Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa


According to my vague memories of Bugs Bunny cartoons, Gremlins are fictional creatures invented in WWII by soldiers to explain why electrical equipment kept malfunctioning.  They’re like sock monsters that live in dryers and eat socks so you never have a matching pair: absolutely awful.

But I feel a special affinity with gremlins because I, too, have issues with electronics.

For instance, my USB seems to have a virus on it.  Despite reformatting it, new files keep appearing and mine keep disappearing.  It’s a technological nightmare.

It began two days ago when I went to Wa, a 5-hour bus ride east of Tamale, to record the last survey for this quarter.  The radio announcer who reads the surveys was busy that day, so during the afternoon the Information Officer and I were able to write the last survey plus another three surveys necessary for next quarter.

The next morning at 7am I met the radio announcer and we recorded all four surveys.  We were finished by 8am.  Ag man, did I feel productive!  Yes yes yes!

Then I started editing the audio files and my USB deleted it all.  I panicked, afraid that I had someone affected the Wa Information Officer’s computer that I was using.  What if I ruined everything?

I phoned my coworker and told her the story, laughing somewhat manically.  She explained how to reformat my USB.  I talked the radio announcer and – even though he was really busy – he was able to come back to the Assembly at 11am to record the surveys.

When he showed up, it started to downpour.  We listened to the water pound the tin roof above our heads and I suggested we try waiting 5 minutes to see if it let up, otherwise the recording quality would be awful.  We sat in silence for a while, him on his phone and me contemplating whether this chapter of my life is a comedy or a tragedy.

Luckily the rain stopped shortly after and we were able to record all the surveys again.  Two UN consultants that I’d met the previous day gave me a ride back to Tamale and they even gave me a Nature Valley granola bar, so turned into a great afternoon.

Comedy, I decided.  Who knows – maybe I’ll even dress up as a man dressed as a woman sometime during this placement.

This morning, though, my USB went crazy again.  I plugged it into my coworker’s computer and created a new folder to better organize the surveys.  After moving the files into the new folder, the files disappeared.  I ejected the USB.  I put it back in.  New files appeared and seemed to multiply.

What was happening?

Ghana or Canada – it wouldn’t matter where I was, I’d still be completely lost.  I’ve never had a virus before.  That’s what this is, right?

Luckily I also saved the files on the Wa computer, so my colleague can zip the folder and email it me.  It just means that last survey won’t go out today.

I’m ready for things in this comedy to start coming together.  Unfortunately that doesn’t usually happen until after the Intermission and I’m not even 1/3 done my placement yet, but my sense of humour is starting to fade.  Perhaps, though, it’s funny to the audience?

Normally my electronics have Star Trek names (Enterprise, DS9) and my USB stick was previously named The Shuttle.

Now it’s called Gremlin.  And I might smash it with a rock.


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One thought on “Gremlin

  1. Haha I love this post Beth! Tragedy plus time equals comedy? I don’t think you get to decide while you’re in the thick of it.

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