Sure enough I hadn’t seen the last of the carpenter story yet!
The one who had made the wall bars was convinced he was done with his job. However when I saw it I wasn’t quite sure whether I’d like to cry or laugh. He had kind of ‘thrown on’ a layer of white paint and from a far distance I’m sure they looked whitish (the paving stones sure did…), however up close it was a mess. Thick daubs and drips all over, some parts had seen a brush with white paint, other parts had only encountered some primer.
Luckily, the man wasn’t around when I saw his ‘finished job’, because I’m not sure I could have even fainted being satisfied and I’m pretty sure he was (and is) of the opinion he did a nice job.
‘I think it’s better that I finish the job myself’, I said one more time, ‘I’m not even going to try to explain that I’m not satisfied; he’s not going to understand…’
Amadou nodded and replied ‘Yes, I think that’s the easiest.’
I’m not sure if he was talking about the quality of the job at that moment or in terms of not having to explain things to the carpenter. At least we agreed on the carpenteer having finished his part of the job.
We bought sandpaper, another can of paint and a paint roller before I got the news that we would be leaving for the Great Crossing the next day. Returning from that trip, I was amazed to find Ebi busy sanding the bars and doing a real good job!
The next morning Amadou came to me, saying ‘I’m going to do the paint job!’
And honestly, I was quite happy with that, not really knowing where to find the time for the additional work load. I gave him some tips on how to do the job and left, keeping my fingers crossed.
A few hours later he had ran out of paint and the paint roller had fallen apart. Several days later after having used up eight more cans of white paint and an almost equal number of paint rollers, he said ‘I think I do understand now: the carpenter mixed one can of paint with some wall paint, added petrol and tried to paint all seven wall bars with it. He was really trying to do it as cheap as possible, but you really can’t do all of that with one can of paint.’
He was right. Not only that, the carpenter had never been able to pay for all the materials from the amount of money he was paid for the job…
In between I had finally decided to order a bed to hopefully get some more hours of sleep per night. Different size, but same design as the bed for the guesthouse, we explained to the carpenter, who had also made the first one.
‘Why did they make it like this?, I asked puzzled, looking at the bed, not realizing that I was scaring the hell out of the carpenters with that remark. It’s not that I didn’t like the design, it’s just that I really didn’t understand that they had made something different without even consulting me.
‘Well, we couldn’t find the size of planks we used for the other bed and since we had promised to have it ready today, we bought an even higher quality, spending even more money on the wood, and we decided to make it like this, because your design couldn’t be made with these planks. We really did a good job and it’s even more solid than the other one’, the carpenter explains desperately, fearing that I will not take the bed.
I did take the bed, because I do like it, but I also talked a bit with the carpenter, explaining that I would have really really appreciated it if they would have discussed it with me, before making the bed. He had been on the phone with Amadou a couple of times and that would have saved me the surprise, him his fear and we would have been sure that we would have found a solution that would have suited both of us. And so he promised, still afraid that it would have been his last job for me. His smile the next day when we returned to order some tent pins, showed his relieve. And what a job he did! I’m having the most brilliant tent pins you can think off!
The lesson learned is that Malians don’t consult you when they encounter challenges in the job you’ve given them. Being real Malians they will find a Malian solution. So, whether I like it or not, I have to be even more clear than I already was.
The carpenter experiences have turned Amadou, Ebi and Seydou into handymen that think they know it all when they see it once. Giving me some more challenges.
The arrival of my drill and me starting to drill holes in the wall was of course another invitation for the guys. Every single man that has been in the house when we were drilling holes has grabbed the opportunity to show his skills. And some of them their lack of skills. Holes have appeared at places where they weren’t planned and I’ve had some moments when I felt like kicking them all out of the house to finish the job myself and if only I would have been able to carry the heavy wall bars I probably would have done it. I guess by now I should say that luckily I wasn’t able to carry them.
And even though it was hard to see the holes appear in the wrong places as well as the first damages on the freshly painted walls, I grabbed myself together, breathed in and out, tried hard to solve things the Malian way, solved a few things the European way, gave them tips, expressed my disbelieve and disappointment a couple of times and gradually saw the quality of the work improve.
Their eagerness to learn and to help is making up for the inconveniences. One day they’ll be doing the job without me being around ánd without me worrying about the outcome, because they simply are brilliant students!
We’ve finished the job as a team and were all equally happy, even though it might have been for different reasons 🙂
I’m pretty tired and more than ready for a break from all the odd jobs and feeling quite happy to be soon leaving with Ibrahim for another trip. A whole week away from the house, taking in new experiences, exploring new grounds.