As at least one of my dear friends pointed out to me, my posts haven’t exactly been light-hearted or fun to read recently. It’s not because I’m unhappy or anything, it’s just been easier to post photographs and to share about the area I’ve been perambulating in and through than to sit down and take the time to write.
Several of you have asked me to share a bit about my life though – where I’m living and how I’m getting around. I shall try. I fear, though, that this will be anything but succinct.
So, I arrived at the beginning of June, only to find that the embassy staff in South Africa had messed up my work visa, and that I had, as a result, only been granted five months to stay. Now, that in itself isn’t a train smash, I guess, but it did have a knock-on effect in terms of other admin I needed to get in place – like applying for medical insurance and a driver’s licence. Apparently one needs to be resident in the province for at least six months to be considered a resident, and to qualify (for medical). Clearly, that excluded me.
Barely a week after arriving then, I applied to have my work visa extended until next year. At the end of the application process I was encouraged to be patient because all visa-issuing staff (worldwide) were on strike, and would be for the foreseeable future. I come from Africa and have lived in France, where they developed and honed the art of striking: I was prepared to wait … *
My friends and others from the church had prepared for my arrival, and had found me a “suite” to rent at the back of someone’s house on the “west side” – the dangerous and seedier side of town, according to some church members. With hushed voices dripping with concern they reported about “crack” houses, “west side terrorists”, and high levels of crime. “Don’t walk around after dark,” I was warned. My stock response was that I was from Africa and that I was sure it would be fine.
And it was.
Well, the neighbourhood was (fine) but when I moved in to the place I was renting I just had a funny feeling about it. It might have been because of the disturbing smell that hung in the apartment. Or perhaps it was because I could hear another (very loud) renter through an interleading door – a door to which I had no key. And then again, maybe it was because the plumbing for the main house ran right down one of my bedroom walls, and through a corner of my floor …
My first night in the place I woke in terror at 12.17am, dreaming that I was being flushed down a giant pipe and out into the raging Fraser River at the end of the street … It turns out that the owner of the house, Mr D, worked graveyard shift at the local mill. The noise was simply his abluting before heading out. That, unfortunately, was the norm every week night, however. I could virtually set my watch to it.
Also, I was regularly startled by what sounded like his bath water gushing through my bedroom, as well as the din of his washing machine pummelling the wall, before jettisoning its waste (again) through my place. It was unsettling … disquieting … annoying even, dare I say?
But back to the smell, which hung around like an unwelcome guest for the whole month of June. One evening, I was sitting enjoying a home-cooked supper on the couch (yes, I cooked. And yes, I survived) when I smelt something different, something distinctly urinal in nature.
“Sheesh, it certainly is time to wash these shorts of mine,” I thought to myself with embarrassment.
But upon closer inspection, down on my hands and knees finally, I discovered that it wasn’t my shorts (thankfully) but rather that the entire carpet that was emitting the stench. The odour I had been smelling for the previous month had clearly been cleaning stuff used to mask the other pong. Now, I don’t know where this smell of urine came from originally – whether the previous tenants had pets that had considered the carpet their giant litter box, or whether aforementioned plumbing had ruptured sometime before I got there … but I didn’t really care to find out.
There were other little disturbing things – like the sense that someone had been in the place while I was at work, that Mr D conveniently kept forgetting to provide me with a copy of my lease agreement or receipts for my deposit and rent, and that the WiFi (which I was paying for) seldom worked. And so, when a “basement suite” miraculously opened up at the beginning of July – right across the road from the church where I’m working and attending – I jumped at it.
I immediately felt more at home – which is strange, because it has its own little challenges. Firstly, there’s no Internet at all and the cellphone signal is erratic at best. Secondly, here I have a young, attractive woman, her 7-year-old daughter and their overly-jumpy Rottweiler (Trigger) living above me. I introduced myself to all of them but was given rather an icy reception by the adult and a nervy growl, bark and baring of teeth by the Rottweiler. I haven’t tried to re-establish communication since, I must admit. Big, nervy dogs make me nervous; so do stand-offish single mothers of a certain age.
Speaking of which – clearly no-one ever taught her lightness of foot, or how to glide gracefully. She seriously sounds like an angry elephant pounding the floorboards above my head. And her daughter! Her daughter reminds me even more of the continent of my birth – she could pass for a herd of Wildebeest stampeding across the Serengeti, or of a rumbling Highveld thunderstorm. Thankfully Trigger is at least quiet – barely a click clack or pitter patter of its feet across the floorboards above. Well, I assume it’s Trigger but I could be wrong – I don’t know how big the guinea pigs grow here in Canuckistan.
Don’t hear what I’m not saying – I couldn’t be happier where I am. And it sure is saving on fuel costs (which brings me to my next topic – how I’ve been getting around. But that can wait for another day.)
* As I was about to hit “post” I heard that my new work visa had arrived – valid until May 2014. Very helpful indeed!
‡ The title of this post courtesy of Ashleigh Brilliant.