By Jimmy Ojakol

From having them clown in baggy clothes that are the oddest pairings to demanding for terribly renumerated performances predetermined to embarrass one, children have always been the object of adults’ amusement, and I was no exception.

I’ll tell you two things I was obsessed with growing up: Number one, space and the mystery that surrounded it; Number two, engineering and all the prestige that surrounded it. I can only imagine how my teacher’s spirit must have almost choked on laughter because I wanted to be a space engineer. I now get the joke! Not the one you are towing with in your mind. No, not the fact that my country does not have an air space program. I understand why you may have found that hilarious, but that’s not it. 

The closest I’ve been to this pursuit is rendering perfectly running gadgets irredeemable in the name of Engineering. 

While not giving away too much, detours happened. Some, more bizarre than others. Like wanting to be a pastor, for example. I thought hard about pastorship; hard thought should surely count for something.

I had read the signs. Mathematics and I were in quite the toxic relationship, with all its bells and whistles. Granted, this was still in primary school, but who wanted to be the bearer of the news that not being good with some subjects barred one from certain career choices?

I remember doing my first gig as an electrician’s wingman or boy during the long break before joining the A-level. The break-up between me and my aspiration to be a Space Engineer was being established, but how was I to know?

The pay I got from being an electrician’s assistant recalibrated my aspirations. Moneyman was my new obsession. So, while everyone else waited anxiously for their results and anticipated university, I knew I had done little to place my case for consideration before the Almighty God. I’m sure there were thousands more deserving of His attention. 

By senior six vacation, I had my mind on owning a taxi, courtesy of my sister’s consideration to bankroll me. With a business plan written on two of the forty-eight pages in my Picfair book and vibes, I set up appointments at all the car bonds from Kireka to Spear and surrounding areas.  I should have invested that faith in something else, something more reliable, like Christmas. Or the Almighty God.

That career ended before it even started and another was picked up. After the blues of the just ended taxi business, I anchored my next big hope on me. I would let my accomplishments do the talking, lest I’m branded proud. A nursery graduation certificate, primary leaving examination slip, O-level certificate, and a glorious testimonial from my deputy headmaster. If he had insider information on what I had written for my final (A-level) examinations, he wouldn’t have been as generous as he was with his compliments. I had a chance! 

Joining my cousins, albeit not being a degree holder, in looking forward to days when jobs were advertised in newspapers was a thrill. After a couple of applications, shock followed surprise when I received a call for interviews at an enterprise that identified itself as Rhino 4 Uganda. I slept very little, spending the bulk of the night penduling between anxiety and excitement. 

I had an hour to spare when I arrived at the Bukoto-based enterprise for my ‘executive marketer’ job interview. I was a little disappointed to realize I was part of hundreds that had been called. Regardless, I solved the puzzle that was the queue while hoping it was not part of the test because the mess and commotion had me challenged. 

When I finally made it to the waiting area inside the office block, relieved to finally sit, my eyes were drawn to the wall opposite me that hoisted five identical clocks reading times of cities on my travel bucket list: London, Hongkong, Sydney, NewYork, Tokyo, and Kampala which was indicating that it was a couple of minutes to 4:00 PM. 

I was jerked out of this preoccupation when a stereotypical secretary lady called me out and informed me that it was my turn for the hot seat. I tried to still myself and eventually made my way to this office with unnecessarily humongous furniture. If the intent was to frighten the living daylights out of a man, they succeded. 

“Good afternoon sir?” the three words I managed to master. “Good afternoon, please have a seat,” was his gentle response, easing me in to the interview. After five minutes of the usual, I had aced the interview. I was to report on Monday and a necktie was a must.

Interestingly, we were in excess of 100 people that had passed this test. On Monday, we lined up and signed to access merchandise ranging from flasks to plastics and a whole assortment of home products in huge polythene bags. I was quite underwhelmed but what was I going to tell everyone back home that I had told I was going to OFFICE?

I, a lady, and gentleman were destined for Katwe suburbs to market this merchandise as orientation. If you’ve come across a triple threat team, hawking stuff in and about Katwe, there’s a good chance that was me and my crew. The good news was that we sold everything that had been given to us. That was my first and last day of work as a certified hawker. I suppressed this story when I got back home and life continued with this bit binned.

It took my friend co-opting me to work with him for certain Indians, assembling personal computers in Mbuya, that I was reminded that I once harbored space engineering dreams! I’ve since forgotten everything they taught us about computer assembly but I could never, for the life of me, forget how the five of us that were not Indian coughed every time lunch drew close while the Indians screamed ‘hot’ to the direction of the kitchen. They even had the audacity to inquire if we would partake of this unholy food. Hunger compromised my friend one day and he obliged. He did manage a small portion in what seemed like forever but not without wells of tears to complete the treat. The Indians didn’t relish paying our end-of-month monies and as such, I quit. 

A-level vacation was still going strong so I signed up to be a secondary school teacher in Teso. A month later, University study called me.

This study afforded me a procurement personnel job. I also worked in the NGO world, tried agribusiness, did a dairy and grocery shop, beauty and hospitality, photography, and who knows, Space Engineer could be actualized by my grandkids.

Considering that I have sampled and tried different type of work throughout my life, it’s safe to say I accomplished the space bit. Coupled with the destruction of gadgets and being a wiring assistant, the sun is not so far off the mark; Space Engineer.

Jimmy Ojakol

Jimmy Ojakol is a photographer, former hawker, budding writer, wannabe space engineer, and the Growth Manager of Ibua Publishing. I have noticed that he laughs more than he speaks and that is mark of the best person.

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