Monday, November 06, 2006

Motorcycle dream

The day after Arwen had won, Chinada came over with a translator. He handed me a bill while the translator talked about motorcycles and I simply laughed. What else was I supposed to do? Arwen earned 5€ on Sunday, her very first by the way. Not that I would have, with all the expenses involved, gained a single € on letting Arwen race, but I have done it just for fun. I did not seek Chinada, it was he who came to me in January before I had my accident. He had just ridden Arwen at the race track - the second jockey to do so - and meant that she was one of a kind, and wanted to be the only jockey to ride her. He talked about championships in Nigeria and Benin and I told him that was not my thing. Arwen was just a horse at that time, my little Berber mare that enjoyed galloping with me. Chinada however was persistent, and if I remember it correctly, quite cocky at the time. I told him I was a volunteer without salary and did not have much money. No problem, he replied: "You could not even afford to pay me what I'm worth even if you had more money." Fine, I thought with a smile, but I agreed. Chinada would be her jockey every time Arwen went to the race track, and if indeed she was as good as he said she was, I would sign her up, even though I hate losing money (and a race is always a gamble). Anyway... This happened a week or so before my accident, and it would be another three weeks before Chinada started working for me on a regular basis. Arwen was going berserk in the garden and I needed someone to ride her out; and Chinada needed money.

Now since January, I have got to know Chinada much better. He is a brilliant jockey but a tragic person when it comes to money and responsibility. Though Chinada is seven years my senior (has two wives and several children, at least two more have been born since march 2006) I often think of him as being fifteen years old. He is a great worker and will do anything is scoaring sun shine. However, waiting for his salary (or paying back what he owes me) is not his speciality. Neither is showing up at the times when I ask him to; instead, he will be absent one day and then make up for it the next day, by working 3 times more than I have asked.

The last few days however had been working pretty well and I was almost comfortably settling in some sort of routine, which you so rarely get to do in this country. And then he shows up and spends forty minutes of my time asking for a motorcycle, because Arwen's jockey cannot be seen riding a bicycle! Lol! I answered him that first of all, I was the wrong person to complain to (as I do not care about status and do not hesitate to take a "lowly" job in Sweden, at least seen with Nigerien eyes...) and secondly, if he was so concerned with what people thought of him, why did he keep bowing down to the rich elhadjes when greeting them? Oh Niger is a funny country and the frustrating thing is that you meet a lot of people that you want to help, but in the end, somewhere in the back of your mind, you are aware that no matter how hard you try, it will take several decades for them to change their ways. Chinada has never taken responsibility for his family and he does not know what saving part of a salary means. He has worked all his life for people who have decided over him - left and right - but who have taken responsibility for him when he has lacked something. Though poor people are treated with lesser value by the rich in this country, I have never been able to understand who one would willingly be the servant of another. But that is Chinada's life. When he first started working for me, he picked up Arwen's droppings with his bare hands, drank from her bucket and jumped out of his chair when he saw me sitting down on a mat on the ground (lower than him). Luckily, things have changed, but when it comes to being realistic and mature, it seems just to be too much to ask.

In the meantime, why not try to understand the equation, which Chinada after all shares with many other people in this country: Arwen wins one race insignificant little race, her owner earns 5€ of which 2/3 are given to me, and my conclusion is that it is now time for her to get me a motorcycle...???


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