In Loreto Matunda where I took my first two years of high school, there was a thing called an Offence Book. I don’t recall what the interval was but at a given point, if you found your name 11 or more times in that book, you were ‘gated’. Being “Gated” meant you were not allowed to go out on outings. The deputy who kept track of the books was a stickler and there were times students would be told to step out of the school bus after boarding, just before the bus left for an outing.
Morning preps were always difficult for me, so I was almost always late to class; and for that offence, and occasionally, noise making, I found myself in the offence book several times, often more than the 11. However, I was honestly never that scared of being gated. The only serious extra-curricular thing that took me out of school was football , and sports in general were a special case.
One did not go running laps at 6 a.m, do a whole day’s worth of school work where they excelled, get back to the field in the evening to play some more, only to get stopped from going out on a game to represent the school. And knowing the deputy at the time, I’m sure it wasn’t because his pettiness had a limit after all; I believe that was a fire he knew he was better off not sparking with the coaches.
Loreto Matunda generally sucked on the extra-curricular end, opting to support clubs that were more book inclined such as Science Congress. Drama Club almost started but was quickly snuffed out because the reputation with drama clubs was that it housed the troublesome students and encouraged them to be wild. Not only that, but it was expensive on the school, and basically wasted students’ time when they were better reading for exams.
So football was really it for me. I enjoyed practice almost as much as the games and besides, it was my special pass despite my offences!
The twin lumps in my breasts happened during the holiday before the final term of form two. I was quite happily late to school by a couple of weeks, recuperating after the surgery; and when back to school, doctor’s orders said I was to be exempted from any strenuous activity. I basically didn’t have to do the cleaning duties assigned to everyone, or carry out punishments like moping corridors or slashing grass. It was all quite convenient except for one thing.
Exemption from physical activity also meant I could no longer play football. The coach was aware of this and regardless, it hurt to even do light runs which I tried when he was not around. The reality of my new situation finally sunk after a small game with my teammates, and I truly understood how dangerous it was for a yet-to-heal chest to be in the field with the ball flying around. The fastest way back on the field was by staying off and there was no way around it.
I don’t know how long I took till I could comfortably kick the ball around, but it must have been close to the end of the term, and I was changing schools.
My mum had gotten a transfer to Kilifi, and we needed to move to the coast. I think she was eyeing Matuga Girls which is a school she once taught in, and in the process of looking around the South Coast, she visited Waa Girls whose principal at the time, she was familiar with. It was the fact that I played football however, that really got me in. Waa Girls was (still is) very serious about football.
And so from the very first day, I joined the team!
But it was not the same. First, I was still very protective about my chest. It had probably healed by then but I could no longer go head to head with someone on the field as care freely as before. And the girls in Waa played even more serious football. So I either had to quickly get over the fear of my chest getting squished, or get left behind. And even then, I hated being the weak link. That pressure didn’t help.
Secondly, extra-curricular activities were plenty in Waa Girls and the Drama Club I had been starved of in Loreto, thrived here. I was introduced to it that very first evening by a couple of crazy friends I had made. And so while I went to football practice day after day, I would always make time to watch what the drama club was working on later on. And the more I watched, the more I wanted to be part of it.
The drama patron soon wanted names of truly serious members and I signed up, showing up for more of the evening sessions because there was a roll call to filter out jokers. This however, meant that I sometimes had to skive football practice which happened at that exact time and the coach was not happy about it. When it became obvious that I could not juggle both, he told me to make a choice. While at it however, I was to remember I got a place there to play football.
I chose the drama club.
The practice hours were crazy and I lived for it all especially having come from a school where rules had been so stifling. Of course it helped that I got the small chorus parts behind the curtains. While I had to be on point with cues and deliver what was needed, I was really not under scrutiny as the people on stage were. It was a pleasant place to be majorly because I didn’t have to do the heaviest lifting and I could still go on the outings! And drama outings were an absolute hoot!
That first term, we made it to the Regional Level and lost to better performers. I was super bummed out because the football team did not have a low moment and they were going wherever. I might have been tempted to go back but I didn’t. Football no longer felt like home. Theater did.
That second term, the drama club decided to try out for the music festivals. We got in with a shit ton of performances because with this festival, the more you offered, the higher the chance that some of your stuff would be chosen to go as far as the nationals. And about three did or so of our pieces made it. It was hands down the most fun trip I ever had in high school and there was no going back after that.
Not even when my mum tried to deter me from joining a theater group called Jua Arts, after Form 4. Theater groups after all had (still have) a reputation for encouraging sexual interactions between members. I was really just interested in performing and traveling while at it. Being wooed was something I found extremely annoying and did not entertain, but my mum was none the wiser.
I later moved from Jua Arts to S.A.F.E. Pwani after a successful audition, and got a taste of actually getting paid to act. It is here too that I met a fellow drama club member from high school. We wouldn’t get to perform together though, because my university admission came shortly after I started out in S.A.F.E.
More years later however, I would come to see her on TV. And not just her but yet another fellow drama club member who majorly soloed in traditional dance. They’re both amazing actresses!
I keep seeing and meeting people from past passion projects and it feels like winks from my younger self. Like she’s telling me to keep staying my course because I have been right all along to follow the things I wanted.
I have written about this grant and the film about football that we will shoot by the end of this year. And it gives me such a warm feeling to be in a position where the passion I followed enables me to point the camera towards the passion I dropped. Even knowing I wouldn’t go back to the pitch to play seriously, it feels great to dribble the ball and watch others play, especially when it’s girls.
Now guess what a pleasant shock I got while seeking that football link! Moving The Goalposts (MTG) is an organisation that uses football to empower girls and young women; and having known of them from before, of course I was keen to work with them from the get go. Their communications lead first of all, was extremely welcoming of the idea, and while out on a match she invited me to watch, it was right there that I randomly met a football mate from Waa Girls. She holds a post in MTG.
If I were religious…