Africa 2.0 - Weekend 1
We've had a busy weekend and somewhat productive. Friday ended up to be moving day! It wasn't anticipated nor expected, but amazingly the driver called and we happily sprung into action. Ernest, our driver, went to locate the moving van to direct them right to us. They arrived with our goods before 10 am, which was amazing!
Our personal items were loaded in May and held in Lagos, Nigeria (while we waited on visas and the correct papers to import), then driven to Douala, Cameroon - less than 600 miles away. The terrain though Nigeria is rough with dangerous roads and treacherous conditions. It would have taken 3-4 days to get from Lagos to the border of Cameroon, 2-3 days to get cleared through customs and then another day or two to drive to Douala. The truck wasn't recognizable as a moving van for security reasons and this one had Chinese writing on the side.
Our guards let them in and 5 movers started carrying boxes. Within an hour or so, everything was completely delivered and all boxes were counted. We had 101 boxes total, which is the least we have ever moved. Our shipment included a hand-carved Nigerian bench, golf clubs, and a few 'magic' tables along with African beads, baskets, misc household supplies and clothing. Everything was easy - until we started opening boxes. I saw some damage, then I started seeing mold on baskets and a few wood pieces.
It was a minor inconvenience until I got to the box with my latest quilting project, finished right before I left Lagos. The quilt was wadded up and stuffed in a basket completely covered with mold! Then I saw this.... :( My quilting friends gave me a hand carved wood piece of a tailor before I left Lagos and it is very special to me. I will purchase glue soon.
About this same time, I looked at my phone which had been in the charger all morning, still discharged. My camera battery died right as I started taking pictures of damaged boxes. Then I grabbed my iPad which had a 2% charge and then discharged completely a minute later. The final straw was when I opened my computer and found that it was only 4% charged, so none of the converters, adapters or plugs seem to be connecting since everything was plugged in. As I sat there amidst all the moldy boxes, with all access to the outside world getting ready to be cut off, trying to function in a household where no one around me speaks the same language...I was a bit disillusioned. Before the computer went out, I quickly sent an email to Charles. It was a nice short email, but I told him that my quilt was molded, that we had a bit of damage and that I was getting ready to be cut off electronically. I married a very smart man who knows that I was probably also close to tears...and an hour later he came walking in the door. He was able to get me back connected quickly too, before he went back to work. It seems that some of the converters weren't working and neither were the outlets that I was trying all over the house. There's always a 'trick' and thankfully he knew how to do it! I'll learn, but he's been at the house for 2 weeks, and I was only on my second day!
Just in case you have never seen mold, here are some pictures of a few of our items. :)
This is a shelf...
This was a wonderful wood bowl that I purchased in South Africa. It looked brand new just a few months ago.
The "magic tables" fold up like TV trays. They are made in Nigeria and useful all over the house.
Thankfully, we were able to wipe down the wood pieces with some bleach/water. The mold came right back, so we took it outside and did a more thorough wipe down. The bench and tables look better, but they are less 'glossy' and a MUCH lighter color since bleach also removes shoe polish (Nigerian stain). The next step will be to re-stain the pieces and then polish them.
Unfortunately, four of our five quilts were full of mold, and so was most of my clothing. In fact, we figured that basically 75% of the shipment was moldy or damaged. Thankfully, mold can be cleaned off the majority of the items, so we only lost a few boxes total. I do have the extra step of washing EVERY. SINGLE. THING that came in our shipment but we are thankful that it arrived with minimal LONG-term damage. Mainly, we are thankful to have our own items in our new home.
Making a house into a home just takes time. In our case, the house also needs to be repainted inside along with some basic repairs before we get settled, but we'll get there little by little. On Friday night, we went down the street to the local pizza place, which was a comfortable setting, and they proudly displayed their TripAdvisor rating! Our pizza was tasty with unusual ingredients that I couldn't identify in French. However when we got the pizza, I recognized eggplant, zucchini, artichoke, onions, red peppers and cherry tomatoes. We enjoyed it and we'll certainly go back soon.
On Sat morning, we visited a recommended bakery for coffee and croissants. (Thanks Tara!) It was a wonderful treat. We had pain au chocolat and almond/butter croissants , which were fantastic - and cafe au'lait too!
We progressed on to the main grocery store, where I decided that I needed French lessons and my iphone with the translation apps before I return. It was similar to the grocery stores that we found in Lagos, but a bit smaller. We visited a building supply place to see what was available and also went to the fruit and vegetable stand. Maybe I arrived on an 'off-produce' day, but I was sadly disappointed. The grocery store seemed to have nice produce though, so I'll try that next time. (Side note: Our housekeeper cleans the fruits and vegetables with vinegar. In Mexico, we used iodine drops; in Lagos, we used Milton (bleach) tabs. It seems like vinegar works as well....)
We spent the afternoon unpacking and cleaning off lots of mold. For dinner, we met a golfer friend of Charles' at a local restaurant. He read the entire menu to us (since we couldn't read a word) and we decided on the fish. The atmosphere wasn't special, but the food was absolutely incredible. I've decided that the French influence is definitely reflected in the food in Douala - and so far, the food is AMAZING! I had a pear-blue cheese starter and sea bass for my entree. I had tried to ask (unsuccessfully) if the fish was a fillet, but never received an answer. Charles and I ordered different 'specials' and I was SO very thankful for my fillet when I saw his WHOLE (skinny) fish including bones and eyes. I am a very flexible eater, but I prefer my fish to not look like fish! We had a wonderful lemon sorbet for dessert and I know that we will definitely return!
Sunday, we spent the day cleaning and unpacking. We don't really have places to put our things yet, so the process is a slow one. We also don't have hot water in the kitchen, so we improvised by boiling water in a kettle and pouring it into a bucket that we set on the stove. We washed and then rinsed the soap off in our tiny kitchen sink. It worked surprisingly well, but we'll have maintenance back out in the morning. I'll post better kitchen pictures later since it is a bit rustic, but so far, I am finding it to be very efficient. Charles keeps calling me a pioneer woman, and I have certainly felt that way a lot lately. So far, we are still smiling, which is a very good thing! :)
Yes, Charles knows how to wash dishes too!!
Update - The maintenance men came out early on Monday morning and drained the dirtiest water I have ever seen from the pipes - ALL over the kitchen!! What a mess! Thankfully by late afternoon, we were back to functioning and I am grateful. Petite a petite....