I had NO intentions of becoming a builder, but here I am, deep in building construction!
When we decided to move to Freetown, we weighed all the pros and cons of different living arrangements.
Should we move in with my Dad? He lived in a massive house with a huge yard – the kids would love it; he had goats; a crocodile (don’t ask why); you could walk to the beach; it would be easier to care for him if we lived together etc. etc. But – he had many dogs – no Bueno for Sheba, plus he had an open door policy with all the market women in town – they knew to bring everything to him to buy – he loved to batter to get the best prices for fresh fish, lobster, palm oil, palm wine, mangoes, DVDs, you name it … He was their best costament and he loved the company, so everyday, he would have at least 10 visitors coming in and out his house – no Bueno for us!
What about my mom’s house? I already talked about the bad road ad nauseum – no Bueno for us! What about renting a house? As fate would have it, Shekou’s dad was renting their childhood home to a British NGO whose lease was ending 6 weeks before I was supposed to be in town! The house was perfection – up Spur Road with beautiful views of the Atlantic, a cool breeze, walking distance to my Dad’s house, and most importantly, a relatively good road! Plus Shekou loved the idea of moving back into his home and having his kids do all the things he used to do – climb the trees, run around the large compound, find their way under the big storm drain covered by harvested pieces of rail tracks from when Sierra Leone had a railroad decades ago! Aside from the storm drain exploring which will NOT be happening under my watch, I loved the plan and we were very excited.
We had a plan – we were going to have it renovated to make it ours, and my beautiful and dynamic sister-in-law who is uber-talented and has impeccable taste, was going to supervise and have it ready by the time I got to town.
We had a timeline – the roof would take 1 week to replace, then the tiles and painting another week, then the grounds – we were set!
Welcome to Freetown, where things don’t exactly go according to plans! Long story short, the house was not ready for my arrival, so I ended up at my mom’s house with Sheba in tow, learning how to co-exist with my mom’s dogs, Lucky and Bruno.
The house was fabulous, and my sister-in-law had done an amazing job getting it ready. The roof was done, the tiles were replaced, kitchen was done, there were only a few plumbing and electrical things left to do, plus finishing the bathrooms, painting, and finishing the grounds – autopilot really.
My sister-in-law had to make a quick 2 week trip to London, so I needed to take over the work – all the contractors knew what to do, it would be easy!
Let’s just say, it has not been easy. I have quickly learned more than I ever need to know about electrical systems, plumbing, designing a shower floor, masonry etc. Plus, I have been well indoctrinated into the work of Sierra Leonean contractors – I have quickly learned that a bag of cement costs Le 50,000 and not Le 70,000 like the masoner said; that you have to be there to know that the truck that was sent to clear the grounds only worked for 1 hour and left to use up the petrol in the tank to do other work; that dem go was me face go up at every opportunity!
Thank God for my sister-in-law providing remote coaching from London, my father-in-law coming everyday to supervise the process and protect his fool fool Amerikin daughter-in-law from crooked contractors, and my mom and step-dad for providing immediate feedback and price-checks! Thanks to them – I am becoming a Salone builder and our home should be ready soon!