Growing up, Didi's world was the place to be.
Not because it was the only amusement park in Uganda (it still is), but because every little kid went there.
When we went to school after the December holidays, the only two places we bragged about visiting were Didi's world and Garden City. That's how cool it was!
Thanks to Didi's world, I almost always completed my holiday homework. If you didn't do your homework, you simply couldn't go to Didi's world. That was the rule of the house.
Side note: I grew up in a village somewhere in Masaka, and also attended primary school there. But every other December holiday, I visited my aunt in Kampala. She was tots cool! We stayed in Namungona, next to the Kasubi tombs)
Anyway, it was always a full house, with all my young cousins running around. So, instead of chasing after 7 screaming kids over the weekend, my aunt dressed us in pedal pushers, and drove us to Didi's world.
In the early 2000s, Didi's world was what dreams were made of. There was an incredible buzz of activity. There were kids everywhere, there was music, movies, most of all, there were terrifying rides that scared the living daylights out of me. It was paradise.
I explicitly remember all the rides at the park; the rotating cups, the caterpillar, the octopus (was too terrified to get on that), the pirate ship (couldn't get on that either).
When I thought of heaven, I thought of Didi's world. I thought of friendly little kids narrating terrifying tales of the octopus. I thought of the loud screams coming from the pirate ship. Life was good.
So, every 3rd term in school, I worked a bit harder because I knew, good grades would get me to Kampala, and if I went to Kampala, I could go to Didi's world (yap, those were my travel goals then)
But as time went by, I outgrew the place. Started looking for my thrills elsewhere. Never looked back. Until recently.
When one boring day, as I thought of places to visit around Kampala, I remembered my childhood paradise- Didi's world. Currently known as, Wonder World!
I thought that now that I have all these younger siblings and cousins, it would be great to take a walk down memory lane?' You know, show the little ones how we used to get down.
So I gathered them all, packed them into a vehicle and we went.
At the present Day Didi's World- or rather Wonder World
First thing that hit me upon arrival, was how quiet the place was. It was as if the park was having a moment of silence to honor its past glory.
13 years ago, on a Friday, you could barely get in. It would be so packed that if you didn't hold hands with your loved ones, you could lose sight of them.
But here we were, the only 9 people at the park, 2 days before Christmas.
Not a ride was operating. It looked so abandoned. At that moment, I looked over to my cousins, and they looked so miserable. Their thoughts were loud and clear...
'...we could have stayed home to watch Disney Channel.'
I wondered what they would say if I threatened them with, 'you either finish your homework or miss out on this'. If I did, I am sure they would laugh me out of the room.
So, I kept the thought to myself and ordered their lunch, hoping and praying that they loved the meal so much it made up for this disappointment.
The lunch was two and a half hours late.
It's as if the restaurant owner was so surprised to have customers, he had to drive all the way to lake Victoria, catch the fish, rush back and prepare it.
As my family sat there, wallowing in boredom and making mental notes never to follow me anywhere -ever, I remembered "the octopus".
This was where the magic happened. It took some convincing, but finally we all went onto the octopus. And it was so much fun. Thank God for the empty park, we didn't have to queue up as we went back ride after ride.
The octopus ride at Wonder World
Then of course, there was the pirate ship. If you've been on the pirate ship, then you know how terrifying it is.
The gnashing sound it makes as it starts to move is so terribly terrifying. Hearing that sound, you immediately want to get off.
But the operators will have none of that. The more you scream, the faster and higher they go. At some point, expect to swiftly bounce and on and off your seat. I would choose bungee jumping over the pirate ship any day.
In the end, I don't know if Wonder World will ever thrive. I don't know if it will ever fill up with excited kids, with screaming adults and the aura that it used to have. I don't know if it will ever have more than two operators eagerly increasing the speed of the rides as victims scream their hearts out.
If it never does, I will remember it with fondness, for it gave me so much to look forward to, at a tender age.
As I type my last sentence of this article, I can't help but wonder, is it still cool to brag about visiting Didi's world today?