International Women’s Day had us saying farewell to a grand old lady who lived 102 years and left behind a humble yet powerful legacy as a good mother, devoted wife, committed Christian and one of the most hardworking people in her community.
One story that stuck about the industrious nature of Tezira Rwabuhungu went back to her time as a young girl in Rwanda, where they used to go out in groups to do communal digging. Because she had a tendency of literally digging from dawn till dusk, people started avoiding her and her group diminished in numbers but she went on tilling the soil.
One day, a eulogist recounted, she complained that nightfall had come too quickly yet she had been tilling non-stop from early that morning! Another told us how she made the determination after getting married and acknowledging the humble nature of the salary of her Reverand husband, that her family would never want for anything.
This made her work doubly hard at making handicrafts to increase their domestic income – which she did well into her eighties!
Her final journey took us to Namutamba, in Mityana, where right at church I met her anti-theses – all three of them men, of varying education levels but similarly humble beginnings.
The first had a kiosk selling fruit right across from the church we were at, which caught my attention because of a recent dietary shift on my part. His prices were half what I meet in Kampala, so I was eager to stock up for the week, but he wasn’t ready to suffer the inconvenience of searching for change.
After a few minutes of bargaining with him to take more of my money, I realised how ridiculous I sounded and stepped back. But the pull of the fruit was strong, and I felt a duty to change his attitude as well.
So I invited him to cross the road with me to explain that if he created a branch of his kiosk using a table set up in the compound of the church just metres away, he would make enough money for change to not be a problem, since there were hundreds of people from Kampala present.
He gave me that, “I’ll get back to you” look, walked back to his banana-laden kiosk, and only returned when I sent for him much later on as I was engaged in a one-sided conversation with the second antithesis, a chap called Something Sebuturo.
Sebuturo burst in on a conversation I was having with Capt. Gad Gasatura about Namutamba’s vast potential for tourism since it contains a wealth of history right in the homes of the people there. Just as we were warming up our theme to package it for the newly-formed Uganda Tourism Board team, Sebuturo arrived, preceded by thick fumes of alcohol.
Before long we were in stitches as he engaged us in witty Kinyarwanda mixed with Luganda and some Runyoro, and he was so busy chatting he missed out on the bananas being distributed. That’s when I sent for the Kiosk entrepreneur, and the third antithesis to the hard working old lady entered the picture.
This fellow was called Magango, and joined with the offer to hold the kaveera I was using to gather litter. Out of respect for his obvious age, and with one eye on his neat batik shirt, I protested a little but he brushed aside my protests with the declaration: “Nze njagal’akaveera kano. Tekinzibuwalila ‘kugikwaata!” (‘What I want is the plastic bag; it’s not hard for me to hold.’)
His breath gave off no alcohol, so I paid him a little more attention and was surprised at the eloquence of his conversation, which included some english words.
“I did Cambridge exams, you know!” he said at one point, referring to the question papers sent to Uganda by post from Canterbury between the 1960s and 1980s. All this he did while swinging the kaveera of litter, even as he revealed that his father had been a well-respected carpenter in the area.
This was shortly before Sebuturo walked off haughtily after announcing to me, “Alright, I am off – Ushs500 is all I need right now!” and throwing me a disdainful gesture after I dilly-dallied at providing him with said funds.
I was flummoxed.
What had happened to Magango to make a random kaveera such a valuable possession that he would gather up our rubbish? At least Sebuturo’s breath was a pointer to his general disposition, even though he did strike a funny pose standing in the foreground of his brother’s four wheel drive vehicle driving off back to Kampala.
And most of all, I couldn’t understand why was the kiosk seller was NOT selling off all his wares at the funeral of a woman whose work ethic, industry and dedication to service was legendary, at least as a gesture to say: May her soul Rest In Peace.
If you are not excited about this then you’re generally disinterested in science, your understanding of mathematics is rudimentary and your economics is poor – as poor as your country would be if you were in charge of things.
This eclipse is exciting because it is going to make us RICH! And FILTHY RICH at that, in just a matter of days!
The clever ones amongst us have already reaped the benefits since we first started talking about this back when Father Simon Lokodo was addressing himself to Uganda’s skirt lengths. This rare natural phenomenon presented Uganda with an opportunity, and today, this weekend and this week, we collect!
Some people, for instance, are paying UK£2,300 for a seven-day trip to Uganda. That’s just over Ushs9million (NINE MILLION SHILLINGS) for seven days; Ushs1.3million each day. This money is paid to tour operators who naturally make a profit off it – let’s assume it’s a profit of Ushs500,000 per person per day so that more of you are encouraged to go into this line of business and start selling Uganda better.
The tour operator spends the rest on flights, accommodation, transport and food for the visitors.
That is money into the pockets of people who grow the raw food, the ones who buy and sell it forward, and the ones who eventually cook it; also earnings for food transporters; and dealers in the energy used to cook (from firewood to Umeme)…the list is long but the money is also a lot.
Especially if you believe that there will be at least 30,000 people coming in through the borders for this weekend.
And it doesn’t stop with those monies either – they also carry extra money to pay for things like booze, souvenirs, snacks, more booze, like that, like that. If these 30,000 people are each going to spend Ushs1.3million a day, deduct Ushs500,000 as the tour operator’s profit and that leaves Ushs800,000 per visitor/tourist – which equals a total of Ushs24billion (TWENTY FOUR BILLION SHILLINGS)! That, in case you aren’t paying attention, is Ushs24billion EVERY DAY!
Catch your breath.
That’s almost enough to build another parking lot for MPs, if you already have Ushs12billion. Sorry. That was an unnecessary suggestion, since we finished with the parking lot.
But there is more money coming in by way of this eclipse; YOUR money. I am already in Masindi as you read this, transferring money that I would otherwise have spent in Kampala and spending it here instead. On top of those 30,000 tourists we anticipated last week, we could easily top up with another 30,000 Ugandans from other parts of the country, all driving up to Masindi, Pakwach and Nebbi to catch the eclipse.
I don’t know how much we will be spending right now, but this is the time for all those people who live and operate along the road from Entebbe Airport all the way to Pakwach to activate themselves. I know the aptly-named Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Industry might have already sent out these advisories so I am just re-enforcing the message with:
a) It’s not too late: Print t-shirts with the words ‘I love Uganda’ t-shirts or ‘I Watched The Eclipse In Uganda’ or even, for those who don’t heed the warnings, ‘I Was Struck Blind Watching The Eclipse in Uganda’ and sell them everywhere up to the airport
b) Build Sunglass Huts especially close to Masindi, and stock them with proper UV sunglasses instead of those knock-offs sold in Kampala traffic that will one day make eye-omelettes on our faces if the Bureau of Standards doesn’t wake up
c) All the people who live in those places just off the road from Maganjo to the top of Pakwach, dig up your raw food that’s ready to sell and sell it, dammit! Don’t let any potato, tomato or mango stay behind – you won’t regret this!
d) set up kiosks selling soft drinks at various points along the road, all the way
e) Caterers, please introduce some travel snacks on the Masindi-Gulu road to replace those roast sweet potatoes and cassava, and those suspect bits of meat we’ve seen since the ‘80s. In fact, all Rolex stands should relocate to that road and line up neatly a polite distance from the road.
Speaking of politeness, all of us must be at our most polite this week because these tourists might enjoy their stay here so much that they choose to come back every year on anniversary visits; plus, when they go back they will tell everyone they meet what Churchill said: ‘Focus on Uganda’.
Even Ugandans: Focus on Uganda.