On Bad Days in Kigali
Wake up. Take malaria pill. Tie up the mosquito net. Check for cockroaches and spiders. Stress about what might be lurking in our pipes, under our sink and behind the toilet. Gingerly open the bathroom door and do an eyeball of the floor to detect any potential enemies.
Sweep the dead bugs and leaves and night detritus from the front and back door. Marvel at the never-ending dustiness of everything. Check and water the plants. Observe a lizard eating a large insect, possibly a cockroach, right next to your tomatoes. Feel put off of eating things from the garden. Stare at amaranth taking over and feel a brief sense of empowerment from pulling out a couple stalks by the roots. See a light dusting of spider mites at base and realize whole garden is likely infested. Give up.
And / Or
Try to have a shower. Realize the water is off. Tweet at water company. Look at piles of laundry that have been waiting for water to come on to be finished and sigh. Deal with roommate who has never ending daily mountains of laundry to do and take some small pleasure in telling her the water is off so she can't co-opt the machine all day. She gets her revenge by requesting your cleaner to prioritize hand washing all her laundry before doing anything else.
And / Or
Receive message from a guy you used a few times to wash and groom the dog, wanting to come by and groom her. Feel bad that you don't want to pay him and would rather wash her yourself but then feel guilty for denying someone their living. Text in broken English and try to describe where the house is in a place that doesn't do addresses and where most people do not understand street names. "It's the green door with the pink flowers over top" Wait. Wait. Wait. At every knock, run outside and try to determine whose gate in the neighborhood is being beckoned. Do this 4 or 5 times. Get nothing accomplished while waiting. When he shows up, spend an hour helping to hold Keza and making sure she doesn't get overexcited and become a biting monster.
And / Or
Check the power meter and try to figure out how you are burning through 10 KWH every day. Message electrician. Hear nothing back. Have him show up randomly at the gate when you are about to leave the house. Watch him rootle around your very nonstructural suspended ceiling and emerge with several old, chewed-through wires, declaring the problem fixed. Stress briefly about what's living above you, but push down thoughts and pay him gratefully. Next day, realize that nothing is fixed. Feel defeated and hopeless. Give up. Have your partner ask you stonily why you act so fatalistic and don't want to deal with it anymore and declare you bad at handling problems. Feel even more defeated and hopeless. Give up.
And / Or
Put a pot on the stove to heat an receive a mild electrical shock. Realize the stove is a live circuit. Have electrician examine, and, upon removal of rear panel, discover a months-old nest where two mice and / or rats are currently staring out at you from within. Watch as electrician calmly beats mice to death with your broomstick. Decide to get a new broomstick.
Spend hours cleaning out the stove of trash, nesting material, and droppings. Use more bleach in a more aggressive way than you have ever felt compelled to in your life thus far. Decide you don't care what it takes, you just want the scent of aged mouse urine gone. Shove steel wool into every possible crevice and mobilize your partner to finally drill that door sweep into the metal door like you've been asking him to do all these past weeks. Finally feel a sense of peace as you attack the floor tiles with a scrubby, safe in the knowledge that you've evicted nasty rodents for good, but then have that peace shattered upon discovery of a mouse in the bathroom drawer. Begin process of bleaching again.
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Wait for the landlady to come to dispose of an old mattress that is infested with bedbugs. Request water bill account number to ensure water is paid and up to date. Receive assurances that number will be sent but know deep in your soul that you will have to pester her several times over the next weeks to get it. Fret that an unpaid water bill is the cause of your lack of water in the house. Anticipate hours of wasted time trying to figure out what should be a simple transaction.
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Wait for the cleaner to arrive. Watch her "wash" your floors with a rubber broom stub pushing a dirty towel around, grinding the dust right into the corners. Try to give feedback and offer her use of your brand new mop, pail, and bleach. Fail to convince her of your way of doing things. Realize this is likely because she has a dirt floor at home. Repeat to yourself: "It's for the economy, it gives people work."
Feel the stress of your cleaner as she tells you her baby is sick and her husband works from 5am until midnight every single day. Feel anxious and bad when anyone tells you matter-of-factly how you should just fire her if she's not doing a good job. Feel like a failure of African expat life for not having checked references and for agreeing to pay more than most people pay for a full-time live-in housekeeper. Allow this resentment of your own failure to fester and feel both ripped off at the bad quality of cleaning and defensive about keeping her on. Also feel shame at hiring someone to clean your house to begin with. And then wallow in the expectations that plague you as a "rich" person.
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Hear the rain start pounding on the roof and realize you are trapped inside for a good couple hours. Think optimistically: what a great time to work! Try to work. Get blindsided by power outages right when you get into the zone. Restart everything and hope for a backup to have saved your work. Work cautiously and expectantly for the power outage that will inevitably come again. Set all autosave settings to 5 min. increments. Struggle to send email with 1G internet. Feel defeated and hopeless. Give up.
Look at clock and see that it's 4:30 and nothing has been accomplished. Give up and go for a power walk in the mud with the dog while cursing the lack of vehicular emissions control causing black fumes to spill out of buses on the street. Try to prevent people from kicking Keza as we walk by, or forcing us off the sidewalk and into oncoming traffic due to their inexplicable terror of fuzzy creatures with floppy ears.
At home, turn on the lights and realize the gate light is burnt out and you have no idea where to get a fluorescent tube. Inevitably it will involve a long journey to some sketchy construction area, being fleeced for everything you've got because of being white, and will likely be the wrong size, voltage, or type or will burn out within seconds of turning on the light. Feel defeated and hopeless. Give up.
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Observe night guard sitting outside, asleep. Take all electronics with you into the bedroom and lock in closet, since you can't really be sure that a very quiet person couldn't just easily step around the guard you're paying to keep you safe. Feel unsure how to broach the subject when you know that the guard is studying full-time at university during the day and needs this job to support himself.
Go on instagram and enter a fantasy world where achieving the perfect smoky eye is a noble and rewarding path in life, glorious culinary concoctions jump off the screen and into your mouth, and piles of brand new books are just sitting there waiting for you to read them. Read one page of your last unread novel to make it last. Untie mosquito net. Hope that tonight is not the night a snake gets into your house.
Go to sleep, maybe tomorrow will be a good day in Kigali.