I just turned 30 and memories growing up in Jinja

I just turned 30 and memories growing up in  Jinja

On 27th April, God has blessed me with 30 awesome years. Wow. 30.

There are number of things to be grateful for.

Am fortunate and blessed that both my parents are still alive and still married for may be over 30 years now. We are a family of 5 kids, but we like most African families, we were never only 5. It was an extended family composed of us, cousins and uncles usually stacked in a small house. However, amid the chaos and the hustle was untold happiness. Sharing and caring were always the main themes of living.

But with urbanization and rising costs of living, it seems we are sweeping away good-old extended African families opting instead for western-style nuclear families or people living in silos. A part of me feels weird about that worrying trend.

Nevertheless, being brought up in a stable solid family setting by both parents married till now is not something I take for granted. It’s truly a blessing I intend to pass on to my own kids.

I also just got married about 5 months ago. Arguably my wife and I might be the oldest couple this year. Friends have started noticing am gaining some weight which is one of the expected outcomes for graduating bachelor. My weekends also seem to be punctuated by occasional visits to in-laws, married friends and Church. But let me reserve marriage experiences for another day.

I grew up in Jinja, to be more specific an area locally called “Nile” or “Nilo” which is right along and very close to the source magnificent River Nile, the longest river in the world. Jinja is an old colonial town and historical industrial capital of Uganda. The town is blessed with flora and fauna, hills, streams, rivers and lakes, two rainy seasons a year, clean air and calm and quite neighborhood. Living in Jinja is taking a long vacation to monestry away from the busy bustling city life.

My Dad worked at Nytil, arguably East Africa’s largest industry. Because of its close proximity to the river Nile, L. Victoria and Nalubale Hydro power plant, it was preferred by investors before Kampala took over. Given the position of my Dad who worked as a production Engineer, I was once given an exclusive guided tour of the vast the industry. This in-part might have kinda inspired my Engineering ambitions although I later pivoted after campus.

Most the industries in Jinja unfortunately collapsed following military and dictatorial regimes that rocked the country in the 80’s. It was dominated by a flourishing Asia business community before Idi Admin infamously expelled all Indians in the 70s. The government’s push to privatization also might have left some cooperatives and parastatals without willing investors to take them on. The town is now full of ghost industries and factories. #Sad.

Growing up in Jinja meant a had a lot of adventure and fun. Myself and other kids routinely visited the source of the R. Nile which John Speke apparently “discovered”. Silly as it might seem, we even swam on the banks of Nile. We climbed undulating Hills, played lots of football, stole sugarcane and climbed mango trees on our way from school. On the weekend, I would leave home after breakfast at about 10 am and came back at 7PM doing nothing but playing the whole day.

Another great thing about Jinja is it was and probably still is a multi-ethnic town. The area I grew up from was right at the border of Buganda and Busoga. So we had Baganda, Basoga together with lots of other tribes; Iteso, Acholis, Gishus, Banyankole and other tribes. Actually the company estate I grew up from had each house belong to a different tribe. Our immediate neighbors to the right were Basoga while to the left were Banyankole. So I interacted with kids from different regions of the country. That was important to my bringing as an all-inclusive Ugandan. Such a gift.

I also studied in Jinja up till my teen years. Am a Mwirian. In Mwiri we had kids from literary all over country which was once again cool for me. We were all different but we had one intersection — Cricket. I like to think of myself as a good bowler. There were several other very good kids at the sport, so I didn’t spend much time on the Cricket Oval.

This is where the fun stops. Brace yourself.

My stay at the historic town painfully ended in 2003 when my Dad was terminated from his Job. Were we forced out the estate. Nytil was privatized and it’s never been same again till today. Things started to spiral out my control and before I knew it, I was in Kampala. The rest of my studies were in or close to Kampala; “A” Level in Namilyango which is in Seeta and University in Makerere. This is where I also work now.

Given the turn of events, this period accelerated by development from BoysIIMen. My Mum and Dad moved upcountry after failing to get another job in town given his advanced age. So we had to find a new way of living which placed me in a state of confusion. My outlook on the world immediately changed now that I was no-longer in safe arms of my parents. I knew what was at stake, therefore I had to think carefully about the next phase of my life. Every single decision counted.

I spent all my twenties in Kla. Relative to Jinja, life is for hustle in Kla. Cost of living is 3-4 times more expensive than Jinja. While in Jinja, we could rent some gardens and grow our own food. Here everything is for buying from the markets. Cost of housing is super high too. A modest house is over Ugx 350,000-400,000 per month for a one room self-contained house. Jam is super crazy in Kampala and the roads aren’t any better. In Jinja the roads are fairly okay, public transport fares aren’t that much even today.

My wife partly works in Jinja and she tells me exactly that. In fact ever since she started work there, she’s fallen in love with the old town. She tells me she loves her commute to work because it takes her 30 minutes max for 10Km distance well as in the Kampala office, she used to spend one and half hours for the same or less distance. She says the food is nice and affordable too. In fact some days while on her way to Kampala, she likes to carry some food from Jinja.

If it were up to me, I would have loved to live in Jinja and work in Kla. If we had super fast passenger trains, a commute from Kla to Jinja would take at most 30 minutes since the two towns are just 90Km apart. Comparatively, I spend about 1 hour and 15 between Najjera and Kamwokya which is just 10Km. Unfortunately, the current state of the infrastructure doesn’t make this happen. But perhaps in 5-10 years, things might change.

Update: Dany in the comments thinks my post is sad and probably cynical. Hahaha. A story is a story, everyone has one and it should be told the way it is. But I believe am a very positive person. Am always optimistic about the future. I have faith. I believe the latter is and will always be greater than the former Haggai 2:9.

Image: mccrow.org.uk


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