Quick! When was the last time you took a sledgehammer to something?
My answer: Thursday.
Backstory: In Kombo (the urban coastal area), Peace Corps has a transit house, where volunteers can stay while they're in town to go to the PC office or the bank... or the beach. We call it the stodge.
Inside the stodge's walled compound is a small house in the back. Currently, that house is being used for a few PCVs working in the Kombo area to live in permanently.
It hasn't previously been used for volunteer housing, so it's only recently been remodeled and brought up to PC housing code. This means that some of the bugs haven't exactly been worked out.
The house is sort of fortress like, with bars on all the windows and metal doors riveted to the house. Even the lock is super heavy-duty. Which wouldn't be a problem if it worked correctly.
As it turns out, there have been occasions where the lock has jammed and people have been locked in the house. They had to jimmy the lock around quite a bit before getting out. Not a huge problem, so long as the house isn't, say, on fire.
However, Thursday night, Beth J (the other Beth) tried to get into her locked house and failed. She called a few other PCVs over for help, and we all took turns jimmying and jiggling and jerking. No luck. It was late at night, so we decided not to call the hard-working Gambian PC staff member whose job it is to fix these things. Instead, we took things into our own hands.
Someone found a hammer, and we decided we were going to just bang the lock out of the door. One by one, Alicia, Buya (real name Amy, but we all call her by her Gambian name, Buya, pronounced "Boo-yah"... great, huh?), Pete, Beth J and I pounded at the lock -- great stress relief! Alicia was looking wistfully through the window into the house, where the fridge held her precious stash of Thin Mints cookies. She was perhaps a little more motivated than the rest of us to get inside...
We continued making progress, having thoroughly mangled the lock and loosened it a bit. But Buya went for reinforcements and returned with a sledgehammer. Yes!
It was right about then that Ellie came home and found us destroying her front door. "Umm, guys...? I have the key...."
Finally, we decided to ask the guards for help. Gambians are great at inventive solutions to the weirdest situations. Also, they're stronger than the mostly female group we had.
When they came over and we explained the situation, their first question was, "well do you have the key?" They (like Ellie, apparently) were pretty sure that these stupid toubabs had lost the key, and decided to bang the door down rather than wait for the spare. We explained (in both English and Mandinka) that yes, we had the key, but the lock was jammed and the key didn't work, so we were just knocking the lock out of the door.
Still in doubt, the guards asked for the key, which we handed over, then watched as they tried to open the door. It was difficult to hold back the snickers when one of the guards informed us, "well, the lock is bent. That's why the key's not working."
Ok, yes, the lock is bent now...
But that's because we've been at it with a sledgehammer for the past half hour, making a ruckus that the guards couldn't possibly not have heard!
So we explained, again, that the lock was bent by our sledgehammer after the key didn't work. Eventually, we convinced the guards to just start swinging, and they successfully busted the door apart and voila! We were in!
As for the girls living in the house, they're relieved to have that lock off the door, and are requesting a fire escape be made if PC admin wants to put another industrial strength lock on there. A wise decision.