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Grief, Bullying, Failed Grades and Why I Am Better for It

I was born and raised smack in the middle of Nairobi City.

Yes! The same Nairobi Alba Flores embodied in the acclaimed Netflix series Money Heist. The capital city of Kenya. During the first decade of my life, we lived 30 minutes away from the Nairobi National Park where tourists and conference visa holders continue to visit to see the big 5 in one day.

At the top of the millennium, my parents decided to change things. The policies around the government house we lived in thanks to my mother’s house allowance at work changed and she needed to spend a huge chunk of her salary on rent.

My parents were left with no choice but to move us into an unfinished home. See my parents had started constructing a new home a couple of years back and although it was not complete it was habitable.

The day we moved out was filled with mixed emotions we went around our neighbour’s homes saying bye to our childhood friends with tears in our eyes. On the other hand, my sisters and I lit up at the prospect of living in a new home with a huge front lawn to play on. Our little minds were not prepared for what we were about to experience.

We arrived at our new house during daylight hours but when the sun set so did our short-lived excitement. We realised that we had moved into a house that did not have electricity or running water yet. So we lit our kerosene lamps and boiled borehole water on the stove for our evening showers.

Things started going downhill from then on, well at least in my own little world. My parents enrolled us in a new school that required a 30-minute commute on foot if the car was not available to ferry us to school.

The said car was an old navy blue Peugeot 504 that would break down a lot. I remember one day it got stuck in the mud on our way to school because it had rained and the tarmac had not been laid yet.

In addition to these challenges at home and on the way to school. I experienced bullying in school from this little girl who drew immense joy from tormenting me. As a result, my grades dipped and one school morning I became so ill that my mother had to take me to the hospital.

Upon asking a few questions the doctor told my mother that my condition was a result of the stress I was going through due to the move and the new school. So that day since I was not going to go back to school my mum and I had a long conversation about what was happening to me.

That is when I disclosed to her that one of my teachers was being cruel to me constantly punishing me when I missed answering a question right. The punishments were the corporal kind and her pinches on my arms left me with red sores.

The next time I went back to school my mother came along and made sure that she spoke to that teacher and told her the consequences of hurting other people’s children. That day I could tell that she (my teacher) had been crying because her eyes were red when she got back to class for our maths session.

My mother is my rock and I am grateful. Fast forward past those crazy primary school years to my high school years. High school came with its new set of challenges I could not easily turn to my mother for help because I was in a boarding school. So I had to quickly learn how to stand up for myself in the face of bullies.

In my second year of high school, I lost my 6-month-old sister to an accident at home. Again my grades started to dip and this time so did my mental health.

I remember my classmates and class teacher taking me home to spend a day with my family after the funeral and then having to go back to school with them because again it was a boarding school.

One thing that hurt me the most was I was forced by my class teacher to stay in school during the mid-term break because of my grades. My mother was grieving too so I did not dare ask her to fight for me this time.

So as other people went to be with their families I had to stay in school grieving my sister on my own and forcing myself to focus and try to bring my grades up.

It goes without saying that it became a challenge with each passing day. We did not have a counselling department in high school so I had to bear all that pain on my own.

I remember feeling so bad one day that I even contemplated dying. So I somehow survived high school and passed enough to proceed to the university. I could have done better but given the circumstances, I had done my best.

My deep respect for games started right after high school. I was idle at home waiting to receive communication from the universities I had applied to.

At this time the house was almost complete and we had running water and electricity. One day my mother came home with her work laptop. It was relatively new and I liked how you could move around with it. The other home computer was pretty much stuck in one place.

It was only natural for me to be fascinated by this new contraption. So I curiously started exploring whatever was within and that is how I stumbled upon Mavis Beacon. Mavis Beacon is a game that teaches typing with fun quests to accomplish, accompanied by interesting music and animation that make the whole experience memorable. I love animations. So the fact that Mavis Beacon was filled with colourful animations only made my quest for fast typing skills achievable in the most fun and engaging way.

In less than two months I had finished the training and could comfortably type fast and accurately without peeking at the keyboard. You can imagine the kind of impact this had on my young teenage mind.

Before Mavis Beacon, I felt like I had a broken brain. I would study hard and fail to remember most of the things I had read. In a culture where regurgitating what you have read is deemed intelligent, it was frustrating to do so much yet receive so little in rewards.

Mavis Beacon helped me discover the power of games and the kind of impact they can have on someone’s life. My fast typing skills have made my career as a writer all the more enjoyable. I am currently a big advocate for games that impact people’s lives. I keep on talking about my first encounter with gamification through Mavis Beacon and how Duolingo has helped me with my language-learning journey.

In hindsight, I am glad we moved. I am glad that I went through the challenges I did because now almost a quarter of a century later I am better for it.

Wendi Ndaki is passionate about the fusion of art and technology and that is why the video games industry feels like home to her.

She is a Writer, a Visual Artist and a YouTuber with a Bachelor’s degree in Information Systems Technology from the United States International University- Africa. She has worked in the gaming industry as a writer for more than 5 years now and she aims to demystify the rising gaming industry one story at a time. She is currently doing so through articles for clients as well as through engaging educational animated content on her company’s YouTube channel.