Thursday, May 1, 2014

New Doves and New Roomies

My flatmate moved out a few weeks ago leaving his room in a condition that was pretty well representative of how it was when he occupied it: looking like a partially rehabilitated landfill site and stinking of stale cigarette smoke. I simply locked to door of his room and placed a table in front of it and pretended it wasn't there. The utensils in the kitchen likewise all needed re-washing as most had been given only a perfunctory rinsing under the tap before being packed away.

I loved having the flat to myself – I arranged things in a way that suited me and it was wonderful not to have to consider anyone else; I could keep my toilet paper and towel in the bathroom without worry and not have to clear my dishes from the drying rack immediately for the next man to use. The place stayed clean as I clean up after myself as I go along.

The babies
Then there was the “mother dove incident” which is ongoing as I write this. She built her nest on a windowsill opposite the kitchen window and deposited two eggs in it. In due course the eggs hatched and two scruffy little chicks emerged. Then one day I noticed she hadn't been on the nest all night. The next day I didn't see her at all so late afternoon I decided I'd have to feed the chicks myself. This involved going to buy a syringe, placing a chair outside the kitchen window and one on the inside and then maneuvering myself through the window. I squirted egg-yolk down the babies' throats and they showed their appreciation by crapping on my hand and shirt. I repeated the process that evening and next day, as mom had spent the night out again - I figured she'd been eaten or arrested or something. Next afternoon I got a little box to house the chicks and was preparing to bring them inside where they'd be easier to monitor. I also googled how to take care of ugly chicks (story of my life!). When I went to climb out the window to fetch them in who should I see but mom, making a big show of being the concerned parent! She still has a busy social schedule, stays out all night and just pops in every now and again (a flying visit) to give the kids fast-food before she pisses off again. Now when the family see me at the kitchen window they all give me dirty looks, but at least I won't have to teach them to fly! 

Climbing out the window
The kitchen window looks out onto a very small courtyard which is enclosed up to the roof of the building. Climbing out the window to feed the chicks brought again to my attention the fact that previous flatmates had used this courtyard as an ad-hoc dumping ground. About a dozen large empty water bottles, hundreds of cigarette butts, old food, old bread and other miscellaneous crap that had been tossed out the window littered the place. The pièce de résistance was a mattress which someone had put out to air or dry or something on the roof and it had fallen into our courtyard. No one had come to claim it and since it was too big to fit through the window, there it had stayed.

The hot ladder
I decided the time had come to clean the courtyard. I took a long piece of nylon string, tied a stone to one end and flung it up onto the roof. I then stabbed a hole through the mattress and tied the other end of the string through it. I then went upstairs, up a very hot (from the baking sun and 40 degree temperature) metal ladder, onto the roof and wandered about until I located my line. I then hoisted up the mattress, with bits of food and cigarette butts stuck to it, and dumped it on the roof. I tossed the loose end of the line back into the courtyard and climbed back down and back out the kitchen window. The outside chair broke when I stepped on it this time, making things a bit more challenging.  I threaded the string through the handles of all the bottles, tied it off and went back up to the roof. I hoisted up the empties and cut the string so that I could dump them. Unfortunately not all the bottles had made it onto the roof and about half of them went tumbling back down with an almighty crash. Feeling a bit irritated I climbed back down again, back out the kitchen window and tied them to the string again. Then back up to the roof, up the hot ladder blah blah blah. This time the enterprise was successful. Sweeping the courtyard afterwards raised a huge cloud of dust that hung in the air in the enclosed space and clogged my nose and mixed with my sweat. Did I mention it was hot? What the chicks made of these goings-on I have no idea - they still weren't talking to me.

Recently Al-Jazeera was awarded a contract by SANG to implement a new teaching project. They've recruited a bunch of English teachers and I was informed that three of them would be my flatmates. In preparation for their arrival Al-Jazeera’s maintenance people descended on the accommodation to check that all was in order for the new arrivals (their comments when they entered the room I described above were loud, rapid and incomprehensible, but their expressions said it all.)

Anti-glare window coating
For some incomprehensible reason they decided that there was a problem with the sun
shining through the bedroom windows. I never experienced any such problem and in any event the windows are double glazed. There could be a problem with street-lights shining in at night, and the way I solved this problem was to put up a blind (and later curtains after my blind got lost in the disastrous move described elsewhere in this blog). The maintenance people, however, took a more radical approach. They sent  a team of workmen to cover the windows with black, self-adhesive vinyl, effectively converting potentially pleasant rooms into dark, cheerless boxes. It also pretty well eliminated all natural light in the accommodation. No way did I allow them anywhere near my windows! I was so appalled by this madness that I emailed our CEO to express my feelings at this bizarre "solution", but it would appear that the decision is final.

Last night the maintenance guys returned to complete the finishing touches before the new arrivals get here. Since I get up at 0430 I tend to go to bed early. Just after 2100 the doorbell rang rousing me from bed. There they were – armed with 200 gram packs of complimentary washing powder for the new arrivals and 2 large bottles of Dettol for cleaning the place! The Bangladeshi dude who was the nominated cleaner walked around looking at the floor and  the kitchen and saying wonderingly “but it’s clean”.

They then proceeded to tackle the three empty bedrooms. Two of my neighbors who work in
The supermarket

the supermarket downstairs joined in with enthusiasm. They were obviously pleased to have the opportunity to see how I live and wandered about the place examining everything, especially my room and chatting to me in Arabic. I understood that one of them wanted my WiFi password.  At this point I decided “fuck it!”, closed my door and went back to bed. When the hammering started at about 2330 I got out of bed and made the industrious workers aware that I needed to get up  in about 5 hours time and suggested that they may like to wrap things up for the night and finish off some other time. Or never, for all of me!

When I got up this morning the whole place reeked of Dettol – for reasons that no doubt made a lot of sense to them but which escape me, they’d washed the floors with Dettol. Washing is perhaps too strong a word; it appeared that they had just spread water around using a dirty spaghetti mop and left it to dry. Also when I went to the bathroom I found that they had used my facecloth as a cleaning rag! This did not cause me to have warm and fuzzy feelings for them.

When I get home today I’m going to have to clean the whole place again to undo their “cleaning” and prepare myself for the arrival of my new flatmates. Flatmates are always a pot-luck sort of proposition; you never know what you are going to get. I do know though, especially after having lived alone for several weeks, that I am not interested in having roomies and sharing a kitchen and bathroom anymore. When my contract ends I’m going to be looking for something that offers single accommodation and preferably in a compound. Or in another country.