Before she retired, Margaret Anne Wampamba used her stay in the United States (US) to consider where she wanted to retire and in what sort of home she would spend her reirement.
She visited the Sater Homes a US based residential design firm specialising in luxury custom homes and picked one of the designs. A builder was recommended to her and she shared the design with them.
“The measurement of spaces was American but the builder recalculated them to British standards and as such, the house turned out to be huge,” she explains.
Wampamba is a retired civil servant and author. If she had to break down the house and reconstruct, she would lose a lot of money so she accepted to go with the error the mason had committed in space measurement.
Her home sits on half an acre situated in Bugiri-Bukasa village. She bought the land for less than Shs100m. At the moment, land has accumulated value. The same piece of land could cost up to Shs700m since it is close to Lake Victoria.
“I was lucky to buy it back then. It was during election time. Someone was in a hurry to sell because they needed money to invest in their political campaign. And there I was…I had just returned from the United States and needed land. I guess it would have been more expensive had he not been in a rush to sell,” she recalls.
Her choice of residential area was based on the need to find a peaceful corner, free of traffic and the noise of ambulance sirens.
Her home is on a peninsula where she enjoys the view of Lake Victoria and the breeze that sweeps off the gigantic fresh water body.
From her balcony, she can see Garuga and Kisubi, so besides the pristine view, there is a rich vegetable cover and rural outlook and community character in which residents still uphold the Ubuntu traits of greeting strangers and caring to stop when asked for directions.
Wampamba is an author too so the peace and quiet are prized. The home shows good taste in furniture, choice in floor, and ceilings.
Having lived a considerable part of her life in America, her house style depicts the culture there. It is largely an open plan space where she can have and hold a conversation with someone in the kitchen and the living room while she makes notes or flips through a magazine or novel.
She explains that the American style of building allows family interaction in the sense that with work absorbing one from as early as 6am till about 6pm, parenting and social interaction could be lost.
As such, the open-plan enhances the interaction beyond mealtime when parents and children share a dining table and session.
Wampamba’s is beautified with artistic wall hangings that share as much space as photographs. The staircase from the living room to her bedroom and terrace has pictures that chronicle her life story and the important people in her life; her father, son, family, friends, and associates.
The master bedroom is one big breathing space so big that it could easily be split into fairly sizeable rooms. She chose to utilise some of the abundant space for a workstation and library.
Off the master bedroom is a corridor that leads to a balcony where one can enjoy a cooling breeze from the lake.
On a quiet September evening, one could sit for hours and flirt with nature as they let their mind wander off to someplace distant or for indulge in memories. Wampamba’s favourite room in the double-storey house, is her bedroom which she describes as ‘a house in itself’.
“I have my office there, within my bedroom. I have bookshelves there…I am going to create my living room there. There is a lot of space there because they made the room much bigger than it should be,” she explains.
The journey of building the home from merely a house is one Wampamba describes as hard. “If you come from the diaspora and settle to build a house, it is a real hustle of being cheated and sold wrong stuff, to being demeaned for being a woman, and because of that builders think they can get away with all sorts of stuff. It is not easy at all,” Wampamba narrates.
When she realised there was a lot of drama in the construction journey, she decided to finish one room and live on site as she finished the rest.
By then, she had retired and had the time to supervise the building processes. She became the engineer, foreman, and supervisor of her construction site.
“I did it all and I am proud of achieving it. I would buy the supplies myself. Whenever they would ask for materials, we would go together and I was able to choose the best because I had people to ask for advice and comparison; I belong to a WhatsApp group of people who have lived in the diaspora, some of whom are professionals in areas such as construction, as engineers,” Wampamba narrates.
In that way, Wampamba was able to avert the challenge of being excessively cheated by builders who would initially overprice construction materials.
She adds, “If you are naive, some builders are not shy about cheating you and there are many stories I had heard before I went into construction. A site engineer could easily ask you for 100 bags of cement when he actually needs 50 bags. He will then use the rest to build his own house or sell the cement to another site. And it is the labourers that he brings in to work who will tell you that you are being cheated.”
She observes that because one is almost a foreigner when they return from the diaspora, they may not know a lot of underhand methods builders use to cheat the unsuspecting and all-trusting people.
To those planning to embark on building their homes, Wampamba urges them to be keen on getting a workable plan, and then identifying good and honest builders to bring it to life by importantly being present.
“You have to become a builder but that doesn’t mean that you don’t hire professionals. However, be a supervisor, a procurement officer of your project. You have to be rigorous with the team you hire in order to enforce accountability. You learn as you go along. Ask questions and pay attention. I am lucky to have people I can confide in and ask for advice,” she advises.
She finished building within a year. The foundation and roofing were the most expensive during the journey of constructing the house.
She procured many of the construction materials from the Sixth and Seventh streets on recommendation from friends.
Wampamba is at the point when she continues to repaint and fix walls because living by the lake means she needs more adhesive painting. She is a lover of plants and trees because nature complements her mood.