We interrupt our regularly scheduled travel and foodie and wordy reflective posts to bring you the latest installment of T.I.A.: This Is Africa, to provide a peek into the trials and tribulations of African life. Enjoy, I don’t have too many of these left!
Home repairs are never fun. They are costly, take a lot of time and energy, and inevitably inconvenience everyone in their wake. In Africa, it is the same. Times fifty. A light bulb burns out or a crappy switch breaks, and it takes months to fix it. Because someone has to talk to the electrician to go find out how much the part costs, and then go ask someone else for approval to buy the part, and then once approval is granted go to someone else to ask for the money, and then that person has to go ask someone else to approve the money, and then the money is approved, and someone else has to actually go cut the check but actually the account is empty at least for the month, and then that message has to get passed backwards through the chain, and before you know it you have been showering by candlelight or getting dressed by headlamp for two months… not that this has happened to me multiple times or anything.
Lights are one thing. With electricity that is the opposite of consistent, being stuck in the dark for days is no foreign concept. But when it is raining inside, that is a whole other issue.
I have mentioned that I live in a bamboo house with a thatched roof. Up until a few months ago, I was pretty impressed by the ability of our house to keep water out—in fact, the only place that leaked in the heavy cyclone-season rains was the bathroom, ironically the only room with a tin roof rather than reed. But that all changed. This year, it started (drumroll please….) RAINING IN MY ROOM. I documented this briefly as a pretty good workout excuse (wearing a raincoat inside counts), but it got worse.
A couple of hours of rain could fill a bucket…
Completely flood two-thirds of my room…
Slowly creep out through the doorway…
And into the kitchen!
And this was far away from one of the more serious incidences. No pictures of those. I was too busy trying to stuff my camera and everything I cared about into Ziplocs while floating away down the surging river that emerged from my bedroom. Okay I am maybe exaggerating. But only a tiny bit.
So, complaints were lodged, and finally, just after the rainy season ended (of course), some dudes arrived and ripped off the thatch of my roof to redo it. However, this led to years and years of dirt and rat poop falling from the false ceiling and positively coating ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING with turds and other nastiness. No joke. Lovely.
I saw a little piece of light popping through the false ceiling and nudged my way up into the little nook above my room to see what my roof looked like. Or lack of such a roof.
Yeah, that’s a nice hole. Contingency plan for rain much?!?! Of course not.
So for a couple of days, there were some guys chilling on the roof, weaving in new reed.
Imagine my surprise when fresh from the shower, still clean, damp, and toweled, two guys jump onto my roof and start shaking down more turds and dirt. “COM LICENCA!!!” I yell. (Excuse me. As in “Excuse me, I am naked and clean here, it took a month and a half for you to even get here in the first place, so can you hold it with the poo shower for FIVE FREAKING MINUTES PLEASE?!?!”) Unsuccessful. Grab clothes, clutch towel, hightail it out of there.
Well, the good report is that the roof has been finished. The good and bad news is that there has not been rain. Good because there has been no opportunity for flood, bad in that I have no idea if it actually is fixed. (The first tree-trimming procedure that was done to “mitigate the problem” took it from mere wet annoyance to Noah-style, ruining-all-of-my-possessions type of flood.) So, I’m not getting my hopes up. But I have new sympathy for all those Americans who lament having to “redo the roof.” I now feel your pain. May I recommend bamboo?
Now, since the roof incident, we have had a variety of other problems of the home variety. Most recently, our sink in the bathroom stopped turning off. As in, it would just run and run… potentially draining our tank and leaving us all without any means to bathe, wash dishes/clothes, or hydrate. We informed the man responsible for our house and in true Mozambican fashion, weeks passed. We waited patiently, succeeding in turning off the faucet with an eight pound hand weight. It was really fun running back and forth to the bathroom while working out to switch the heavy weights with light ones depending on what I needed (the unused set would be on the sink).
Then while eating breakfast one morning, we heard a crash. The weight had fallen off and… our problem just got bigger.
Who needs a sink that shuts off when you have a sink with a HUGE HOLE in it?
It doesn’t get any better than this, folks.
Got any “home improvement” projects of your own?