Sorry Ngo! – Back to School or Back to Broke?

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John Ekongo

My mother (May her soul rest in peace) was quite a miser.

Every attempt I made to get money out of her proved futile. It was especially true during this time of back to school season. Shops would be advertising, from the smallest thing, pencil to eraser to neat crisp white school shirt and brand new shiny “Toughees”. I knew it would be a miracle if mom was to hand me a note or whisk me to the nearest retailer for school supplies. You see my mom believed in the age old “Wa-Nguwo (my grandma’s clan name) restore-recycle and re-use pattern.

Her defence was always the rudimentary “I don’t have money to buy you new stuff, so why don’t you just take Bobby’s school jersey from last year?” My mom never put things into perspective, not even the fact that Bobby, a cousin of mine, was as chubby as a well-fed African politician, and I, on the other hand, resembled a peasant farmer’s son from Somalia (excuse my comparison, no pun intended).

What made it worse is that at school during our heyday, there was a permanent squad of ‘”spotters or quarra brastes” who where hell-bent on making your life a culinary hell of words. These were the likes of school bullies blessed with the talents of Chris Rock, Richard Prior and Bill Cosby and had matchbox brains of George Bush in a muscle toned body of Arnold Schwarzenegger. These guys showed no remorse, they would verbally make fun of you every single day. Things did not help much either with my oversize all-torn jersey – I was in their hall of fame for life. For this, I hated mom so much for subjecting me to such ridicule.

Back then we were not that demanding. There were no lists of stationary and so forth. It was just a few odd things you needed to get and they would not strain her budget. I know what these demands can cause – psychological torture. So, I felt inclined to help out my young sisters this time around with their stationery. I was handed quite an assortment, believe me the list looked like an office inventory.

It should not be that much expensive, I figured. wWith Pep Store advertising lowest prices for the people I thought I would just pop in the there and have pep of a time. Well, actually … I found myself feeling like a suburban mother without the minivan running from one shop to the other.

“Woerman Brock have a special Sir,” one sales lady tells me of the people’s store.

“Well there goes employer loyalty”.

In the end I settled for Shoprite, bear in mind that I was buying for two so everything needed to be doubled. Shoprite is also a people’s place you know, Lower prices for the people – that is their slogan right.

At the checkout counter I noticed a steady rise in pricing as I scanned through my purchases. Item after item, first to be swallowed was the price of a bottle of Bells Whiskey – N$125. Next were the Windhoek Lagers. I am comparing prices subconsciously now. An extra Bells Whiskey and I stop comparing. Eventually, I resigned myself to the Bohemian cash stripped-broke Hippy with a buoyant spirit of 1970’s Carlos Kambaekwa’s Ugly Creatures vibes.

It was not easy though, at one point I thought of asking the cashier to cancel the sale.

Those kids better not fail me, because if they do, they will pay me back every cent’s worth of that money in punishment.

On the other hand though, I finally understood my mother’s familiar defence line “I have no money”. The saying goes, “to feel the wrath of the fire you must enter the fire”, so I did.

The cost of school supplies taught me that lesson and well. Therefore school kids don’t disappoint your parents and “kansvatters like us”.

Welcome back to school, obtain good marks, be disobedient here and there, beat the curfew sometimes but never abandon school.

Anyway while you are all heading back to school, parents are heading to back to broke again.

Sorry Ngo.

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