Our Never-ending Housing Saga

17 04 2011

Just a quick update to keep you all in the loop…

As you know, we had 4 break-ins in our house since we’ve had it (October 1.)  Not long after the 4th, Joe had to go offshore for a job and we weren’t comfortable having me stay in the house by myself even with 2 night guards so I moved over to the staffhouse which is really just a block of rooms at a hotel.  While I was staying there, our neighbour’s (another expat family) house was broken into while he was sleeping upstairs.  He heard it happening and scared them off.  That kind of sealed the deal for us that it was no longer safe to live in our house so when Joe returned from the job, we continued staying in the staffhouse until our vacation.

We returned from our vacation (WHICH WAS AWESOME)  to learn that Halliburton had assigned our room to someone else and hadn’t booked us a place to stay so we spent the night at a friend’s house while we tried to find a temporary solution.  Eventually, we transfered over to a small apartment at the back of a hotel.  We have no internet there nor many English TV channels so we certainly aren’t enthused about it.  We’ll stay there until we find a house.  (We’ve found a couple but Joe’s boss likes to try and get deals so he undercuts the offer and we end up losing the house… somedays I’d like to strangle him!)

We’ll keep you posted and keep your fingers crossed that our living conditions improve quickly!

I promise the next post will be about our fabulous vacation complete with pictures!  It will have to come in several posts as we did and saw so much!  Start saving your $$ because you must add South Africa to your travel plans!


Fourth Time’s a… *$@%!

7 03 2011

Unfortunately, the previous attempts to secure the house did not do the trick.  We found another broken window and my engagement ring stolen.  I had taken it off, put it in it’s case, and hid it at the back of the drawer on my bedside table when we went to the beach.  Joe’s camera was also taken from his bedside table and it appears that nothing else is missing.  I, of course, was completely devastated upon losing my ring.  Not only is it the most sentimental thing I have here, it’s also the most expensive.  (Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t really exist here and we don’t have any policies in Canada.)

We have had meetings with our security company who provide the guards and all of our guards have been replaced.  There isn’t a whole lot of accountability here so while we express our frustrations and anger, it doesn’t really go anywhere.  At the moment, we have 2 guards every night even though we are 100% sure that the last robbery took place during the day.

A report has been filed with the police but everything is a bit backwards here.  They weren’t contacted until much later so the guards were not questioned immediately and the probability of finding my ring is close to nothing.  (I’m sure it was sold for a couple of hundred dollars as they’d have no idea of it’s actual value.)  The police here are not that reliable and although they’ve been kind thus far, we don’t have a lot of faith that they’ll be able to do anything.

Joe and I have some decisions to make.  The company will put bars in all of the windows to increase security and we can keep multiple guards for as long as we want.  We also have the possibility of moving to another house.  I feel that our house has been targeted and they may continue to attempt to get in with or without bars and extra guards (2 guards can sleep just as easily as 1 can.)  As you remember, houses are not easy to come by here and both of us are still exhausted from our first search so we are reluctant to take it on again.  I did find a house in a great, secure area that I would take in a heartbeat but it is more expensive and Joe’s boss is reluctant to pay more.

Until we have a solution, we are locking off all of the bedrooms so even if they do enter, they can’t get anywhere.  Joe also keeps a machete beside the bed, just in case.  When Joe goes offshore, I will go and sleep somewhere else as I’m not comfortable in the house alone right now.  This situation definitely isn’t ideal and needless to say, both of us are frustrated and angered over it but thankful that neither of us were hurt and we are hoping to have a solution soon!

Third Time’s a … Pain!

24 02 2011

Our house has been broken into again!  And this time, really broken into!  Tuesday morning I was collecting towels from around the house to wash.  We have 3 bedrooms down a hallway that we don’t use except for the shower in one of them.  When I entered the room I happened to look across at the other side instead of just going straight into the bathroom.  That is when I noticed the window had been broken.

Our windows are all like the picture above.  We have wooden outdoor shutters, then a wooden insert with mosquito screens (although not in the picture above as that goes out to the screened-in patio) and finally the window.  Both the window and the shutter have the handles and bars to secure it closed.  When you turn the handle the bars retract and allow it to be opened.

In the room that had been broken into, the wooden shutter did not close properly so it was pried open.  They then cut out the screen and broke through the middle pane of the window in order to have access to the handle.  Once open, they had full access to the house.  Something must have spooked them as nothing was taken and both of our laptops were easily accessible.

As soon as I saw it, I called in our day guard, Rock.  He then told me that Saturday night our neighbours had been robbed.  Their guard was sleeping and whoever it was gained entry through a window and took their TV and some other things.  I’m assuming our break-in happened the same night.  Joe and I would have been sleeping at the other side of the house and we didn’t hear a thing.

We’ve had a bit of trouble with our night guard, Robert.  He’s a nice, young guy from Ghana and he has been with us since we moved into the house.  His shift starts at 6:30 pm and ends at 6:30 am and he is supposed to be awake and ‘guarding’ the entire time.  The problem lies in the fact that he is also working a day job elsewhere (they only make about $280 CAD a month.)  When we found this out we expressed our concern to him as we needed him to be awake here and he continually reassured us he would be.  It’s not easy to catch him sleeping as we don’t get up in the middle of the night to check on him but we knew he probably was.  A few nights ago, I was out with friends and returned just after midnight and couldn’t get in the gate.  I banged on the door, yelled in the windows of the guard shack and finally, Robert appeared, red-eyed.  He had been in the guard house with both doors shut and fast asleep.

Our immediate concern was getting the windows and shutters secured and we decided we needed a new night guard.  Robert was fired and we felt terrible about it but we need someone who will actually do the job.  Our new night guard started Tuesday evening and I gave him my best lecture in French about staying awake and that he was here to work and not to sleep.  Let’s hope it worked.

We’ve also had some workers in to secure all of the wooden shutters and they did so by adding a few extra latches to secure them shut.  Unfortunately, they secured them at the bottom and top of the shutter behind the mosquito screens so we aren’t actually able to open them anymore.  I suppose if we can’t open them from the inside, someone won’t be able to open them from the outside!

And thus is life in Africa…

Break-in #1 – iPod and toiletries stolen probably by someone we let in the house.  (Solution: no one comes in the house when we aren’t here.)
Break-in #2 – Money stolen out of a suitcase while we were on holidays.  (Solution: all locks changed.)
Break-in #3 – Window broken but nothing stolen.  (Solution: secure shutters and new guard.)

I sure hope we’ve covered all the bases this time!

Lesson Learned

25 10 2010

We’ve been in Africa 3 months now and I guess we were overdue for a robbery.

Joe and I were at our house this weekend doing a few things in case we actually get to move in.  I went to look for my iPod Touch and realized it was missing.  I was pretty sure I left it on the counter but it was nowhere to be seen.  Upon further investigation we noticed several small items had gone missing.  Before leaving Canada, Joe and I stocked up on several toiletries and put them in our shipment.  A toothbrush, toothpaste, half a box of q-tips, face moisturizer, my stock of MAC makeup (which I really don’t understand because I’m white… no one can use it here) and several other small items were among the missing!

We are pretty sure we know who did it.  There was one occasion where we sent 2 people (one we trusted quite a bit) to the house without either Joe or I.  Everything that was taken was small enough to fit in pockets, as the guard would have picked up on anything large.  There’s no way of getting any of it back and we don’t want to go around pointing fingers so I guess we just walk away with a couple of lessons: we were a bit too trusting of people and we should never send people to our house without one of us being there.

We didn’t lose a lot of things worth great value; the invasion of privacy and betrayal of our trust was the worst of it.  We generally feel pretty safe here and it is easy to get complacent so this served as a little reminder that we are in Africa and we do need to be a little more cautious.