Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Make-Shift Alarm System

July 2nd, 2008

So, despite my steady progress in acclimating to this village a few challenges remain.

I’m great at peeing in a bucket, I can cook a whole meal by lantern light without cutting myself and my record for counter-top-dishes-washing is 45 minutes with just 3 trips to the water spicket but…

I can’t sleep.

There are noises Everywhere in this village and not the normal rooster-cow noises of my training village… no, in Kumakwane there are dog fights, donkey carts, brawling men and last night I heard a goat being slaughtered. Plus my cement walls and scant furniture let off ungodly echoes which wake me up terrified from the slightest creak.

Kris assures me this is Normal for my First-Month-Alone-In-Africa but I’ve never had trouble sleeping and it frustrates me a bit.

Then this past weekend I round a corner with the insomnia-plague: I sleep two full nights waking up only once (and I think I was roused by malaria nightmares vs. robber-noises). In any event, it was clear that I was adjusting to my sleep conditions and I was reassured of my own adaptability…

And then

And then my land lady comes knocking at my door tonight. Teloc. I greet her with a smile. Nice to see you—how did you pass your day (blah blah formalities) and then she says she’s looking for a level one of the builders left in the house (along their their magazines, jackets and a random brick, I think to myself). Anyway, we start scoring through the rooms and cant find the level and so we get to talking and she feels bad about my water/electricity/furniture shortage and I tell her it’s fine and we find the level and she’s about to go but the door is stuck from the broken hinge and she says OhTheHingeIsBroken in a voice that makes me nervous and the door pops open and she’s gone.

I don’t think too much about this Tone Of Voice Thing until she comes back two hours later with her groundsman. Teloc is in her bathrobe and the groundsman is scrutinizing the door and there are half-washed dishes all over my kitchen so I’m getting impatient but Teloc seems determined and then she starts talking.

Listen, the groundsman is going to fix this door and I want you to know I’m getting burglar bars for your windows—that’s my next project. And I want you to get some heavier curtains…

She starts checking my windows and I ask her if there have been a lot of break-ins in the area and she makes an ambiguous noise and starts talking about how the neighbors don’t have electricity so their house is dark and people might hide alongside my house and theirs and I start to get a little nauseous feeling and then

then Teloc starts hefting my gas tank against the front door.

Now, just so the picture is clear in your mind: My Middle Aged Bathrobed Landlady Is Hefting My 80 Pound Gas Cylinder Against My Front Door.
The cylinder is as tall as me and scary-heavy and she expects me to push this against the door every time I enter the house. (Mind you, I go out for water about 20 times a day)

Teloc and her groundsmen agree to come back tomorrow to work on fixing the door hinge in daylight (‘when it’s safer’) and I say goodnight and close the door and stare at my gas cylinder. The dogs outside start fighting on cue and I brace myself for another sleepless night.

(since writing this entry the burglar bars have been installed and the front door has been fixed… breathe, mum)

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