Friday, September 02, 2005

Around the house...

I just realized I haven't told you guys about a lot of the basic stuff! Here's a rundown on life at home...

We have individual water heaters for every occasion. One for each shower or bath, one for the washing machine, one for the kitchen sink. Each of these heaters needs to be switched on (wall switch) at least 15 minutes before you need it, and then switched off when you are done. This sounds easy. It isn't. ;-) At least for us. The closest I have come to routinely remembering is to turn on the kitchen one when I start to cook. So I can do every dish, pan, fork and knife by hand in the sink! It's like living at The Lake again! Except not just for the summer. We have started to get a routine down, though. We all clear the table and Coop and Ted put away the previous day's dishes (which we just let sit and air dry overnight) and any leftover food while I wash and stack the dinner dishes and any others that have collected throughout the day. It works pretty good, and by the time we are through here it will run like clockwork I'm sure. And I'll have terminal dishpan hands.

Now, electricity is a more capricious matter. We have been very lucky so far with our power supply, but when it does go out, we use the generator. It's basically a Mack Truck without the wheels and cool seats. We can start it with a button push (there is a key but just to lock the door that covers the button!), and once it's running, we have a big honking lever we throw on the back porch by the laundry room that shifts power from the house supply to the generator. Next to the generator is a big old tank with 250 gallons o' diesel fuel in it. So we are set, come what may. Truth be told, we usually don't bother with the generator when the power goes off- it isn't off for very long most of the time, and the only real concern is the fridge- if it's off for more than an hour, we have to fire up the power for that- this is the equator (or as good as) after all!

Life with indoor dogs and no carpeting is...interesting. We are aghast that Elliot has any hair left on his body since it seems like we have swept enough off the floor to make three sweaters and an afghan! We have lovely shiny tile floors that are much the same color as Elliot, bless his little canine heart, and I have a very nice micro fiber dust mop that I run over the whole house. It takes at least five "trips" around the house to catch all the dog hair and run it out the back porch and over the railing. I also have a really good slanty broom, a regular straw broom, a dustpan and whisk, a sea sponge wet mop, and a small vacuum- each of which has its own place in trying to keep our African floors in a livable condition. I will never swear at my wall to wall carpet again!

As for temperature control, we have individual air conditioning units in each room (two for the living room). This is pretty standard here- they are wall mounted on the inside and run from AC units that are wired up outside the house. So each A/C is high on the wall inside and directly behind it, on the ground, outside, is a small motor/condenser unit. It's very civilized- each unit has a remote control that fits in a wall mounted holder and controls the fan speed, temperature, and vent tilt. It's easy to close off any room you don't want air conditioned and just run the ones that are needed, and because of the house configuration, we can keep the bedrooms icy cold at night without shutting our doors and not lose much cooling to the rest of the house.

As for water, we are piped to the city supply. The dogs drink tap water, we don't. It's good for cooking if you boil or nuke things, and we brush our teeth with it because we are just that kind of wild and crazy people. The city water goes off and on at its own whim, no warning, no rhythm so at any given time we need to turn on the pump that is wired up to the house and will give us water from our 800 gallon water tank (this can require starting the generator if the power supply decides to be whimsical at the same time) and provides us with water during lean times from the city supply. Any time the water is on from the city the tank refills, and so far we haven't had to buy water for the tank although apparently some families have to buy it all the time. Perhaps we don't wash enough. :-)

Our windows, like all windows in houses here, have iron bars that accordian open and closed. They have keys to lock them closed along with iron bar gates on all the exterior doors that are keyed or padlocked. We don't close any of our iron bars- doors or windows. We are apparently alone in that practice among the expats in Ted's office, but we honestly can't get too worried about it. We have 8 foot cement walls around our entire yard, razor wire on top of those, a guard house with 24 hour guards (two at night!) and more yard lights than a Kroger parking lot, so we just take our chances and live dangerously. Violent crime here is almost nil- the big threat, and hence the razor wire, is theft. Anything left "lying around" - even inside my locked house, is apparently fair game for a certain number of people here, but as I said- with the walls, razor wire, and guards, it just doesn't seem like we need to live cowering behind iron bars to boot, so we don't. When we go on vacation we intend to lock things up pretty good- although we have keys for every single door in the house (this means the closets, the bathrooms, EVERYthing), and probably won't bother with those...Ha!