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POLKA DOT BOOTS IN MBALE by Winnie Ggala

Winnie Ggala (Architecture Intern 2012)

I breathed a sigh of relief as Elgon Flyer glided into Mbale town. On stepping out of the bus, mixed feelings instantly overwhelmed me. Here I was, dressed like a little girl in a short round grey skirt and a little white vest, carrying a heavy suitcase that I had stuffed with all sorts of clothes, kind of like a little portable closet..!? My God what was I thinking? That was an overload for little me! But well, we all have those once in a while moments of excitement.

I had to grow up real quick! Mummy was not there with me and neither was daddy; and besides I had just completed my second year of Architecture school! Really there was no need to worry.

At least I knew my next destination; this birthed a little crooked smile on my face. Meanwhile, I was surrounded by boda-boda men, bicycle men, and the like whose thunderous noises zapped me back to the reality of a strange town! These Bagishu men were all in joyful hope of riding a piece of me to Shine-on Hotel –then, my new Home – Utter craziness!

While on the “boda-boda” my eyes landed right on the magnificent view of Mountain Elgon. My! I love everything about nature, and now I realised that a trip to Mbale town was all I needed! I mean, after all the stress of books, projects and exams, there was no better place. Honestly I had never seen a mountain up-close before that day, 11th June, 2012.

Then, I smiled inwardly at the foolish thoughts that tormented me for a whole week when Dr. Ian Senkatuka broke the news to me that I would take up internship placement in Mbale town. I always thought of Mbale town as an alien land grief-stricken with landslides, circumcision and who knows what else!

Taking measurements

When I noticed the good roads, highly organized streets at that moment I couldn’t help wondering why Kampala could not pick a leaf from this peaceful and Nobel town. I totally fell in love with the place!

So I finally get to my beautiful little room at Shine-on Hotel. It was unbelievable where I was! A whole multitude of thoughts stormed my head. Seriously, with free accommodation not to mention in a hotel, sleeping on a fat comfortable bed, free breakfast, digital satellite television (DS-TV), a clean shower room with hot water and good customer service, what more would I want? Most of my colleagues back at school were still hunting for internship placement and here I was feeling like a queen.

My polka dot boots

I enjoyed my work days the most. The drilll was like this; wake up, get ready for the site, wear my beautiful polka dotted gumboots that my auntie got me for the American Embassy and then walk down the streets of Mbale town. The feeling of people admiring my pretty “shoes” was beyond lovely!

Getting to the site, I was the second lady to arrive in the place. I was horrified at first, for only a girl can understand the horror of having had over 100 men staring at me – endlessly. All thanks to Emma Serwanja the Resident Engineer, I felt safe and a bit relaxed for he was by my side all the time.

At the consultants office was a young lady called Jemima, the Construction Manager. She is a young jolly lady to whom I grew so close. We practically did everything together; doing lunch, checking out clothes and shoes and wishing that we could purchase all of them. We sometimes went without food because we bought lots of those and ended up with insufficient “funds”.

 

 

 

Jemima and me

Mulembe…beautiful people! If you do not know what that word means, do not go to Mbale town. It was the first word I learnt, which simply means “Hello”. I found this language a bit strange; to think that these people are in the category of the Bantu ethnic group? To me the accents sounded like those from the North.

The two months I spent in Mbale town were unforgettable, filled with lovely memories. During my last night in this town, I decided to take a long walk along the streets, just to say bye-bye. Honestly, I was sad. I felt like a part of me was being taken away.

Until this day, I birth a tiny smile each time I spot that Elgon Flyer bus here in Kampala. It just brings back all these wonderful memories.

I can never say enough about this once in a life time experience. I miss my friend Jemima so much! I also cannot forget how we planned to shake the President’s hand, H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni when he visited the site during an inspection of Mbale town. We did not get that much coveted handshake, still we managed to see him up close!

I would like to thank Emma Serwanja for everything he did for me, not forgetting the lunch he bought for me once in a while (sometimes I was so “broke” and I only had Emma to run to). He always came to the hotel to pay up the accommodation bills. Thanks Emma

I also thank God so much for this opportunity that he gave me on a silver plate. I couldn’t ask for more!

party time!

 

May He Bless These people;

  • Engineer Victor Male
  • Dr. Arch. Ian Senkatuka
  • Engineer Emma Serwanja
  • Jemima Nalumansi

 

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