Imagine losing your life time investment in a flash!!
Last week was one of the darkest in my life. And this is how an eventful and bright day suddenly went dark.
I was meant to travel to Gulu town, located about 400km north of Kampala, Uganda’s capital on Thursday morning to volunteer for a robotic training organized by my friends Solomon King and Sandra Washburn.
That morning, Taxi operators went on strike, protesting the increased operation fees. Transport in Kampala City was a mess. The over 5 million inhabitants of this city who primarily use public transport were held hostage. I was part of the statistic that day.
Sporadic riots were happening all over down town Kampala. Teargas was being fired from one side of town, bullets went off in the other. I was caught in between. For that reason, I didn’t travel. No one did.
I decided to take advantage of the situation and photographed a few exchanges between the protestors and the Uganda Police. It wasn’t for long. Because of the heavy luggage I had, I decided to jump on a motorbike, commonly known as Boda Boda and headed back home.
Later in the evening, I was back with my backpacks at Kisenyi Bus Terminal hoping to catch the second last bus to Gulu which departs at 7pm daily.
After being booked in a Homeland Bus seat 58, I squeezed myself into the back of the bus in preparation for my 6 hour night travel. Since a large number of people had not travelled whole day, the bus’ isle was chaotic with passengers, hawkers, touts, bus managers and ‘thieves’.
I was carrying three backpacks with a heavy tripod. The bags were as close to my heart as my life. There was some kind of mini stampede in the bus. My feet, was stamped on, my shoulders were knocked from one side to the other, but my camera bag was safe. At least for that while.
58 was an isle seat. My two backpacks were on my lap while the other was beside me. To allow the other two travelling passengers take their seats, I temporarily put my backpacks in the overhead baggage space.
In less than 10 seconds, before I could get back to my seat, I realize something was missing in the overhead luggage space. The most important backpack together with one other backpack was missing! Looking down the isle, my tripod too went missing. I climbed on bodies in a rush to check outside the bus, but it was too late. My life’s savings were all gone.
Distraught and confused, I disembarked the bus, sat on the dusty floor thinking about nothing in particular. Sorry was what the bus owners could offer. On the other hand close to Ushs. 40 million (USD 18.000) was stolen. And all they could say was sorry?
Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 16-35mm f2.8, Canon 24-70mm f2.8, Canon 70-200mm f2.8, MacBook Pro 15 Inch were among the causalities.
My livelihood and profession is dependent on taking pictures. It’s my hobby, my passion, my bread, my hope for today and tomorrow. Waking up the next day knowing I didn’t have what defined who I am, who I have become was a hard feeling to hide.When
Getting these cameras to Africa is a hustle. Affording them is even much more than a hustle. I saved every last penny over the past four years to invest in what I heartfully believe in. And for all this effort to be crushed in under a minute is mean. Out rightly unfair.
Thanks to friends who have encouraged me to move on. Friends who have constantly reminded me that my most important tool is safe in my eyes. They have gone on to create an account on Indiegogo Online Fundraising Platform “African Stories through Photography” to source some funds to help me top up on my next gear. In Uganda, another set of friends have created a facebook page “Echwalu Photography Fundraisers” to source for more funds locally. The response from both has been amazingly high. Thank you.
For now, I remain unemployed.