Jinja City! My Early Memories

All roads lead to Jinja City this weekend for WordCamp Jinja 2022, and in this article, Stephen Dumba takes us down the memory lane about his past experiences in Jinja.

Come 2nd and 3rd September 2022, the WordPress Community of Uganda and all lovers of WordPress will converge for the first ever WordCamp in Jinja.

I am privileged to be among the long and rich list of speakers that are scheduled to present at this 2 day event organised by the Jinja WordPress Meetup.

This will be my third time speaking to the Jinja WordPress Community where I was also privileged to speak at it’s launch 2 years ago.

Personally, I will be speaking about how to get and retain web design clients and also give a motivational talk on web design as a business for teachers. Being a teacher and techprenuer, I was asked by the Jinja community lead, Mr. Mukalele Rogers to share my experience as a teacher and web designer at the same time.

Also Read: Full List of speakers at WordCamp Jinja 2022

Life along the Banks of the Nile

Jinja is my home town. I spent all my school holidays since I was 9 in Jinja. Budondo, my home village is just 10 kilometres out of the City center along the dusty road that takes you to the magnificent Bujagali falls, Busowoko falls, Itanda falls and more.

My home village sits on the banks of the mighty River Nile and is as far as I know the most dangerous section of the worlds longest river. Growing up this area is the reason I turned into the daring swimmer I used to be.

My first experience swimming in the rapids

Once, when I was on holiday, a friend of mine, Othieno Peter (RIP) asked me to escort him to go fishing. We our 3 litre jerrycans full of earthworms, we headed for the banks. Peter, knew the best places to go fishing and these were usually in the exclusive sections of the rough river. The method of getting to these good fishing grounds was a raft made f banana stems.

I quickly made my 3-stem raft while following instructions from my experienced friend Peter and off we headed into the river. Halfway the journey, I got the feeling that this was too much for me. The fast flowing water overpowered me and I was now driftnet in the rough waters uncontrollably. Before I knew it, my jerrycan filled with our much valued earth worm dropped off. In an attempt to rescue it, I lost grip of the raft and found myself in the middle of fast the flowing water. The pictures below were taken at the spot where I made my first daring swim and every year, I visit this place in memory of my late friend Othieno Peter.

Inexperienced, I swam with all my energy until I couldn’t fight no more. Just when I was about to give up, I heard Peter’s calls for me to stay calm and drift. I did just that, though I wasn’t sure how. …and some minutes later, I reached calmer waters where I calmly swam to the bank.

Terrified, we abandoned our fishing expedition and went back home empty handed. At home, we received the wrath of Peter’s mum and were only saved by the arrival of his father.

The Last soccer match

River Nile is the traditional boundary between Busoga and Buganda. Every holiday as teenagers, we used to organise a soccer tournament between several teams from the Busoga and Buganda sides. At the end of the tournament, each side of the Nile would then make a select side that would represent their region in a do or die final.

On this fateful day, we had the final on the Buganda side of the Nile. The Buganda side had never beaten us in a final. In order to win this, they brought in boys that were far older than those that traditionally played with us. The stubbornness in just encouraged us to take this challenge on without any protest.

The match was on several times interrupted by protests of unfair play from our side but the hosts were determined to beat us both on the field and on our way home. I can’t tell how but we emerged best in all aspects of the game. We were however only 1 goal ahead with several of of them cancelled. The referee awarded a penalty to the hosts as the match was about to end. This brought the game to a draw with a few minutes to end the game and while it was getting dark.

We asked for a time out and planned for our final assault and alerted all our supporters to run as fast as they could as soon as the final whistle was blown. The plan was to hoodwink the hosts by playing in our half while 2 of our less experienced boys got ready for the final sprint with the ball to the other side.

The plan worked! While the entire team including their goal keeper concentrated in our half, our duo made the final dash and scored the winning goal. While the referee blew the whistle to indicate that it was an offside, our supporters jumped in ululation. The whistle was interpreted as the end of the match – and off we ran as fast as we could.

A photo of me in my younger days at Bujagali falls.

The hosts and the entire village chased us with sticks but the fear of a battering kept us a step ahead of them. In the dark, we separately jumped into the waters and started swimming just below the Bujagali Falls. Kyekobye – Kibuuke! was our call to alert each other of where we were.

We gathered on the Eastern side of the Nile, gasping and shivering! …and as we collected ourselves to trek back to our respective homes – the much respected Jajja Bujagali (RIP) showed up, smoking his pipe, stick in hand. He led us to his palace where he gave as a tough lecture that seemed to take hours. he told us how the spirits had alerted him that we were in danger and had come to see what was happening.

His final words were “Let me never see this soccer nonsense again on this village!” – and that was the last such soccer tournament in our village.

The Jinja Agricultural show I attended but never paid for

Jinja is home to the annual Source of the Nile Agricultural Show. This week long fair is a must attend for many a teenager. In fact, every year, schools across Uganda take their students to this show.

One day, with my good friend Peter, we confirmed we were too broke to attend. How would we attend this show? Solution? Swim! The show grounds go to the bank of the Nile. What we had to do was to walk to the Buganda side of the Nile then swim across the Nile.

With Ian Clarke at the Jinja Agricultural Show in 2017. I no longer have to dodge entrance fees.

As darkness approached, we put our clothes in tight buveras and swam across the calm waters just a few meters away from the Source of River Nile. We entered through the bushes unnoticed and joined the fun. In that year, 7UP was a trending soda brand and Twins Disco Sound was on every teenager’s mouth. With my friend we stayed in there for I thin 3 days surviving in chapatis and the trending 7Up.

My first job & how I lost it

After completing my Diploma in Education from National Teachers’ College Kaliro, I went to town to drop a few application letters. After dropping the letters, I went to an internet cafe to try out the internet. The Indian owner of the cafe was surprised to see me do stuff on my own. We had a chat and we quickly bonded. He asked me what I was doing in town and told him I was on a job search. Without hesitation, he instantly gave me job – no application letter, no CV.

After 4 months of working 7:00 am to 10:00 pm, I thought it was wise to give my profession a try. I was tipped for an interview at a school across the Nile. According to the person who directed me there, it was a sure deal.

On one unfortunate day, I didn’t show up at the cafe. After all, I was sure of the job where I was going to do the interview. Despite warnings from the sky that it wasn’t going to be a good day, I jumped on my bike expecting to arrive at the promised school before the rain.

As I approached Owen Falls dam, the rain poured like it was the last time. With no shelter nearby, almost zero visibility and all cars at standstill, the rain poured for close to an hour. I couldn’t move an inch. I firmly held myself on the rails of the bridge, protecting both myself and the bicycle.

At the end of what appeared to be eternity, the rain subsided and there I was drenched to the skin, shivering and my academic documents wet. I gathered some strength to go ahead to the school only to be told I wasn’t serious. I went back home, feeling sickly and disappointed. The next day, I went to the cafe only to find a job poster on the door “Surf Assistant Wanted”. I broke the bad news to former student Red Boy (In pic below) who always looked up to me and admired how I worked on the computers. His words of encouragement were instrumental in getting me back to my feet and re-start my hustle in search of a job.

With my former student Red Boy

While trying to find another job, a friend of mine Abdallah Zein, then Uganda’s biggest source of music encouraged me to start my own cafe since I had the knowledge of what it takes. He always told me that his dream was also to start his own. But for me, fresh out of school, I didn’t have the capital to start one. So I tried out my luck searching for jobs. I only realised this dream 5 years later when I stated my own E-zone Internet cafe. My friendship with with Zein has lasted all these years and every time I am in Jinja, it is tradition that I visit him at his place.

Abdallah Zein (In blue) encouraged me to start at Internet cafe. He is the owner of Zeinsoft Internet cafe in Jinja, a few meters from the venue of WordCamp Jinja 2022.

My session at WordCamp Jinja 2022

This time, I come back to Jinja, not chill, not to visit but to share my experience with fellow WordPressers on how to get and retain web design clients. Having been introduced to WordPress in 2019 by this event’s organiser Mukalele Rogers, we quickly partnered to set setup E-zone Web Services. Sooner, we realised that knowing how to build websites was one thing but working with clients was another.

We soon realised that we were losing clients faster than we were getting them. It was time to sit down, do some research and find practical solutions to this. So, at this WordCamp, I am proud to present to attendees what we found out that works. – be there!

PS: There will also be an After party at the Nile where WordCamp attendees will get a chance to experience this amazing place. See full schedule at https://jinja.wordcamp.org/2022/schedule/ and call the organizers on 0706060740 / 0772111223 for any further inquires