Well, it’s certainly been a long time since my last update! Sorry to keep you waiting, but my situation here has been a little difficult – I still have not been able to move into a house yet!
When I arrived at my site, it turned out that my landlord was on a vacation in America, and so we were not able to get the key (or the permission) to allow me to move in.
This was to be my house:
As you can see, it’s a new house. In fact, nobody has lived in it since it was constructed. The bottom story is designed to be a store, and the top serves as a living space. I found out later that it even has a place to add a generator and water tank to provide electricity and running water. Here’s the view from the front:
I was surprised to be presented with such a luxurious space. As Peace Corps Volunteers, we’re really supposed to be living at the standard of the local community, and this was definitely above that. But since everything already seemed to be settled, I didn’t make a big deal about it. And who complains about a house being too good?
The landlord was due to come at the end of the month (August 31). In the meantime, my landlord kindly allowed me to stay at the guesthouse he recently built:
I agreed to this situation, even though Peace Corps offered to move me to a different community. But I really liked the community where I was and really wanted to give them a chance. And I was really touched that my principal’s family (with help from some other members of the community) started delivering me cooked meals every day because I couldn’t cook for myself in the guesthouse. With the community making such a big effort to help me, I was willing to wait for a couple weeks even though it meant I could not unpack and settle in.
But it’s been difficult on my side too. What has turned out to be the biggest tax on my resources is that the guesthouse is on the outskirts of the community, and so it’s taken an extra effort to get to know my community these past couple of weeks. It’s out of network range too: I have to walk outside the fence and a little up the road. (Which is why I have been unable to post updates — I’m able to post now because I’ve made a brief visit to Monovia). I think the hardest part is just not being able to really relax and root myself into my work.
When the landlord finally came at the beginning of this month, I got to tour the house. I was excited at first, but then discovered some aspects of the house that I did not consider to be secure, and could not be fixed without major work. I felt bad for being such a stick-in-the-mud, but I really had to insist because I felt that the fanciness of the house made it especially a target. Even though I feel completely safe in the community, I realize that people from outside the community can occasionally pass through and try to steal things.
So, the community had to find a new house for me. In under an hour, they found this one:
It was across the main road from the previous house they found for me, but much more embedded in the community, and closer to the water pump. There was a family living there, but the community leaders worked something out with them (I’m not clear on the details).
When I saw this house, I was relieved to see that it was much closer to the living standards of the community, and I felt much safer in it than the other house. Even though it is not electrically wired and doesn’t have the capacity for running water, it’s still very nice compared to most other homes in the community (there’s tile in the bathroom!).
On Thursday, they negotiated with the landlord and it looks like the place will be signed over to me on Wednesday. Until then, there are a couple repairs that need to be made like screens on the windows (which are actually an important health requirement), new locks, etc. We’ll see how long it takes to get these issues completed. In general, things take a lot longer than you’d expect, so I’m trying to be realistic.
In the meantime, I started teaching my 8th and 9th grade mathematics classes last Tuesday. It’s going great, and I can’t wait to tell you more about that once I’m out of the guesthouse and settled into my new place. But for now, I’m just focusing on surviving day-to-day. I think the hardest part hasn’t been my living situation, but riding with the community on this emotional roller-coaster. This whole situation is very high-stakes for them: the possibility of losing a Peace Corps Volunteer is devastating for a community. And it’s becoming increasingly more high stakes for me as I bond with the people and fall in love with the beautiful area here. I’m so glad it’s looking like everything will be resolved soon.