Big breakthrough today! After seven hundred meetings, we are finally getting the toilet started tomorrow!
Before I came here this time, the head of the orphanage told me about the children’s toilet, that it has spoiled and is troubling them. I honestly didn’t even know they had a toilet. The first time I came, in 2012, they just went out in the woods. When I got here, I went to see the old toilet. It is a small building at the back of the orphanage with two really small rooms. When the man was showing it to me, he said, “Come and see,” but I could smell it from so far away, I said, “No, its okay!” but I wanted to start talking right away about how what could be done to start on new toilet facilities.
Africa time is a real thing. They say things will happen at a certain time, and sometimes they do, but most of the time they don’t. In my experiences here, things take at least 4x longer to happen than they should. People here like to talk everything to death, back and forth, until you have wasted so much time you are practically back to the beginning. As a doer rather than a sayer, this drives me INSANE. It is so much worse when you are in a circle of 4 African men, all with different ideas of how to achieve the same thing, and countering each other’s every thought. They even take a long time to express their agreement with each other. I’m also not sure if this is a thing, but they explained everything to me 85 times. I politely kept saying, “yes….yes…yes, I get it…yes, mmm hmmm,” until finally it came to, “OH MY GOSH, OKAY, YES, I UNDERSTAND, WE CAN STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS.” And then they all looked at me. And then we stopped talking about it.
They will almost always try to charge you extra if you are white, which is why I have been trying to find a legit way to do this, and not actually inquire about prices myself. This is unfortunate, but somehow I don’t even blame them. After talking about it for days, and being told that some contractor was coming to the orphanage today or tomorrow or the next day (and never showed), I finally talked to the man who runs the guest house where I am staying. He is so nice, and told me he knew two contractors and would help me get a fair price. We met with one, and it took probably 2 hours to get what i initially asked for, which was an estimate for what everything would cost. In the end, he gave me an estimate for a man hole where all the….stuff…would flow to. That is what we had to start with, and then we would talk about the actual building for the toilets. They were talking about getting a machine in to dig, etc, and in the end, all we would have is a man hole, and then other people would have to be employed to do the actual building. This was not ideal, but I said lets start on it asap.
Yesterday, the owner of the guest house gave me another quote with the man’s phone number. Today I was at the school and the men who (kinda) oversee the running of the orphanage called for me (one is a reverend, and the others are pastors at the nearby branches of the church we have in the village. I arrived to a circle of chairs. They were all sitting on the blue plastic ones, and the one that was empty was wood, padded with burgundy velvet. “Sit. This is the presidential chair. Obama’s daughter.” Thanks guys. This is when I mentioned the new contractor. They said we should call him, so I got up and walked across the village to my room to get his phone number and walked back. It was especially hot today, and this task sounds easier than it actually was. I told them we should call him and ask him if he could come. Now.
It’s 11:23pm here and I’m getting tired, so I will jump to the end of the story. He said he and his men could do all of the work. This was music to my ears. He seemed very smart, and like he knew what was going on. He even brought a tape measure and started estimating the number of blocks, bags of cement, number of pipes, etc. I was sold. An hour later, I was annoyed again about all of the talking. I had even excused myself from the situation to go eat my noodles & spicy red sauce for dinner, but overall I was thrilled that we actually got something (sort of) started. He was roughly calculating the cost of everything, and I told him I would pay him half of the labor cost up front, and the other half when he is finished. The man is supposed to come at 7:30am tomorrow to bring some men to start work. I am a little confused because I think I also have to start buying the cement and the blocks, and I’m not sure exactly how to go about this, or how long it will take, or if it is coming out of they money I am paying them up front. There are a lot of things here that seem like a catch 22. Like you can’t do this without doing that first, but you can’t do that without this, and it’s hurting my brain.
I think I have about 3/4 of the money for the whole toilet facility, which will hopefully be pretty nice when it’s done. When I came here in January, I made a Ghana Kids Book, and I took the total amount made (my money I put in to produce the books + profits) into my Ghana fund. I also have had some donations from some awesome people along the way, so if you’re one of them - THANK YOU! If you want to be one of them, check out my Go Fund Me page: www.gofundme.com/ghana-kids