The Journey

A Diary of my Pursuit of Life\’s Best

Ahem!

“As playing the role of grammarian in my Toastmasters club has taught me, clarity is key.  Plus, you gain your listeners ’attention and respect through the substance of what you say.  I once attended a litigation seminar given by a trial lawyer.  He ‘ummed’ over 160 times in a 15-minute presentation (a rate of more than 10 ‘ums’ per minute, which was distracting.  All I could think about was, ‘Is he this bad when appearing before the
United States Securities and Exchange Commission?’  He got my attention, but for all the wrong reasons.  And I can’t remember anything he said.”
 

We can all empathise with Nina Kaufman, a member of the SEC Roughriders Toastmasters chapter in
New York City.  Surely, having to listen to such a speaker is the saddest thing that can happen to any audience!  Can you imagine what it would feel like to be part of that audience?  Of course you can!  You’ve been there, I’ve been there, we’ve all been there.  The worst part about it is that because you are a Toastmaster, verbal crutches stick out like a sore thumb.  So you begin to count them, and fervently wish that you were in a Toastmasters session where you can tap against the glass.  And then you begin to get tired of counting.  You get restless … chaffed … finally, you say to yourself, “If I hear one more um, I’ll SCREAM!!!”  Then you smile to yourself, because at that moment, the speaker wraps up his presentation.  Talk about impeccable timing.  He seems to have read your mind!!!
 

Having been in similar situations and hated the experience, why do we limp through our speeches, table topics, reports, conversations?  Why have verbal crutches continued to rear their ugly heads in our lives and Toastmasters sessions? 

I say it’s because we are lazy!  Verbal crutches are to speech what erasers are to writing.  The more complacent you are with an assignment, the more likely you are to make mistakes, and the more likely you are to use an eraser.  So it is with speaking.  As long as we are not completely focused on the speaking assignment at hand, we are bound to use pause fillers. 

But we continue to justify our use of them.  “I was caught off-guard,” we say.  “I don’t know the first thing about buying a house.”  We call the spade a big spoon again and again and again.  The truth is, if any of these excuses were acceptable, we would have more than 100 ums in a 2-hour Toastmasters session.  But we don’t.  On a bad day, we have 25.  Why?  Because at Toastmasters we are accountable.  And so we think before we speak, and use the eloquent pause to emphasise our statements.  We recall past events, and from the museums of our memories, we come up with responses.  We celebrate our progress from nervous crutch-filled utterances to catchy, crutch-free speeches! 

And then we forget and short-change the rest of our audiences.  We fail to rehearse our presentations as we should and either read through them, or fumble through them.  We accept the applause when we are declared ‘Best Speaker’ at the event.  But should we?  Better than the rest is not good enough!  As long as we have confined ourselves to the comfort zones of our speaking, we are guilty of embracing the enemy called average. 

The secret to eloquence lies in exposure.  The more we read, the greater our ideas.  The more we write, the greater our command of language.  The more we speak, the greater our confidence.  The more passionate we become about our topics, the less our ums.  Finally, the more we practise, the closer we get to perfection. 

Because man is a creature of habit, Toastmasters is not enough for eloquence.  There are approximately 488 waking hours per month for every Toastmaster.  Toastmasters accounts for only 4 of them, and what we do with the other 484 determines our command of the lectern.  Crutch-free speaking must be a constant pursuit.  Otherwise we will be wasting our time, our subscriptions and other Toastmasters’ time.

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April 16, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Turning the Pages

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 

I continue to grow – in my speech, my thoughts and my reasoning. Over the years, I have learnt that some things remain constant, some things change and others remain constant as they help you to change. One such thing is reading. When I was younger, I sat in with the Secret Seven as they devised their plans. I remembered the passwords and savoured the meals. I got angry when they got caught and exhaled with relief when they didn’t. I believed that a circle of salt would protect me from witches and sorcerers, and toyed with fantasies of riding on broomsticks. As I grew, Nancy Drew taught me about the Morse Code. I learnt how to look for clues in seemingly ordinary situations, and that locks could be picked using a nail file. I felt the adrenaline rush as we ran from criminals, or raced against time to save a life. I felt the frustration of reaching a dead end, and hit the roof, when our enemies got the upper hand. I became
Elizabeth in Sweet Valley High, and fought fiercely with my twin sister, Jessica, who was every bit beautiful as she was bossy. I read Sweet Dreams and wanted to fall in love. On some occasions, I found my stomach in knots as I met the captain of the football team. His smile took my breath away and left me tongue tied! I fell in love … I fell out of love … I got my heart broken, and wept with heartache.
 

I dared to dream of what life was like for the characters in my books. I tried to live these dreams and learnt that it was only through my imagination that I could be in those places. So I let my mind wander and wrote stories of my own, where my dreams came alive and my fantasies were within reach. I rode the rollercoaster of emotions as the lives of my characters took form. I felt courage, when they dared to dream, bliss when their dreams came true and frustration when their expectations crumbled to pieces. I captivated my audiences with the weaving of my words – and received applause when they encountered A Twist in the Tale. Then, my horizons were only limited by my vocabulary and the world was mine. When I grew older, I met Dr Ben Carson. I felt the disillusionment when he was young and unable to perform well in school. I celebrated success and love with him as he grew older, and held my breath as he performed delicate and grueling operations. I grappled with exhaustion and uncertainty as he did, and rejoiced when his patients recovered! With each book I read, my mind was exposed to new ideas and I felt my frontiers expand. I journeyed and rested, I rose and fell. I had wisdom and experience beyond my years, and was able to savour many instances of intelligent conversation. 

Then I joined Toastmasters and found the complement to my reading. I heard Ewart paint pictures of captivating soccer, and Millie weave story book scenes into a story of her own. Kari unveiled her knowledge of wine and her mastery of language, and Matu took us from bungee jumping to polishing shoes.
Eureka! I had found the place where the rubber meets the road. No more fumbling for words – no more struggling to speak! This was where I would learn from those who read more than I did.
  Six years after my first Toastmasters experience, I have discovered the thrill of speaking and rediscovered the exhilaration of reading. I have stumbled upon gems like Purple Hibiscus, in which Kambili’s fanatic father drives his children to the heights of love in some instances, and loathe in others. I have laughed at Frank McCourt’s humorous accounts of a trying childhood in Angela’s Ashes and been amazed that his experiences did not break, but build him. In the Alchemist,
Santiago’s journey challenged me to follow my heart and read the omens strewn along the path of life.
 I am also excited, because I am looking forward to reading James Frey’s controversial book, A Million Little Pieces. I want to learn from him as he dines and dances with the demons of addiction, is imprisoned by them and struggles against them. I am hopeful that his story will challenge me to listen more and judge less – because in every story, whether fictional or true, there is a lesson, and it is better learnt through the lives of others. 

Today I am who I am because of my experiences and the experiences of others. I am stronger because of their weaknesses and wiser because of their mistakes. Finally, I am hopeful because as long as there are words, and there are people, there will always be a good mind, a good story and a good book, where the two finally meet.

March 28, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Signs that the man has got to go

Heh!

Hata kama it’s no pain, no gain, sometimes the pain is too much! In the course of learning the blogging ropes, I inadvertently deleted my previous post, titled as above. Unfortunately, that has also been the only post that I had not saved on soft copy anywhere, so I will give my memory a go, and hope it suffices.

  1. His behaviour puts you off the first time around 
  2. You don’t like the man he is when he has lost his temperature (read temper) 
  3. The good times are great, but they only come by once in a very green moon
  4. He hits you
  5. You only stay because things between you are better than they were with your ex
  6. You often compare yourself against other women in his life
  7. He makes you cry
  8. You’re headed in different directions
  9. You often compromise
  10. He has some bad habits that you can’t stand

This post is more than 1 year old. It’s time I published!!!!

March 28, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

No free lunch

It’s been a while since I last blogged … and as a result, I’ve been suffering my fair share of blogger’s block. However, as many of you know, what is probably the quickest and most effective remedy is visiting other blogs and stealing ideas from other posts. After all, isn’t that what blogging is about? Creating conversation, controversy and any other relevant word that may start with c?

Anywho, I happened to read the perfect post – and should, at this point, say that I think one 0.5 deserves kudos for his thoughts on the above issue.

There is no better way to put it that my high school principal always did, “When you play with fire, you get burnt.” That’s how simple it is, and as I like to say, life is very often very simple, but very many times we like to pretend that it isn’t, and the solutions to our problems are written in a code that only we can decipher when we want to. The truth, however, is that life is very fair, and as a result, the fire that you play with will burn you with the same intensity that it did its previous victims.

Now, that having been said, why do we as human beings have such a high propensity to believe that this fair game will deal us a better hand than other people when faced with a similar dilemma? I know … I’ve been there myself. It could happen in any situation:
You don’t study for an exam, you hope to pass
You move in with a man/woman who hasn’t put at least one ring on your finger and you expect them to leave when you’re out of their mix
Or, as 0.5 says, you enjoy the lunch every day for as long as you aren’t incurring costs and want to make a mad dash for it at the first sign of a bill?

I need to know … are we growing up at all? Is there any hope that we as the next generation of leaders will learn from our mistakes and those who have gone before us and take the necessary responsibility for our actions?

Or is this a lost cause? Are we eternally damned to the repercussions of our apparently infinite folly?

May 31, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Paddy Aende

Mama always says, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I agree.

Now, if you are a politician and you must speak in public, then you must realise that these words bear more weight for you than for the rest of Kenyan folk. How, then, can one Hon. Paddy Ahenda be so bold as to talk about women as creatures and make a joke of such a thing as rape?

Rape is a serious issue, and as such, it must not be trivialised by anyone who thinks there is opportunity to make an attempt at humour.

I do not disagree with a lot of people who have alluded to the fact that his comment is not necessarily individual, but rather a mindset of many men, judging even by the numbers of male MP’s who attended the Bill’s Introductory Seminar.

In this category I will also classify a certain MP who thought it more important to debate on the CDF allocation than matters that are important and very close to the hearts of those women he loves more than life itself.

Just what is this country coming from? If our politicians are our teachers, then we would have to imagine that life is one big joke and it’s alright to play along. However, it’s not … and the bill, much as it may be flawed in its current state, must be treated with the necessary respect. If you must say something, let it be constructive.

We are watching you!!!

April 27, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Ala?!!!

I am a bit frazzled by the beastly turn events have taken in our country, where every dispute has begun to be settled by one beastly act or another. As a result, we have not only lost very able leaders as the price for peace, but we continue to lose young and old lives alike for our inability to accommodate each other's differences.

Unfortunately, we have been unable to break free of the chains that bind us as a man-eat-man nation, and we must continue to pray, and work towards changing our attitudes as a nation.

Peace is a God-given gift, and we will continue to work for it, but is it possible that its elusiveness is not confined to Kenyans or non-believers?

What is the world coming to when a man of God breaks 20% of the commandments and seems to show no remorse? When is it right for a priest to fornicate repeatedly and kill for whatever reason he deems right?

Is there no hope for human beings proving themselves to be better or more capable of thinking than animals are?

April 20, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Unnecessary Pulse

That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful. 
Ninon de L'Enclos
The Editor,
Pulse Magazine.

Dear Ciku,

When I was younger, I learnt that it was very important not to laugh at anyone for what they had not, for anything we had was a gift from God. That todate has been a lesson I have struggled to adhere to, because I have learnt that there is wisdom in understanding this extremely simple concept.

As I became an adolescent, however, it became increasingly difficult to adhere to this lesson consistently. Why? Because at that age, it was more important to be beautiful, rich or classy than it was to be fair and look for good in others.

I'm a bit more grown up now, and I have realised that a lot of these things are only skin deep, and as such, they are often bedfellows with folly. That is why I am greatly appalled by pictures posted in last Friday's edition of The Standard's Pulse Magazine.

Why are the zits on Alicia Keys' face more important than the cause she had come to champion in Kenya? What right does this magazine have to condemn how Debbie brings up her daughter? How many times will the Pulse put celebrities down before people speak out? How many times do we have to watch sleaze taking priority over the preservation of Human Dignity?

I think you went too far this time. Your pictorial was unnecessarily unfair.

April 18, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

10 Most Annoying …

It’s a cold and dreary Monday morning which does not work for my lazy self … except for the fact that I’ve been itching to post on the above topic since Friday!!!

Life is the most fulfilling experience I've had yet … and I am very well enjoying the ride. However, I know you concur with me that there is a downside to every good thing … so here goes my list of the 10 Most Annoying Habits I have encountered on my journey. In my last post, I noted that I am not a stickler for order … that hasn't changed, but on this occasion I am off on a tangent.

i.     Watering Plants
This is probably the biggest eyesore for Kenyan women. Why would an adult male ni his right mind pass at least 5 buildings with bathroom facilities and then decide (on the spur of the moment) that he has to go and can't wait? Can the City Council please erect fences that will give such men a little electric shodk to remind them that they have muscles they can use to everyone's advantage?!!

ii.    Gold Digging
Letting one's fingers do the walking in one's nose is a bad habit that must go!!!! It is not only unsightly, but also extremely uncouth and therefore unwelcome in any social gathering. If you must, then indulge yourself but refrain from extending your hand as a means of greeting thereafter.

Also classified under this category is the equally disgusting throat clearing. Kindly do not call the phlegmy contents of your throat within earshot. If you proceed to spit the same onto the ground, you should be sent on the next plane to Pluto!! Have you ever thought of the unfortunate lady in sandals who might by a stroke of really bad luck have you to blame for her discomfort?

iii.    Slurping
Anyone affiliated to the slopes of Mount Kenya would call this kumorotia. We can see that you are drinking a hot liquid. We do not need to hear it also.

iv.    Chomping
Numbers iii and iv, unfortunately, are not confined to any particular group of people. You will observe such habits even in very well-educated and dressed individuals.

My tip:     If you must contribute to conversation, think about doing so before you put the next very big spoonful in your mouth. We would rather not be party to how your digestive system works in the early stages.

v.     Burping
If you are content with your meal/drink, kindly say so. Burping is not a polite means of communication.

vi.    Body Checks
I am in the dating phase and concur that a brush against the body is one of the most subtle and appreciated hints of interest. However, if I do not know you/you pull such a stunt in a crowded place like River Road, I will not take it kindly.

vii.   Littering
As a Kenyan, I know that loving to hate the government of the day is the in dhing! But whose fault is it when the City Council, famed for its inability to do a good job, is unable to make a good job of your bad habits?

viii.  Touching
No matter how much I love your company, I will not condone any assumption that my outstanding features (read bosom/behind) are there for your indulgence. Be polite … look. If you can't help yourself, kindly ask for assistance.

ix.    Flirting
I'm not weird – like every other girl, I like good lyrics. However, bringing your face as close to mine as you possibly can won't count for flirting … especially if your breath has the capacity to make me cringe … eeeeuwww!

x.     Insincerity
It's alright if you do not like me … it's not alright if you pretend to.

I have left the heading incomplete because new as I may be in this game, my introductory post was as a result of a tag and I am a keen supporter of the wise saying, one good turn deserves another.

Now I tag …

Shiroh
Nick
Poi

Title may be amended to the owner's convenience..

April 10, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

100 Things

I got tagged today …, and not one to be daunted by challenges, here goes …

Me …

1.    is a new kid on the blogosphere
2.    loves challenges
3.    Need a proponent for a debate? Call me
4.    Pride has a way of beating all other attributes to the finish line
5.    falls often follow
6.    laughs easily
7.    loves to love
8.    knows that love hurts
9.    has a best friend
10.  Tee totaller
11.  no wear make-up
12.  hated high school
13.  having a little trouble getting to 50 …
14.  simple country girl
15.  has a fetish for shoes
16.  Pink for me
17.  Prank master
18.  Bribe me with a warm chocolate doughnut
19.  will zone out on you if you're BORING
20.  loves veggie salad
21.  makes superb veggie salad
22.  lazy like a lazy person
23.  flirts like there's no tomorrow
24.  crossword over a good book
25.  hates newspapers
26.  sings … in the bafroom
27.  never karaoked
28.  loves Andy Capp
29.  will tease you any given sun … ny or rainy day
30.  loves weddings
31.  cries easily
32.  runs like a true Kikuyu mama
33.  looks like I am about to burst into tears when I run
34.  makes chapatis that can be used in the front line of the army
35.  veeery mushy
36.  good time girl
37.  loves Kenya
38.  old fashioned
39.  loves taking photos
40.  loves seeing photos
41.  love, love, luuuurvssalsa
42.  can't dance to anything else
43.  knows the best things in life are free
44.  has many friends
45.  has a few good ones
46.  Gullible
47.  loves children
48.  would love to teach
49.  a
Toastmaster
50.  will play shake, bladder, circular (insert childhood game of choice) any day
51.  is sorry I doubted Shiroh's mathematical skills
52.  believes in me
53.  believes guys make better friends than girls
54.  prefers dresses and skirts to pants
55.  was beaten for not doing homework more times than we can all count
56.  skived school in Standard 3
57.  was the ring leader
58.  denied it at every opportunity
59.  has a very good memory
60.  will challenge you to arm wrestling
61.  will lose
62.  compliments easily
63.  will eat good food any time of the day
64.  can make at least one meal that will take your breath away
65.  can rely on me memory most of the time
66.  loves a great conversation
67.  loves matoke and githeri
68.  loves passion juice
69.  thinks me can act
70.  did not make it past auditions for the Drama Club
71.  knows Rome wasn't built in a day … it was built in
Italy
72.  can play an instrument
73.  believes I can live without a car for the rest of me life
75.  first born
76.  doesn't come across as one
77.  loves Mathematics!!
78.  loves controversy
79.  does not like people who think they are doing me a favour
80.  would love to watch Casablanca
81.  doesn't watch sabunis
82.  has a
new blogger's guide to blogging
83.  will take a challenge to Scrabble any day
84.  loves chicken jokes
85.  will give a chicken joke
86.  doesn't speak my mind often
87.  Good listener
88.  will be a chama mama
89.  does not like people who think they are doing me a favor
90.  loves my childhood memories
91.  named after Nelson Mandela's daughter
92.  can drive
93.  won't drive if me don't have to
94.  follows the rules
95.  loves intelligent company
96.  loved primary school
97.  is not a sucker for order
98.  asks that you bear with me for the randomness of my 100 things
99.  believes all good things take time
100.thanks you for passing by
 

April 6, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments