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doc47

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Well, some of you did. Those who aren't Facebookies.

Here's the latest installment in "Further Adventures of Rancid of The Jungle".

 

Despite having explained the design and shown it to him three times, the welder still built the ladder wrong. And the mason put it on the wrong side of the water tower after I showed him where I wanted it.

Fortunately, I saw it before the cement had set and it was easy to pull down and the holes were soon patched. But it was simply one more of a constant series of errors the workmen have made.

Their response is invariably some variant of “No problem!” in any one of several languages (none of them English) and they are invariably nonplussed to correct the mistake. But the mistakes are ubiquitous. Sloppy workmanship and a lack of attention to detail coupled with hit-or-miss attendance leads to things getting done “ndanka, ndanka”, “little by little”.

For a type-A personality like mine it is shaving years off my life and making a wasteland of my stomach lining.

 

The water tower is essentially finished. It remains to get the metal ladder finished – if the welder can ever get it right – and build a steel cover to keep the dust and leaves out. The plumber needs to come and start running pipe. (He did get it right. It has been installed and is strong and looks durable. Yesterday I climbed up to the top and looked into the tank for the first time. The tiling job looks beautiful, all clean, white tiles. In fact, it looked so nice and the view was so beautiful that I think I may put up a roof and live there! Have my meals sent up in a bucket.)

 

Yesterday I sat down with a German guy who lives here with his family and does solar installations. His stuff is expensive but top-quality and I think I'll have him do the system. I believe in buying locally, especially if it is something that might need servicing or repair or adjustment in the future. It's always good to have someone nearby to kick! It may cost a bit more but it will be far more maintenance-free than sourcing the components in The Gambia from a Chinese outfit. Andy handles German and Dutch-made components with brand names I know. However, I will also look elsewhere.

 

The welder is also making a cover for the well. It is designed to keep out contaminants, like dust, leaves, frogs, and small neighborhood children.

 

The mason who built the house, Issa Barry, has been a sore trial. He has been slow, inconsistent, and has made any number of mistakes that have had to be corrected, which slows things down even more. He normally doesn't work on Fridays, the Muslim Sabbath, but then he and his workers don't show up at other times, as well. Deaths and illnesses in the immediate and extended family are frequent, sudden and unexpected here, leading to unexpected absences. More predictable are marriages and naming ceremonies. But communication is generally at a minimum. He hit me up for an advance yesterday and I asked him why he wasn't working, which got me a broad smile, lots of mumbling, and assurances that the crew would be on the job today. Today they are not working and no one was at Issa's compound when I went to hunt him down.

 

And Malang, my trusty Man Friday, is nowhere to be seen today. I am hoping he is out getting the kembo logs we need for roof supports. If I'd been smart I would have used metal supports. Kembo is like ironwood, heavy, slow-growing, and so hard that most termites will dull their teeth on it. It is also getting harder to find and more expensive and I hate contributing to its decline. But then, consistency has never been my strong suit.

 

Later: the kembo arrived. Three thin, twisty trunks that should do nicely. I got out my antique draw-knife, checked its edge – still razor-sharp after years of storage – and proceeded to show Malang and Sosa, the watchman, how to de-bark a tree. They were attentive and helpful. It took me about half an hour to do the 3-meter log.

 

Then Malang went over to one of the other logs and commenced beating it with a heavy balk of wood. Each blow loosened bark which he pulled off with his hand. The job was neatly finished in less than ten minutes. He smiled at me and said, “You have de materials but dis de African way!”

 

Awa and I were in The Gambia for three days and among the things I bought was a neat little kit with 6 LED lights on 5-meter cords, a neatly packaged battery and charge controller, and a solar panel to charge it. Nice to have instant light at night. It also has a couple of USB connectors for charging cell phones and other devices. “These are the days of lasers in the jungle/Lasers in the jungle somewhere.” Paul Simon.

 

We stayed with my friends, David Nevill and his graceful Fula wife, Mariame. They have a lovely 2nd-floor apartment and I think it was good for Awa to see how a couple can live sans extended family, children running about, etc., etc.

 

We went out and Awa had her first Chinese food, then we went dancing in the Senegambia. We found a place with a terrific band – the lead trumpet player was hot! And later, when a young woman started to sing with them things really popped. She had an amazing voice, knew how to use it, and knew how to play a crowd. She could have brought the house down in any club in the US or Europe. I've been a musician all my life and so was my dad. And this lady was Top Quality Professional. What's she doing stuck here?

 

May 3

 

Well, I fired Issa. He didn't show up with his crew for 3 days and I'd simply had it. First time in my life I've ever dismissed a worker or contractor. The guy who built the water tower went to work finishing things and has been hard at it. He is skilled, serious, and doesn't mess around. He's on the job early to late and six days a week. He'll get my business.

 

Is the “useless brother-in-law” a family stereotype? Perhaps, but many stereotypes have a grounding in reality. Mine is that I have a useless brother-in-law. I won't go into detail – though I could. Friday night Awa and I were in Abene, enjoying a boisson and waiting for the show to start at the Ecole Hollandaisse. Friends who have a djembe band were playing and it turns out two other groups, as well, including “Mama Africa” a Guinean troupe who put on a fantastic performance.

Just before the show, Awa got a phone call: her useless brother and her niece had had a an accident on a motorcycle and were in the little “hospital” in Kafountine.

 

We mounted up and rode the six clicks back to find Nday heavily sedated and almost unarousable and Sol (useless b-i-l) so sedated I couldn't arouse him for evaluation. Details of the accident were scant. History-taking almost impossible. I did the best I could, decided Ndey probably had a concussion and that hopefully, nothing catastrophic would happen. I helped Awa settle in for the night, sleeping next to Ndey's bed then got to sleep in an empty bed at about 3 AM.

 

I was better able to evaluate them both yesterday, confirming my feeling that there was nothing catastrophic going on. By this morning both were looking far improved and were discharged.

 

Then I found out an old man I've been taking care of for his terminal heart failure and pulmonary hypertension is dying. It's OK. It's his time. He is the eldest in the family that was the first to settle this village and his people, the Diassys, are somehow related to our family, the Marongs. I've never quite figured it out, but many people, when they hear my African name, will exclaim, “Diassy-Marong!” I guess the relationship is well-known.

 

I went to see the patriarch and he appeared both comfortable and oddly younger and more peaceful than I'd seen him in a long time. His breathing was less labored and his pedal edema had resolved. On this hot day his skin was unusually cool. Shutting down gradually. He's just dying, that's all. It comes to us all.

 

The flies were the only thing bothering his sleep and I got one of the younger men in the household to string a mosquito net to keep them off him. I'll drop in periodically to see him, honored that I can be part of this.

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How about photos of the good guys :)

 

Always love your tales. I think a bike was used as transportation, right? :grin:

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Doc, it's good to read that, in spite of all the frustrations, you were able to get out for some dancing and to hear some great horns. Your installments are always welcome.

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Thank, Doc. I really enjoy reading about your adventures, and even the mundane stuff. It's all so different to me.

 

Please keep 'em coming.

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Folks, your feedback and moral (or immoral) support means a lot to me. Despite all, it does get lonely here every once in a while.

 

P.S. Here are some recent photos

 

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One of the nicest feelings you can have is not only to lean and have your friends catch you, but to know you are there for a friend who needs to lean. Life is more interesting when it has ups and downs, but try to tell that to me when I'm down :D

 

Here are two friends who rely on one another for support, and they both send you greetings.

 

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One of the nicest feelings you can have is not only to lean and have your friends catch you, but to know you are there for a friend who needs to lean. Life is more interesting when it has ups and downs, but try to tell that to me when I'm down :D

 

Here are two friends who rely on one another for support, and they both send you greetings.

 

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And they don't come more lean-able than you, Kathy!

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