01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: Earth Tremor in Nairobi and .. 'the house is falling down' 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Earth Tremor in Nairobi and .. 'the house is falling down'

Woke up this morning at 5 am to the sound of everything shaking.   It felt like it went on for ever.
Rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle, rattle.  The mirror on our dressing table, the windows, the doors.

I saw the shadowy profile of my husband.  He was awake, head off the pillow - ear cocked at the sound.
"what's that, an earthquake?" I asked, frankly frightened. "I wonder if the house will fall down?!"
My question might seem like a bit of an over-reaction - but perhaps not if you see exactly what it looks like at the moment....

Our house today
 As you can see, there's actually not much house left.

At 5am, I wondered if bits of roof might fall on children's heads.  We currently are squeezed up together and actually living in the house while this is going on.  And it's rainy season.  We've had some fabulous thunder storms.

When the tremor was over, I thought about how terrifying earthquakes must really be - my thoughts flicked to Japan a year ago. 

Later this morning we learned that the reason for the tremor in Nairobi this morning was due to a magnitude 4.9 earthquake some 5,000kms off shore in the Indian Ocean 3 hours earlier.

However, back to the house.  Having been musing over the idea of building a 2 storey extension to the house for the past 5 years - once we actually said 'go' (the plans were ready, city council approval etc) we were suddenly flung into chaos.  The build (or rather demolition first, then build later) is moving forward with terrifying speed.

stone cutting - the lawn is history
Unlike back home (UK) where you might have two or three builders working on a job like this - we have approx 25-30 people swarming all over the place.  Hand cutting stones to size, building walls, organising plumbing - then there are the obligatory groups of people chatting casually, sleeping on the grass etc.  Wherever you look, there's a collection of faces on the other side of the window.  The two Indian foreman speak a little English and a little Swahili - but not that much of either - so we are experiencing a little communication break-down here and there - but muddling through with sign language etc.  Not that I am complaining.  It's incredible.

We moved out of our bathroom, two bedrooms our kitchen and dining room.  It was like moving house.  Bags and bags and bags of rubbish have been thrown out. (this was done during the hottest last weeks in March).

part of our temporary kitchen (outdoor)
Everything inside the house is now covered in dust - I have a slight choking feeling in the back of my throat as I type.  Every now and then there is the most terrifying crash, interspersed with relentless banging.  I had to laugh when, the other day, some workmen stood on one another's shoulders to get into our roof rather than use a ladder.  There is a distinct lack of hard-hats on site - and many large stones being thrown down from the second floor to the ground, from a significant height.

Fortunately the original house was extremely well built in 1937 with proper foundations, so it seems to be able to withstand this onslaught (earth tremors notwithstanding).  You may be forgiven for assuming that all houses should be well built with proper foundations - but in fact they are not.  A friend took the roof off their guest house down the road recently, and as a result, the 4 walls fell in - re-roofing became a total re-build job.

We were lucky enough to find out when the daughter of the original owner/builder of our house visited us, (click here to link to previous post: 'Our 1930s House') that her father was a British engineer and fastidious at that.  "You need never worry about this house" she said, "it's strongly built". 

circa 1937, original foundations being built
It should be exciting but I feel guilty about putting the old house under such strain and wonder constantly if it isn't horribly self indulgent to want a new family style kitchen and master bedroom with bathroom en suite (yes).  I've decided that I'm absolutely hopeless at 'grown-up' decision making and would far rather bury my head in the sand as regards - property, oh and and preferably children's schooling too...

Oh yes, and the neighbours are now building too - they have cut at least 20 trees over the past 3 weeks.  Cue yet more crashing and cutting machines.  Not really a spectator sport!

Our neighbour's plot

Labels: , , , , , ,

35 36 37 38