By Jude Mutuma
Nairobi is proud, noisy and arrogant. It wants, demands, that everyone know its name. It powders its face and wears eyeliner and bright red lipstick and walks in noisy six inch heels so everyone knows when it walks by. You cannot ignore Nairobi. If you tried, it would walk up to you, pinch your nose and tell you “you should know people.”
Sagana is quite the opposite. Sagana is calm and introspective. It is a shy, quiet place that is content with just being there. Not too quick to announce its presence. When you pass by, it blushes and waves from a distance with an almost uncertain smile. Then it goes back to its business. Undisturbed.
Which is probably why, Sagana for me was always little more than a name. I knew it only because I always zoom past it on my way to and from Shagz. There was nothing special about the place, no oomph that would leave a mark in my mind. All I knew about Sagana was that. Its name.
Up until Ascent camp weekend came up.
My first ever camping experience found me at Camp Malta, Sagana, on the 9th and 10th of July, 2016. I was there alongside about 65 other cool people as part of the JKUAT Ascent leadership program (I will talk about that in a bit), and it was nothing short of memorable. For me, it was a weekend of many firsts.
Ascent is this program that is all about creating a new crop of leaders that will be accountable; to God, to themselves and to the world. A crop of people that will redefine our country’s idea of what leadership is. A set of leaders that will shun greed; the one biggest vice that has become accepted as norm in almost every aspect of our society. A crop of leaders who will have greater good rather than selfish interests as their motivating factor. Something is broken in the system, and someone needs to fix it.
The program has opened me up to new experiences, made me meet new and amazing people, challenged my way of thinking, taught me how to be part of and work well in a team, and presented me with difficult tasks that have pushed me outside my comfort zone.
The moment we arrived they took away our phones and, for me, it sort of felt like they had left me naked. It was my first time in a very long time to stay a whole weekend without my phone. We have allowed electronics to consume such a huge part of our lives that we probably wouldn’t know how to survive without them. Our phones have become our watches, our novels, our teachers, our shops, our cameras, our notebooks, our diaries, our doctors, perhaps even our best friends.
At camp, we were split into teams of 8 and involved in various team building activities that were really challenging, really tiresome but oh so much fun! Some of the activities sounded really unreasonable, if not impossible (like when they asked us to fill three buckets full of water with just our bare hands), but we succeeded in completing each of the tasks, and there was an underlying lesson to each.
I do not know exactly what made the #AscentX camp so memorable for me. Perhaps it was the tiresome day 1 that culminated in a candlelit dinner accompanied with really awesome music.
Or the skits presented by each team after dinner that had the audience in stitches.
Or maybe it was the bonfire. I think it was the bonfire. Something about that fire allowed people to set their spirits loose, to forget themselves and just dance, dance, dance, like it was their calling. Like it is the only thing they were born to do.
Sidebar 2: Did you know that you cannot charge your phone using an electric fence?
Then came the duf mpararo on day 2. My first time swimming in a river. It was almost surreal, the way people went all carefree and splashed themselves, splashed other people with water and just laughed their hearts out. The way others opted to bask on the rocks and enjoy the breathtaking view. God is an artist. A peerless one.
To cap off the camp we had a session in our groups where each of us shared our timelines; how far we’ve come and what it took to get here, our life stories, our little joys and our big joys, our little disappointments and our massive heartbreaks, the events that have made us and broken us. I listened to each of their stories, got sucked into each of their lifelines and I saw God. I saw God in the hints of tears in their eyes as they recounted painful memories, in the little moments of laughter when they narrated funny experiences. It was a life-altering experience, sharing my story and listening as my teammates narrated their journeys, unburdened their spirits, reminding me of a verse from one of my favorite songs.
For once, there is nothing up my sleeve
Just some scars from a life that used to trouble me
I used to run at first sight of the sun
Now I lay here waiting for you to wake up.
Fun – Sight of the Sun
Story done by Jude Mutuma, an Ascent 10 trainee.
Photography by Yobes Mathai & George Munge.