Saturday, February 2, 2013


Mamadou Dian Diallo is from Diamiou, a village about ten kilometers from where I live. His father was a businessman (probably a merchant) who did a lot of work in Guinea and in Freetown, Sierra Leone. When he was ten years old, his father moved him to Freetown, where he enrolled in private school and started learning English. While in high school, almost ten years later, he began spending time around the welding school, watching the masters and picking up the basic notions. When the rebels came in 1997, the year before he would have finished high school, he picked up and went back to Guinea. He joined a group of Senegalese welders, and worked as an apprentice for four years. They didn’t pay him, but after four years his master told him there was nothing more for him to learn, and provided him with an attestation of his learning and ability as a welder. They also fed him very well.

His first job after leaving the Senegalese was working on the US embassy in Conakry. He spent almost four years working at the site, moving from operating a jackhammer to welding all of the interior plumbing (a US embassy has quite a bit of complicated plumbing). While working on the building, which is, to date, the most expensive structure that has been built in the country, he was not paid well. At the end of the contract, he and several other Guinean laborers waited patiently, peacefully, and unobstructively outside the gates of the embassy for four days in protest of their non-payment. They were finally told to go home and wait there; payments needed to be authorized by Washington and then converted to local currency, and were in the works, they would be informed via the radio when they would be able to pick up their final wages. He is still waiting for such an announcement.

Since working on the embassy, he has mostly worked out of Conakry, but jobs send him around the country. He has been working in our village for over five months now, first on the home of a wealthy businessman reinforcing the window bars and then making windows and doors for the new school. He says he is doing his best work here; the work is from the heart and not for the money. His young wife is from the village, and he has reminded me twice now that his (future) children will likely go to school in this new school building. He wants his son to inspire awe and reverence when he explains to his classmates that his father made the windows, not laughter or derision because of the shoddy workmanship.

He smiles a lot, smokes some, and always seems to be having an okay day. Two weeks ago he moved back to Conakry.

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