I mean I didn’t go the extra mile to learn stuff outside the coursework. I have a basic understanding of a number of languages but I am not a pro (for now) in any. I needed to find my niche. Will I specialize in network programming? Web programming? Mobile programming? Should I branch into networks? Databases? Security (na si G4S)?

Then this course chose me. I made a hurried application last minute and here I am!

I proved myself on paper when I got a first class honours degree. I did make a 2D game (desktop) for my final year project in Java and here, click to download and play it for yourself I hope you learn/remind yourself of some HIV/AIDS info from the background images.

It seems I am headed into the field of Mobile Programming (and telecoms in general) and this time, I go hard. Look out!

A Student Again, but Campus Girl?

So I am a student again. I started a Master of Science degree in Telecommunication and Innovation Development. I’m sure you’ve never heard of it before, lie to me and say you have! It’s a new course started at Strathmore University in partnership with the Safaricom Academy. It’s offered on scholarship and I couldn’t turn this opportunity down.

This is certainly different from undergraduate! I was excited to be going to campus back then! I was going to be a part of the young and exciting group of campus girls. I was going to do all I wanted to do: such is the freedom in a public university in Kenya. You can attend classes whenever you feel like. You can wear what you want, when and how. You can choose to stay up all night and sleep during the day. You can choose to drink all your school feels. You can choose to get pregnant and ask your friends where to get an abortion. You can choose to keep the baby. You can choose to join the puff puff pass guys who never seem to get any sleep.

There are rules in public universities, but it’s like all are meant to be broken. The only rule is not to get caught! In short, you have the freedom to do whatever you want… including studying and passing well. You can decide you want to get a first class honours degree and get it. You can decide you don’t want academic honours but practical knowledge. If you’re in computer science/IT you know what I’m talking about.

That was what being a campus girl was all about. About having fun and studying when you take a break from that. I was young and carefree.

Now? Not so much.

The general plan was to get a job before finishing campus, work for a few months before moving out, work for a year then go somewhere like Oxford/MIT for a masters degree.

Then I got this scholarship and it’s a full-time course for the first few months. There are definitely many differences between my alma mater, JKUAT and Strathmore University. I will be blogging about my life as a student again, but I think I did all the crazy stuff I needed to do as an undergraduate!

Here is what I don’t like so far:

Commuting:
If this is what people who work 8-5 jobs go through everyday, I’m not looking forward to that! My commuting day is 5-8!
I have to be up at 5am if I am to make it to school by 8am, and when I leave at 5pm, I arrive home at 8pm! I spend at least 4 hours daily on the road, what a waste! Hopefully, I will move nearer SU soon. I cannot wake up early in the morning to do any meaningful work, and by the time I get home in the evening, I’m too tired to do anything constructive. I wonder what time I will have to study!

Did I mention classes are Monday to Saturday? And strictly the whole day. Attendance is compulsory.

In JKUAT, I lived within the campus… and classes were spaced out widely between Monday and Friday. Never had a Saturday class!

Apart from time spent in traffic to and from school, there is also the matatu woes. I should do a post on this. Matatus are Kenya’s main form of public transport.

A matatu in Nairobi. Image from wordpulse.com

Dress Code

So SU has a dress code. All clothing must be fit loosely. Emphasis is on loose. Skirts’ hemlines should be below knees. No sleeveless tops. No jeans. No rubber shoes/slippers. Etc. There is a fashion cop whose work is to stare at you (and all you got) and decide if what you’re wearing is inappropriate. So I wore my most decent clothes.. even went ahead and bought new ones.

So far I’ve been turned away once, my trouser being “too tight” and on another occasion got a warning, my skirt too “short”. I’m learning to adapt.

Back in my undergraduate days, anything goes. You could wear bathroom slippers and pajamas to class. I shall miss those days.

Small campus
SU has many buildings all in a small space. It’s not really their fault, there is no land in Nairobi! I just miss the wide spaces, trees, grass, paths that was in the main campus of JKUAT. You could take walks (to as far as the farm) to clear your head, sort out issues with a friend, bond with a lover etc.

Rules, rules, rules
Here, rules are set and they have to be followed. Do not hug too tightly, male and female should not hold hands (!), rules of etiquette, punctuality and attendance.. almost like being in high school again! I can’t complain though, I’m done being a renegade!

What I like so far:

Professionalism/Politeness
You know how government workers are stingy and rude with information? How serving you feels like they are doing you a favour? Workers here are polite and helpful. Most of the time.

Internet and Electricity
They must have a back up generator for the electricity, I’ve never even seen the lights flicker! This was a daily thing back in Juja! The internet is fast and stable most of the time.

Free Food
So in addition to the free tuition, we get free tea breaks and lunches at the cafeteria. Good food. No need to resort to vibandas (roadside shacks) for cheaper meals!

So remind me to do posts on matatus and coding later.

From Rwanda to Kenya: The Journey Back Home

I certainly had a grand exit from Rwanda (meeting the president and all), one I fear I may not be able to match elsewhere. I was on a six-week internship in Rwanda which extended to eight weeks, but I do hope to go back and continue what I was doing. Working on the logistics right now. I might also get an offer to be a teaching assistant at my alma mater (JKUAT) since you know, I got a first class honours degree. Currently, I’m in Nairobi on a short holiday (another word for jobless).

The Horrible Bus to Kampala

I was leaving Musanze town, where I’d been staying, for Kampala through the border at Cyanika. I asked around for a bus that leaves for Kampala and was directed to Horizon. I went early to book the bus. I suppose I should have seen the warning signs when they told me you can’t book a day early, you have to book on the day you were leaving. The office was outside on the verandah of a building facing the Musanze Market.

So I booked at noon for my 4.30pm bus. Check-in time: 4pm. I was there at about 5 minutes past four with all my luggage, with Julie and Val and the other Val there to see me off. The bus was nowhere in sight. We waited till 4.30 and still the bus was not there. I thought when they said the bus leaves at 4.30 it means it leaves at 4.30, passengers arrive earlier at 4 so they can settle.

Finally, at almost five, the bus came speeding round a corner. It came to a stop right in front of us and I rushed in so I could secure a good seat. See, when booking you don’t choose a seat number, it’s a scram for any good seats like it was in the old times in Kenya.

When I got onto the bus, I was dismayed! There were five seats per row: 2-isle-3 seat arrangement. The seats were old and looked uncomfortable. The floor of the bus was dirty and rusty, with holes in some places. The seats had no armrests, the seatbelts were dysfunctional and dirty or missing altogether. Any hope that the seats could recline so I could snatch some sleep on the 10 hour journey were dashed. I feared I’d fall off my seat if I dozed… there was not much space and as I mentioned, no armrests/seatbelts to keep you in your seat!

The bus was not full so I could have the 2-seater to myself. I had a lot of luggage, which I had to keep in the bus because you cannot be assured of the security of your luggage. Soon, I was hugging my friends in Rwanda bye and the bus took off.

It stopped a few kilometers out of town to pick up more passengers. This we did all night! Picking and dropping off passengers in-the-middle-of-nowhere kind of towns.

I was gloomy, staring out at Muhabura (volcano that is part of the Virunga massif) as it loomed closer and closer. We were approaching the Cyanika border, just 25Km from Musanze. At the border, the money changers were enticing me and I wanted to change part of my money into Ugandan Shillings. It was very confusing though; new currency confuses me! Not forgetting I had not yet cleared with immigration on both sides and the custom officials searching luggage. I was in a panic! I told the money changer that once everything was settled, I’d look for him.

I had no trouble getting my Rwanda exit/Uganda entry stamps on my travel document. I got back to the bus to find all my luggage in a heap outside, just like the rest of the passengers. I opened my bags for a Ugandan customs official who confirmed I was not smuggling any contraband. Now I had the daunting task of getting my luggage back in the bus!

I started with my suitcase, trying to lag it up the steps of the bus. Two small boys who were hawking water to the passengers in the bus noticed my struggle and offered to help. They put their bottles aside and carried my suitcase in, plus my other heavy bag. I gave them all the Rwandese currency I had left, about $5. They thanked me profusely and wished me a safe journey. I asked them their names: Alex Moses and his friend (can’t remember his name). Their beautiful faces stuck with me. I smiled for the first time since leaving Rwanda. My only regret is that I did not have a camera with me at the time.

I eventually changed my money, trying to get accustomed to the Ugandan notes. I gave up the seat next to mine as the bus filled up on the way. It got dark as we went up and down the hills; Western Uganda is quite hilly. The road was being repaired but there were bad sections where I felt as if we were going to topple off the hill. Worse, the driver was driving way over the speed limit, slowing down only to take sharp corners. I remembered there were no seatbelts and kept hoping we don’t crash. Outside, it was a clear beautiful night. The moon was casting a soft shadow on the hills, which looked like mountains in the night. The stars shone brilliantly. I remember thinking it was a beautiful night to die(!). Sometimes I lost sight of the moon as we drove on one side of a steep hill and at that time, the stars looked like motherless children: sad and forlorn.

I dozed off sometime later after midnight. I slept on and off until we arrived in Kampala at five in the morning. The conductor told us to get off the bus but no one was budging, we were all waiting for it to be light. I did not want to spend another minute in the horrible bus and took a cab to my friend’s place in a hostel near Makerere University.

In Kampala

Kampala was just the opposite of Musanze. Musanze is a quiet, beautiful town; clean and cool. In fact when I left, it was raining.

Kampala was hot and dusty! It felt like being in Kenyan coast only without the redeeming quality of sunny beaches and an endless ocean view. I dreaded going out in the scorching sun and dusty streets, where cars competed with motorbikes for space on the roads. The passenger-carrying motorbikes- boda bodas- sometimes drove the wrong way on one-way roads. You don’t know ‘dangerous’ until you’ve taken a boda boda in downtown Kampala, without a helmet!

If wearing helmets for both the passenger and the rider is a law in Rwanda (which it is), then there must be a law forbidding helmets in Kampala. Maybe it’s the heat, I don’t blame them. The 24hr protection advertised by Nivea deodorant lasted only 1hr, tops!

I stayed in Kampala for about 3 days, doing what young people do to pass time.

The Luxury Bus to Nairobi

Easy Coach is easily the most luxurious bus I’ve ever taken. It’s not just comfortable, it’s luxurious. Akamba is comfortable. So are the coast-plying buses from Nairobi. Easy Coach to-and-from Kampala is luxurious.

The bus was there when we arrived at 5.25p.m. and departure time was 6pm. I had booked the previous day and chosen a seat in the singles column. The bus has just three seats per row: 1-isle-2 seat arrangement. The floor of the bus was shiny and clean, the area under the seats carpeted. There was a bag-thingy at the back of the seat in front of me so I didn’t have to hold my handbag and food-to-eat-on-the-bus on my lap. There was plenty of space and the seatbelts worked. The seat could recline all the way back until you are almost horizontal. There were footrests that you could lower/raise. I sighed with pleasure.

Luggage was checked and labeled. There would be no stopovers to pick random passengers on the way so luggage was safe till we arrived in Nairobi. I hugged my friends goodbye and got onto the bus. I waved at them till we turned a corner and joined Kampala traffic. The sun was setting and I was reading Charles Onyango-Obbo’s book: Uganda’s Poorly Kept Secrets.

Before we took off (at 6pm on the dot), the guy who had been labeling our luggage handed us cold bottled water. Compliments of Easy Coach.

As I was getting comfortable; adjusting my seatbelt, reclining and pulling up my seat, raising and lowering the footrests; I noticed some buttons overheard. One was drawn on it the G-clef (I remember my brief music lessons in primary school) and I pressed it. Nothing happened. Two were for the individual overhead lights, these worked. One bright, one dim. On another button was a steaming cup of tea. I didn’t press it: I’m not an idiot. It may have been first class, but it was still a bus!

I had an interesting conversation with the guy in the seat ahead of me. On my two-month stay in Rwanda, I had to use correct grammar so I could be understood. Now some guys I meet are telling me I don’t sound Kenyan. Sample some parts of our conversation with the guy:

“Me I am telling you…”

“I had used that ka-machine of mine sijui for like for 6 six years.”

“Otherwise me I think night runners are just shy nudists.”

I’m definitely back in Kenya.

Leaving For Kampala

As I write this, am packing and unpacking and repacking. I’ve sat on the suitcase and finally managed to have it closed. Now I have to figure how the rest of my stuff is going to fit into other two small bags. The situation looks hopeless. To get away from this depressing mood, I’m thinking of motorcycles. My current wallpaper (desktop background) is a picture of the kind of bikes used at the 30th edition of the Dakar Rally. [Google it.]

 

The bike used in the Dakar rally, super cool, eh?
The bike used in the Dakar rally, super cool, eh?

On my list of things I want to achieve this year: Learn how to ride a motorbike. Check. Learn French, next target. When I get back to Nairobi, I’m applying for a motorbike license. Some are still asking me, why a bike?

I’ve been trying to explain how I’m trying to be unique. Graduation may not be for another three months, but when it finally arrives, most of my fellow graduands will be arriving for the rehearsal ceremony in borrowed/begged/rented/stolen cars to impress. I, on the other hand, will be on a motorcycle, which is way cooler and more impressive not to mention different.

Nonetheless, my motorcycle lessons were interesting. To start with, there was no theory and even if there was, I don’t think I would have understood much of my teacher’s Congolese Kiswahili. So here are the parts of the motorcycle as I understand them:

Umbriage: (I hope I have spelled it correctly, that is how it is pronounced): I suppose this is the clutch. Located on the left handlebar, you have to hold it when shifting gears and release it so you can shoot forward. Which is what I’ve been doing when I’m starting up the bike. You’re supposed to release the clutch slowly so you can leave smoothly but I usually let go so fast, the bike almost leaves me behind. Takes practice though and am almost getting the hang of it.

The Tia Moto Thing: Usually on the right handlebar, it’s the part that gives you power so you can accelerate. The vroom vroom part just before you leave. Accelerators on bikes have a different name though, am sure. Too lazy to google. It’s easily my favorite part of the bike. Vroom vroom!

Honi: the horn. At first I was honking all the time, because most people you find on the road don’t move out of the way. No matter how much you honk. So I’ve learned to just honk a little warning so they don’t make any sudden movements and then I’m the one who moves out of their way!

The brake: I find it easier to stop by stepping on the break instead of down-shifting until you stop, though stepping on the break shuts down the bike so you have to kick-start it into life again.
The lights of the bike I was using to learn were not working so I was just shown theoretically using my imagination. I have to remember to use the left side of the road in Kenya because in Rwanda they drive on the right.

I don’t know many other parts of the motorbike but I suppose that’s what mechanics are for, no? But… that’s what the internet is there for. Or is there a good book on motorbikes that anyone can recommend?

The day I was able to ride on my own, turning corners, starting and stopping, was my best day of learning. There was no teacher behind me, just me and the bike. Sometimes they’d shout instructions when am passing by: shift gears, sit properly (they want me to sit relaxed but I’m usually too tense, leaning forward wanting to be one with the bike.)

I overpaid for the lessons, I was supposed to have 17 hours in total, one hour daily. These guys came late and left early and missed some days, and we hopelessly tried to make up for the lost lessons. Then they told me that when I’m leaving, I should leave them a present. They gave me an example of someone they had taught who bought one of them a brand new mobile phone. Ha!

In the end though, it was totally worth it.

P.S. Tonight, I’m taking the bus to Kampala. Time to say hi to some friends over there before coming back to Nairobi.

First Class Honours Degree in Computer Science

When I first entered JKUAT, I was determined to get out with a first class honours degree. And I got it! I’ve been walking on air this past week because I’m ecstatic.

What does this mean? It means I get a teaching job at the university as a teaching assistant, a scholarship possibly to do my graduate studies and possibly numerous job offers from top companies with fat cheques. Well, a girl can dream. And I’m definitely a dreamer.

 

First class honours, sweet, yeah?
First class honours, sweet, yeah?

I dream of going to Oxford or MIT. I’m leaning more towards MIT ‘cause they have this Masters Program: Theoretical Computer Science that I’m interested in. That’s the theory behind computers, did you know that the modern computer was thought of, and worked out theoretically, long before there was technology to actually build one? Charles Babbage thought of the computer (analytical engine) in 1822? So I’ll be among the team of the Charles Babbages of the future, get it? (Btw, Ada Lovelace was his assistant. One of the earliest programming languages was named after her. She’s Lord Byron- the poet-‘s daughter.)

Some students have asked for tips for getting a first class honours degree, the trick is simple, get As in every unit. Aspire to get 90% and if you get 70%, that’s still an A. Get more advice here: Savvy’s Guide for Campus Students.

When I was in first year, I was very enthusiastic, I never missed lessons, I woke up early to study, I read ahead, I did research, I did the homework/assignments, never copied etc. I was good girl.

With time, my enthusiasm wavered. It’s only natural, it’s human to lose interest after a while. I read less, skipped more classes, copied assignments (shhh…don’t tell) but I never copied during CATs or exams.

However, I didn’t let my grades slip and I read a lot towards exam time.

During exams, I slept at least 8 good hours. I’m not a last minute readers, so if I had a paper at 8.30 a.m. I’d wake up at 7.30 a.m., have a good breakfast and head to the exam room.

I didn’t cram (most times), cramming is so high school. I understood first. Then if I wanted to, I could cram later so I could write answers word by word. So even if I forget what I crammed, since I understood, I could recall the answers.

Undergraduate studies are more of recall than reasoning. Lecturers don’t have time to create new questions, every question they ask has been asked before. So do your revision well.

First class honours. I’m still wrapping my mind around that. During graduation, my three names will be read! I can’t wait to go for graduation (which is not until June/July), I had told my classmates I’d come vroom vrooming on a motorbike. I’m taking lessons as I write this.

redmotorbike
Well, I dream of something like this.