Thursday, November 3, 2011

PAPER PLANES

It's been a while since I posted anything-and this has largely to do with a writers' workshop I attended this week. I found myself waking up at 5:00am, waiting for vehicles heading to town for over an hour and getting to my destination an hour early.
This workshop was organized by the Burt Foundation. Bill Burt, is a Canadian who started out revolutionizing the Canadian education system. His foundations holds annual writing competitions in an attempt to produce works that would encourage reading and literacy in young people. So, I entered a story in the competition and the workshop was some kind of follow up to this.Surprised smile
The first day was rather slow and boring with people being slow to warm up. I walked into the room and stepped out. I thought I was in the wrong place, because most of the people there were old enough to be my parents. I had to change this thought, because it turns out they have been writing for years. It was during the workshop that I learned from teachers that there are some words that eight year olds can read but twelve year olds cannot. In Kenya-the literacy problem is as bad as can be. So the government and most bodies have been trying to change this.
I would stand firm on something: Kenya has a reading culture. Well, you can shake your head as much as you want now, but it is true Kenyans have a reading culture. The question then becomes what reading culture do Kenyans have? Well, Kenyans read newspapers and novels written by European writers. If you think I am dreaming here, simply visit any bookshop and ask the retailers which books are sold off the shelf! Isn't it amusing that we have many Kenyan writers who have published books but their books never make it to the display counters or stalls? Kenyans read what is deemed 'marketable.' They read what they hear are good books,over the radio, social networks or television. How many of the same have taken to fiercely promoting the Kenyan writers? I rest my case.
So, day two and three of the workshop I found myself folding pieces of paper-here and there. I made straight and neat folds. I also made diagonal folds and let them gaze at me. I made all kinds of paper planes and the lady seated beside me insisted I was not paying attention. I wondered who wasn't given the fact that she was watching me make paper planes. I realized something while making paper planes during those two days-that in that moment of silence and concentration, I could hear what people were saying. It was almost as if I wasn't there, but was fully aware of what was happening around me. In fact I let out a chuckle to my surprise. It reminded me of something I heard in my first semester Fall 2007, "If you are to be a good learner, always be keen. Take note of the small things happening around you." I took note of what was happening around me then-and it hit me that I was not only making paper planes, I was trying to internalize what was happening and my role in it.
Question is, do you do the same?
Do you simply take time-even if it's a second to ask, 'what is my role in this?' 'what do I want to make or create here?"
On that note, I met this great Kenyan writer, whose only work I have read is a children's book on 'Poko-the Naughty Mouse.'
Check out his works and profile on: http://www.authorsden.com/visit/author.asp?id=149672