Today has been an exercise in patience, more so than most days here, which I think is saying a lot. This morning I went to the Anglican mission school – an upper basic (middle school) – where I am trying to get their computer lab up and going. I arrived expecting to have a chance to check out their machines and get things ready to start lessons next week, but found some Nigerians working there. I had met these guys before, when they came to the high school computer lab and charged D60,000 – maybe $2400 – for maintenance and “cleaning”, which more or less entailed blowing through the machines with a dust buster. I am not their biggest fan.
This morning I not only had to watch them work on a machine that I had just been checking out the day before, but then the headmaster was rude, ordering me around and being condescending, I think just because they were there. He’s usually a very cool fellow, and I don’t have problems with him, so it was a shock. I nearly told him that I wasn’t getting paid and walked out, but got it together and focused on what I was there to do. After I was well into my work, the headmaster came to say that they had to shut down the generator because it was out of fuel. The Nigerians had seemed to fix what they were working on, so I just bailed on my stuff and said I would finish tomorrow. Then he asked them if they had suggestions, which I disagreed with, out loud, and basically let them know that I didn’t want them trying to take advantage of this school for their pocketbooks. I admit I was a little bit frustrated by the fact that they fixed something that I had started on, and probably felt a little upstaged by them, but in doing it they just sacrificed another computer that we had been planning to fix, and also lost all the data that had been in the original machine.
After that, I was probably just in the wrong mood, but I seemed to get ordered around all day, and not appreciated at all. Clearly, most of it was in my attitude. And it’s getting humid to go along with the baking temperatures, so I’m starting to have the constant sweat that makes everything chafe just a little bit more. Not to bitch to excess, but then I loaned my mobile phone (actually, a friend’s mobile, as mine abandoned me when I was in Kombo last) to a girl in my compound so that she could put her simcard in and make a call, as her battery was flat. While all that was going on, I read a bit and fell asleep, only to wake up and find her gone, along with my phone. Since the phone needed charging, I didn’t want to leave it behind for the night, while I’m here and then teaching at the hospital. So, I waited to run my errands until after she got back. Which was unfortunately two hours later, pretty well blowing up my plans. I was actually on my way into town when I saw her to get the thing back, so frustrated and angry that I couldn’t really be myself. It’s gotta be the heat, or the sweating, or something, but it’s just been like that today.
The good news is that the solar project is coming right along. It’s been a lot of details, and some very informative emails from Craig Colburn, but I think I have the whole thing in my head, and I’m close to having all the parts in my hands. I had a bracket mounted on a metal pole for the panel, with a hinge and lock so that it doesn’t walk off in some “needy” person’s hands. I have a new table for the batteries and inverter so that they are off the ground and will be easy to keep clean. And I have the whole project planned out, so that I just need to get the pole up, mount some things, and do the wiring. I will also have to put in a ground, as that sort of thing doesn’t really exist here, but I think that will be a follow-on, after-launch piece. I still think of projects as “launching” even though those web building days seem a lifetime ago.
Well, this has been a downer of a post, but I guess that’s a part of the whole game. There are some days when Africa just gets the best of me. It’s happened many times before, will happen many times again, and I hope I’m getting better at writing it off, learning something, and bouncing back. That, and acclimatizing to the humidity. I was dealing with the heat fairly well, and it doesn’t seem to be much hotter, but the humidity is no fun. It actually sprinkled rain the other morning, a surprise and foreshadowing of things to come. We may get a real rain sometime next month, and then by late June the rainy season could be upon us. I’m anticipating it with mixed emotions – May will probably be hot and sweaty enough to make me long for the cool rainy days, but the air will be soup until late October, and there are plenty of downsides to that. But, first, the present! April is in its last days, and I’m still here, doing what I do and having my adventures.
I want to promise pictures from Ghana and of the solar for next time, but my laptop may have breathed its last, so I may be at the mercy of other systems. We’ll see. Perhaps another trip to Kombo is in my near future, as little as I want to go.
Love to everyone, Zac