So we have arrived. Africa greets you like a giant slap to the face. Within minutes you are here and there is no gentle easing oneself into the pool. The drive from the airport to our apartment was quite fantastic, mothers with newborns on the back of motor cycles, street vendors selling everything from bikes to beds and a red dusty road stretching all the way to Kampala. By the time we arrived at “home” we were hot, dusty, tired but excited.
Then we entered our new apartment. Now I am not a princess and I can rough it like the best of the city girls. I have travelled through India and Egypt staying at accommodations quite far down the shabby scale. Back in my backpacking days we had one rule: cockroach leave in the morning, rat leave tonight. I had hopes about our housing and they were not high but the place that we were given is below those low hopes. With a grim smile and thoughts of paint brushes and curtain fabric dancing in my mind I said thank you and prepared to unpack.
My eldest said, in her bravest and politest voice, “if we stay in this place maybe we can just stay here for no more than two years”. My sensitive princess youngest just threw herself onto the nearest bed and wept.
“Let’s be brave!” I suggested holding back the tears. After all my biggest fear about this move was the housing. My home is my nest and being comfortable and feeling at home is more important than anything.
We went out for some excellent Thai food with a couple of teachers and started to feel better. This could work! A lick of paint, come good friends and a great school! This would be fine! Then it was time for bed. The shower curtain only came up to my knees so by the time we had all bathed the whole apartment was wet. The beds were thin foam mattresses and rather than a sheet we had acrylic blankets and very lumpy pillows.
After two hours of sleep I was awoken by the buzzing of a mosquito. If I was ever inclined to torture someone I would pick the interminable buzzing in the ear as the way to go. One hand free to swipe and the other pressing a blanket to the head became the preferred position of sleep. But once I was awake that was it. I was free to listen to the sounds of dogs fighting, cats calling, people singing, music blaring and bugs crawling. I was greeted by a super sized roach in the bathroom who looked up at me and declared a war.
The rest of the night was spent warding off the mosquitos, scratching, listening to the call to prayer, the rather early rooster who seemed to have forgotten to wait for the sun rise, and the rising panic that perhaps this was all a giant mistake. I had ripped my girls away from their home, their friends and all the comforts of the 1st world for a grim apartment and roaches. Was I mad? There is nothing like the middle of the night to bring on all exaggerated fears and worries. And there is nothing like the morning to gain perspective.
I woke up ( once daylight arrived it became strangely quiet) determined to
A)find a new apartment and
B) buy some mosquito nets.