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Monday, August 24, 2009

The Nigerian Seamsters

When we moved over here to Lagos, the company my husband works for allows us to recover all the furniture in the flat. We are also able to add window treatments in the flat as well. This seemed like a daunting task to me. That seemed to be the first question people would ask me. "When are you recovering your furniture??" I would look at them with really tired eyes, and the thought of even trying to find someone in this city to do that kind of work for me really frightened me. Thank goodness one of the expat wives had some furniture redone in her flat, and she recommended the people who did her furniture to me.:) I was nervous to meet with the men at first. They arrived in true Nigerian fashion about and hour and ten minutes after their appointment time. When they came in to sit down, I told them I was interested in recovering my furniture ( The furniture I had was horrid. Why someone would ever recover their furniture in the type of material that was in our flat was a mystery to me.) At first, Edouard seemed a little aloof, but his partner, Bonaventure, was very friendly. They brought about 5 plastic grocery bags of fabric for me to look at. There was so much of it. I had them help me sort through the fabric into the colors I was looking for. I managed to find a few samples I thought would work. Thy let me keep the samples over the weekend to show Guy. The following week, I had them return and told them I would like for them to do the work in my flat. Happiness told me to ask them to complete the work outside on the balcony so the kids wouldn't get into any of the fibers. I couldn't believe that they said that would be okay! ( Really, I think Happiness knew that the men would be pretty stinky. Many people here do not wear deodorant.:))They explained to me that the work would take about a week to complete. They would start on Monday and be finished by Friday. They also explained to me that I would have to pay 70 percent up front so they could purchase the material...then, I would pay the remaining thirty percent when they completed the work. I went back into the safe, and pulled out the money. In Nigeria, there are no credit cards...everything is done with cash. The Nigerian cash is called naira. There are about 150 naira to one U.S. dollar. Needless to say, you almost need a shoe box to carry money with you wherever you go. I came out with the money and Happiness' face was hilarious. Her eyes were huge as I laid a huge pile of money on the table. I proceeded to count it out into piles of equal amounts. Then Edouard counted it, and then Bonaventure counted it. To watch a Nigerian count money is really mesmerizing. They count out money like a machine....amazing. Anyway, I was over in two piles and under in one pile. So, after we figured that out, I realized that I was 50,000 naira short. I asked them if I could pay them on Monday when they came to start the work. They said that would be fine. So, on the receipt, I wrote that I owed them $50,000. Bonaventure started laughing and said, "No, Madame, 50,000 naira!" Then, Edouard really started laughing. So, on Monday, Bonaventure, Edouard, and three other men came in to start working. They took my couch out onto the balcony and stripped it all the way down to the wooden frame. It was amazing to watch them strip it down, and then, one of the other men was on a sewing machine out on the table on my balcony sewing the fabric to put on the couch. Everything was measured out exactly so. They came every day at 9:30 and worked through until 5:30 p.m. They didn't even stop to have lunch or anything. Edouard would sing a lot of french songs out on the balcony while all the men worked.(He is from the Ivory Coast. He and the men who worked with him spoke French, English and a tribal language that only they understood. Needless to say, it was hard for me to understand them and for them to understand me. Thank goodness for Happiness!) Elizabeth would always start dancing when she heard him singing. She would get everyone laughing. The only thing they asked for was water while they were working and a soda at the end of the day.:) They pretty much finished up reupholstering 8 dining room chairs, one love seat, one couch, one arm chair and curtains for seven different rooms on Friday, and just dropped off the rest of the red cushions for the couch today. I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised with the work the men did. They truly were amazing in how they cut the fabric and finished everything they said that they would...all on a balcony of my apartment. And they say that you can't get any quality work in Lagos!:)

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