Tuesday, May 15, 2012

If I Had a Hammer

words and music by Lee Hays and Pete Seeger 
(famously sung by Peter, Paul and Mary)

If I had a hammer
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening
All over this land
I'd hammer out danger
I'd hammer out a warning
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land
If I had a bell
I'd ring it in the morning
I'd ring it in the evening
All over this land
I'd ring out danger
I'd ring out a warning
I'd ring out love between my brothers and my sisters 
All over this land 
Bell in School Courtyard at St Jeanne D'arc

If I had a song
I'd sing it in the morning
I'd sing it in the evening
All over this land
I'd sing out danger
I'd sing out a warning
I'd sing out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land 
Ismael Lo - Adored Senegalese Singer

Well I've got a hammer
And I've got a bell
And I've got a song to sing
All over this land
It's the hammer of justice
It's the bell of freedom
It's the song about love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land
 **** Especially in Senegal!!  *****
A Post from Manning ---->
Wow, what a day: A while back Hilary met some guys who do woodworking on our street. They make doors, tables, chairs, bookshelves - furniture like things.  But you would never know they are there. You have to enter a door on a side street and weave your way past two houses and an apartment into this courtyard area where they work.  So in order to repair some of things in the apartment I needed Hilary to introduce me to these gentleman.  I think 25% spent of your time is spent finding someone (that part was already done for me) who you think (hope) can do what you need done. The rest of the time is the 75% actually getting it accomplished.

I met with the woodworkers earlier in the week to explain I needed 4 corner support pieces to repair the kid's bed and drew them a picture with the dimensions. These pieces would be attached to the legs.The reason being is while it's a bed for one kid, two sleep in it and on occasion when there's been sleepovers a third boy finds his way in it too - even when there's been an attempt to create a sleeping space on the floor with a mat. Needless to say it was pushed to it's limit. But let's also clarify the design in general had it's flaws.
The woodworkers said they would be ready Friday morning. Nope not ready.  They said come back at 3:00 which allows them to finish up Friday prayers which in our case involves closing our street because there are 2 mosques in the neighborhood.  You can see how crowded it is at least 5 blocks long.

With Friday prayers concluded - the 'boss' and one 'worker' came over with their tools in hand. They fixed the boys bed for me and then cut a cylindrical piece of wood off the end of a curtain rod to fix the lamp we broke. Now with this other piece of wood in hand I had to explain to them my need for a hole drilled in this piece of wood - which required us all to go back to their shop.  Funny thing (yet maybe not so funny, but more of a reality)  that they had a electric drill but they didn't exactly have power access (outlets) in their work area.  We had to go to someone's house in the courtyard - an actual room in a house - and there was someone in this room watching TV.  I watched - not the TV - but the process with which they would drill my hole. They set the piece of cylindrical wood on the floor without even holding it and just tried to push the drill bit into the wood.  That didn't work; it just spun around, as expected (in my mind).  It was evident to me that this would really only work if they could hold it down securely and I should keep quiet and watch.  Maybe they have an approach that I've never thought of?

When I looked at the size of the hole, partially drilled now, I realized they used the wrong size diameter bit.  Just moments earlier I had actually helped them find the right size, so I have no idea why or when the 'switch' of the bit had taken place. I pointed out they had the wrong size and they FINALLY changed bits but that also was not a simple task. Apparently they had lost the key that you use to loosen and tighten bits for the drill (the "chuck") and so now they had to use a hammer and screw driver to change the bit.  Shortly afterwards, the found a vice - a portable vice welded to a piece of railroad track and returned to the house again with the guy still watching TV, - and viola! a hole was drilled though the piece of wood.  Wow, what a lot of work and what a hoot!

With that task completed now all I needed to do was find a longer piece of metal threaded tubing for the lamp to get everything assembled and working again. (African art in the corner - belongs to owner)
Should be easy, right?  - go to the hardware store (Ace Hardware on University Ave. or  Home Depot in Emeryville) and just buy one.  It's just a tad bit different here for the Do-It-Yourselfer like me.  I ended up spending about two hours going from shop to shop in the Sandaga Marche - which is always chaotic but I was ready for it. And of course with full determination I finally found my piece.  $2.  One shop owner that spoke some English indicated he had never actually seen that part being sold here before - but understood what it was. Then I had to find some washers - only one store in the entire area sold them.  20 cents.  I came home and fixed the lamp.  
So here are some final thoughts about this experience -  

I'm always amazed at how truly different things work here and how different the standards are.  The carpenters who work without electricity and minimal and sometimes primitive equipment.  My friend Oumar who teaches kids the woodworking trade explained to me that many of the workers don't really know math well enough to measure and calculate accurately (or at all). He teaches them on the basics as part of their apprenticeships.  Their finished products are mostly practical, but almost universally lack precision and/or standards of quality I'm used to.  It's not to say that it's bad, it's just what they know and/or are capable of and probably sell to what the market demands.  On the other hand, they seem to have become quite accomplished at making solid wood, paneled doors for houses.  These are typically African hardwoods with nice mortise and tenon joinery and are really quite beautiful. 

As to finding almost anything here, it's difficult, although not necessarily impossible.  It just takes time and perseverance.  There are thousands of small little shops, often several (sometimes dozens) right next to each other with the same or similar products.  Curiously, they rarely seem to know what the other people on their street or block have or sell.  It would be really fun (and useful) for someone to make a map/guide of the businesses and shops of some of these neighborhoods.  I'll have to save that project for next time:)



  1. If the lead photo here is your plumber, his stunned look wouldn't inspire any confidence in his plumbing skill.

    1. Dwight - Plumbing is not his favorite especially when he has to fix someone else's problem - where that someone else is the landlord here - because it ain't worth trying to get the landlord to do it. Manning hasn't been a renter for 18 years. It's a little weird sometimes here. If there is one thing we won't miss - it's being a 'tenant'.