What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Friday, November 12, 2010


What a day. So after two weeks of trying (and the day before we should go back to the council and probably sign the MOU) we finally all got together for a costing meeting. Not what I had hoped for. 9am start was 10, not a problem at all... But the palm wine came out right away and Kaps was head down asleep by 10:45. I was very disappointed.

We have an opportunity here for a serious endeavor to help a lot of people and it just flat out didn't seem to be of much interest to him. Fair enough if it was at 2pm but barely 45 minutes into it?! And not just that part, he was in and out in general, there was a disconnect there.

I of course want/need to take a step back and think culturally about how it was handled and how I lead it all. I went into business manager mode and was trying to hash out decisions - but decisions amongst us all, not by me but them telling me the best way forward. I felt like the disconnect was more between old school Kaps and new school Yapo, who I tended to side with.

I've made mistakes with cultural scenarios before. I know what they look like. But there were four people there, Yapo was completely game, and Kevin soldiered on giving good input. Kaps just didn't seem to like where it was going, or maybe that he was not the man in charge. Even if he didn't like where it was, he was asleep at the table before we got anywhere. And even once we did, he was half obstructionist, half confrontational, half in and out of sleep. I know things are different here, life functions differently, and I like that part of it all. But you could see desire in the others.

After about two and a half hours they were all lower in their chairs, tired of talking about the cost of a trowel and a laborer's wage. This seemed more than what they are used to, a full on planning meeting of this type, 100% on, no long introductions, no real pleasantries in the beginning, just down to work, 100% focused. Like I said though Yapo and Kevin managed, Kaps... not so much.

The meeting itself was very helpful though. All along they have been costing in their heads and telling me about it, and despite knowing better, I listened to it. But with it on paper there is no faking it. A wise man I know regularly says: liars figure, but figures never lie!! And our figures are not ideal at this point. I have to recheck the concrete needed, but the cost of it as we have it written now, may be debilitating. We would have to charge a lot for these bricks.

You know, I knew better than to go along with it all, especially when the chairman said he couldn't get for profit companies to come in and do it. I knew right then... Why not? Why wouldn't they do it? But I listened and I figured it all in. Maybe it can work, but not as they've been telling me.

There was more to it all, more on a cultural level with the meeting, but enough for now. Gonna close the chapter on the day. Start again tomorrow... Disappointed that Africa makes more sense to me now...

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