Tilling a New Path

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| This is the 210th story of Our Life Logs |


It was 1989 in Nairobi, Kenya. I was just two years old, barely out of my weaning stage, when my parents called it quits on their marriage and served me my first plate of loneliness. My mother took the highway and never looked back, not even at me! My father was left to care for me alone and since he lacked childcare skills, he handed me to my grandfather, a man with a big heart. My father became a rare sight at home, often disappearing for days. Even as a toddler, I remember feeling unwanted and neglected.

Thankfully, my grandfather and his family raised me as their own. They made sure I was properly loved and always made me feel like I belonged. My grandfather taught me the importance of hard work. He was an ex-military man, and when he was still in the forces, he bought parcels of land that he planted trees on. When I was 12, he made me his right-hand man. We’d wake up at 5am to begin a five-kilometer journey to the farm on foot. Once we arrived, I would weed, transplant and straighten the crooked growing trees under the strict supervision of my grandfather. He cultivated in me the belief that hard work pays.

I looked up to my grandfather and loved hearing his stories about his time in the army. I grew up with the desire to follow in his footsteps and become a military man. I knew that I already had the strong work ethic thanks to him, so I was sure that I’d fit well into the forces. My grandfather, however, never really supported my dream, telling me that I had so much more potential beyond the military. Still, my desire didn’t flicker out, and I was determined to pursue that path.

While I was bonding and learning from my grandfather, my father was content just being a silent observer. When he passed away I was 13, I wasn’t even affected, he was a stranger, my grandfather was more of a father to me than my own father ever was.

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I tried very hard in school and scored moderately good marks. My motivation was fueled by my dream to become a military officer and wield the power that my grandfather held even after he retired. In 2002, I happily held my acceptance letter to the prestigious Lubinu High School. I could smell the aura of a promising future. Or so I thought.

I was supposed to receive some of my father’s benefits after he died, but my step-mother ended up swindling all of that, and I never got a single penny. My grandfather was polygamous and had more than one family to fend for; his younger children were also in high school and in need of financial support, so he was also unable to help me as much as he wanted to.

Still, my grandfather tried all he could to keep me in education and transferred me to a small village school which was much cheaper to attend. His determination to see me in school gave me wings and hope that I would still find success. He told me, with discipline, no obstacle would bind me, not even a small school!

Sadly, the education quality in the village school was quite bad. Despite my best efforts, I graduated high school with only a C-, not good enough for me to go straight into the military. I was so disappointed with myself.

Since I couldn’t join the army yet, I decided I wanted to go to college, but again, I needed financial support. My grandfather couldn’t afford to help me because his family was placing too much pressure on him to prioritize his own children’s education over mine, which to an extent, I understood. So just like that, my road to success seemed blocked, and I wasn’t sure if it would ever clear up.

Hitting the dead end, I started walking to construction sites seeking manual labor work.

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For two years, I toiled from one construction site to another trying to make a living for myself. Eventually, things looked up and my grandfather was able to offer me financial help to further my education. I went back to the classroom and thrived, receiving the best results of my life which got me admission to Makerere University, the largest university in Uganda.

I stayed another year at home waiting for my grandfather to get the funds ready, and in 2010, heaven finally smiled at me and I entered a three-year program at the university with bright eyes.

I completed my first year without a hitch, and my heart started to relax. I felt reborn with the new stability, seeing the chance at success once again. However, I must have relaxed too soon because by the start of the second year, my dreams shattered yet again. My younger grandmother openly scolded my grandfather for helping me, making him pull out his funds. And thus came the end of my college life at Makerere University.

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Dejected, I returned to Kenya in 2011 and went back to the construction site. I decided to save up my own money to pay for the remaining two years of my course. As I worked and saved, I reawakened my military dream that had been sleeping in my heart. Once the passion was reignited, it couldn’t be stopped. I wanted badly to pursue my dream of serving my country, so I buckled down and worked seriously to get myself in physical shape for the training.

My motivation had reached a point of no return. I joined martial arts classes and became a green belt, swore off alcohol, and worked out all the time. I was both mentally and physically in my fittest form. I was so determined to join the army that I even sold my two cows to reach my financial goal so I could secure a chance to join the military.

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Cows | Image courtesy of Pixabay

Unfortunately, corruption is like a leech in the Kenya forces. I made several attempts but failed each time, not because I wasn’t physically sound, but because I didn’t have any “connections.” I didn’t have the promise of a relative extorting on my behalf to secure me a spot, so each time, I got dropped early in the process.

I tried for three consecutive years to make it past the recruitment process, but each time I was left with disappointment. After I failed the third time, I decided to finally put my military dream to rest. I simply didn’t have the necessary connections, or money, to make it in. It was a harsh reality to face, but I had to.

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In between my attempts, I got married and started working contracted plumbing jobs. I always loved technical work, so I got interested in plumbing. By 2013, I had saved enough to build a poultry farm of my own, and thus, moved onto a new venture: farming. The venture thrived for two years before I was offered a full-time job by the Lake Victoria North Water Services Board as an artisan.

Ludo fixing water pipe
Me fixing a water pipe.

As things looked up, I realized my thirst for education had not been quenched, and I wanted to go back. However, both times I started programs in universities in Kenya, my job transferred me to a new city making it very difficult to stay focused, especially when I had to commute miles every day to work while I tried to keep up with my studies. It’s like my life had a set of triggers to dim my dreams.

The one good thing to come out of my transfers was that one of the towns I was transferred to was where my grandfather had left me 10 acres of land as an early inheritance gift. This allowed me to pursue personal farming again.

Eventually the transfers stopped, and the good lasted. Perhaps I needed a whole lot of bad to finally reach some good in my life. I have ventured into sugarcane production on the inherited land and have started my own business through farming. On the side, I continued my education and will be graduating in December this year (2018). I have also purchased a plot where I intend to build a home. Throughout all, my wife has played a central role in ensuring that I keep my sanity as I maneuver the endless challenges.

Ludo at his vegetable farm
At my vegetable farm.

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I may have lost the chance to join the army, but I did not lose the chance to quench my thirst for education and self-improvement. Through it all, I never gave up, even when one bad thing after another happened. All it took is a positive attitude and perseverance. I suppose I was never meant to be in the army, but a farmer instead. I’m sure that is what my grandfather wanted for me anyway. I’m happy with this new path I’ve taken even if it wasn’t my first choice. I have found happiness and success through it, and that’s all I ever wanted.

 

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 This is the story of Ludovick Ogude

Ludovick lives in Nambale, Kenya with his wife and son and works as a sugarcane farmer. Abandoned at birth by his parents, Ludovick was raised by his paternal grandfather who showed him love and supported his education until he couldn’t anymore. Although Ludovick faced many failures pursuing education and his military dream, he never gave up and stayed positive. The military dream, unfortunately, was never fulfilled, but he eventually found another path in life—sugarcane farming—that was just as fulfilling. In 2017, his grandfather passed away. He was very broken by this experience but knows that if his grandfather were here, he’d be proud of the path he’s now on. Ludovick says that family is his greatest strength. He attributes his success so far to the discipline and mentorship he gained from his grandfather and to the love and support he has received from his wife.

Ludo with his family
Ludovick with his wife and son, 2018.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on November 15, 2018.

| Writer: Opondo Maureen| Editor: Kristen Petronio, MJ|

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