01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: Africa: 1 vs Expat: 0 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Africa: 1 vs Expat: 0

Felt a bit cross this morning, and cross with myself for being cross.

1) our fridge has packed up (the compressor) and is going to cost 12,000 shillings to fix (£100), plus I just spent nearly £800 on fixing my car which had also packed up. As you will see, these contributing factors do not bode well when trying to address problem 2 below:

2) The main problem is that one of the lovely ladies who works in our house has got herself into a bit of a mess financially - and now the problem has landed squarely on my lap. Apparently she borrowed money from a boyfriend last year, then they broke up and the disgruntled man decided he wanted his money back. Last January Florence was being threatened by this man. He came to her house, shook her by the shoulders wanting either her or his money back. He hung about her home and threatened to get people to hurt her and/or her friends.

Florence did the thing that people do here, which is, she took her problem to the local chief. He summoned the man and told him to lay off, but told Florence that she must return the money. Florence and the man finally agreed on a sum they both thought was fair (but Florence still says it is more than she borrowed.) The total is 40,000 Kenya Shillings (around £375 or $700).

In January I was aware of the problem with the man, but Florence did not tell me about the money side of things - just that an old boyfriend was hassling her. I guess she put the money concern on the back burner. Anyway, in July - while we were in England, he was back, asking for his money and threatening again. Florence went back to the chief who said she must pay but the man should also stop threatening. Florence went around various friends and relatives and managed to raise 34,000 - so she still owes 6,000 to the man. The chief told the man, 'be patient, you will get the last bit of your money.' Florence told her friends and relatives, 'be patient, I will pay you back sometime,' Probably adding 'mungu ata saidia' (God will help).

Now - Florence already has interest free loans from us over and above what we believe is a good monthly salary. Everyone takes interest free loans on their salary and we take a little from each month and have accepted that that is how it goes. I know that with Florence's current loan and the fact that she will soon be needing another for school fees, that i cannot add 40,000 to this sum and reasonably expect her to ever pay it back. But Florence would like me to 'help.'

I certainly don't want her to be forced to visit some loan shark and get into even more of a mess - but I am kind of annoyed that her silly problem with an ex-boyfriend has become mine. I am giving her some money - but as I draw it from our savings at the bank I know that this means that I am eating into our 3 girls school fees due in early September, that has been put away carefully (around £6,500 per term for all 3). ARRRRGGGGGG. Perhaps I will give her the rest when we are feeling richer - but I still can't help feeling cross. Damned if I do and damned if I don't.

4) Also, I had to meet the ex nightwatchman's wife last week to give her the monthly sum that we always give them. The HIV positive nightwatchman worked for us four years ago and we have been supporting him since then - he lives in Kibera and thinks up community projects to be sponsored by Safaricom or Amref - but nothing ever seems to get off the ground.

Amref pay for his anti retrovirals and numerous study courses - he is now a qualified HIV tester, has his driving licence and is a trained HIV councillor thanks to them - but none of this is paid work. He and his family are nice (blog readers will remember I refer to him often) but anyway - they day I had to give the envelope, the ex nightwatchman was on one of his courses so he sent his wife.

The way it works is that they send us a text and I meet up with cash (say £55 per month) at a shopping centre that is on my school run. Now it is the school holidays and this time there were horrendous road works - good old Nairobi style, smelly gridlock. I spent 40 minutes in static traffic going to a shopping centre that I didn't need to go to especially to hand over the envelope at a time that I felt I would rather be spending it on new school shoes for the kids. I called Joyce and asked, could she meet me on the road as I was stuck in traffic? - but she didn't understand where I was or what I meant. She sort of shut down and said things like 'I am here' 'I am at the shopping centre'. We had numerous frustrating conversations with her invariably hanging up and me calling back again. I felt very cross. I think I even shouted - 'Please cross the roundabout! I cannot reach you because of traffic! Leave the shopping centre and walk across the roundabout!'

I felt awful afterwards - like a real snake. Sometimes all these things happen at the same time and patience runs out. I sent a text to apologise today then got a reply that said,
'no problem, she understood, despite shes ill since then, coughing, vomiting, etc. hav gon hosp. twice she somehow doing well. feeding is problem. but will get better. thanks'

Now I feel like a spoiled brat and expect no sympthy from readers (will probably get extracts of this post quoted back at me), but I am still irritable (though purging in this blog helps!).

Everything is out of kilter, as a dinner out in Nairobi (not that we go all that much) can easily cost 5,000 shillings. Our accommodation in Tsavo was free but we still had to spend 7,500 on park fees which was a decadence too. We plan to go to the coast soon and stay in a self catering house, and although we have already paid for this. I got a text message to say that cushion covers I ordered to be made up by a local tailor are ready for collection - it is all superfluous.

I guess this must be how Nairobians feel when their very extended family reach out their hands to the city breadwinner regularly. I wonder if they too get cross, or stay endlessly patient. Perhaps they budget for making handouts, but I don't envy them the pressure.

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