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Africa Day Twelve

(Tuesday 12/21/99)

So I’ve spent most of the day writing, so there isn’t much to describe as far as today’s events. However, since we might be out of contact for a while I though that I would write a little bit about our status and plans. Of course, since the end of the world is eminent, it might be foolish to discuss what plans we may have for the New Year.

We are leaving Kisumu early Thursday (12/23) morning by plane for Nairobi. We have to spend the night in Nairobi and then fly out the next morning for…Zanzibar. We shall be taking scuba lessons for four days after that leading up to New Year’s Eve. Hopefully we’ll find a party somewhere for the actual night. We fly back to Nairobi on January 5th (assuming that the airplanes still work, and that the Armageddon has not occurred.)

While we are gone the guesthouse that we are staying at will have moved locations. It is moving into one of the houses that we looked at living in, but decided it was too large and too expensive. So we will be the last residents of this guesthouse and the first of the new guesthouse. Julius is very excited, but I will miss the gecko lizards.

On Saturday, January 15th we move in to our new house!!!

Oh man, I thought I could do this in a straightforward itinerary style, but now it has occurred to me that I have to tell the story of getting our new house…Hold on, I’ve got to get a little more comfortable….

So…You may have gathered from previous days that we have spent a lot of time looking for a house to rent. I have already given away, I think, that we liked the Miami Vice house the most out of the houses that we had looked at. On Saturday morning we went to negotiate with the landlords for the first time. We rode over there on bicycles from the guesthouse.

Let me back up a little and describe the place. It is the affluent part of town called Millimani on a Tom Mboya Street. Don’t ask me how to pronounce the “mbo” in “Mboya,” because I can’t manage it. I think that he was a Kenyan politician of some kind. It has a very good sized compound. Usually you’d say yard, but here all of the yards are fenced or walled in, so you end up with a compound. We have a big ol’ wall with sharp pointy spikes on the top of some pretty iron decorative ironwork. The house is situated diagonally on the lot with the living room patio facing the back right corner. There are a couple of banana trees, maybe three or four, but all the rest of the compound has been stripped of vegetation. I think that most of it was near the wall, so they tore it down to improve visibility. We can tell that it was recently torn down as branches and leaves are strewn across the compound.

The house has a large kitchen, a large dining room/living room, two bedrooms and a large study/bedroom. The study has these cool little interior window slat things. I can’t really describe the slat things; I’ll post a picture when we move in. We also have a small garage for out non-existent vehicle. I am campaigning hard for one of the cute little blue Peugots that they use as Matatu here. There is bathroom and a toilet near the largest room. Lest you forget, everything is done in this weird pale blue and a rose color, hence the Miami Vice sobriquet.

So we go into this meeting covered in sweat from the bike ride, meeting our future landlords for the first time. He is a big man with round belly and a wristwatch the size of a small car. She is a big lady, wearing a more traditional big dress thing. We make our introductions and sit down. They ask us what we are doing in Kisumu and we ask what he does for a living. It turns out this guy is a politician from Nairobi. He is the town clerk. I cannot even imagine how much power this guy wields, and he looks the part. He looks just like a stereotypical African Politician: wearing his wealth and his power like an invisible mantle.

Through conversation it becomes clear that we are interested and that they want to rent to us, and we, and by we I mean Kim, start negotiating. They want thirty thousand shillings a year. We want twenty-seven shillings. They want to raise rent by a five thousand the next year, we don’t want to pay that much. Etc. Etc. Finally, we come to an agreement at 27,000 the first year 33,000 the second and 35,000 the third. Of course if we decide to leave at any point we can. We also got them to agree to gravel the yard, but security lights in, fix the leaky ceiling and clean the compound, but who knows how long it will take for these things to get done I they get done at all. In these ways, an in many others, the lease is more a guideline than a fully binding legal document.

In the end they seemed to be very nice people and people we will certainly be very nice to. I don’t think that we want to be on his bad side.

So we have that taken care of. We also purchased a lot of furniture from Kim’s boss who is leaving his job as Kim enters hers.

So that’s the update from Kisumu. I’ve got a good story to tell about the Municipality Mafia, but it will have to wait until we get back from sunny Zanzibar.

Happy Holidays from Africa!