A digital Christmas gift for an analogue aunt

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The last time I spent Christmas in Bulemia Village, Bunyala District, Busia County was in 2009. For three years I’ve missed obusuma and ndemra prepared by aunty Nekesa. That’s why early this December I called and asked her to prepare for me the best Christmas ever -complete with the traditional foods and drinks. She agreed but under one condition, I must buy her a perfect gift for a perfect Christmas.

Aunty Nekesa is 69. She has spent her entire life in Bulemia, one of the most interior villages of Busia County. She can count the number of times she has boarded a vehicle, majority of which she did while going to or coming from a funeral of a distant relative. Every time she boards one, she won’t stop narrating stories of the magical moving house. She has refused to have a mobile phone as those with one are nuts who talk to themselves.

“She wants a perfect gift for a perfect Christmas, what is it that she could probably like?” I kept asking myself as the Christmas day drew nigh. Then I remembered this day when she came to visit us in Kisumu. She arrived at around 6PM. We received her well and talked a lot about events of the past and ware bouts of the villagers, relatives and friends as we feasted on tea and mandazi. My dad arrived in the house a few minutes past seven and since he is a news addict, he straight away switched on the TV even before realizing that he had a visitor.

“Wololo, is that a person inside a box? And is he talking to me?” shouted Nekesa as she stood up from her seat with her hands raised up in wonder. My dad turned to greet her laughing and after explaining to her some basics about the TV to her level of understanding, they both sat down for a catch up chat. If you have ever come across a rural phobic individual, my dad is one.

After recalling the events of that evening I convinced myself that a TV would be the perfect gift for aunty. So from mid December I shopped for a 21” TV and decided to buy one from Samsung. I was told that for a tube TV set, Samsung have the best offers in the market at affordable prices. A friend who had bought one informed me that his had fallen from close to 1.5 meters high to the floor, he picked it up but after connecting it back the screen turned blue. However he decided to give it a slap then the TV came on again. He watched it for six months without hiccups and when he bought a 40” Bravia he was able to sell the Samsung TV at 12K, 2K more than he had bought it for. The buyer still users it to date. I bought a similar one for 8K.

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After buying the Samsung 21” TV and just a few days before I could make my trip to Bulemia, I remembered that there this thing called Digital Migration thanks to our digital government. Although the analogue signal in Bulemia is to be switched off mid next year, I reasoned that by that time I will be in Nairobi and probably no one will be able to buy my aunt a digital converter so I revisited my budget to see if I could buy her a converter too.

Shopping for a converter wasn’t easy. First, I did not know much about Digital Migration except for some articles in this blogsite. But thank goodness I always ask the Managing Editor any technical questions so I called him for advice. He told me there are only two known brands in the market that he can recommend and that’s StarTimes and GoTV. After giving me the pros and cons of both, I settled for GoTV, and paid for a six months subscription, wrapped the gifts, and got myself ready to travel to Bulemia to surprise my aunt. My aunt had requested that I arrive on 24th but since I did not want to be part of human traffic jam at Machakos bus stations, I decided to wait until 24th night to travel so I could arrive at Bulemia very on the very big day.

I arrived at Machakos bus station with my luggage well tacked at around 8.30PM. To my surprise, the government had just issued a ban on PSV vehicles for night travel. For hours I sat my sorry *** at one of the shelters, regretting why I did not travel on 23rd just as my aunt had requested. “These are the problems of not listening to the elderly”, I cursed.

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But the good Lord was on my side. Two hours later, a friend called to bid me goodbye that he was travelling to Kampala for the holiday the same night with his wife and his driver. I told him of my predicament and luckily he had an extra seat so he offered me a ride up to Busia town. At about 11PM they came for me at the bus station and off we went.

I arrived home safely *just as I had planned* and was welcomed with joy from family and friends. After refreshing myself and chit chats I went to take a nap…a long nap. At about midday I was woken up for Ugali and Kuku for lunch, talked more about Nairobi and the hustle, home and the constant hardship, and Christmas. We talked for three hours then it was time to pay my aunt the surprising visit. I hadn’t informed her that I had arrived. I took a boda boda ride to her village and after close to an hour ride thanks to the bad roads, I reached her home. She was very happy to see me, hugged me several times and sang old songs I could not understand. I was very happy to see her again.

I requested the bike man to assist me carry the electronics to the sitting room, placed them on the table, and asked aunty to open them up. She was very happy to receive the gift. “Is this that box your dad had?”, she enquired. “Yes”, I answered. She sat down looking at the gifts without a word.

“You have brought me this magic box, what did your father say they are called?”

“It is a TV”, I responded calmly.

““Is it from America?” she asked as the boda boda man was walking out – waving bye bye.

“No I bought it from Nairobi but from a good store. Why?”

“I have been hearing about these TVs in the market. The politicians were saying that the government is bad because they will stop people from watching them”, she explained.

“Then the other day your cousin came here saying that he heard some people argue that the government does not like Americans yet they want people to watch TVs bought only from America. He said they are called some new kind of new TV”, she continued.

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“Digital TVs, you mean?”

“Yes .Something like that”

“Oh yes, the government plans to switch off the TV but you will be able to continue watching as long as you have a smaller box like this other one”, I explained as I showed her the GoTV decoder.

“So someone does not have to get a TV from America?”


“Is this other small box working now?”

“Yes, let me connect for you, you’ll see”.

“I know how to connect these things, after all I needed very little assistance to connect mine”, I convinced myself silently. I stood up and connected the TV to the solar powered batteries and connected the indoor antennae. I switched on the TV and it was able to show raspy pictures from KBC as it was the only channel that could be captured.

“This is the TV working by itself, let me now connect it to the small box and you’ll see several stations and clear pictures”, I told my already excited aunt.

I connected the GoTV carefully, making sure that I followed the installation instructions to the latter. After connecting I turned it on, waited for it to scan, it scanned after about two minutes but returned a ‘no signal’ message. I read the instructions again, followed every step, and after a second time there was no signal again. And a third time….and a fifth time.

I concluded that probably GoTV signal had not reached that part of the village.

“You see, you need a TV from America”, my aunt insisted.

“No not really, I will call GoTV and sort this out. Don’t give up just yet, I have even paid a six months subscription in advance.”

I was able to set the TV to receive clear KBC signal and promised aunty to sort out the signal issue immediately I am back in Nairobi. Tonight is my journey back and hopefully I will be able to let my aunty welcome a new year with crystal clear pictures courtesy of GoTV.

That was my digital Christmas gift for an analogue aunt; likewise be sure to give your loved ones similar digital gifts this festive and digital season.

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