The Saga of the Digging of a Well: Part 4

After the threat of danger and the heightened adrenaline wore off, I eventually decided doing nothing is better than doing all kinds of things to prevent the inevitable.

The few things I could do to save myself and the well: (1) Don’t leave the pump in the well overnight. (2) Don’t go out of the house at night, unless I want to meet an unexpected visitor.

But ultimately, we needed to dig the well deeper. So, Stephen organized with the original contractor to dig the well deeper. He was told that the contract covered the extra digging. A week or two later young men came to begin digging deeper. They opened the top of the well and repositioned the scaffolding and began to dig deeper and continue the building of the upside down silo.

I asked my husband who the young men were who came? Were they the same ones that came to visit with the “registered pump thief” ? Oh, yes. One of them is.



I don’t know. We’ll let the contractor sort out his own employee issues.


(Shaking my head)

There were 5 men to begin with and eventually their were 3. The young men began work early in the morning but in the late afternoon they showered and relaxed. They camped in our yard and cooked their own food using firewood from our downed tree. They slept in the chicken house at night. They dressed and showered in our toilet/shower out back.

I was working most days so I didn’t see much of the process. But after coming home, bits and pieces of the prior story began coming out. There was the story of the fight they had with their boss about not having food. They were saved from hunger when they were given cassavas and jackfruit from our garden. There was also the story of when my husband finally paid them after they had decided the well was deep enough. They left in a civil manner but once they got a safe distance away, they fought over what their share of the final payment should be. They fought so vigorously they sustained injuries and showed us the resulting scars.

They struggled with the well and the promises were the same as before. When will the well be done? “Oh, a couple more days.”

One day I came home from work early. I was feeling ill but had yet to discover I was coming down with malaria. Stephen was gone for the whole day, so he was not around to monitor the project. I went down to the well to see the progress. The young men were taking turns showering. They were covered head to toe in the brownish red wet clay-like mud. Only their eyes and mouth were visible. I didn’t take photos. Nobody wants to be remembered looking like that. One of the young boys even made sure to wear his white shirt, bow tie and coat every evening after showering. I was certain he did not want to be photographed, covered in mud.

It was late for lunch but Gracie and Glory were just sitting down to lunch, with the remains of their breakfast sandwich sitting nearby. I went out to see what the young men were eating and saw nothing was cooking. I asked one of them, what they had eaten for lunch. His response indicated they hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I responded, “That is not acceptable.” Then I went in to the house where my daughters were rolling their eyes about their plate of food and I told them the men who were working hard, had not eaten. They suggested the men should get their food and they brought their own plates out to the men and gave it to them shyly.

I spent the next few days in a malaria stupor and have no idea what the young men ate but their boss slowly and in a sideways manner squeezed more money from us here and there. It was annoying to sign a contract and not have the conditions met but it was worse to know the young men working for you were working and not being fed enough and likely not paid.

This is the story of how all contracts are renegotiated and lines are pushed this way and that. It is also how contractors directly contribute to the suffering of their employees and mismanage funds and squeeze others for a little something, something here and there. Some even say, by principle, you should not treat your employee too well, lest they steal from you, what they believe is theirs or what they know is not theirs. Sometimes employees do steal what compensation they believe they are owed, but a “beaten dog” does not dare. Sometimes the employee is treated well but remembers all those other times, and takes the lion’s share and does what has been done to him. Sometimes employees have their own sinister reasons like some bosses.

Some don’t tell this side of the story. Most muzungu’s don’t see this side of the story. I’m told, Ugandans hide the behavior they know distresses muzungu’s.

Published by sengendoabigail

Instructional designer, educator, mother, wife, Jane of all trades.

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