I was hoping to post a picture of our stand at SIAO. But, as is frequently the case, Blogspot is having problems and it is impossible to add pics today.
It was NOT easy to get that stand installed, I assure you! I arrived at SIAO early Friday morning, but nothing went right. Valentine, Eugenie and I searched for an hour, but couldn't find a stand assigned to Papiers du Sahel. Then I began networking with the other vendors. The word was out that lots of the stands were being "hijacked". Artisans who hadn't paid the hugely expensive fee were tearing the names off stands and taking them over. One vendor told me to give up looking for our "official" stand and just take over an empty one. But this seemed unreasonable. We had paid 600$ US for a proper stand and setting up in one that belonged to someone else seemed like a stupid move. So, I spent hours finding the site manager and then following him around demanding something be done. And I wasn't the only one. There were many VERY irate artisans from all over Africa all demanding answers. They were from a multitude of ethnic groups, some even traditional enemies, but all were united in their hatred of the SIAO administration. Valuable hours were passing and many people had nowhere to set up. I tried to convince the manager just to provide us with a keyed map. We could then each find our own stand and politely evict any interlopers. I was informed that this was impossible, as none of the computers were working. No maps could be printed.
Why didn't the computers work? Because all of the electricity in the admin building was shut down.
Why was the electricity off? Because a huge show was being put on for the First Minister and other VIPs in the central courtyard. To run the PA system, lights, etc, all power had to be off elsewhere on the site.
So, nothing at all could be done until noon, when the bigshots would leave.
Once I understood all this, I really lost my temper. Why is there money for this stupid song and dance show, but none to pay someone to oversee the artisans as they install their stands? A whole day is being wasted so that the elites can be entertained. Meanwhile, we are wondering how we will ever sell enough to pay for the stand and still make a profit....
We finally found our site by ourselves, as we got no help. Some Malians had halfheartedly piled up a few bags in it and hidden our name under a piece of cloth. But I very politely pointed out their mistake and they left for easier pickings. Some venders were not as lucky and ended up in fistfights with the interlopers.
Of course, the official discourse that we hear daily on the radio says that SIAO is going splendidly.