A couple months ago, Tana awoke with a mystical vision haunting her slumber. In her dream, the clouds parted and the angels trumpeted as an unearthly voice bellowed: “If you build it, they won’t come.” We deciphered this cryptic prophecy to mean: if we were to construct a walled-in courtyard, we would be ridded of those free-roaming courtyard goats. And free from the daily toil of sweeping their droppings off our porch. Not only that, a courtyard would allow us to stargaze in our pajamas, plant a vegetable garden, and host the closest approximation to an all-American Super Bowl cookout. I just knew there was a reason I packed that “kiss the cook” apron. Anyway, we don’t get good ideas very often, so we ran with it. We figured having a wall between us and the elements would be a good investment in our future sanity.
Thus began a project so chockfull of production delays and miscommunications that it could have just as well come out of a modern-day bureaucracy, the IRS for instance. If a book existed on how not to get something accomplished, our courtyard fiasco would qualify as the feature chapter. For example, take the bricks themselves. First, the brick-maker dude ran out of water to convert clay into blocks. Then, in transit the bricks crumbled apart like cake. Then those demonic goats somehow scaled our five-foot brick pile and performed the Riverdance each night until daybreak. This was mere feet from our bedroom window. It’s some sort of in-built personality disorder of all goats to want to climb on everything—apparently you can take the goat out of the mountain, but you can’t take mountain out of the goat. After that ordeal, it rained and the clay dissolved into a sludge-like consistency. By the time the wall was fully realized a month and a half later, one hundred bricks had fallen by the wayside. What began as a simple commission had become a runaway train, though thankfully the end result wasn’t a train wreck. The finished wall and door looks amazing- see?
Despite the project’s general run-amokery, there were plenty of golden moments. To transport sand for cement, I accompanied Siaka on a wagon towed by his two prized bulls. Being the anglophile that he is, Siaka calls each of his pets Big Boy, which sounds kind of like “Beeg Bwy” in his French accent. Whenever a bull would become flustered, he would soothe it by yelling “Beeeeeg!” Talking the bulls down turned out to be important. From the moment I hopped on the wagon, both Big Boys decided to go full-speed ahead into the brush. They plowed over a helpless papaya tree and might have trampled a hut full of beer-drinking villagers had Siaka not chased down the wagon and halted them. After this little skirmish, our bull-drawn carriage floated elegantly through the village commons where I waved like Prince William at my neighbors. We stopped near Salif’s house and shoveled sand into the wagon, then back home. I got our adventures on video, but the camerawork is so Blair Witch Project-y that I hope it doesn’t activate anyone’s epilepsy.
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