the house that we built – chapter one


It’s been about five months since I’ve been here effectively and I am happy to report that I have not killed a single artisan or manual labourer.

Yet.

Actually, it’s been more like two years that this has been going on, and in that time the only casualty that I can report has been my confidence in the Ugandan labourer. This goes for many of the fellows in between my misguided former askari-turned-handyman (mentioned in an earlier blog involving an early morn boda-boda accident) and a fellow called Ronald Kasozi who is currently holding up my usage of the spanking new dining room table.

Speaking of Kasozi, I strongly recommend the use of the furniture that this guy makes. It is fantastic! This is the humble fellow who made the tables and chairs at Endiro Coffee, so ask no questions about his proficiency.

I am sure that, like me, you also have a strong dislike for those dining room chairs that are lined up in places like Nsambya, all sticky and disgusting to the touch like they’ve been varnished with a mixture of superglue, honey and some loose strands of hair from a waitress in Kalerwe (I don’t eat there, but just imagine…!). We spent weeks upon weeks going round looking for dining room chairs to go with the beautiful table we’d bought from our Wood Guy, Alan Jamani (you will certainly hear more about him later).

It was only after I’d been to Endiro for my fiftieth time that it struck me that I should get the same damn chairs they had.

I considered it too rude to suggest to them that they sell me six of the chairs, so I asked if they’d mind sharing the carpenter’s contact with me.

“No problem,” Gloria said, scrawling the number down on a post-it.

Long story short, Ronald Kasozi readily made himself available and we made our way to the house so he could assess the task.

I’ve worked out over the years that the best way to get these artisans to meet your expectations is by showing them the standards you stick to and challenging them to measure up.

That’s the best way – but it doesn’t always work, as the story of plumber Simon Matheka will illustrate later on.

So after a tour designed to set my expectations, I pressed Ushs200,000 into Ronald Kasozi’s hands and sent him on his way, while he deposited, in return, fervent promises of delivery within seven or eight days.

Foolishly optimistic, I told the family we would be sitting down together to dinner within three weeks – building in inefficiency buffers within reasonable measure.

I can’t explain why I did that.

The last fifteen years or so of my life have been spent in learning how to manage expectations, and if I had been thinking right that evening I would have declared that we would be sitting down together to dinner within seventy to eighty days.

Ten days later, Ronald Kasozi wasn’t ready, and he politely informed me so when I called him in mild irritation since I had guests coming over for the afternoon and would have been pleased to sit down at table with them.

“Give me until Tuesday,” he said.

Naturally, that day being a Saturday, I thought he meant the Tuesday coming, and called him on the Wednesday morning only to discover that he actually had meant Saturday.

When I called him on the Sunday morning, he said again, “Early this week, sir.”

We have danced this bakisimba for two and a half months and tomorrow, the

Dancing like crazy - here, there, everywhere...

last day he promises that for sure he will have the chairs ready, I will be driving over to his workshop in Bweyogerere, somewhere opposite the Total petrol station.

I will be heading there to conduct some preventive murder measures.

My calculation is that rather than sit back and wait for him to fail to deliver on Friday evening, then thrust myself into a murderous rage, I will camp out at his workshop and supervise his completion of the six chairs so that I don’t have to kill him.

Oh, by the way, last week I bought six dining room chairs from Game.

Made in China.

8 thoughts on “the house that we built – chapter one

  1. Reminds me of the time I made a deposit with what I assumed was a true artisan and consumate professional(against the better judgement of my ever astute wife). two months to my wedding I ordered a love nest made to our mutual specification. I even paid the whole amount lest I eat the money on wedding preparations. Well, to say that we are still sleeping on my wifes old 5×6 should be enough to summarise the story.!

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  2. So 200K later, you still don’t have the “made in UG” chairs and so decided to spend I guess 200K+ on chairs from GAME!! Don’t get it, were you so desperate that you had to buy the GAME chairs? Granted Mr. Kasozi gamed you on the time thing but your lack of close supervision knowing very well that these chaps “be like that” is where I fault you ssebo. That said, you can in future host 12 disciples for dinner when/if Mr Kasozi comes round, for now its GAME on with the six. 🙂

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  3. The saga continues: I’ve sent Mr. Kasozi an SMS reminding him of the likely pain to be faced if I am not sitting on his chairs tomorrow night, and he has politely requested that I give him till Saturday evening. “Sorry. No. I will not wait beyond tomorrow.” I replied curtly.
    @Sandor: “Desperate” is not the word for the situation – I needed to sit at my dining table. Now, the reason Ugandans will continue to miss out on monies of these nature and instead go rioting in the streets about poverty is the attitude to work exhibited by Mr. Kasozi. Why should I have to take out time from my paying job to go and supervise his?
    I’m hosting a minimum of 12 people at a time…if he delivers.

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  4. hahah I have so enjoyed this Simon! The Kasozi’s are everywhere I think. I wanted a beautiful set of nest of tables in November last year, I downloaded picture blew it up and gave this trusted ‘Kasozi of Kenya’, called him for two months and all I got were stools, I simply loathe. So I got another this time from I hear… the trusted artisan tribe here, discussed all and paid half price upfront in September, I still call and pass by and all I am told is ‘madam yaawa, your work willbe ready in 3 days.I have to be careful’ Well I am moving into my new house soon without my sweet Eeh banange!

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  5. And today, ladies and gentlemen, I received my chairs! At around 1153hrs, 53 minutes after the finally negotiated hour, Ronald Kasozi arrived at my gate with six chairs complete with four legs and a well-planed back-rest each. None had seats, but that is the least of my worries for the nonce.
    Oh, and they weren’t varnished or polished either, but that didn’t worry me either.
    He and his pal have just finished doing the varnish and polish (Phase 1) and claim they will be returning tomorrow morning to complete the work and to deliver the seats.
    God be with them.

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