Housing at last

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Welcome to my new abode by Andy Buhler, CUSO, 69-71

Here I am, ladies and gentlemen, sitting in the bedroom of my new flat typing a letter home. After considerable palaver with many authorities plus being nearly housed in about three houses and two flats I’m finally (since yesterday) moved in to my own place. Hey, it only took seven months. The flat was rather dirty (having been vacant for a few months) but I’ve swept some of the dust and the cobwebs out and, except for the need of a good wash, it looks fairly presentable. I slept here last night and had lunch here today. I spent about £N8 on incidentals for the place so far. About another £N5 should see me in sufficient dishes and a bit of food.

Let me take you on a tour of B.P. 261, St. 10. Any interruptions in the stream of consciousness which follows are strictly this author’s. He is currently trying to cook soup in the new kitchen, take pictures of birds from the bedroom window, and type up this virtual tour as a letter home.

To continue -- please enter my front door from the second floor landing. You will find yourself in an ample main room. The room is actually a combined living-dining room with hardwood floors painted red, ten dusty chairs, one table and a phone that doesn’t work. (Even if the phone did work there is no one who I could phone as phones are rare in Kano.) There is one yellow curtain on the balcony window, one blue tablecloth, a couple of my dog-eared paperbacks plus my thorn-carving chess set (price £N4).

Now the first dilemma arises. Which way to begin: to the left is one door, to the right another door, and there is also another door straight ahead.

(I just turned the stove up to medium -- the soup is starting to smell really good!)

The right-hand door leads to a storage cupboard where, at present, I keep several boxes and the largest of my spiders and cockroaches. The door ahead leads into the first of my two kitchens -- small rooms about 7’x7’ each. One has the stove, a sink, my soup, various cans of edibles, seven small cockroaches and currently, smoke.

(The soup just boiled over. Ever had char-broiled vegetable soup?)

The second kitchen has my refrigerator, a sink, several glasses, my one plate, small and assorted ants, and two broken lizard eggs. Both rooms have sinks with running water -- warm in the hot weather, cool in the colder weather. Right now it runs lukewarm. There are two spiders, each about the size of a silver dollar, trying to look inconspicuous under one sink. If they don’t get any bigger and start walking off with my onions they can stay. If I start losing things then out they go.

I also have a water filter with two Berkfeld Candles but neither has seen fit to allow any water through. I don’t know if it’s because we have really, really thick water here or because the filters are so dirty that no water can get through. Anyway about one cup of water dribbled through in 24 hours but I found that it had actually leaked through a crack near the tap on the filter. I’ve scrapped that one. Saturday I'll go to the Ministry of Works to complain and try to get a new filter then all will be well.

Anyway, let’s wander back to the front door and then go through the left-hand door. It leads into a rather large bedroom with a double bed, dressers and dust. It is the only room I haven’t washed yet. From within that bedroom there are two more doors -- one goes to a 'little room' (i.e john) and one to a small room. I sleep in the small room. The large dusty room I have set up as my writing room. I think better with a bit of dust around -- isn’t there an old saying about “clean mind, dirty feet” or something. That room will also sub as the guest room.

So there you have it -- four major rooms, one storage room, one dusty room, and a john. Also one balcony but that is where I swept all the dust so I’m not saying much about it at the moment. Why did you think I needed the one yellow curtain -- it covers the door to the dusty balcony.

(Soup could do with a bit more liquid and a little less carbon I think.)

I just spent part of today haggling over power bills received for the former tenant but for me to pay. After two visits to ECN, one to the Ministry, and a flat tire, I at last got the power bill straightened out. I start payment from April 3rd. I arrived home at 2:00 p.m. after all this hassle only to find a water bill waiting (dated 9 March to 21 April, plus £N1/17/6 in arrears) for me to pay. I guess I’ll have to go and haggle with the Water Ministry too. I can’t pay £N2 when I’ve only used about 5/- of water can I?

A short while ago Ken came over to visit. Naturally, at the time, I was standing in my pyjamas in the bathtub trying to get a picture of a bird out the window -- I get quite comfortable when I’m alone. When I got to the door there was Ken barring the doorway with a roll of linoleum, two chairs, a pile of books, six cushions, a bedspring and a pot. I’ll tell you why if I ever find out but at present it’s a mystery even to me.

I spent all Good Friday washing floors and six shirts. Saturday I worked and then bought stuff for the place. Never put your carrots and onions and peppers in the same bag with seven shillings worth of loose rice. Usually you only have to remove the quartz from the rice. Now I have to take out carrot tops and onion peels as well.

Last night my toilet flooded so this morning there was water all over the bathroom floor. Also the broom handle broke and my kitchen’s second sink is plugged. The carpenter from MOW did arrive at my flat sometime during the day and he repaired the towel rail in my bathroom. He did a good job even though I never requested the towel rail be done. What I did request was the repair of my stove and toilet, the unplugging of the kitchen sink, installation of a verandah light, plus a few spare bulbs. None of those were done -- but I now have a good towel rail. Everything seems about normal here.

In the apartment block I’ve seen two Egyptian doctors and their families, an Indian who works for the Ministry of Agriculture and who grows paw-paw trees in our back yard, a couple of Nigerian families and one more Indian family.

Outside my windows are many trees, the bean-pod tree, the pink-flower tree, the flame tree, and a strange one with few leaves but clusters of white flowers. These trees attract a lot of birds so there is always something to watch. Life doesn’t have to be dull if you look at your surroundings.

A herd of Ankoli cattle just came through under the window and started browsing on the Aggy’s plants until he roared at the Fulani boy herding them.

Life is good -- charred soup is less good.

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