Mauritania is sort of like a video game. As you get better and better at dealing with it, it comes up with new twists. For instance, I was nearly getting to a point where I could come to the University and get work done on a regular basis. My group’s mid-term reconnect is at the end of the month and I just about have the place ready to demo as a model for labs that we can help them set up in their sites. I also have a ton of music downloaded so that our mtr party could be held with all the latest tunes that we haven’t heard in the last year.
Given that things were getting easy, I should have been prepared to come to work last Thursday and discover a big metal bar across the door secured with a padlock.
I went to find the guardian for the University and unfortunately it was the not so useful one. It took me about five minutes of “pardons” to awaken his nearly comatose ass and then all I got out of him was a string of Hassaniya. Eventually, using the ancient art of gesticulating wildly, I convinced him to come with me and upon seeing the bar he spurted another stream of Hassaniya which was clearly along the lines of “why have you barred the door?”
Since this was obviously a dead end I gave up and wandered the University for another half hour looking for anyone else, but it is summer and after noon on a Thursday, so I was the only one there. I decided to give up and come back on Sunday.
On Saturday I was lying around my house being frustrated because I couldn’t get any of my work done and decided to go over to the University and try my hand at removing the lock myself. If lock picking skills were ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 where a 1 has difficulty operating a key and a 10 can open doors using the powers of his mind, I managed to hone my skills to a solid 3 back in the States. This means that given good tools and about half an hour I could open one of four locks purchased on sale at Wal-Mart. I figured “what do I have to lose?” and off I set to try my hand.
All that I managed to achieve was a solid confirmation of my amateur status. I did have fun though. All that I had was my multi-plier and so I was wandering around the University picking up pieces of garbage and trying to form them into lock picking tools. If I had managed to get the door open I was going to make myself a little MacGyver merit badge and stitch it on my hat. Unfortunately though, I hadn’t the skill. After about an hour of cutting up tin cans and filing broken pieces of door jams I gave up and went to the bureau where I could at least check my e-mail.
Sunday I came back and was fortunate enough to be able to hunt down a French speaking guardian. He told me that he had no idea about the lock and that I needed to talk to Moussa. So I set off to find Moussa who amazingly wasn’t in his office. After about half an hour of wandering I managed to find someone with his phone number and so I called him. He told me he had no idea about any of it and I needed to find Ahmed. Ahmed was, of course, not here today and so I needed to come back Monday.
That brings us to today. I sent Malick a SMS message to see if he had any leads on Ahmed and he came by to help out. I managed to find Ahmed who told me that it was the Secretary General who had locked the door. Great. I found Malick to discuss this latest wrinkle and he told me that the Secretary General tried to have him dismissed a while back and replaced with a Bidan (white moor), and that he wasn’t especially fond of Americans either. This is all largely moot however since he isn’t here except in the afternoons on certain days. In the one convenience to date though this day happened to be one of them and so after a mere five hour wait we get to see him.
His first questions are about a video projector used in the Cisco classes sometimes. It came and went from the classroom according to some logic I couldn’t fathom and never asked questions about it. It hasn’t been there for a month at least though, since we stopped teaching classes. I’m guessing it has turned up missing. A couple of computers have been missing out of that lab for a while and I had just assumed that someone authorized had taken them. I’m hoping that I was correct. I didn’t get into it with the Secretary General at this juncture.
He did say that he had locked the door and that I could get in to work next Sunday. Why it needs to stay closed for a week? (Until just after mtr.) No explanation. I’ve decided it is just because I nearly had a plan work out well here and whatever cosmic force has aligned itself against this country couldn’t see that come to pass.
Anyhow, I reckon I’ll figure something out. I’m going to get my music out of that room if I have to take a blowtorch to the door. This is the last time my group will be together for another year and we’re gonna do some dancing by golly.