dig the well before you get thirsty


From the Order of Service of Mzee Edward Kwatiraho

I LISTEN to podcasts avidly – more than I do our local radio stations. The podcasts I choose provide wit, wisdom and work…of an intellectual nature.

One of them is hosted by a Personal Development Coach called Jordan Harbinger who has taught me the phrase “Dig the Well before you get thirsty.” The origin of the phrase goes back to Zhuzi (or Zhu Xi), a Chinese scholar (1130 to 1200 Anno Domini!)

Dig the Well before you get thirsty‘ is a profound statement for many reasons and it dismays me many times when I realise that in 2019 I might be among the people who don’t follow this simple tenet eight hundred years after the death of the person who first said it!

In short, it means we should prepare for everything well in advance. You know one day you will get thirsty, so dig a well in advance. Or: don’t wait for trouble to befall you before working out a solution.

So if you have a well already dug, when the thirst comes – as it must because of biology – you will have an option nearby.

Last week at the funeral of Edward Kwatiraho, a grand old man, the father of some friends of mine, the phrase came back to me as we spoke about his illness and his last leg of the journey of life.

During an afternoon-long discussion before he left for his last medicals in India, he shared a heap of wise thoughts with a group of us. When his children and friends eulogised him they recounted lots more he had given them through his 82 years on earth – including the need to always be organised and prepared.

‘Dig the Well before you get thirsty’. And that’s why it came up during his send off, as I thought of the fact that he had to go to India for that treatment.

See, it is a fact that one day we will all die of something, most likely medical in nature.

Being aware of that fact should make us dig our medical wells as soon as possible so that when the medical thirst strikes in the form of cancer or heart disease or any of those other conditions that are enriching airlines flying to India, we can handle them right here at home.

Actually, that is going too far to start with – not the distance to India, but the handling of more complicated ailments.

As Mzee Kwatiraho’s cortege was departing for Bukinda, in Kabale, to lay him to rest I thought of that saying again. “Dig the Well before you get thirsty.”

His children had told me along the years of the preparations they had made to ensure their home in Bukinda was comfortable. In fact, Mzee Kwatiraho had moved from Kampala and was enjoying his twilight years in Bukinda in comfort till the sickness returned to ail him.

We all have that village to go back to when we are being laid to rest, and most of us only visit it once a year during one of the long holidays and festive seasons.

How many “wells” have we dug there? Focusing strictly on the medical, many of us will go to the village totally unprepared as usual for any medical emergencies that may arise.

But, more importantly, when we do fall sick while there then we stop over at an interim dispensary or clinic nearby as we make our way to Kampala to be admitted at a ‘proper’ hospital. Even where there are serious hospitals at the District centres, in the town nearest to the village, we still only stop over there.

Why? Why aren’t we kitting out our village health centres so that in case we fall sick while there we can get decent treatment and, much more importantly, when we are away for the larger part of the year, our relatives and neighbours there enjoy good treatment?

How about this year we start digging “wells” in our villages when we go this Easter or, more practically, in December? Surely we can take along some medical equipment for our local dispensaries and kit them up so they are better capable of saving lives?

‘Dig the Well before you get thirsty.’

Until then, God forbid that you get thirsty the next time you visit your village.

going to inspect aeroplane gloveboxes? avoid the wandegeya mechanic’s syndrome.


Uganda Airlines Plane
Image taken from https://www.ch-aviation.com/

A FEW Mondays ago we were laughing at a newspaper story titled, ‘MPs to visit manufacturers of Uganda Airlines planes in Canada’.

My laughter started right at the headline, then dissipated after the first paragraph when I realised that this was, indeed, the case.

The Committee Chair, Eng. Sekitooleko Kafeero, was even quoted as saying they were going to “assess if the passenger planes meet the specifications laid out in the manufacturing contract with government at the time of procurement” and to “assess value for money before the planes are delivered to Uganda”.

He even said that his honourable colleagues would be checking “if the designs conform to the industry standards and evidence of due care to the passengers.”

Confused Nick Young

Don’t be speechless.

One Coca-Cola Beverages Africa unit in Uganda last year invested US$8million in a new manufacturing line and has this year put another US$13million in another. That company invests about US$10million a year in equipment, all of which adheres to the oft-used phrase ‘state-of-the-art’. These investments are highly significant for the company, it’s staff, and the government.

See, as a result of the investments the company will churn out more products and thus aim at higher profits at the end of the year; the staff will therefore earn more money in bonuses and salaries assured over the years; and the government will collect more in taxes.

The significance of that equipment that company procures cannot be underplayed in any way.

Now, the cost of the aeroplanes might be higher than the cost of the manufacturing lines and other equipment the beverage company buys, but I do not recall any instance in which a company official had to fly out to the country of manufacture to ‘inspect production’.

In fact, at all the private companies I have been employed at, the need has never arisen for the ‘political leaders’ of the company to conduct technical inspections at manufacturing companies.

Inspection does happen, but if it is necessary it is conducted by the technical staff. And here I write “if it does happen” because most of these private companies make arrangements for the acceptance of all equipment – and goods and products – ONLY when they have been received and found to be working.

Perhaps our Members of Parliament on this Committee who are heading out to inspect aeroplane manufacture are being super-patriotic and extra-zealous. We should give them a round of applause.

They are going out there to ensure that everything that should be done during the process of manufacture is actually done. All wheels in the right place; steering wheel fixed firm; hosepipe functional and clean…it actually reminds me of my days going to Wandegeya garages and fuel stations to ‘service the car’.

My peers and I spent many Saturdays sitting around in dusty, oil-stained garage yards claiming we were servicing vehicles while chatting idly by as the mechanics busied themselves around.

Few of us ever ascertained whether the ‘brand new’ second-hand part the mechanic brought in and showed you was actually the one that went into the motor vehicle.

At their level, those Wandegeya mechanics worked out how to keep our minds at peace and any suspicions at bay. At points they would declare in dismay at the doomed situation they found on opening the bonnet, before telling you they would do their best to fix it.

After the work was done at a much lower cost than initially feared, we would pay up with relief and even tip the guys some extra for “saving” us money.

Kumbe…

Tricked

The more advanced mechanics started making it comfortable for us to sit around on the side at a distance that ensured we didn’t interfere with their work or get to see too much. They provided chairs and sodas or more, and we’d immerse ourselves in other pursuits till the cars were done.

That memory alone should help the Members of Parliament who are going on this trip. Don’t get to Canada and get the mechanic’s treatment – being bamboozled by plush hotels and nearby bars, restaurants and shopping malls, or great company that keeps you in conversation by the side away from checking that the aeroplane glove box is properly lined.

And as they prepare to go there should be another consideration: The Committee has 29 members and would be accompanied by at least one clerk – so 30 people would travel on this inspection. Average travel allowance (government) being US$700 a night, let’s estimate this to be at US$500 because Parliament is frugal.

That would be, for seven nights (two days travel either way with three days being enough to walk round a plane and poke about its innards), a total of US$105,000 if the entire Committee were to undertake this trip. That is without counting out-of-pocket, lunch and dinner, and warm clothing allowances or the cost of air tickets paid to ANOTHER airline altogether.

Without quibbling over what percentage that is of the cost of one aircraft, might the honourable legislators want to consider keeping that money and using it to fly on the actual planes themselves when the airline starts service, so they Buy Uganda to Build Uganda?