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Archive for the ‘economics (home)’ Category

As far as I can tell, the standard lodging for an expat of any financial means in Kigali is much the same as mine: a room rented in a 3-4 bedroom house on a gated property with a couple housestaff. For most the living arrangement is a sharp departure from home, and ironically, it is in particular ways posher.

My living situation is a bit peculiar because I rent a room from American couple who live several hours away in southwest Rwanda where they are country directors for an NGO. The Kigali house serves, inter alia, as a traveler’s rest for any of the NGO staff who are in town. Thus, even when I’m the only tenant (as was the case for the past few weeks), the house is often not mine alone.

Much like a good conversationalist, every house in Rwanda has its idiosyncrasies, and it takes some time to figure out what they are. Overnight guests by their nature don’t know about nor have the incentive to deal with the house’s vagaries, which can be frustrating for longer lodgers like me. In an attempt to correct this problem, I blew the dust off my copy of The Transient Bible and posted a few relevant passages around the house. The text is an amalgam of the King James, Spurgeon, and a touch of The Music Man:

Insodus 4:12-14

In this house are many rooms: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a bathroom for you, at the other end of the hall.

And if I go and prepare a bathroom for you, I will use mine, and thou thine; that where I am, ye are not there.

Man’s law thou mayest break, and bear the penalty; but if thou breakest this the penalty is too heavy for thy soul to endure; it will sink thee like a mill-stone lower than the lowest hell. Take heed of this command above every other, to tremble at it and obey it, for it is “the first commandment.”

Phileakians 3:4

Thy curtain thou shalt use, lest thy tub runneth over.

Phileakians 9:12

I the LORD thy God didst cleave the fountain and the flood: I driedst up mighty rivers. Thou wilt do the same, if thou dost not take care tightly to turn off the kitchen faucet’s flow.

Loomentations 8:7

My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and have forsaken to jiggle the toilet handle, leaving the cleansing waters ceaselessly to drain and the cistern empty on a Saturday night.

Ephreesians 18:11

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert hot.

The same goeth for thy bath water: if thou desireth that thy water warmeth thy soul, as is my command, then thou shalt plug in the pump underneath the water tank outside.

If my commandment thou dost not obey, and becometh lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Many of these passages do lose their relevance if your water goes out for the weekend, he added grumpily.

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One thing living in Germany taught me was the ease with which one can overestimate how necessary some goods are to a happy life.  Doing without a freezer or oven for 6 months proved but a negligible inconvenience,  for instance, and certainly far less of one than I would have thought beforehand.  This lesson has given me reason to wonder what I therefore consider truly essential and what I could do without.

Here’s what the Pew Research Center says Americans think on the matter:

The large percentage drops are probably explained by the recession, but many of the items seem far more sensitive to location than to financial circumstance.  A car was not a necessity for me in Germany but is in South Carolina. Double ditto for air conditioning. Some things I find inexplicable: is a microwave really so sensitive to income? Why is a phone tethered to a wall considered more necessary than a mobile phone? How great is having a TV without cable?

I lived in three places in Germany with differing amenities, but here’s the minimum of what I had:

  • Car
  • Landline phone
  • clothes dryer
  • home air conditioning
  • TV set
  • Home computer
  • Cell phone
  • Microwave
  • High-speed internet (I did have it free at my office two minutes away)
  • Cable or satellite TV
  • Dishwasher
  • Flatscreen TV
  • iPod

If were answering about South Carolina, I’d add car, AC, and internet and remove iPod. If I were answering about Rwanda–well, ask me again in a few weeks.

HT: Felix Salmon

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Because I delight in irony, I decided that today, the first day of the year warm enough to shed one’s jacket, would be the day I finally got around to replacing the four lost buttons on the pea coat that had been failing to keep me warm in the past few blustery weeks. For my first attempt at sewing, I’m quite happy with the results. Sure, I had to use black, gray, brown, and blue thread, the whole affair required about a solid hour to complete, and my co-workers laugh at the chaotic shoots of thread that are loudly conspicuous on the interior of the coat, but I am content in the knowledge that should the weather turn nasty again—which it is almost certain to do—I will, for the first time in months, be able to fasten properly all the buttons on the front of my coat.

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