If I were a carpenter…

If I were a carpenter
And you were a lady
Would you marry me anyway
Would you have my baby

Malian craftsmen… in only one month time I’ve gathered enough stories on them to fill a few pages. The kind of annoying thing here is that you are supposed to see a skilled (?) craftsman for every simple thing, including all these things I’m used to doing myself. A defect lamp? You buy a lamp and have an electrician come over to do the repairs or changes. A broken lock? You buy a new lock, search for a craftsman and bite your lips when they force it into the metal door, ruining the lock before you’ve even used it once.

After that experience I’ve grabbed a screwdriver and replaced some locks myself, realizing that Amadou was in shock and Ibrahim slightly surprised and amused, but still feeling very happy with the results. And yes, I’ve painted some rooms, but only after we’d tried hard to find a painter. The only one known for his good and clean paintjobs was too busy to take on the job. The next one dared to ask over a month’s payment for a two-day job. The rooms are bright white now, no drips on the tiles and skirting-boards and even the guys do agree that I’m (more than) capable of doing the job. I’m pretty sure the men in the hardware store would let go of their doubts if they’d see the outcome, even though they probably would stick with their conviction that you need to hire a craftsman. Amadou even helped me, saying afterwards that he liked trying something new, but that he’s not going to love doing paintjobs.

Furniture, that’s another story. No warehouses, so whether you like it or not, you’ll have to see a carpenter to have it tailor made. That does come with some advantages, you would think, such as being able to express all your wishes and be happy with the outcome.

Amadou, who in the short time he’d been working with me, had well understood that I want decent stuff had been doing some asking around and suggested a carpenter’s association that’s apparently known for above Malian average quality jobs. So off we went and I was guaranteed that I would be a happy customer when I came to collect my tables and chairs. Well, let’s say that I indeed was and still am happy with the solid tables and mostly stable chairs (not all legs seem to have the same length though). I was however, shocked with the shit-brown color.
I should have understood that the varnishes he had shown me in a French magazine were not available in Mali and that he logically had chosen the closest color in paint, Le Fou (the fool) told me. That we had clearly discussed that I wanted a varnish to still be able to see the wood structure was no more valid.
That I was not at all a happy customer made him furious. He’d done a great job and it was all my fault. He was willing to change the color at a 10% additional payment and mentioned in the same sentence that he’d heard about my travel agency and that he’d like to do business with me in terms of me renting his fourwheel drives for my tours. I couldn’t believe what I heard…

‘No, I’m not going to make any additional payment and if you don’t change the color according to my order, I’ll do it myself!’
His heavy body literally leaped from his chair, his hand arose and landed firmly on his desk, while he snarled that I was not going to touch his work with one hand. Making me wonder how I was ever going to use a table not touching it with even one hand..?

To shorten the story: I kept my promise and paid the agreed on price and took off with the shit-brown tables and chairs, being grateful for the Universe’s warning to not do business with him for the journeys. Arriving at home with the tables and chairs, Ibrahim looked at it with a horror-stricken face, just asking: ‘What kind of color is that?’
I’ve bought some nice Malian table-covers..!

Having had this experience, it was plain clear to me that we’d have to find another carpenter to make me a bed. I made a nice and simple drawing and clearly explained my wishes. The bed is not only solid and does fit the mattress, it also is a bit different than I’d ordered. I’ve been giving all kind of little extras I’d not really wanted and they have varnished it, even though we’d not at all talked about that and sure it’s a bit off shape as Amadou immediately noticed. I’m not even going to discuss that. Next week my drill will arrive, inshallah, and I’m going to solve it myself.

In between I’d also ordered wall bars for all the rooms, as seen at a friends’ house. To make it even more simple I’d ordered them with the same carpenter as they did. Piece of cake, n’est-ce pas? Well, sure enough the carpenter managed to use a different kind of wood and only yesterday, after more than three weeks of waiting the wall bars were delivered at my home. The paint job still has to be done. But, hey, who cares after all this time? Not only that, he’d decided to add some extras to make it more easy for him to attach the bars to the walls.
Well sure enough those extras were exactly what I did not want and do not even fit in some of the rooms… We talked about it, he said it was impossible to change it, I suggested we’d consider his job done and I myself would arrange the changes, he got upset, decided I had to pay for new nails and glue, took off to buy them and is now working on the changes.
I didn’t even start the subject of the measures, that are not quite according to my drawings.

There’s a lot of hammering going on outside, fingers crossed that I’ll have the bars attached to the wall before the week is over in a way that I can live with…

If I were a carpenter
And you were a lady
Would you marry me anyway
Would you have my baby

Would you marry me anyway
And have my babyyyyyyyyyyyyy

I guess you’ll know the answer… 🙂

About MoInMali

Monique is the founder of Papillon Reizen, a Mali based travel agency specialized in inspiring journeys in Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin. Fair-trade and with a heart for people, environment and culture. Small-scale group journeys as well as family trips and journeys tailored to your wishes. We love to share West Africa's beauty with you and take you on a journey to experience rather than to see. Monique lives in Mali with her Malian partner and shares some of her daily life experiences with you through this blog. For information on Papillon Reizen: www.papillonreizen.com
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