By Geoffrey Muhoozi in London
VERY tired on a train home from College to register for the new Semester, I received a text message or call it an SMS from an old family friend in Uganda, with what I would call instructions to call him.
Still wondering how the old man got my number in spite of giving strict instructions to my siblings and parents not to give away my cell number, the first thing that came to my mind was that maybe something had happened to his daughter Chloe, a good old school friend and that the daughter had demanded to talk to me and maybe had lost her phone. Since I was on a train and it would be too expensive to call him using my cell phone, I ‘texted’ him back and promised to call him in about an hour.
On calling him, he asked the same questions other people usually ask me: Is UK like heaven, is there a lot of money and do you intend to come back after your studies, to which I said; ‘yes, why not?’ causing him to protest asking me why I would return to Uganda with the kisanja project looming as if I had told him that I was to stand for election or about to join the opposition. What followed was a question that I almost failed to answer. The old man asked me, how does Chloe get to the UK?
My answer was concise and precise. She has to get a Visa from the High Commission! The old man ranted and almost used an ‘F’ word saying he knew all one was supposed to do but wanted to know how easy it was. I almost told him that I don’t work for the High Commission but just had the decency to tell him that I have spent some time out of the country and was not able to tell how easy or hard it would be to get entry clearance to the Britain, prompting him to ask what entry clearance was. ‘That is the Visa I am talking about.’ I explained.
Funny thing, the old man didn’t seem to know that Visas were classified as student, visitor, prospective student and many others including one for spouses. I then asked; ‘how do you want her to get to the UK, is it on a student visa or a visitors’ visa?’ He had no answer which prompted me to explain.
‘For a Student Visa, you have to part with at least £1000 which is close to shs3 million as tuition deposit if you are to get an admission letter to enable you process entry clearance to the Queen’s land. Accommodation will cost between £280[shs840,000] and £300[shs900,000] excluding bills and meals unless Chloe is to live with relative or friend until she settles in so well to cater for herself.’ I explained.
For a visitor’s visa, I told him that if Chloe wasn’t coming to visit as she will purport but to seek ‘greener pastures’, that would amount to giving her away to the streets and let her live like stray dog being hunted because after sometime she would be an illegal immigrant. I advised him to instead marry her off if she can not get a decent job in Uganda after several years of study including the three years she spent at University.
I thought I had tried to enlighten the old man and pumped some little sense into his head through his phone ear piece but it wasn’t near to that. He had another idea which I think could have been awoken by my advice to marry Chloe off.
‘You talked about something like a spouse or marriage visa, cant students invite their spouses?’ he inquired. I told him they can but it would take lots of effort, time and money if they are fake spouses prompting him to ask what it would take, how and where it would be done from.
I told him it would require a marriage certificate from a church or the Registrar of Marriages and may be some more evidence but I was quick to ask the old man how all this would work yet we were not spouses or anywhere near intimate.
Here was the old man doing okuhingira or giving away his daughter to me on phone. What was not clear to me was if Chloe was seated next her Dad as she was being given away to me on phone. I protested saying that in this day and age that wasn’t the way things were done only to be told to relax and take it easy. Little did I know that Chloe harboured the same thoughts as her Dad thus raising my suspicions that she may have been there as she was being given away to me.
After about half an hour talking to Chloe’s old man, I decide to call Chloe and with the journalism training I have, I try to find out if she is aware of a conspiracy to give her way to me and to my surprise; she is and very willing to be given way though denies conspiring with the old man. She tells me she has always had a thing for me but being the lady she was, she could not pour her heart out and tell me how she felt.
‘Was it a blessing in disguise that your old man decided to give you away?’ I ask. It is now that she starts telling me about all those times when I visited her in Africa Hall while at University but she could not get to utter a word but waited for me to set the ball rolling but never did. I remind her that we were not only friends but family friends and that nonsense would not be tolerated. She tells me of several people who have made it yet they were family friends.
At the back of my mind, I know how Ugandans can do anything to get what they want and with so many examples of guys who have brought their supposed girl friends or spouses to the UK only to be left in the cold. I decide to highlight the whole thing as crap because I actually just have to start nurturing those would be feelings.
I had got a hustle free babe in the name of helping her get to the UK as if I am the British High Commissioner, but that would leave holes in my pockets and my heart would be so vulnerable for a heart break like many Ugandans in the UK and there would be no one to blame except me, myself and I.
As I prepare to end the call I say, Chloe dear, I am out of that circus. Actually katemba or drama would be a misused word. Gone are the days and that is not how things are done. Besides I know what Ugandans are capable of doing. Have a splendid night!!!
Having hanged up on her with that line, I don’t know what is running through her mind but will find out soon and see what she is up to lately. Neither have I had from the old man too. Ugandans can really be so silly at times. Imagine giving away your daughter to a man just to have her travel to the UK. Total insanity!
NOTE: ALL STORIES HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED BY UGANDA'S LEADING DAILY, THE NEW VISION OR THE SUNDAY VISION.