I did a bad thing. I introduced junior high age students to “the 3 Stooges.” I thought it was a good idea. After school, I invited one of classes to go to the internet cafe and watch video clips fromYouTube of this comedy team– pastor thought it was fine, the internet cafe was ok with the idea [he was happy– he got 1.5 cedis… roughly $0.75]. The laughed at the slapstick, chuckled at the silly sounds and roared with each  “nya, nya, nya”….. But I didn’t count on them to repeat the antics afterwards– that is when I had to scold them about proper behavior. Oy!

What possessed me to introduce them to these icons of American comedy? Simple– we were watching the construction crew start building the new toilets. 

The project required Pastor to hire a contractor. There seemed to be a very component one in a fellow pastor, who was very clear on what had to be done and how. He seemed like he knew what he was talking about; but Pastor hired someone else. You see in Ghana, Pastors cannot hire each other to do work– they are obligated to spread the wealth. Pastor hired someone who I will refer to as “Moe”. He came to the site with his 2 chief assistants– guess what I will call them? “Curley” and “Larry.” After hearing the other pastor/contractor explain the work, they started.  I don’t thinke they heeded his words. They brought in a small army of laborers who started to dig the hole by hand. Mind you, there was maybe 4 shovels and pick axe between them. After a day, they dug in about 1/2 a foot. That night, the pastor/contrctor spoke sternly and the other workers agreed– they needed a back hoe.

The back hoe arrived and started to dig. Scooping out the dirt and placing on the side of the hole. It was too near the side– at the end of the day, it caved back in. So “Moe”, “Curley” and “Larry” dug out the dirt again; never moving the dirt from the lip of the hole. On the third day, it caved in again– now it was clear; a truck was order to cart off the dirt. End of the first problem.

The hole was 10 feet deep. Ready for the concrete to be poured. “Moe” ordered the crew to dig down a little further. They hit the water table. There was a water now seeping into the hole. So the 3 laborers started to bail the water. They would fill a bucket or 2 and “Larry” would  climb the ladder and dump the pails. A lesson in futility– the water was coming in at a constant rate. So they brought in a pump. After hooking it up, “Larry” ascended the ladder. Not realizing that the ground shifted from being in the mud, “Larry” and the ladder started to tip over. “Larry” thought that if he went up the ladder faster, he would avoid the ladder falling on its side– he was wrong. Wrong was also “Moe”‘s stance. He watched the ladder fall; and it fell onto him with “Larry” coming along with it. “Moe” was hit by the ladder; “Larry ” hit the ground and splashed mud all over “Curley”… Classic 3 Stooges scene?

I must admit that I didn’t laugh at first. I remembered my first Sukkah in Schenectady 18 years ago. I got the cinder blocks and the wood from the JCC and erected it on my deck. My neighbor, Vern, and 2 friends watched. These 3 retired GE engineers shook their heads– “that is not going to stay up for more than a wek” I told them it didn’t have to; but when the first winds came, he fell over– maybe 4 days into the holiday. Poor construction can happen to anyone!!

What is the status? The pastor/comtractor came this morning and told the main contractor what to do. He shook his head and threw his arms up, but laughed. “This is Africa.. It will be built. It must be built. But we need to have patience.. and faith!”

Great words for one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Great words to reflect to determination and commitment. Try again– you will get it to work. After all, some Rabbi in Schenectady still builds his sukkah the same way and the engineers no longer shake their heads; they nod.. It has to be built!!


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