Why I Dreaded Visitation Days…

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These days, whenever I hear kids making noise about Visitation Days (VDs), I just laugh. I get amused because back in the day, this was one of the Days I never looked forward to. In fact, the announcement of the next VD would cause me sleepless nights. If mum confirmed that she would be visiting, I would almost want the world to swallow me up.

Here is why. I was notorious for heckling fellow students and even teachers in class or in the assembly. I was also known for just making noise (especially when teachers were not in class). No Class Prefect could do anything about it. Together with this clown Ras Dartte, we would literally bring down anyone.

So whenever it was a VD, it was a platform for Teachers to “have us”. There was this particular one, Madam Namususwa (I remember she was very beautiful and ‘young’). The day she met my mum on one VD, she literally poured her heart out to her. She yapped for close to an hour — basically narrating a litany of all my ‘sins’ including but not limited to PARKING (no details here, I am now married).

Mummy wasn’t amused at all. I could read the disappointment on her face until Madam Namususwa concluded with “despite all this, he is a very promising boy”. To my mum, that was the important thing. She smiled.

Pheeeeeeew!!! I relaxed.

To end all this VD crap, I needed a plan. My mum is an ‘economist’. Any idea that saves her money will always have her attention. One day, there was an imminent VD and I really didn’t want her to come (for obvious reasons). Fortunately, she was complaining of brokenness. So I asked her what her usual total budget (transport, food, pocket money, shopping etc) for VD was. “… between 70,000 to 100,000 in total” she replied. I told her to break down for me. I realized she spent about 15,000/= on transport and the food plus shopping would cost her like 35,000/=. Then she would normally leave me with 50,000/=.

I made a proposal that instead of all the hustle, she would just send me the 50,000/= and I would be fine if she didn’t come. “So you don’t one to see me? Don’t you miss me?” she asked rather furiously. I explained to her that I didn’t want her to stress over just one day. Besides “I am a boy. I can always sort myself”.

She fell for the trap. She even thanked me for being such an “understanding” son. For the two years I spent in MM College Wairaka, my mum visited only twice (in S.5).

Most importantly, I had my peace.

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Then I Became a “Chartered Marketer”

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With our election victory sealed and my man Yabin Ofumbi sworn in to office, it was obvious that as his closest ally, I was in “things”.

One of the benefits that came with being a prefect was an entitlement to a cubicle. I remember this was in KABALEGA Dormitory (occupied by O’level students). I think it was initially designed as a Store. We were four in it. On the extreme partition was a guy called Mutagaya , the outgoing DH prefect (a staunch mulokole like this) and another guy Talenga who was the Ofumbi’s Deputy (I heard he died a few years ago–RIP). The cubicle was partitioned into 3 sub-cubicles — the size of an average Ventilated Improved Pit latrine (VIP).

We were in the middle, sharing a double decker bed. Ofumbi was on top (so now you can estimate the quantity of beans-inspired gas I used to “swallow” every night from the man above). But life was good!

One day, we were very broke and as usual sharing our problems, I recalled something Ofumbi told me some time back. Apparently, he knew how to mend/sow shoes. I told him how we could make some money out this. He was open to it but there was one problem. Ofumbi feared chics. Coming from Tororo College (a single sex school I refused to join for that very reason), he couldn’t swallow the idea of being known as a COBBLER among the female population. Apparently, that was a job popularly associated with Persons with Disabilities (sad).

I told him to relax. I proposed that I will be responsible for collecting shoes from fellow students, especially chics and I will hold out as the actual cobbler. Having improved on my relations with them, I had a number of female friends and since chics have a lot of shoes, they were a good (if not only) target for our business. So as far as Ofumbi was concerned, his name would remain “clean” while mine would head to the gutters. He bought in.

The next day, I started talking to students how I could fix their shoes. Many of them laughed at me and took it as one of my usual jokes. I convinced one chic and she gave me her pair. After a day, I delivered during lunch time. She was so shocked! The shoes had been skillfully worked on (this Ofumbi man should leave medical practice and return to being a cobbler). Trust women with ‘lugambo’. Within no time, our business had caught fire. Many knew about it.
There was another factor to our business success; the death of one of the Estates workers (some guy from Arua who used to do this cobbler work as side income). His death created a vacuum that we strategically filled in.

With prices ranging from between 200/= to 500/= (I was responsible for negotiating and concluding deals hence MARKETEER), we were ‘loaded’.

Work was flowing in everyday and our working time was before supper and after prep and then weekends. Suddenly, we could afford to buy milk, sumbusas and cakes at break time. Our budget was 1000/= (milk-500; sumbi-200; cake 300) per day for our breakfast. Once we made over 5,000/= over weekend, we knew breakfast for the whole week was sorted.

This was progress. I would take weeks without writing to my mum or calling to ask for money. I returned home at the end of the term and was all glowing. I remember my mum saying “acamu do ijo e boarding ba” which loosely translates to boarding life is treating you well (I wish she knew the secret).

Being in a cubicle also presented another business opportunity i.e. provision of storage services. At the end of the term, we would collect student’s suitcases and mattresses and keep in our room. We used to charge between 1000/- to 3000/= (depending on the quantity). My work was to record the names and properties kept. This meant that at the start of the next term, we had some money to play with while our pocket money was safely kept at the Bursar’s office.

Additionally, Ofumbi also knew how to shave so we smuggled a shaving machine to our cubicle (We didn’t have a mirror fixed on the wall. The client had to hold a broken piece of glass window pane if they wanted to see themselves being shaved). Money was flowing in. Then my mum had also given me a phone (I wrote about this sometime ago) so I was also busy offering “Public Pay Phone” services for students in the night. Sadly, the phone was confiscated by Mr. Kirya one unfortunate morning.

So as cobblers, barbers, call service providers and our storage business, my S.6. (2005) was arguably the most financially independent phase of my life. With no costs (electricity bills, rent, PAYE, NSSF etc) to be paid, we were hogging net profits.

This life!

The Day I Got ‘Saved’

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Things were tight!

To improve my welfare and for another equally needy high school student, Yabin Ofumbi, we hatched a plan for at least one of us to get a political position at School. Because of my drama skills (I can give some people a run for their money BTW), we thought I would run for Entertainment Prefect. However, because I lacked “swagg”, I was afraid of being beaten by someone with fancy clothes (the ones I listed yesterday) and cool accent. Besides, I had stepped on many toes (literally) especially of chics and most importantly, the BALOKOLE. To the latter category, I was the real representation of Lucifer more so with my Nyanzi tongue (Yes, I knew about freedom of expression even before stepping Law School).

So we agreed that Ofumbi runs for Dining Hall Prefect. This was strategic. As his close friend, I was assured of eating the “top layer” of the school beans. In other words, I would be among the few eating real fried sauce. Additionally, as a DH prefect, he had access to the food the teachers were eating i.e. RICE. In Wairaka College, rice was a deal breaker. It could get you the attention of even the hottest chic at school. We used to eat the thing once a week (I remember it was on Wednesdays). But because of being a DH Prefect, Ofumbi would be having a daily supply of rice (I later learnt it was the balance of what the teachers left behind). So we needed this position. The spillover effect (of course it would be to me) was high.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we had a serious campaign ahead of us. The stakes were high. So how would we secure this victory? We hatched a plan. Since Ofumbi used to be saved in O’ Level but had backslid (I hope not because of me), we agreed that he publicly “re-commits himself to Jesus”.

Ooooooh my Gawd!!!

That was arguably the most talked-about Sunday service during our time. The entire hall was on fire. (People were looking for me hoping I could have been inspired too but waaah, my ‘Lucifer’ was still tight). Anyway, with Ofumbi duly nominated and elections a few days away, we needed this publicity badly. I started attending all the Fellowships (mbu from Saul to Paul) just make people happy. I also had to mend fences with all those I had crossed with (of course the chics).

To cut the long story short, on election day we had a landslide victory. If I have ever campaigned for somebody with passion, I think Ofumbi is the only person I have done it for.