Sunday, October 12, 2008

from Betty: renting an apartment? Bring your own generator...

Betty (October 8)
We finally found a place to live. We have been living in a guesthouse for the last month. And though we get along really well it has been a bit tiresome living in one room. Also as I was recuperating from my accident I was basically here 24/7. The guesthouse is run by a family, the father who is fairly high up in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, his wife, a true Krio, who basically runs the place, their two children, Jack, a teenager, and bouncy Martha who is three and loves Bob because he chases her around the compound. Also there is the staff of about 8 people, cleaning, hauling water, cooking, washing clothes, of course all my hand, etc. So I was never alone and could watch the daily activities from my room. I usually kept the door open just to feel like I was part of the outside world. One amazing sight every day was to watch Elmamy string 20 plus yellow 10-gallon plastic containers together and then carry them on his head out of the compound. He carries them down the hill and to a place where they are filled. Later in the day a truck brings them back and all the guys in the compound carry them down a stairs to the cistern. But it is still not finished because each container has to be lifted and poured into the cistern. Back breaking work, or you could say it in a more positive sense, muscle building. The guys do look pretty well built. With all that I feel guilty every time I flush the toilet.

Every morning and evening we go up to a 2nd floor terrace, overlooking the hillside, to eat…this house was built on the hillside but somehow turned its back on the view of downtown and the sea which seems odd as it is a much better view. We usually eat with the other Fulbright colleague who is also staying here. Mary usually brings our food. She is very good-natured but only speaks Krio so we laugh and talk but we never really understand each other. I am very spoiled with nothing to do, as my room is cleaned and our meals are served to us every day. I do wash a few clothes by hand but that is about all. But after my fall when I wasn’t supposed to do anything this was the perfect place to be and I was very well cared for. And Bob could keep up with his responsibilities without having to worry about taking care of me.

Another young woman worked here but she was pregnant and about to have her baby so she left. I think she will call us when she has it. But basically she was let go and so has no income while she waits to have the baby. It’s a hard world here and the staff does not make much money (about $75 a month we think).

New lodging
I am getting a little nostalgic for this place as we get ready to leave and move to our new apartment. It’s nice to have people around. In our new place we will be much more isolated from the local people and our neighbors will be mostly Europeans. We looked for a whole month before we found a place that we really liked and were ready to move into. But, as with every place that we looked at, there were problems. The place is expensive. We have to buy a generator so we would have reliable power in the evenings. Bob, who hates to buy things and especially in a place without fixed prices and not always trusted information, bravely bit the bullet and just did it. It seemed like a manly thing to do, I being stuck with all the other tasks of buying stuff to furnish the place. The apt does have basic furniture, but no kitchen or cleaning stuff so there are lots to buy, all of which I hope to get at a decent price.

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