An essay from Charles Odhiambo on returning home after completing his graduation.

I sat at the graduation square oblivious of the happenings there. I was in a world of mixed reactions. After attending several graduations, it was my turn to given the power to read and write! I felt anxious and overwhelmed waiting for that momentous declaration by the Vice Chancellor only for my mind to be carried away by the memories of my humbling background. There at the graduation square, there were over 7,000 graduand , all in gowns, while back at my rural area none had seen such a gown; they were familiar with the priests’ “gown” (robe) or maybe the wedding gown ( for those who were lucky enough to attend one) but not these!

The joy of graduation had to reach my rural area. After graduation ceremony at the university, like a river jostling – meandering its way from water catchment area to unknown water body where it would great value, I set off to my mum’s birth place which I hardly knew.

Barely had I reached home when my grandmother (an octogenarian) who had been withered by life’s hardships broke into a dance throwing away her walking stick, partly dancing, partly limping. Her limping, however, was a dancing style in itself. Surely, creativity has no monopoly. So emotional was the reunion that she slaughtered her only cock – her only alarm that would wake her up to continue with her wishful thoughts hoping that at least she would have something to celebrate in her sunset days after burying her husband and ten out of eleven children ( some with their partners and children). Though not certain, she had hope that one day a degree would land in the family – and there it was! Sundowner rarely disappoints! It was a perfect revelation that there is no falsehood in hope.

After feasting and photo session with the granny who was donned in graduation gown, it was time to say that emotion word – goodbye. I left her with one message clear in my mind: “ the old looks after the young to grow teeth , and the young in return, looks after the old when she loses her teeth ”.

My next destination was my father’s home place – off the shores of Lake Victoria. There I was met with jubilation and thanks giving mass. Both the young and the old were there. The elderly, in their 80’s, trickled in, fumbling with their walking sticks not to miss the momentous occasion. They had to withstand the scorching sun walking, maybe because they were too scared to ride on motorcycle, or maybe too fragile to cycle a bicycle, or maybe (as usual) they were too poor to afford transport. Despite their slow pace , they managed to reach in time; some with a packet of floor, some with fish, some with hens under their arms – all with the intention to make themselves count. It was quite challenging and humbling by the same token. I couldn’t help conjuring snails entering the Ark during the great rain; despite its slow nature, the snail too, reached the ark.

They struggled to go through my education documents that had “robbed” them of their son for a decade. Their old eye-sight seemed to betray them but their clear vision was assuring; sooner or later their son would be a professor. Glow for academic excellence was vivid on their faces; for sure, when the moon is shining, the cripple becomes hungry for walk.

I was told of my parents’ history which I hardly knew of. It was quite clear that the rain may wet the leopard’s skin but will never wash out its spots and no matter how black a cow maybe, the milk is always white; despite the misfortunes, there is always value and something lucrative in every individual. Though moving, I was less concerned who my parents were; I am more concerned about the kind of people who their grandchildren would be – more concerned about the present and the future.

The old folks spoke with a lot of wisdom and I was more touched with an advice from an elderly grandfather who had lost who had lost his erect standing posture: “when a lamp is lit, it is put not under the bed but on top of the table to illuminate the whole house. What if instead, we now get a floodlight to illuminate the whole homestead if not the whole village? ”. The message was clear, never tire until you get enough and to he who much is given, much is expected.

Appreciation of the R.E.A.D organization were all over the lips of all those who came to the celebration. They were humbled how life holds so many simple blessings with each day bringing its own individual wonder.

To summarize the abundant appreciation, if the world had more people invested in helping others it would be a better place. You do make a difference. Your generosity will always be remembered and highly appreciated.

All the experience can only be summarized in one sentence: “the bitter the background, the sweeter the history”



Charles Odhiambo Final Paper

Check out his paper on the topic of tourism merchandise in Kenya and its economic contribution to their society:

To download his paper click : FINAL TOURISM PROJECT


Charles will be sitting for graduation on December 5th after which he will undergo a hotel attachment internship before receiving his certificate in June and entering the work force!