Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What a Long, Strange Trip

Well, some things are finally starting to happen on the logistics front.

Last night our car (a 1998 Chevy Blazer) was delivered to us. We can't drive it until we have insurance, but it should be done today. To be honest with you, it's thrilling just to know we could go sit in it. We'll have to get it tuned up, and charge the A/C, but it's OK to run these kinds of errands, since now I can run errands! I'll put in a photo when it's convenient and I've actually driven it.

Hours before the car delivery, we walked over to the house again. It's been a daily ritual that we go by to check on progress. Every evening since Friday, Senora tells us that the kitchen cabinets are almost done, that they look beautiful, and that they are being delivered later "tonight". Next evening, she apologizes and says that she promises tonight for sure. There are several little things to be completed still, but the only one that truly matters is having a functional kitchen. Apparently, they can't put in the fridge or stove until the cabinets, and so those damn cabinets really represent the house being a success or failure for us.

Anyway, yesterday was supposed to be the walk-through inspection to verify that the house was complete, so that Andrea's work can pay her the remaining 3-months' advance rent and so we can formally take possession. Actually it was supposed to be Saturday but we informally moved it to Monday. So we really thought that this would be the magic time that works, like Charlie Brown really believing that Lucy will hold the football for him to kick it. And, as easy as that outcome is to predict, the same was true for us: no cabinets. As we agreed, it was time for Mean Andrea to come out.

We had discussed the day before that we would not lose this house without a fight, and that Andrea is much more suited to getting nasty when necessary than I am. She switched to the Dark Side in a hurry, and started yelling at Senora (after Zoe and I had walked down to the gate and were busy singing). Then Senora took out her phone and dialed the cabinet maker, and handed the phone to Andrea. Now my French is still pretty elementary, but I got the gist, and was glad to not be on the other end of that line. In fact, I think most people in that part of the neighborhood did as well. Next to Zoe and me was an older gentleman of the construction crew who I like a lot. Unlike many Rwandans who find Zoe cute, he does not feel the need to come up to her aggressively demonstrating this, and just says hello to her with a twinkle in his eye. It works so much better for her. Anyway, I turned to him, and told him in French, "I have a very strong wife." He looked up with a wry smile and said back, "and she's right, too."

Anyway, the cabinet maker apologized profusely and tried to give Andrea excuses, but ended up with a dead line. About 3 hours later, Senora called us to say the cabinets had arrived!

Andrea went by for the nearly final inspection with the operations manager at work. The cabinets still need to be painted, which they are doing today, and then they can be hung. Likely tomorrow. Which means we could have a working kitchen as early as tomorrow (depending upon gas hook-up). Apparently, this green-light from work puts into motion a chain of inevitable events beginning with us moving in by the end of the week, but preferably getting it all done tomorrow.

This is simultaneously wonderful and problematic. We should have our household goods shipment delivered some time early next week. Until then we have mattresses for all, a couple low dressers, a small cabinet, a coffee table, and some plastic outdoor chairs and table. We also have a few dishes and one cooking pot, and flatware. Basically, we'll be camping out in the place. It will be a tough few days with a lot of running around town to buy stuff like a microwave and fans and a vacuum and various other things that I'll know when I see the need. But that's A-OK! These kinds of problems I can use!

By the way, the song Zoe and I were singing while Andrea was opening her can of whoop-ass was "Do-Re-Mi" from the Sound of Music. She has absolutely flipped for this and the Wizard of Oz. She can sing every word of Do-Re-Mi, but ironically doesn't do it with the least intention of a tune. She frequently wants to talk about either of these movies. When we read stories in bed, she wants to have a pillow on her lap, because one of the Von Trapp children did that when Maria was singing "My Favorite Things." And in our little private alley behind the house, I suggested that she could learn to ride bikes here with me or her friends, she was only interested in the idea if we could do it while singing Do-Re-Mi, "just like the children do [in the movie]."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Three Little Friends

Zoe has been lucky enough to find two new close friends since we've been here. I guess it's just the right time in her development to have a playmate, and she's taking to it quite well. Until I get their parents' permission to put their names in the blog, I will use their first initials. Hopefully I'll be able to get some photos up as well.

Within a week of our arrival, we met H and her parents at a playgroup we were invited to from Andrea's co-worker. H is about 2 months younger than Zoe but about the same size, and extremely physical. She's into climbing and jumping, and is very outgoing. Last week when she was at our house for a playdate, H was holding a maraca in her hand, watching herself jumping in a mirror, and talking incessantly -for more than an hour straight. She thinks Zoe is wonderful, and the feeling is mutual. Last Saturday when we went out to dinner with them, H became very covetous of Zoe's things (again, the feeling is mutual)and she said several times, "This is mine," which really got Zoe angry. The next day Zoe and I were playing, and out of nowhere, she told me "This mine. That what H says!" And she had a great laugh about it. We have a tradition of meeting H's family every Saturday morning at the Novotel swimming pool for the girls to swim and eat the wonderful croissants.

I think it was a little less than a month ago that Niamh (pronounced "Neeve," it,s Gaelic) and her family moved to Kigali. We were asked by H's mom if they could come by during a daytime playdate a few days after they arrived, and they all hit it off immediately. Niamh is even more outgoing and physical than H, and so we were worried that the dynamic would produce a lopsided triangle with shy introspective Zoe sitting in the corner reading to herself while the other girls were practicing Tae Kwon Do or jumping from balconies or something. But so far it has not turned out to be difficult. Zoe does often need to withdraw a little, but it seems to solve itself until she feels like engaging again. We know that she looks forward to time with them. Last Friday Zoe and I were waiting for Andrea to come home from work when Zoe had the idea that we walk up to H's house to see her (they live less than a half-mile away). Once the idea was fixed, she suddenly missed H so much that she got a sad face and started crying that she missed her and wanted to see her right now -the next morning wouldn't do. We ended up walking there and eating pizza with them, then saw them at the pool, then went to Ethiopian food with them the next night.

The next day we took a road trip in the country to Lake Muhazi with Niamh's family for a picnic, which was a blast. It's really beautiful out there, very mountainous. Zoe and Niamh played like maniacs for hours until they were just spent, then back in the car for an auto nap on the way home.

We have developed a routine for the summer of morning playdates: Monday -our house, Tuesday -H's, Wednesday -Niamh's, Thursday -H's, Friday off, then any and all meet for swimming on Saturday. It's seriously a lot of time together and they don't seem to get enough. Zoe and Niamh will start the same morning daycare/school in September. H's parents are hoping to get her in too. And a new expat family has just moved in with a daughter E who is 2 months older than Zoe and very shy and introspective, so it could be getting even more interesting! I really think we're going to have to put a little playground in our yard. By the way, H's father and both of Niamh's parents are British, and so we're wondering if Zoe will develop an English accent in any new words. Oh, and both of these girls speak French very well, so hopefully this will be a positive influence on Zoe's as well.

NOTE: Things on the house are still going. The driveway is getting close to finished. Supposedly the kitchen gets finished tomorrow. It's actually starting to come together. I don't know if it will truly be ready this weekend or not. But it will be very very close. Now the biggest question will be the arrival of our household goods (esp. furniture).

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Latest On Chez Muzungu

Thanks for your patience, everyone. It has been a week of many ups and downs, setbacks and delays. Sometimes I've felt like Sysiphus, rolling the stone up the hill every morning, to have it roll over me and down the hill at the end of every day. But, I am happy to report, it seems as though things are trending in the right direction. Andrea's work came through with another advance of 3 months' rent in the form of a check for Senora Eugenie yesterday at about midday.

And work has again resumed. There are curtains in the house (though still need alterations before they can be hung). Cinder blocks are being brought into the garage to build a dividing wall to form my bicycle shop / man-cave. Shelves were installed in our office (though need a door and to be painted). All the bedrooms have closet doors (more similar to built-in armoires), though again unfinished. Zoe's playroom has been painted (mint green). We're told that the kitchen cabinets are "casi-casi completas" (almost-almost done), and that only after they are installed will the stove and fridge go in.

So progress is being made at a very slow -but measurable- pace. And Senora does continue to promise that all should be done a week from yesterday. Scheduled day to take possession is Saturday, August 15th. We are officially expecting the household goods shipment with all our furniture the next day, but we are quite skeptical of this as well, because we anticipate issues with Customs clearance.

This has been an issue for getting possession of our car, which has been in a Customs lot in Kigali for just under three weeks now. Every week we've been told on Friday that it will almost certainly be in our hands by the end of the next week. Like a mirage of an oasis, it's always just out of reach. Also for our July 25-lb. DHL care package from my parents (mostly stuff we bought on Amazon) that has been in Kigali since Monday and with no explanation available on how long it may take to receive. So we are learning that we may have a few weeks in our new house with the bare-bones furniture and pots-and-pans that we have either hand-carried or sent in the smaller air shipment. Oh well, c'est la vie. I'll be completely happy to be in an empty house if it's the house we've wanted for so long.