Monday, July 02, 2007

On Surface Pretty

What do you mean, we don't get to keep the fans?

Okay, so I read a book, when I was younger, that took place in Scotland and included a scene where characters repainted a community center for an upcoming visit by the Queen. As they painted, the main character wondered if Her Majesty thought the whole world smelled like fresh paint.

One might wonder the same thing about Her Majesty The First Lady:
It was Thursday, only twenty-four hours left before the First Lady's visit, and a work crew from the U.S. embassy was installing electrical outlets in two classrooms. The next day, the outlets would power the fans to cool Mrs. Bush and the rest of the crowd. But, like most schools in Mali, the Mandela School doesn't have enough money for electricity, so the power cord from these new outlets led out the windows to a mobile generator the embassy brought over and hid out back.

Rebecca Rhodes is the project manager for the Teacher Training Via Radio program, which is entirely funded by President Bush's African education initiative. For two weeks, Rhodes has worked with White House security and communications crews to make the school picture perfect for the First Lady's visit.

REBECCA RHODES: So Mrs. Bush's limousine and the limousine of Mali's First Lady would come through the door there at the front of the school, and then she will walk down this lovely gravel (laughs) that we have just put down.

GOSS: About the gravel: USAID bought it so that the First Lady wouldn't slip on the mud in the courtyard. The gravel just covers the portion of the courtyard Mrs. Bush would see....

Demba Bundi is a high school teacher who works with the Teacher Training Via Radio program.... He was ... struck by some selective repainting on the walls surrounding the school.

DEMBA BUNDI: Only the entrance door has been painted new, because that's where everybody gets in, but the rest of the wall, it's dirty, and you have all these American gangster-boy kind of graffiti on the wall, and nobody seems to care about that....

Of course, it would be far too much to actually let the school, say, keep the generators and the electrical outlets and the fans once they'd put on such a nice show.
GOSS: Yesterday morning, I returned to the Mandela School with teacher Demba Bundi. The courtyard was once again covered in trash, this time water bottle labels and doughnut cartons from the First Lady's visit. Bundi looked at the scene and shook his head.

BUNDI: Mali is a poor country. We're not ashamed of saying it, we're poor. But despite the poverty level, we still want to impress the West, which to me is pointless. If I am poor and sleeping on the dirt and you're coming to visit me, let's hang out on the dirt. And maybe I'll have a better chance to get some help from you.

GOSS: We went into the classroom that had been electrically fitted. The embassy had removed the fans, the furniture, and the generator the same afternoon the First Lady visited. Even the outlets had been pulled out of the wall.

I'm assuming they were allowed to keep the paint and the gravel.
They will see everything - except the real Mali.

Like a hastily-staged New Orleans photo op, these are the days of the Bushes' lives.

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