Hostel washrooms

I still blame Blue Mountain State for making me have such weird expectations about college life. Partying and drinking all night, loud music, and the entire hullabaloo. While for some people, campus life is pretty much about all the above, plus a bit of studying for assignments (read copy-pasting from Wikipedia), there is very little else to write home about.

If you have lived in a Kenyan public university hostel, then you can relate with this article. By now someone should’ve come up with a reality TV show dubbed “Survivor Series: UoN Hostel edition”. When I was filling out the rigorous application for accommodation at the university premises, I expected to find something similar or better to the conditions I was accustomed to in boarding school.

Life in the hostels is a matter of survival for the fittest, a jungle of some sort. Hazards riddle the premises left right and centre. At first, you are horrified, but as the months and years go by, you get used to the environs, however old, rickety, and filthy.

You learn that the sinks provided for brushing teeth can also double up as kitchen sinks for washing your utensils. And you learn to ignore the “leave the sink clean” notice stuck on the mirror. The previous person left it dirty, why should I clean it? And the sink floods and the dirty waters flood the entire floor. And when this happens, you learn to wade through it or silently move downstairs in search of a cleaner sink.

How the school expects 50 people to share 4 bathrooms and 1 toilet is beyond my imagination. But hostel life teaches you not to complain, leave that for the activists. You learn to shower carefully and to make calculated bends, twists, and turns so that your skin doesn’t touch the gross bathroom walls. Who knows what diseases you could contract? And you learn to turn a blind eye to the used pads that some uncouth ladies leave in the bathroom, selective vision.

See, the best thing about hostel life is that it teaches one patience and tolerance. You master the art of slapping irritating people in your mind, never uttering a word. You learn to live with the most annoying of people. After all, it’s only for a short while, it’s all temporary.

You learn that the pungent smell emanating from the omena that your roommate so loves to cook won’t kill you much as you feel like puking your heart out. You learn to live with people’s loud shrill Jezebel kind of laughter. Whoever brought them up though? Didn’t their mothers teach them that decent women aren’t supposed to laugh like that? And you learn to put on your earphones and turn the volume up once you begin hearing the bed creak and squeak next door.

You learn to eavesdrop on people’s conversations without caving into the urge to comment. Silent listener. Sometimes you wish the walls were a bit thicker so you won’t have to hear some conversations. You have no choice. It’s all temporary; soon you shall be done with the system.

Hostel life teaches you a lot, more than you can ever learn in any class. You become a hands-on electrician once your bulb blows out or your socket burns. You learn that your cooker will still work perfectly when you connect it to the live wires, who needs a socket anyway? And even though you get electric shocks once in a while, you won’t die. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

You are taught to be generous, albeit forcefully at times. You learn that even if you don’t borrow people's stuff; they will still borrow your things. So why not jump on the bandwagon as well? But eventually, you discover that not all people are careful with other people’s properties. You single those ones out and life moves on.

See, it is all like a village. There are the occasional village drunks that get high and start screaming and disturbing the peace of other residents. There are those responsible people that will pick dirt after others. And there are those who make it their business to dis-possess others of their possessions. Gossips, hawkers, preachers’ et al. All of them co-exist in the hostel.

Much as hostel life seems like a huge obstacle, it can be enjoyable if you think about it in a different light. Where else will you get free water, electricity, and accommodation at such a minimum fee?

They say life is what you make of it. Some things you have control over, others you don’t. The best thing is to embrace those you cannot control and make the most out of them.
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