My Palatial Mansion

When I arrived in Musanze, I was driven to my new home: what I have fondly nicknamed “the palatial mansion” for its massive, spreading heft. I feel so very colonial here; it’s a big house for me, especially given that my home back in the States is a little over 800 square feet. Here in Musanze, I live the high life in a three-bedroom cinderblock construction home, pretty typical to middle-class Rwanda, as far as I can gather. The outside was just repainted, and has a covered porch over the front door that looks out on the street. Since Musanze sits in the cradle of five volcanos, volcanic rock is everywhere- and makes up the crushed drive that surround the house within the gated compound. The house has a very typical guardhouse and broad metal gates which are kept locked. The guard is nearly always here to answer the gate and walk the property, helping to maintain the landscaping and help me burn trash (which is the disposal method).

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Looking out at the guardhouse and front gates, the only entrance to the compound

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Looking out my front door- across the street from a school and part-time church

 The floors are identical, ubiquitous tile; the walls are all a sunny shade of yellow, and all of the windows are covered both with privacy sheers and nearly as sheer curtains with floral or bubble patterns.Above each window are set bricks with an open pattern, covered with a screen to keep out the bugs. I’m not sure of the reason for this feature- perhaps to allow for airflow when the doors and windows are tightly shut.

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The Palatial Mansion has two “wings” – one with two bedrooms and a bathroom, the other with the master suite and another bathroom. The guest bedroom is decked out with the obligatory 80s-floral-chic bedding and mosquito net- needed not only to stave off the night-roaming malaria mosquito bites, but to keep them from buzzing in your ears. The bedframes are elaborate varnished wood, with numerous locking cabinets and padded seating at the foot.

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Guest bedroom

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Typical bathroom – toilet and open shower

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My room with its 6am alarm clock

With cinderblock construction, you don’t have much ability to drill into the walls; hence they are bare, with cracks where the plaster has separated from the blocks.

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As I write, it’s clear that today is Saturday and neighborhood is out on the streets. Even as I sit at my table/desk, I can hear conversations of people passing by, motos honking friendly greetings at each other, the occasional Mack truck lumbering past that shudders my whole house. From behind, I can hear the thumping of bass (is that Beastie Boys? Fighting for their right to party?) across the street outside of my main windows, the daylong marathon that is the Seventh Day Adventist Church’s holy day schedule is in full swing, with a choir of voices raised toward heaven. I don’t mind either, but battling as they are, cacophony ensues. The power goes out twice, lights flickering and failing, fridge going silent, then springing back to life.

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California represent!

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The dining room, living room, and entrance to the “guest wing”

The kitchen is an open expanse with a sink console on one side and a low table, too low to chop anything comfortably along the other. The paint is chipping away from the concrete, returning to its natural gray.

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A handy kitchen/bathroom tool: the floor squeegee

The kitchen leads out to the back area. My palace only occupies half of the building; a second, identical unit connects to my section. No one lives there now, and I might move there in a week to escape traffic noise. Note that it is also my laundry room: sink for washing clothes and line for hanging them to dry.

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And that’s the tour! More to come from the town and the university. Love & peace from Musanze (and from my Sri Lankan lucky elephant)!

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