Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Ghanaian Job

Or, The Expat Experience, or 'An Exercise in Frustration'...

So my friend and interior decorating inspirational counsellor and I conspired to revamp my son’s bedroom and bathroom recently.

In our attempt to do it all on the cheap in a company provided, 70’s throwback style house (which was incidentally the Libyan Embassy in Ghana before we lived in it…), one of the aspects of our clever plan was to paint the en suite bathroom walls gold (to bring out the best in the hideous tiles). I mean, seems natural enough? No? Well, you’d be surprised how difficult it is to find gold paint in Ghana. Or maybe you wouldn’t…

So, as we do, we picked a Saturday when we were feeling particularly brave and energetic, and headed into ‘the Market’, the infamous neverending rolling squalor of Makola…There is a saying that anyone who has traversed the pathways of Makola knows, ‘You can find anything in that market!’ … but you might not find your way back out!!

So true to it’s legend, as we trudged through with green solid slime gutters underfoot, chickens and goats skirting around, and a constant flow of hot pulsing bodies surrounding us under the oppressively beating sun, we poked in and out of crowded alleys and deeper and deeper into the abyss, and alas we stumbled upon some sellers with.. wait.. GOLD SPRAY PAINT!!! So I bargained and bought two tins. The seller assured me this would easily cover a small bathroom. (All the walls are tiled halfway up).

We found our way out of the maze, after walking the ‘gauntlet’ of used clothes sellers, and buying more than a few “Selection, Madam!” items…at about $2 each..

And as things go in Ghana, we didn’t actually plan to do the dirty work ourselves!
We’d have Eric, the house help do it… Therein lies the ultimate Ghanaian experience. You want something done. It seems simple and straightforward. You convince yourself you are too busy etc. and ask the ‘helpers’ to do it. What could go wrong???

Silly question, really. Monday morning I armed Eric with three week’s worth of old Sunday Times, an industrial roll of tape, and the two spray paint cans, with strict and precise instructions – cover all the tiles, ceiling, sink, toilet etc. with the papers…

Monday I arrived home from work and opened the door of the bathroom… drum roll please…

The two empty spray cans tossed on the floor caught my eye first. Then the white walls... What’s wrong with this picture?

Then I opened the door further and there in the back corner behind the door, on a 2 x 2 ft. section of the wall, was gold.spray.paint. Newspaper was taped to the tiles below, about a half inch below where the tiles begin (hence the top of the tiles is now gold spray painted), and every few inches a piece of tape, placed vertically, right into the spray painted area of the wall. So that when you remove the tape, there is a tape shaped white rectangle on the gold portion of the wall.

Question to self: Where is Zen when you need him? Deep breaths. This is funny, right? Cute even... Don't snap, just avoid Eric for the day...

Really I should just leave it. What did I expect when I said, tape paper over everything? That it was assumed the REASON for this was to create protection from the gold paint? And how else would one tape up the paper, if not with thumbstrips of tape?! You mean you wanted the paint to be uniform?

I looked up at the ceiling – a fine mist of tapering gold…

When I asked Eric, determined to stay calm, about all these absolute F^&%^ ups, not to mention the fact that he didn’t bother to spray across the wall but over and over on the same spot until both cans were completely empty… he shrugged and said “Oh Madam, the paint wasn’t plenty, o. The man who sold it to you was cheating… And I forgot about the paper for the ceiling. Also, I don’t know how to put paper up on the ceiling. Madam, please, it will fall. …”

I’m tempted to give up, just as is and leave the mess that is there. After all, TIG (like “This Is Africa”, but my more dear to the heart version, ‘This Is Ghana’…). But I just can’t. So I will painstakingly explain what I REALLY meant the first time about the tape and then describe how one goes about spray painting, and send Eric himself into the market to find more of the paint…

I’m a glutton for punishment and Eric may never find his way out of the market…
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brilliant, just brilliant. Stories like this make me wish I could go back there. I know they sometimes (mostly) drive you up the walls, but these are the memories you take with you as you move on.

Andries

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