Welcome to my house

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I want people to be able to “see” my house, so here it goes.  As I sit here in my home surveying my surroundings, with the cracked and patched concrete floors (that sometimes creak underneath as if ready to crack and crumble under the most careful step) and the mud brick walls painted deviled-egg yellow with various holes high above my reach no doubt where the previous owner hung hand-woven decorations with religious sayings (like any good Rwandan), I think how far I’ve come from the luxuries of even the simplest American homes.  There’s also the dirty partial footprints I’ve left anywhere from ankle to chest-high documenting the deaths of various spiders usually in my boda bodas, popular poor-man’s plastic slip-on sandals.  (Or in my case, poor-kid’s sandals as I have the largest children’s size apparent by the caterpillar design on the upper.)  My ceiling is a row of 2x4s painted with the white chalky clay and leaving little gaps for dirt, bugs, and hail to drop through.  There is an old, long florescent light bulb in the middle of the room that has either burnt out or is no longer hooked up to the electricity – or both.  Another small, coiled bulb hangs down like a bright white upside-down torch illuminating the room in the evening – that is when the town has power and I’ve bought my monthly “Power Token” code to enter into the box on the outside of the house.  Typically I let the room be illuminated naturally by the sun streaming in through my barred double window, the window in the front door (also barred), and the open wooden back door.  Even when the back door is closed a sliver of light is visible through a jagged crack in the wood.  Every morning I wait for the light to creep through the cracks of my room letting me know it’s an acceptable time to get up – somewhere between 6 and 6:30 A.M.  Some of the sunlight that enters my bedroom squeezes itself in between the cracks surrounding the small wooden square of a window which I never open.   Some beams pierce through the roof like lasers, finding their way through the roof tiles and then the gaps between the 2x4s.

But this is all a luxury compared to many others.  Their houses are the same mud walls but not always smoothed so that you can still see each individual mud brick and the mud in between acting as the cement.  The walls are left without paint, not even the white chalky stuff.  The floors are packed dirt, maybe with some small bricks scattered amongst the dirt.  There is no drop ceiling of 2x4s, maybe a stray mat, but usually just open to the roof whether that may be clay tiles or sheets of corrugated metal.  The doors have no handles, just a swinging latch to lock it on the outside with a small padlock and a sliding latch to lock it on the inside.  Their latrines don’t always have a door, sometimes there’s a piece of cloth or straw mat to offer privacy but sometimes it’s just left open.  And sometimes there is no real floor to the latrine, just a few 2x4s or small tree trunks stretched across the pit containing all of the family’s bodily wastes.  My latrine is luxury compared to these: I have a mud-concrete floor, a wooden door,  and a little trough that slants down into a pip that transports my wastes to the pit.

There’s obviously more to it, but those are the basics in terms of the simplicity of construction.  These are just some observations I wanted to add to the basic floor plan description I gave earlier when I first moved in.

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~ by twcstars on March 11, 2011.

One Response to “Welcome to my house”

  1. I miss your updates. They are a great way to keep up with you though I know it has to be a pain to type them all up and upload them. Hope you are well and glad you will be home soon

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