It is fairly easy to romanticize the idea of an African house… for example by painting a picture of Karen Blixen’s house in your head, and then putting yourself on the porch in a rocking chair, listening to a gramophone beside your very own Denis Finch-Hatton! It is also very easy to do the opposite and conjure up images of a dark, dusty hut filled with more bugs than you can shake a stick at.
Well, we have moved into our new house, and although there is no gramophone, it is closer to my romanticized version than my nightmare one. After only two nights here, I know it is one of those houses that I will remember fondly forever.
Our house is about a 5-minute walk from the main hospital building. It is a detached red-brick house set on a lovely patch of land with a reed fence marking the perimeter. I have lived in London for the past 10 years, and for those of you who aren’t familiar with London, having a garden/balcony/roof terrace is very desirable and very hard to find, so it feels quite special to now have a beautiful garden of my own.
Inside the house, there are two good-sized bedrooms, a living room, a separate kitchen and a bathroom. The bathroom is lovely and bright, which greatly assists in showing up how yellow and stained the bathtub is! Will and I are shower people. Unfortunately, the bathroom lacks a fitted shower and comes only with one of those unsatisfying ‘shower’ attachments that you fit over the taps. At least there is hot water. Besides, I keep telling myself that is unlikely that Karen Blixen had a power shower.
In London, I complained about the dust that coats every surface. London dust needs to take notes from Katete dust, because this dust means business! The house was filthy when we moved in. I didn’t have any cleaning stuff at first other than Dettol wipes. So I ended up using an old rag and a bar of soap and literally soaping every surface! Then one of the medical students kindly loaned me some Mr. Muscle and I re-went over everything. Despite the soap, Mr. Muscle and my muscles, a red layer of dust persists.
Happily, I haven’t needed any Dyroach yet. I found one dead cockroach under the bed, and there was a small frog living in the toilet when I first opened the lid, but that is all so far!
Despite our best efforts to stock up in Lusaka, there is a lot of stuff lacking here – for example, there are no mirrors (maybe after a year in Zambia that will be a good thing!). In addition, we do not have any pans, any bins, a kettle, and the list goes on!
Not to worry… We can make do without creature comforts, improvise with what we do have, and hopefully enjoy a more simple approach to life… Plus we have the porch and garden to help draw a smile, our little patch of Africa for a year.