Friday, March 13, 2015

A Toubab Tantrum

How did I ever get this hotel built? How have I managed to live here for close to ten years without having a major breakdown?  Why do I insist on being such a toubab all the time? Why have I not learned anything at all? The amazing and incomprehensible fact is  that  the hotel is actually standing here, the staff still works for me, my life is still trundling along in its roundabout way over its  its peculiar obstacle course with me  still trying to fit square toubab pegs into African mud holes and I have learned nothing.
Take this morning: we are building a staircase from the kitchen building onto the roof where there will be a small bridge between the kitchen building and the large roof above the ‘hangar’ or the hotel seating area. This is so the staff can bring the plates up on to the roof where we will now have our restaurant under the stars! This is an idea that came about when we had one lovely evening a couple of weeks ago, dining on the roof just for fun- why not do this always I thought : there could be pirogue wood tables which could stay in place always and pirogue wood benches to sit on with only cushions brought up every night to make it more comfortable. How lovely to have the night view over Djenne! And only a step away from the sunset terrace: people could wander down from there and install themselves at the roof top tables for  a whole new dining experience!
So today we were to have a site meeting with Ace and the mason to discuss how to do it. Now, just the idea of a ‘site meeting’ is so very toubab. I arrived  believing I would find Ace and the mason waiting and ready for me : we would be measuring things, discussing size, width and number of steps and width  and length of the bridge connecting,  and this would all of course be dependent  on the length of the roniers ( coconut tree stems)  which would hold up the bridge. We would possibly be making marks to make sure it would all fit, and it would all be reliant on a sort of master plan which we would work out together at this all important site meeting.

Instead  when Ace called me to the ‘site meeting’  I find  the mason with five labourers having knocked a great big hole in the roof!  The stairs where already well on their way all without seemingly any planning whatsoever, and all without even having consulted me in the slightest! I handle this sort of situation very badly and I had a screaming fit- all totally unnecessary of course: a great hole in a mud house roof is not the same s a hole in a toubab building.  “Don’t worry ! It can be closed again and we open it wherever you like it”, he explained sooothingly through the interpretation of Acé.  ‘But why did you just start the stairs without even talking to me? And why did you start them at this point exactly? I thought we were starting them here!’, and I pointed to the spot that seemed to be a more sensible position for the beginning of the stairs. I only had to say it and suddenly one of the labourers were slapping on mud in the spot I had pointed. ‘No! Damn it!  I don’t want him to do it NOW! Can we please get rid of him, the mud and the wheelbarrows ? I want to discuss it!’ I howled. ‘ Have you calculated how many stairs there are and where the hole should be  opened up?  ‘ Keita looked at me with that look I know so well by now. He is thinking: ‘what is she going on about? Why does she have to talk so much?’  ‘But Sophie, you give someone a job, you must let him get on with it!’ he said, unhelpfully.  This is exactly what I can't do. I just can’t. That is why I really don’t know how I have managed to build this hotel, and how I can still be here, when I am quite clearly so fundamentally unsuitable for these  Djenné style working methods.   I should know  by know that it does work out in the end! It always has worked out so why can’t I have faith that it will now? In the end I walked off unhappily- but as usual much more unhappy about my own reaction: my  cronic lack of patience and undertanding, than about the work itself.


Blogger David said...

It's called the Life Force. Very few people have it to the extent that you do, but unfortunately it's also 'oh my Godddddd' at times too. Of course it will resolve.

I'm sure everyone who reads this agrees that you do achieve miracles, on a monthly and possibly even a daily basis.

11:26 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

thank you sweetest- always so encouraging and kind...

11:36 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

thank you sweetest- always so encouraging and kind...

11:39 PM  
Blogger bancoban said...

Fantastic! They actually started the works before you knew about it! And it will be perfect with a restaurant with a view.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Susan Scheid said...

Rest assured, you are not alone in having such frustrations, and I write of this from the vantage point of experiencing similar situations in a country where I am not a toubab! To cite one incident, while I did manage not to lose my temper, I voiced my concern rather pointedly. I said something on the order of, "you know, X, I do expect things to go wrong in construction projects, but I did NOT expect the concrete foundation to be laid without anyone noticing it meant the wall would bisect the (tiny) bathroom window." This necessitated installation of a new, even smaller, custom built window, fortunately, without haggling, at no cost to us.

6:44 PM  
Blogger David said...

Happy Significant Birthday! 40, can it be, and you don't look a day over 20.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Laurent said...

Stairs look fine to me. Am sure it will all be very nice.

2:45 AM  

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