Life as a PhD student in a foreign land has been filled with different experiences – some good, other bitter and then there are the bitter-sweet ones.
Whenever I think of experiences, I remember a real-life story my Dad shared with me many years ago – one which I would never forget. The car of one of my dad’s friends was stolen, and it was an unpleasant encounter. The next day, Dad saw his friend and asked him, “what was your experience?”. Dad’s friend narrated the incident and ended by saying it was an experience that no one could very well describe until one had experienced something similar. Years later, my dad had his own experience. His car was snatched from him at gunpoint. Clearly, my dad’s experience was different from that of his friend. This is no ordinary story to me: it helps me appreciate the uniqueness of each experience.
I have heard a lot about petty theft, and somehow, I had always felt it was due (at least partly) to some act of carelessness. On my part, I believe I am meticulous. I know I am…but just yesterday, I had my first encounter of theft in this sun-kissed land, and it made me realise the need to be even more careful. One cannot be too careful these days and some experiences are aimed at making one come to this understanding.
It was Friday evening, and ordinarily, I should have closed from school early, but I stayed back a little bit late to get some work done. It was about 8:30pm, and I had missed the last campus shuttle. I was left with three options: take the long stroll home, take a taxi or take a walk to a certain point, join a bus and then walk the rest of the journey home. The safest options were the last two. Weighing both in my head, I opted for the last alternative. I was in dire need of a stroll – my lifestyle was becoming too sedentary – plus the evening breeze was clean and sweet. Also, I get a lot of ideas when I walk…so yeah, that was it. I was going to walk, take the bus then walk home.
It was a nice walk to the bus station where I joined a bus. Before leaving campus, I stashed some change in the side pocket of my bag which I hoped to use to pay for a taxi or bus home, and then carefully put my purse in the large compartment of my bag which I rarely open while on transit. When the time came to make payments, I opened my side zip, got out money and paid for my seat. At some point during the ride, I noticed that the larger zip of my bag was opened, but it never occurred to me to verify if the contents of my bag were still in place. That was a huge mistake.
At my designated bus stop, I alighted. As I continued my walk home, I noticed something quite unusual. There was a coconut seller by the roadside – a special one. I am naturally attracted to excellence wherever I see it, and he was clearly an example. I mean, who sells coconuts with cute disposable coffee mugs and straws (for the coconut water), paper towels and coloured nylon bags? I immediately knew I needed some coconuts. Armed with the change in my hand from my bus fare, I made a stop to get some coconuts. The young man was not only dexterous but polite. I probed to know a bit more about him. It turned out that he was an immigrant pharmacist who was trying to make a decent living. I was very impressed. I couldn’t help but appreciate people who are working assiduously to live honestly even when the journey of life gets rocky.
Early on Saturday morning, I woke up in high spirits. I had my day articulately planned: I was going to attend the Nufu festival (a breast cancer awareness initiative supported by WACCBIP), get to the lab to check my cell cultures and then to the market for my weekly shopping. I reached for my school bag and opened it to relive its contents. My purse was nowhere to be found. It was then it dawned on me: my purse had been stolen, and the thief had failed to zip my bag after opening it to collect my purse. That was why my bag was open on the bus!
This instant, my feelings are mixed: I am happy to know that despite the economic hardships, some people are going the extra mile to earn money honourably. While I am saddened by the loss of my purse which housed some of my valuables, I am consoled by the fact that life is filled with experiences: some sweet, others sour. Our goal should be to allow the pleasant experiences to cover up for the bitter ones, while we learn invaluable life lessons.
Categories: My lifestyle