The first days in Burkina Faso, finding a place to live
Our first task upon arrival to Ouagadougou was to find a place to live. We were fortunate to find accommodation in a guesthouse owned by Christian Missionary Alliance until we could move into more permanent quarters. The day after arriving Pastor Bananzaro, of the local Mennonite congregation, introduced us to a rental agent who was able to show us a number of available places during our first 2 days in country. We quickly settled on one that is affordable and not too far from Jeremiah and Deborah’s school.
Choosing a house was easy, getting to the point of moving took more time and energy. As it turned out, the agent with whom we first worked did not represent the owner of the house, so we visited the house again on the 3rd day and met with a new agent. She was anxious to get renters and agreed to have the plants around the house trimmed and some plumbing issues resolved before we moved in. We paid the first rental agent his fee, half a month’s rent!
The first step to reserve the house was to pay 5 months rent. For that we needed a bank account to which to have money transferred. On our 4th day we visited the bank to see what was needed to open an account and on the 5th day we actually opened the account. Now this might sound simple enough except that to set up a bank account you have to have proof of residency (a utilities bill, for example) and we could not supply anything like that until we had rented a house! Sounds like a vicious circle! Fortunately, the bank was able to adapt to circumstances. Pastor Bananzaro has a good relationship with the bank and was able to supply a utilities bill (for another person, mind you) so that we could set up our account. We asked for a money wire to be sent that evening, and Pastor Bananzaro negotiated with the rental agent to not rent the house to someone else for a week.
The rent money arrived on our 10th day in country, and we made the necessary payment. At the same time the rental agent showed us the contract and we agreed to its terms. She promised to have the contract signed by the owner then called us on the 14th day to say that it was ready. On day 15 we signed the contract and took it to the government tax office to be registered. The same day we went to the electric utility office and paid to have the electricity hooked up. After paying we asked when the installation could happen. Alas, it turned out all the electric company vehicles were at the garage being repaired. They could not say when they would be able to get the house hooked up to the electric grid. But, they added, if we were to show up very early in the morning some day with our own transportation to give the technician a lift, they might be able to get us connected. Hmmm…
On the 16th day we picked up the now registered contract at the tax office and upon delivering the owner’s copy to the rental agent received the keys to the house. As it turned out we were missing the key to the front door which we obtained on day 17. That was also the day we contracted with a carpenter to construct our beds, to change the locks on the doors, and to cover the windows with mosquito netting to keep those malaria-carrying pests at bay.
On the 19th day the carpenter changed the locks on the doors and Bruce went to the electric company with a taxi to see about getting a technician to connect the electricity. After waiting an hour for the person in charge to arrive (he never did show up) it was apparent that people who were waiting for installations were lining up at one nondescript desk to get help. Sure enough, after standing in that line Bruce found someone who said he could help. An hour later a technician walked out with a new electric meter under his arm that he installed at our house. Bruce gave him a ride to and fro in the taxi he had hired for the morning. Unfortunately there was still no electricity in the house, even though there was clearly juice at the meter box. On day 20 we were able to get an electrician to fix the problem and finally could turn on the lights!
While the carpenter was at work, Bruce and Nancy began to clean (days 19 to 23). The house had been empty for several weeks and probably not cleaned much before the last people moved out. So there was a lot of dust – and the dust here is red dirt that turns to mud when it gets wet! We moved systematically through the house cleaning room after room. Bruce also painted the shelves of the bedroom closets. On the 22nd day, after the kitchen was clean, we made some major purchases: a fridge, stove, washing machine, mattresses and a water filter to clean our drinking water.
On day 23 the carpenter finished putting mosquito netting on the widows and installing screen doors. That day we also brought our first taxi-load of suitcases over from the guesthouse where we had been staying.
On the 24th day after arriving in Burkina Faso we finally moved to our new place with the help of some missionary colleagues. The carpenter delivered our beds at 7:30 PM that evening, so we didn’t have to sleep on the floor! We still have to find many of the necessary furnishings and have solicited phone service from the phone company. Within the next couple months we hope that will happen too!