Sunday, September 19, 2010

Worth the wait!

Walking through sugu-kura in the Hippodrome quartier, Sekou, who works for PHARE doing administrative tasks, calls to say he has an apartment for me to check out - can I meet him at my boss's place right now? I hang up the phone and put down the pile of tomatoes I am haggling over, ask God's blessings for the woman's business, and make a beeline to the road to catch a Sotrama.  As wonderful as it is staying with one of my bosses, after a week in Bamako I am ready to move into my own place.    

30 minutes later, Sekou knocks on a large, metal gate and we enter a stone courtyard.  A mango tree grows in the middle of the enclosure and I eye a cute baby on the tile patio toddling after one of the house cats.  Fruit trees and a cute baby - so far, so good.  Sekou and I slip off our shoes and enter the living room where a sizable women sits on a cushy chair, prayer beads slowly rotating through her fingers, and bazin-clad visitors eye me suspiciously from their seats on opposite couches.  I offer my hand to the woman in the chair and dip as I shake hers to show my respect.  She gestures for me to sit on the couch beside her as Sekou explains we are here to see if the apartment upstairs is a good fit for me.  The woman, introduced as Madame Diallo, nods her approval and gestures for me to go to the door.  As I leave I feel the eyes of Madame Diallo's guests on me and, sure enough, I turn to find 5 pairs looking in my direction.  I start to feel less like I am here to approve of the apartment and more like I am here to be approved of by Madame Diallo and her family.  I straighten my pagne and slip back on my shoes to head upstairs. 

Sekou leads me up a broken-tile mosaic stairway that curves around and up to an East facing apartment.  It's as though the family decided their home needed a little something else and plopped a three-room dwelling on their roof.  Metal rods stick out at regular intervals, a way (I assume) of evading real-estate property taxes since owners of 'unfinished' residences (i.e. those with exposed metal rods) are not required to pay taxes on their real-estate.  Sekou gently guides me around the exposed tetanus hazards while I marvel at the panoramic view.  To the North-West there's a large, packed dirt clearing.   Around the perimeter women sell fried dough and paté and in the center young guys chase after lobbed soccer balls.  Those who are less athletic watch from the sidelines in plastic-string chairs while playing cards and pouring tea from charcoal-heated, silver pots.  In the distance a hill slopes down and to the East, framing the scene and leading my eyes back to the apartment.

I hesitate before we enter because there are no visible windows.   A lover of natural light, I remind myself to keep an open mind - good apartments in this neighborhood are hard to come by and I can only be but so picky.  But as Sekou opens the door I see I have nothing to worry about.  Afternoon light pours in through windows on the West wall through gold curtains and spills over onto the fully furnished living room.  It's more than I could have hoped for!  In the next room, I find a bedroom outfitted with a bed-set, a real mattress (I've been sleeping on a foam mattress squished down to about 2 inches) and an armoire with full-length mirrors.  At the end of the bedroom is a bathroom with a toilet, sink and shower.  While bathing under the stars was one of my favorite parts of living 'en brusse', it will be nice not to have to truck outside in the middle of the night to heed mother nature's calls.  An empty room to the far left could serve as the kitchen.

I gush to Sekou that I love it and he heaves an audible sigh of relief and flashes me a big grin.  He's been dashing around the city for the past couple weeks following leads here and there of vacant apartments that fit PHARE's parameters and I can tell he's glad the search is off.  We close the window shutters, lock the front door and head back downstairs to tell Madame Diallo the news. She's finished praying now and her guests have gone.  She tells me she's 'très contente' I'll be living upstairs and as we say our goodbyes I try to contain my giddiness - I finally have a place to live.  Leaving the compound and making my way back to my boss's to let her know the good news I'm reminded - some things really are worth the wait!
 The bedroom before
More pictures (afters!) to come soon - the internet is being slow!


Anonymous said...

Love it! I know you're excited to have your own digs--and such fun it will be to make it your own! I'm looking forward to more pics!xoxoxoxo mom

Cassady Walters said...

Can't wait to see the after photos!!

Marija said...

Beautiful!! I'm sure you will tchotchke up the place in no time ;)

Martha said...

Hurray! Love the pictures and description. Oh and the girl writing the post!

Anonymous said...

awesome dude! I can't wait for la suite, comme d'habitude!

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