We moved into our house on Monday! Having lived for nearly 3 weeks at the Axum Hotel, we were delighted that moving day had finally arrived!
Eyoel piled our four suitcases, a box of books, and two large carry-on bags into the back of his pickup truck, and off we went, with me in the back seat, balancing my sewing machine on my knee! I had hauled it all the way from St. Louis in my carry-on luggage, without mishap.
We have a bright, airy two-storied house.
It feels very solid, constructed of cement blocks with a tile roof. The floors are tiled, and the orange-tinted windows are covered with long lace curtains to shut out the intense sunlight. We have four bedrooms, a large kitchen, a spacious living room, and a smaller “family room” or breakfast area at the back. Lewis has made the downstairs bedroom into his study—which is a good thing, since the owner moved the bed out of that room and replaced it with a desk! It is a nice bright room, furnished with a desk, fluorescent ceiling light, and a single electrical outlet. He has already made himself at home, busy working at his computer. We have the map of Ethiopia on the wall, and a bookcase should complete the furnishings!
The other 3 bedrooms are upstairs – master bedroom and two guest rooms (come and stay!).
A balcony overlooks the spacious front room downstairs, which is open with a two-story ceiling.
There is a place to the side up on the balcony that would be great for my sewing machine. As soon as we get another desk and a long-enough extension cord, I will get it set up! (Electrical outlets are not abundant in these buildings and the state of the electrical wiring is, um, certainly not up to US building codes).
The kitchen is basic, but spacious. We have a single faucet (cold water), and a couple of stainless steel sinks (which drain at their own sweet pace—a plumbing consultation is called for!) There is a stove with 2 electric hotplates and 4 burners for propane gas (so we can still cook if there’s a power outage), a fridge and a chest freezer.
Our good friend, Freweini ( See the blog entry on“Pads for Grads”) will take us to the stores to buy essential items such as silverware, a can opener, insect killer, scouring pads, and a propane tank for the stove. The general advice (certainly for foreigners) is to avoid drinking Mekelle tap water, so we have a good supply of bottled water on hand. Our first meal was Spartan: pasta with onions, red bell pepper, and tomatoes. It was surprisingly good, especially as we were hungry and tired. (Cervantes once wrote “Hunger is the best sauce!). We will get more adventurous as time goes on! We hope to buy a microwave oven, electric toaster, and a new electric kettle, which will be very useful additions to the kitchen.
The house is sparsely furnished. The owner has promised to buy a dining room table and chairs for us—not essential furniture in an Ethiopian household where meals are typically served at waist level and eaten by hand, without utensils.
Before we left St. Louis, I made place-mats from African fabrics that Lewis had brought home from his frequent trips, and I’m looking forward to using them.
We have hot running water in our bathroom (a luxury after the Axum Hotel!)
Our bed is a lot softer than the Axum, too, and we slept well our first night in spite of the barking dogs and cat fights! The house has neither air conditioning nor heating, as the climate is quite temperate. At present the highs are in the 70s and lows in the 50s. It is already getting warmer during the day, and will reach the 90s by May. The air is dry, and no rain is expected for several months. The weather is predicable with sunshine every day, and brilliant moon and stars at night (See the blog, “Moon Over Mekelle”). Dawn and dusk arrive quickly at 6:30 with very little transition from day to night. We are learning to live according to the rhythms of nature, rather than by artificial light.
I’m listening to the constant chirping of tiny colorful birds, pigeons and roosters crowing outside the open window. A high green metal fence shields us from the street. Thick hibiscus bushes reach the top of fence and help to block out the sounds from the gravel road than runs in front of the house.
We are just a minute’s walk from the main road. Houses do not have addresses and there’s no home mail delivery. A description of our location with respect to surrounding landmarks seems to be enough! (“Drive up to the west side of the Mekelle School of Business, look for the construction site for the Luxury Hotel, and drive up the road until you find the house with the orange awning out front. We are next door”).
Most properties are guarded around the clock by a watchman. We have a day watchman and a night watchman and they switch around 6:30 AM and PM. They are part of a security service serving Ayder Referral Hospital. This is a pretty standard job in a labor-intensive economy like Ethiopia—it is not at all the case that Mekelle is a “high crime” city. It is much safer than St. Louis. But having watchmen provides jobs, cuts down on petty theft and vandalism, provides an “early warning system” for fires or other mishaps, and gives you a certain peace of mind. It is a human version of the “Central District Alarm” company back home.
This morning a locksmith came to change the locks of our front gate, and front and back doors. They took the front gate off, loaded it onto a horse cart and took it away to the shop, where they cut off the old lockbox and welded on the new one, then returned it and put it back in place. Changing the locks on the doors was a much simpler process.
In short, we are getting settled here and beginning to feel very much at home!