mercredi 3 septembre 2008

Benefits of a Concrete House

This past June, indeed for my 23rd birthday, i moved houses. This was easily the best b-day present I ever received. Before I lived in a filthy old mud hut. I think it qualified as a hut at least - no the roof wasn't mud but tin - however, there were bits of straw sticking out of my walls in some places. I would brush against the wall and have a spaz attack because I knew that a freakishly poisonous animal was about to strike and I would be seizing on my floor and no one would hear me because i would be too paralyzed to scream. Turning to face my inevitable end and it would just be dirty straw that was coming loose from my wall. When the wind would blow hard, small rocks and dirt would fall on my head. There are myriad joys and annoyances of life surrounded by dirt. (That's my old house on the left)

But then on June 2nd I moved on up. To a deluxe apartment in the sky. Or at least a deluxe concrete two room house in the west African Sahel. I'll take what I can get and that's it to the right with the awesome smurf pride blue paint. Really, though I love the concrete house. It's new so the bugs are just now moving in (I killed 3 small scorpion carriers last week) and when the wind blows my house doesn't crumble on top of my head. It's wonderfully cool compared to the old house which had low ceilings (friends over 6ft tall had to duck to get in the doorway). But these all pale in comparison to one other bonus that my neighbor David pointed out to me . . .

One day right before moving into the house David and I were discussing all the wonderful things about concrete houses. The house David and I live in (he lives in one half of the concrete duplex paradise and I in the other side) is the ONLY concrete building on my side of town except for the high school. These glorious sentinels of sensible housing are rare in villages so the fact that David and I were actually discussing the joys of getting to live in one makes sense. I mentioned all of the things I said earlier in this post and then David mentioned just like it was a normal thing that the best part about living in concrete is that your neighbors won't push through your walls and steal your stuff. Geez! Push through walls?? That is soooo typical of Africa. How do do-gooders expect to start "sustainble" business or education or any foreign project etc. in a place that doesn't even have sustainable buildings. Most buildings in the more rural parts of West Africa build with mud and sometimes a bamboo lattice (but that's only in countries that can grow things). Eventually houses literally melt away from wind and water abuse. There is a Mosque in Mali that is the largest mud structure in the world which has a festival every year where people come and "build back" the Mosque where it has wasted away over the previous year. As far as houses are concerned, a family will just build a new mud house when the old one gets beyond repair. It's essentially free because the earth under your toes is belongs to who stands on it, just mix it with straw and water and you've got a house.

Geez. Now I've gone and abused my Peace Corps soap box when really I just wanted to laugh about what David said. Hahaha push through the walls!