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          When I started designing this site in early 2021, you can’t imagine how excited I was to have my own piece of art on the World Wide Web. Every day I pestered one of my cousins, a designer by training, to make this site my artistic face, my personal museum, my modern, friendly and elegant-looking art gallery.

I think he did pretty well. I would even say he is a little genius if you consider the context in which this site was created. So let me tell you a little bit about my cousin, one of the geniuses behind this website (there are many).

My cousin is in his twenties, he lives in West Africa, more precisely in Togo, a small country of about 8 million inhabitants which had been under dictatorship for decades, and where my mother was born.

Like many young Africans thirsting for opportunity, success and achievement, my cousin has long had his eyes set on “the Promise Land”, especially Europe and North America, in the hope of a better future. So, a few years ago, he managed to come to Canada to study web design. After a few semesters at the university, however, he had to put an end to his studies because he didn’t have enough money to pay for his tuition and living expenses.

Well, let’s be clear that choosing Vancouver to live and study, especially as an international student, was far from being the smartest economic choice, considering that it is the city with the highest cost of living in Canada. But hey, since this is my cousin who, at the time, was younger, immature, and dazzled by the fantasy of a new western life, I excuse his choice.

In short, after settling for odd jobs for several months (sometimes illegally) in the hope of resuming his studies, he was finally forced to return to Togo in February 2020 without a diploma and with a few dollars in his pocket from the sale of his personal belongings.

Before leaving for Togo, my cousin spent his last six Canadian months in my home, during which time we constantly tried to find ways to keep him in Canada legally. Often he would sit in my office, watching me paint, while we strategized and schemed to keep him in the country, without success.

As I write this, my cousin is probably on his way back from the port of Lomé, the capital of Togo, where he spent the day selling merchandise in order to save money to resume his studies in web design.

He created my website, designed my logo and made most of the mockups for my paintings. He did all this from his over-air conditioned room, in Togo, between power cuts, a lame Internet connection and a second hand laptop that has since died. Even if he didn’t ask me for a penny in exchange (which is normal since I hosted him for six months;-), I made sure to pay him for his rigorous and dedicated work, being aware of the economic reality in which he evolves.

Once the site was built, everything went wonderfully well for the first two weeks, until the site started to experience all sorts of problems; images not displaying, unexpected font changes, interminable slowness in downloading pages, repeated minor crashes, and finally a major site crash!

This final crash came about two weeks ago when I was just beginning to confidently present myself as an artist to other artists and the public, proudly handing out my business card and encouraging those around me to visit my site and spread the word. Now I was an artist with an artistic face, a personal museum, an art gallery that was totally disfigured, banged up, shabby!

At that point, this cousin that I loved so much quickly became the object of my frustrations and rebukes. I was furious and let him have it! He apologized a thousand times, and from his voice, I realized that I should be more lenient with him because he had really done his best with the means at his disposal. The site was clearly not working the way I wanted it to, but it was fixable. However, since my cousin’s laptop had died in the meantime, he could no longer work on the site design. So I had to find someone else.

So I called another cousin (yes, I have many cousins; I’m talking about an African family, let’s not forget that). Anyway, this other cousin and I are the same age (I’ll let you guess), and he lives in Canada, not too far from me to be precise. He’s the one who assembled the computer from which I’m writing this article. So he is definitely what we would call a “geek”.

So I knew he had a strong computer background, but I had no idea how strong. I told him about the problems with my site, and after taking control of my computer remotely, he solved all the problems in one evening!

The moral of this story is not to compare my cousins or to imply that I should have entrusted my site to the latter rather than the former, because without the work of one, the work of the other could not have been accomplished. They have both contributed greatly to the MAWU’s site, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

The message I’m trying to get across is that you shouldn’t hesitate to ask others for help with what you don’t know how to do, or at least ask them to show you how to do it; whether it’s designing a website when you’ve never used WordPress, preparing an international recipe for which you’ve never heard of the ingredients, or doing major renovation work in the house when you’re just a Sunday handyman.

Normally, this avoids a lot of damage and a big waste of time.

So, before I embarked on designing this website, I knew nothing about website development and design. Watching my two cousins work taught me a lot and I am now able to manage this website myself, except in case of a big technical problem, in which case I call on you know who;-)

So don’t hesitate to ask for help when you know a skill is beyond your limits. This will hopefully reduce your stress level!


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