When people have asked me what things are like in terms of housing in Senegal, I have found it very hard to describe the situation. I still find it very hard to describe the situation. So moving into a new apartment upon my return from a 2 week hiatus, I decided a photo blog might be the easiest way to describe the situation.
Despite coming to an agreement with an agent regarding an apartment. I was to pay 20,000 CFA per day for an apartment I liked on the 3rd floor. Whilst in Australia, that all of a sudden became 600,000 CFA per month, with no partial months, making my rent essentially 23,000 CFA per day. What choice did I have? Well, apart from give the agent less of a commission (ie., tip). Then I return to Dakar, go to the apartment, and discover i have been given one on the ground floor. After a few bullshit stories in terrible English with some French and Wolof thrown on, I accept it because I literally do not have a choice. Now, to describe the place. On the surface, at a high level, it looks like a pretty reasonable place – it’s not luxury, but it does look OK. But dig a little deeper, and you learn a little bit about housing in Senegal. And keep in mind, this housing is some of the more western housing around.
I seem to have a more advanced version of the Senegalese kitchen. In other words, I actually have cupboards (a couple of them even have shelves!) What seems to be very common here is the frame for the sink, but just an empty space underneath where the few pots and pans may be piled up. Another important selling point in this apartment is the hot water heater – what may be a standard feature in Europe or Australia, is an important feature you have to ask for here. A couple of other interesting points about the local kitchen (or how locals think foreigners want their kitchens), the fridge stands on a wooden pallet (again, I have seen this all over the place) and the crockery and cutlery, instead of being neatly packed away in cupboards and drawers (drawers don’t exist in this kitchen), they permanently live in the drying rack. Despite my effort to pile them somewhere, I return the following evening to find the cleaner has put them back in the drying rack.
A great illustration of the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality of cleaning here, such as, if the floor looks clean from eye height, then it must be clean (clearly this is not the case), the picture on the side illustrates what I find waiting for me in one of the kitchen cupboards. Strangely, I am not too surprised…
Like the apartment as a whole, the bedroom doesn’t look too bad. It has a bed, bedside tables, and cupboards. It is more or less clean. Again, closer inspection reveals some interesting facts. We have a mattress which is softer than a baby’s bum – OK, some people like it like that. But it is made with bedsheets which resemble a finely woven canvas. If you think of a bedsheet from a fancy hotel where they advertise the thread-count, and then go to the opposite end of the scale, you have these sheets. And at the top of the bed, items stuffed with hard chunks of foam, that are where the pillows should be. Again – keep in mind, this apartment is not the odd one out… As it turns out, it’s not as uncomfortable as it sounds, and I’m generally quite tired, so I have no issues sleeping.
In typical fashion though, not all mechanical things work as one is used to. For example, one chest of drawers next to the bed has a great feature where it falls apart when you open one of the drawers! The drawers stay open, meaning you never have to waste any effort opening and closing them in the future!
After being used to Danish bathrooms, the bathrooms here are positively huge. I’m not sure what the builders imagine people doing in them. Or perhaps, they just look bare the way they are designed. Now, you look at this bathroom and you think it has everything, no serious problems. But closer inspection reveals some defects which do not actually surprise me, and when mentioning them to the landlord, do not evoke that much concern (or perhaps that’s my issues with French…)
- The toilet seat is not connected to the toilet bowl. It’s as if someone went to Bunnings to buy a seat, but didn’t think it would be useful to attach it. I think it may have once been attached, but that was a long time ago. The repair job looks and feel as if it was done by me, with my eyes closed…
- The shelving unit above the sink looks OK, despite the fact that 2 of the shelves aren’t level any more, I can live with that. The top shelf though, above typical eye level, is so disgusting that after touching it I have that same icky feeling I get when I pick up dog poop in Perth and suspect there is a whole in the plastic bag!
- The shower head is the most modern looking thing in the apartment. Sadly, it’s also the most impractical. Unfortunately, it’s hard to capture its operation in a photo, but what comes out of it is a 2-dimensional spray of water (except of course form the few bits the spray all over the bathroom because it too, is a little broken, and as per usual, there are no shower curtains here).
Oh, and it turns out my neighbour is a famous Senegalese soccer player who is plays in the English football league. If only I cared…