Thursday, 2 July 2009

Annexed Territory

I realized today that I haven't written anything here for almost a week. No doubt this has caused anxiety for fans around the world, impatiently clicking 'Refresh' over and over in the hope of seeing a new post. But I could be wrong.

This has been a week of changes.

The first change is that I've started using Swahili in client settings. Most of us (volunteers) speak some Swahili in the office, usually sticking to greetings with Tanzanian colleagues. I've been trying to ramp it up over time -- talking with colleagues, taxi drivers, my Swahili teacher, and cotton farmers. Last week, though, one of the regulatory guy I work with insisted that we finish a phone conversation in Swahili. I was secretly hoping he would forget it ever happened, but I showed up at his office yesterday and he just kept on going. I haven't gotten totally comfortable with the idea of actually talking about business/legal stuff in Swahili yet, but it's a good step forward. I'm determined to keep up my desire to learn from the start of the summer. Swahili is a fun language, and it could be very useful if I come back to Dar or Nairobi for work.

The second change: I switched houses. Until this week, I lived in the spacious and luxurious (if underfurnished) apartment known as the VolCon House. This week, my boss asked if I could move into a new house TechnoServe now uses, directly across from the office. There are a lot of volunteers here for the summer, so it made sense for me to move into the house across the street. The usual occupants are teachers from Venezuela who went back home for the winter and left the place free. I'm sharing the new digs with Kelly, a fellow summer worker San Francisco.

The new place has its ups and downs, but I like it so far. I've been trying to figure out if the new house (I call it the Annex) is better or worse than the last place. Let's see how they stack up:

1. Location
- VolCon House: a 15-minute walk from anything, except a boring and overpriced bar. Quite close to shopping. Area can be sketchy at night.
- The Annex: also a 20-minute walk from anything, except work (which is a 15-second walk). Shopping venues not walkable.
Winner: The Annex

2. Shower
(this is a big one for me)
- VolCon House: strong water pressure, 30 minutes of hot water, and two showers
- Annex: medium water pressure, plenty of hot water, one (less nice) shower
Winner: The VolCon House

3. Security
- VolCon House: a sleepy, communal askari who works 24/7 and has one tooth. He doesn't always wake up when we come in at night.
- Annex: a night guard, a day guard, and two aggressive German Shephards who patrol the yard.
Winner: The Annex

4. Homeyness
- VolCon House: underfurnished; corporate-apartment feel; no real signs of inhabitation if people aren't there; one stray cat who is a bit gross-looking. Internet unavailable 14 days a month; also unavailable from 6 am until 10:30 pm.
- Annex: insanely homey; fridge doors laden with magnets, house is a veritable catalog of every homemade craft the family's kids have made for the past ten years. There's a (scratchy, but lovable) cat called Merida, pictured below. Good web access.
Winner: The Annex

Me, delighted with internet speed:

Merida the cat:

5. Bedrooms
- VolCon House: foam twin mattress from a broken bed, oodles of storage space and enough hangers; sand in the closet when I arrived
- Annex: I sleep in a 9-year girl's bedroom; I trip over the stuffed tiger sometimes and I've nearly broken some homemade pottery; bed is comfortable and has egg crate; no storage space
Winner: VolCon House

My new lair:

6. Kitchen
- VolCon House: very little food; no cooking oil, baking ingredients, or good spices; slow-to-heat electric stove with unstable pans. Ants.
- Annex: lots of food; kitchen packed with 40 types of spices, rice, olive oils, baking goods, and chocolates; gas and electric stove with wide range of good pans. Sink is a bit blocked up, though.
Winner: The Annex

7. Help
- VolCon House: Leonard comes twice a week to clean the place and wash clothes. He washed my suede shoes once.
- Annex: Martha comes three times a week to do all the cleaning. She ironed my shirts yesterday.
Winner: The Annex

8. Sleep
- VolCon House: totally quiet, except for occasional early-morning construction. I always slept like a log.
- Annex: Sombra and Arena bark all night. And they step it up early in the morning (around 6 am)... I've gotten terrible sleep the past couple of nights. Kelly gave me some earplugs, which seem to solve the problem a little bit.
Winner: VolCon House

Looks like the Annex wins, despite the barking! I'm thinking of doing a happy hour or small dinner party at some point, just to break the place in.

1 comment:

  1. Would that be a happy hour for the Alsatians to quell the barking?