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March 20th, 2009 | Africa

More from Ghana…

It has been two very eventful weeks here in Mim…

The family of the chainsaw operator who had been killed last week, arrived to see me, and asked to be taken to the place where he died… I walked the large group up to the log yard, and over to the pile of logs which had in part, rolled down onto him… The actual log which killed him was still in the yard, and it seems that the sawmill guys are avoiding the darn thing… There was still an impression of his body on the soft ground, and blood smears on the log itself… The family huddled together, touching the log and the ground where he had lain…

There was none of the outpouring of grief that I expected… I watched the scene, and had one of those “out of body” experiences… You know the ones, where you seem to be looking down on the scene from some place above, watching yourself…watching them… They stood around for a few moments, some dressed in colourful robes, others all in black… A few clicks of their tongues and the odd tear running down a cheek, was as emotional as it got… They then lined up to shake my hand and thanked me for lowering the flags and giving the factory some time off to mourn… They then advised me that they would be back soon to discuss the funeral arrangements… They walked out of the gates, hand in hand, singing a hymn at the tops of their voices… I stood and watched them all the way down the muddy stretch of road that leads down to the tar road, and thought about “the meaning of life”… He was just nineteen years old, still a kid… earning about $2 a day…

To some questions, there are no acceptable answers… But this is Africa, I keep reminding myself…

I’m starting to put my foot down and make a few strategic decisions, and while most people are happy to go along with the changes, some seem to resent them, and spend more time telling me why we can’t do things my way, than they spend trying to get my ideas implemented. On Monday, I unpacked my “killer look” and got to work before most of the management pitched up… I called them all into my office and started by advising them that in order to finance my salary, I would be doing away with half of them by the end of the month… That got their attention! I than demanded that they all re-apply for their jobs, and provide me with their credentials before the end of the week…

I have a feeling that most of my “suggestions” will be taken a little more seriously in future…

The production has gone a lot more smoothly this week. Two 40’ containers of furniture left on schedule for the first time in months, and the factory is beginning to take shape. There is no more going to the toilet 15 minutes before lunch break, machines start up immediately after the end of lunch, the drivers and the clinic staff have been taught various tasks in the factory, and supervisors are now also picking splinters out their hands… Yes, there’s a new Sheriff in town…

My crate of goodies finally arrived on Saturday morning, just as I was contemplating the daunting task of having to go into town to shop for food… A driver had travelled through the night from Accra and was parked at my office when I went down at 7.00am…. All thoughts of production and things to do in the factory vanished…. I immediately arranged a forklift and waited patiently at the house while it trundled up the road towards the Compound…

My crate finally arrives at B3, Mim...

I spent the better part of the morning unpacking all the boxes in the crate with the help of one of the security guards. I then stowed the empty crate in my storeroom, and began to unpack all the boxes of food and kitchen utensils. I discovered that a number of items were missing…pilfered by the long-fingered customs officials, no doubt… Missing: a few jackets, a carton containing washing powder, dishwashing liquid and the like, as well as a pair of binoculars which I had thrown in to assist with my birding… Yeah…can’t neglect the birding!!! I’ll be doing it the old fashioned way now…!!

Unpacking the two cartons of books was like opening Christmas presents as a kid… I re-acquainted myself with all the titles that I had carefully chosen over a month ago, packed them into the yawning shelves of my bookcase, and began planning the order in which I wanted to read them…

I have enough pasta to feed a small army (including 36 packets of the old 2-minute jobbies!), more soya mince packets than I had ever seen in one place, and 15kgs of Power Food, a protein packed cereal meal.

I also have Jelly, and umpteen Cup-o-Soups, milk powder, rice, 5kgs of brown sugar and a few kilos’ of Ace Mielie Meal… You get the picture! I’m ready for a siege of at least a few months….

And then there’s the packet of Quality Street chocolates, and three huge packets of Fizzers! I’ve hidden all the sweets in a drawer in my bedroom, as I‘ll probably eat them all at once if they are out in the open! Do you think I’ll be able to limit myself to just two or three sweeties a day? Nah…

By the way, I haven’t told you much about my car… Mainly on account of there being not much to tell!! It’s a Tata Safari, and although nowhere near as smart as other SUV’s, it’s functional enough… Driving a left-hand drive is a bit strange, but I’m getting used to it… I still take my left hand off the steering to change gears, and then realise they’re on the other side! I have only used it to travel up to the house and back to the office, so haven’t even got into fourth gear yet!!

The Dark Destroyer becomes The Silver Assasin...

Asahri has just arrived, bearing a bag of oranges and a large green pineapple. The pineapples here are like those white-fleshed ones we get in Swaziland. Very juicy, and I often have a disc of the fruit between two slices of bread… At the speed that I polished off the first one he brought home last week, I think he has decided that a pineapple a week will keep me happy! Speaking of bread, there is no butter or margarine here! I have stopped thinking about it and just spread marmite or peanut butter (also from the crate!) onto the bread and munch down… I think I’ll eventually get used to it and then not bother with butter again in future…

The oranges are a bit scary… They should be called “Yellows”…. The flesh is a pale yellow too, and they’re not as sweet as ours down South, but in the absence of anything else, they’ll have to do! They don’t seem to have as much juice either…

Ropey looking Oranges.... Sweet like a Lemon...

I thought that the mosquito and malaria thing had been exaggerated, until I discovered that the little buggers are smaller than those I am used to, and they come equipped with a “stealth mode”…no zinging around your ears to let you know they’re around… Evidence of their having visited during the night is there in the morning…a few bumps behind my ears and on my neck, tell of their passing… I don’t have a mosquito net in the bedroom, so enlisted the help of the old “Doom Coil”… I had packed ten boxes into my crate before I left, and have put them to good use…

I also have a little lodger, who lives behind the stove… On walking into the kitchen on Sunday morning, I saw a mouse dash from the fridge to the gap between cupboard and stove… I considered making every attempt to banish it from the house, but then decided to leave him be… It certainly knows how to climb, as it managed to get up onto the counter and onto the microwave, and chew on a papaya I picked from a tree in the garden… I’ll see if it becomes a nuisance and then decide on its future…

There are also a number of rather large geckos in residence…one of which seems to have a problem with it’s footing… He lives in the lounge, and usually falls to the floor with a load “plop” at least once every evening… I think the programs I am watching on TV are boring him to the point where he forgets to hold on… Debbi Meyer, who lived and worked on a mine nearby, and who has since wisely called it quits in Ghana, says they are referred to locally as “Wall Jackals”… Watching them dart about in search of insects and you get the picture… Very apt description…

Last night, the 19th of March, the rain came down in buckets… Lightning flashed and thunder boomed ominously for a few minutes, waking me up just in time to experience a downpour of rather epic proportions… It rained solidly for almost an hour, battering the tin roof above me, and then tapered off to a gentle drizzle until about 2.00am… A few sections of the factory were flooded, and we lost about an hour’s production clearing up the mess left by the storm… Most of the large drains around the factory have not been cleared in years, and I have finally found my “punishment area”… Just as I had the sawdust pile in Swaziland, here I have “gutter and drain cleaning duty” to bring discipline to the undisciplined… Mmmm, it’s all coming together folks…!!

Well, the weekend’s here again, and while many of you will be celebrating Guy’s 40th with gusto (no doubt!) I will be contemplating my next week here in Ghana, which involves a trip down to Accra for a “Cocktail Party” at which I am expected to give a speech to the Institute of Ghanaian Architects. We are basically launching the company as a lumber and timber component supplier to the local market. We have tendered for the supply of timber for the building of three major “Five Star” hotels in Accra, and have invited all interested parties in the industry to attend. I need this like a hole in the head…but it comes with the territory, I suppose…

You are all in my thoughts and my thanks go out to all those who have sent me mail and news of home.

Keep the faith, and if you’re anywhere near my flat, give the “Big Fella” a hug, won’t you…

Postscript:

He did become a nuisance after all…

Thou shalt bother me no more...

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