I often go up to deck 8 and depending on my mood I switch between these wonderful options. A few days ago I chose the port people. Looking down on them from high above gave me a unique opportunity to dig into their life a bit, to capture some moments and meditate on how blessed I am that instead of working my butts off for little to no money all day I can sit on my ship and study them from afar...
Chaos - is the first word that comes to mind when you look around. Only after sitting down and dedicating a good couple of hours to this project will you start to understand that there is, indeed a method to their madness. In their own mind, (dare I say?) in their West African mindset their goal is to get as much out of it as possible with as little work as possible. Nothing new here, we heard this definition before. But here, somehow it all makes sense. What do I mean by this?
|Port exit completely blocked both in and out by trucks|
Another problem is the lack of common courtesy and politeness. They all believe that they have the right to go first. Now if everybody has this attitude conflicts are inevitable, in which case we get back to problem nr. 1.: It comes down to who can shout louder / who has a whistle / who is dressed in a military outfit.
Yet, somehow things get done here... well, eventually. "African time" is a given, no need to dwell on this. If you cannot accept it, don't do business here. Another challenge comes in the form of goods "fallen of the truck" as we used to call them back home. Here many items fall off quite regularly. There was a grain ship behind us when I was up on deck 8. They had about 20 sailors working on the vessel, most of them busy dealing with the cranes that were unloading the bags from the cargo bays. On the dock 3 sets of 2 trucks side by side parked in front of each other. As far as I know the trucks belong to the port while the drivers are all individual contractors. Basically if you know how to make a truck move ("driving" would a push) you have a job. If you are strong enough to pick up and move hundreds of bags of 30+kg each day, you have a job, too.
|Man collecting grains from the ground|
There is no competition between the loading trucks, the workers are not in teams. Usually they sit around and when there is a job all, who showed up for work that day, are directed to work on it until it's finished. Surely there are some people in charge of these huge operations, but so far I wasn't able to determine, who...
To prevent illegal off loading of any sorts port police people are everywhere. How come then that there is still so much illegal activity happening here - you might ask. Bribe is a strong word, I'd rather us the phrase I learnt here: "I help you, you help me". Simple, clean, it works and benefits many. Though I must say while I was watching the show I saw one sailor drop down a blue plastic bag from the vessel to a guy waiting on the ground. He caught it in the air and was on his way to his car, when the whistling and yelling started. Suddenly he was surrounded by many custom officers and they opened the bag. Sadly I didn't see what was inside, but that's not even important. He was dragged away by the men in blue. They took him between 2 containers where nobody could see them - well, except me. I don't know what was said or exchanged between them, but a few minutes later he came out,, grabbed the blue bag and drove away...
It looks like a rough place to work. I truly felt sorry for the many ladies who walk around among these guys selling food and water. They are often not treated with any respect. :(
Once the truck is ready they carefully guide them towards the port gate. It they are lucky a few more bags fall off. To "prevent" any theft while driving they have guys sitting on top of the bags without any form of security, they travel with the truck. Scary, but fun. Cannot say I would refuse if I was asked to join... :)
And to finish off this post I show you how they store trucks when they are not needed... :))))))))