Journey, Lessons and Reflection

Last night, like I have done many times before, I sat in solitude to reflect and take stock of my life and my journey thus far. I cried, laughed and sighed in absolute despair as I attempted to answer the question: Am I any closer to becoming the Mathe I truly want to be?

I acknowledged with gratitude how far I have come to where I am today. Then, I went on to ask myself the question: how does one truly measure the proverbial journey of a “thousand miles”? Is it by the distance travelled or the distance to be travelled?

I am not sure if there are simple answers but at the same time I wanted to know what emotion was legitimate for me to feel. Sadly, I am not very close to where I want to be.

I want to be at a place of contentment filled with inner and outer peace even when the hand dealt to me is less than ideal. A place where material possessions, money, fear etc play minimal or no role at all in making decisions! A place which in few words affords me the “arrogance of choice” i.e. choice that is driven by my priorities and truth about this journey called life.

Any lessons learnt from the journey travelled thus far?

Arrived or not to where I want to be, it is certainly important to reflect on the lessons learnt. While it is fair to say, I have had many lessons from different varying sources, I have learnt two very valuable lessons from attending “mekete”- ceremonial festivities. I have learnt:

  1. It takes hard work and perseverance to get to the ‘feeding stage of the masses’. One my wake up early to see to it that the cooking fire is burning, but there are no guarantees that all will go well. One may be faced with the task to tell off those acting as obstacles to get out of the way or get in line. One may also have to take shit from others but instead of being humiliated by it choose to take it as a humbling act.
  2. How to recognise and appreciate what privilege means. It is privilege if one can have a single person come to offer assistance of any kind. It is also privilege if uninvited guests can come and simply join in with the festivities, be it there are about celebrating a life that has passed on or a union of a new life to be. In a nutshell, privilege is having at least one person walk with you for the entire or part of the journey.

With lessons learnt thus far, I hope as I forge forward to where I want to be, I have the strength and courage to hold on to my faith, trusting that He and only He who knows the desires of our hearts will help me to my destination. I hope also that I may continue to remember words of wisdom from those who privilege me by walking this beautiful journey with me. I am truly grateful for all the words of kindness, support and encouragement I have received. Words such as as this from Carla Tsampiras: “…  remember that shit and rubbish can also make good compost, especially if balanced with nurturing rain and the warm sunlight of those who do believe in you“!

Taking my head off to Moshoeshoe I

It is that time of the year when we take our heads off to the founder of the Basotho nation, Moshoeshoe I. He was a man with multiple lifetimes of wisdom! As I have suggested in previous blogs, despite believing in the principle of love, Moshoeshoe knew and understood that there were times when it was absolutely imperative to crush thy enemy totally and times when total surrender was the best course of action. The key lied simply in timing.

Today, I shall share with you a short story that involves his senior wife, ‘Mamohato. ‘Mamohato after being converted to Christianity decided to divorce Moshoeshoe I. He, of course, didn’t refuse. He called his people and told them that ‘Mamohato was no longer his wife but remained the mother of the heir apparent. Came the planting season and the people ploughed the fields of all the king’s wives except that of ‘Mamohato. ‘Mamohato was, as the story goes, extremely upset by this. She went to the king to lay her complaint. The king called his people to ask why they skipped her field. The people answered by asking whether or not she was still married to the king.

Allow me to digress a bit before giving the king’s response so that you may perhaps appreciate how pregnant this question was. Lesotho, as is still the case, is a hierarchical society. Around Moshoeshoe’s time it had two main tiers: “bafo”, commoners in the majority and “marena”, the kings or the general blue blooded individuals in the minority. In many ways this hierarchy was very comparable to some European class structures of that time. Below is an image for the comparison. What I haven’t captured is that the clergy, though highly debated, were at the apex in both structures, influencing (mis)appropriately the ruling class (i.e. the aristocracy).


European vs. Basotho Class Structures in the Past


Based on these structures, the primary duty of all people in the lower class(es) was to serve the aristocracy. A person through marriage could be pulled to a higher class. It really was that simple. Now here was a dilemma. ‘Mamohato who had sought for a divorce wanted the privileges that came with being a king’s wife. Moshoeshoe as the ultimate king of the land had the powers to order his people to plough her field. Taking into account the response of his people, Moshoeshoe recognised that to give such an order would be foolish. So he didn’t! Instead he went to help ‘Mamohato to plough her field and some of his loyal followers joined in.

To me, this act, however small it may be, says so much about how wise Moshoeshoe was. He understood that lest he wanted a coup, deciding otherwise would be a mistake. It may sound like I am being dramatic by talking about a coup but we are talking about a man who understood that taking anything for granted can be costly. He understood that opportunities of any kind may present themselves in the mundane. This is how he destroyed some of his enemies and this is how he built a formidable nation.

As we celebrate and honour this great leader of the soil, may we remember that the mundane is important. May we also keep our focus in the future but without forgetting to be in the present – for, who knows, we might just be presented with unbelievable opportunities. In this particular story of ‘Mamohato, Moshoeshoe was presented with the opportunity to cement his greatness by demonstrating humility (a king working the fields … imagine that!) Many might have not have seen this opportunity and might have easily fell into the trap set for them, but Moshoeshoe didn’t! He managed to take the long view on things and in the process, to re-create himself into a true king out to serve his people without regard of societal norms on what jobs may or may not be suitable for the king.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is why I am taking my head off to Moshoeshoe I. He was one of a kind! May we all aspire to learn a thing or two from him. Happy Moshoeshoe’s day to all!


Growing a University

My life in Gown practically consists of being surrounded by academicians. However, last Sunday things were a bit different. I was in a social setting with them, enjoying good food and wine while talking about everything and nothing. And no, it wasn’t one of those organised departmental functions, where some people are present to keep up appearances! It was a true social setting and it was absolutely exhilarating.

I learnt a lot — acquired new knowledge and got sensitised to the little details that certainly attest to the saying:”the devil lies in details”! I am not going to go into these details. Instead, I shall focus on one interesting conversation about the future of any university.

Apparently, the future of a university lies in the plans it makes to assure its existence in the 25 years yet to come. Selfishly, I shall only talk to the points that resonated a lot with the growth of my own university at home, National University of Lesotho (NUL). And everything will be in context of how its future may or may not affect me, a future lecturer of the institution.

Housing. As a young person, possibly with no prospects of getting married, will I be able to own my own house? This is an important question because shelter is a basic need and if at all a university is to survive, it needs to have plans for making this a reality. At the moment, the housing scheme seems to have collapsed at NUL, the question is: will it be resurrected or will it be replaced by something else? For example, will it go into ‘real estate’: build and sell houses to its staff members at, say, an interest rate of 1% above prime? Of course, it would only be prudent if the university were to demand a preferential right to buy the property should one want to sell. The finer details at this point are not the issue. The issue is simply the ability to own a home.

Income generation. As they say: “money makes the world go around”! The issue of generating income is therefore of paramount importance. Yet, this is by no means an easy issue to deal with. It requires a lot of creativity and as many brains as possible working together for a solution. Personally, I am more for a solution that will see us increasing our postgraduate profile. In my mind, this may mean reducing the actual intake of undergraduate students but this is not in itself a bad thing because NUL is no longer the only university. What is important is to take the long view on things. With increased postgraduate offering, we can begin to initiate projects that use students as a resource. The objective would then be to develop a model that would enable us to refine those projects for the benefit of community or even commercial interests.

A conducive environment. This means different things to different people. For me, it is about the little things. The ambiance of the seminar room during coffee time and the rigorous debates with colleagues. For example, as a junior colleague, I enjoyed immensely engaging with the likes of ntate Mphaka about why for instance some students benefited from top-down approach to programming whilst others benefited from bottom-up. We engaged in that and many other issues as though we were on a quest to end the world’s problems.

There are many other things that I could have included but the above are the three that I thought were crucial to the growth of my university or at the very least crucial for making me ponder in the next few years the question: to be or not to be in the employ of NUL?

My Love for Mathematics

For a few years now, I have had a question that I could not quite answer. The question is: “why do people hate mathematics?” Perhaps hate is a strong word but even when I tone the question down by using the word ‘like’ I still cannot find an answer that satisfies me.

Today being world maths day, I shall ignore the urge to find an answer. Instead, I shall attempt to answer the inverse of the question, which is: “why do I love mathematics”?

I suppose my love emanated from the realisation that mathematics is but a language backed with the ‘power’ of logic. From this realisation, I fell in love and I have almost always managed to view mathematics as nothing but a tool to explore the unknown without worrying about the uncertainties. For example, in aspiring to run a business of my own in the near future, I am aware that I will be faced with multiple uncertainties. Should these uncertainties deter me? Perhaps! But since I believe the key to success lies in the ability to formulate a sound (logical) strategy, I know that my focus should not really be on the uncertainties. The challenge therefore, is how do I start to build a sound strategy? For me, as you would expect, my answer, courage and inspiration come from the world of mathematics in the form of a simple productivity formula shown below.

    \[ productivity =\frac{output}{input} \]


Using the above formula and a simple mathematical analysis, one can deduce that productivity and hence profitability will be high if:

  • Fewer or less resources are used to yield an output i.e. input < output
  • There is more output than input i.e. output >input

From the two above-mentioned facts, it follows then that I can easily develop a strategy that always strives to lower the inputs and increase the outputs – or at the very least make them equal! This will therefore result in success since the strategy itself will be developed with the sole purpose of offering me the highest probability of a successful outcome.

With the strategy, my exuberance or enthusiasm and my mathematical background that has equipped me with the ability to reason logically, what are the odds that I would fail? Quite frankly, I don’t know! But the point I am trying to make is: I love mathematics because it provides me with the understanding that many things in life are relative just by simply knowing that 1+1 is not necessarily 2! I am thus able to dream for I know success itself is relative… Happy maths day to all!

PS: I also love mathematics because it helps me spell out my name to people: MATHEmatics without the ‘matics’ ;-)! 


Love: the bind to our being

I am seeing red but I am not at all angry. Its that time of the year for Limitless Obnoxious Valentine Extravaganza!

I am not against people expressing their love to each other but (yes, there is a but!) … It has to be free from the pressures of the commercial world. And free as in no cost, because love in its pure form is a precious gift that we get but may not even deserve!

If/when you find this gift, you will also learn that love is the secret glue that binds our being. Before we find love, our sense of being is scattered like grains of sorghum. If you are not familiar with the expression of endearment involving “mabele” (sorghum), my analogy may seem strange. But don’t despair, below I offer you the expression together with how each gender may use it 😉

"Ngoana nts'oare! Ke mabele kea qhalana."

Translated: Baby hold me! I am the sorghum grain I scatter.
"Ke mabele kea qhalana. Ke hloka mothonaki".

Translated: I am the sorghum grain I scatter. I need someone to pick me up.

As you can see, there are gender nuances in the use of the expression. But as they say, men and women are from different planets. Whether or not I believe this saying, is a different story altogether. My simple point is: love is a priceless, precious gift that needs to be celebrated in different ways not just as the commercial world dictates. Love is what roots us even as the winds of change threaten to scatter us like “mabele” because in whatever form, it binds us to our being and existence!

The Egg Count Years

Time really flies! Not so long ago it seemed time was on my side. The world was filled with possibilities and it didn’t matter which road I followed for time was on my side. Now, this is not the case! I have entered the “egg count years”.

It is time to decide on the road to follow when it comes to babies: to have or not to have them? If I didn’t regard this as my very own Shakespearean dilemma, I would toss a coin and all would be decided, finish and klaar!

I guess one thing is certain in this period I have entered: it is going to be interesting! For one, I get to have conversations with my elders about having babies without necessarily getting into the details of how they are made. I assure you, this can get very interesting especially if the elder is struggling with the balance between overt and subtle reference to the baby making process. Actually, I lie! It gets beyond interesting period! It gets humorous. And this, gentle-people, is what I hope will get me through the egg count years.

I may not know what lies ahead but I hope to keep my sense of humor and continue with my quest for the right partner. A guy defined by the word: balance. For example, he can be a male chauvinist to the outside world as long as he can play the yes/no dear routine at home without, of course, losing the passion to fight with me on important issues.

I can provide many more examples but its tick tick for me and need to move to the next task before my egg count gets to zero and I enter the living years (aka life in the 40s).

In the meantime, let me assure you, I shall make every effort to enjoy my egg count years. Yes, I have no idea what the outcome shall be, but I know mine will be a journey on a road that goes “over the Bridge of Sighs into Eternity”Soren Kierkegaard

Joy in small things

Thank God to the small mistakes in life. Clicks believes my Department should be called Department of Complex Science instead of Computer Science. What a laugh! This has really made my day and to think I was less than eager to even get my mail!

Vindicated for resurrecting my "blues"

When I read that a recently released report declares a certain blue bank as one of the most expensive banks in Mzansi, I felt so vindicated for resurrecting my blues. If you have a look at my last two posts, then you will understand. Honestly, what can I say? My resurrection though not planned was timely. Could it be I am told its time I ended my blues? Hmm … 🙄 .

This is the link to the article I read from Mail and Guardian:

Much love to all as I return to my hibernation nest 😉 .