Our program is structured so that we spend the first four months of our stay here with our homestay and have the option to either stay with them or live on our own for the final month. Two of the other people on my program and myself decided to move out of our homestays and rough it on our own.
We really were not sure what to expect when we started looking for a house. We knew that we wanted to live in Nyamirambo and how much money we had to spend and that we were looking for a three bedroom, fully furnished house. Other than that we were pretty unsure how to find our house or what we were going to end up with. Some coworkers and family members tried to lend us a hand so that we could avoid hiring a commissioner (pronounced with a french accent of course).
Our first day looking for a house was pretty unsuccessful. We only looked at two houses but one had too few rooms and the other had too many and was much more than we wanted to spend. We waited pretty late to look for houses because we thought that we were going to end up renting the house that one of our other classmates homestay families had just moved out of but it ended up being more expensive than we were hoping to spend as well.
The following weekend we tried our luck again. One of our friends said that there was a house for rent behind his home so we went to go check it out. There ended up actually not being a house but our best friend here (who is one of the most incredible people I have ever met) told us to be patient and that he would find us a house. The next day he took us to look at maybe four houses and they kept being too expensive. By this point we were using a commissioner so we realized that we were going to end up spending more than we originally planned.
We found a beautiful house that we got down to the price we were willing to settle at. The view at the house was gorgeous and overlooked a valley and was basically our justification for spending more than planned. The only downside was that we were going to have to buy our own pots, dishes, etc. One of my classmates and I shook on the deal with the commissioner and headed to Kacyiru (where our learning center is) to meet our director and pick up the cash we needed to pay for the house.
We grabbed our stipend for the month and some lunch. Let me just say that having over 800,000 francs in cash in a paper bag does make one feel a bit like a drug dealer. About three hours had passed since we shook hands with the commissioner and we called up our friend to ask where we should meet to pay for our new home. I was heartbroken when our friend told us that ‘someone else took the house.’ We were pretty upset to hear that after searching for two weeks and finding a beautiful home with a breathtaking view that someone else took it from us after only three hours. We hopped on some motos and headed to Nyamirambo as our friend said he had one more option for us.
Per his directions we met up with him and walked down yet another dirt road to yet another available house. This house was also far nicer than anything we expected to be living it and had another balcony with an incredible view. This one also had a kitchen with an oven and a fridge! (WOAH) Not to our surprise they wanted more than we had to offer for the house. We left the house feeling let down yet again.
About 30 meters down the road away from the house, our friend was about to get on a moto to go back to work, the cousin of the owner of the house came out and told us to come back. Things were starting to look up again! They called the owner to come talk with us and see if he would be willing to accept our offer. My classmate went to go meet our other future housemate who had been at work to meet up with us and see the house while I waited around with our friend, the commissioner and the cousin. Once the owner got there he said the price was fine. We finally had a house that would soon be our home!
I waited around for my classmates/housemates, paid for our house and the commissioner and got the keys to our house and our gate. It was during the week and our director agreed to have his driver help us move the next day so we did not have to pay for a taxi to move our bags. Naturally I was too impatient to wait until the next day so one of my friends agreed to drive me to my homestay and move my things for me in their car.
I cannot express how excited I was to live in my own house again and have a dresser. My dresser/vanity has a shelf and two pretty small drawers but I was psyched to finally, after four months, unpack my suitcase. Having a place to put my things away made me feel like I actually was going to live here instead of just visiting for a while. I really cannot say how good it felt to put my suitcase in a different room and not have to touch it for a couple of weeks.
Anyways, our house is beautiful and super muzungu. We have three bedrooms and two indoor bathrooms with flushing toilets. Still no hot water though so I’m proud of us on that account. Our kitchen has a stove/oven and fridge as I mentioned above as well as a sink. We do have to actually light the burners though. We have a huge water tank outside. Our balcony has a clothesline attached to it. The view looks out over the compound below us and then across the valley and hills around us. We can hear a couple of mosques extremely well during the call to prayer and then a few others pretty quietly.
That is my favorite part. Sitting out on our balcony, seeing Kigali in all of its beauty, watching the last rays of sun squeaking away over the edge of hilltop, drinking a cup of Rwandan coffee and listening to the call to prayer. It is a huge incentive to get home by 6pm, even if it is just for a couple of minutes. I also love that looking out my window looks like a forest, even though it is just an undeveloped plot. It sounds gorgeous when it rains too. I recorded a rainstorm the other day and will try to post it on here. It sounds a bit like white noise but you can tell it is rain if you know what it is.
We have cooked so many delicious things at our house. Carrots and green beans, rolex, chapatti pizza, spaghetti, cheese fries, pili pili fries, beer battered fried avocado slices, tofu stir fry and are planning on tofu brochette and fried snickers and oreos soon.
A couple of days into living at our house we discovered that we had a pet cat as well. She is all black so I named her Panther. Then we discovered that she is slightly evil and aggressive so we also named her Biels. Then our neighbors (who are all awesome and have all greeted us) told us her name is Ibuki, or honey in Kinyarwanda. The last one does not quite make sense to us since she is basically a monster. She belongs to a muzungu who lived in the house before us and clearly decided that they didn’t want to take her when they left so they abandoned her. We figure that she probably does not get much in the way of food or water during the day because she likes to scavenge in our kitchen. It is pretty entertaining actually. She destroyed a paper bag that had a bowl of cookies in it the other day and pulled my Rolex onto the floor one night. She also enjoys salami, muffins, avocado, eggs, cheese, chappati…basically anything that we would eat. We have to throw her out sometimes because she gets a little too eager about sharing our food with us. This weekend we threw her out because of this. A little while later I went into my room to find her snuggled up and looking all sweet and adorable. The sneaky little booger crawled around the edge of the house and came in through the balcony door so she could nap in my bed. She is actually pretty darn cute when she is sleeping.
All in all, things are good at our house.