The first house we rented in Nairobi was actually a two-bedroom guest cottage situated along a long, narrow road with the rather lengthy name of Rosslyn Lone Tree Estate. We were thrilled with our find: a tad small but sufficient for us; good security; backup water source (we had to forgo the luxury of a backup generator though); decent location; all for a great price.
It really was perfect, a lovely old colonial era building, one floor perched above a garage that was used to store I don’t know what, but not cars. Surrounded by large trees, the cottage was small, cosy and with a lot of character.
Now, you might already know what that means, that whenever someone describes a house as having “character”, there will be issues. Well, we didn’t know this. Not until after we moved in, which was a bit too late to change our minds.
It started with the electrical outlets.
First one set would stop working. The electrician, or someone who claimed to be one, would fix them, and the next day another set would fail. This went on for a while and having landed in Kenya so recently, I still had the rather naïve expectation that everything should work as per design. If there’s an outlet in the wall, it should work. Right? I mean, is it so strange to expect that a tap should have water in it? Or that an outlet should have electricity flowing through it? And so on.
I have long since abandoned that unrealistic expectation and am thrilled if there’s enough water for a quick shower and a cup of tea. Electricity is way overrated. It’s amazing how long you can manage without it. And if only half the outlets work, that’s still more outlets than any human being really needs anyways.
An extract from Nairobi 12, a humorous novel about life in Nairobi. Release date: October 2013.