Leaving The Nest: Part Two

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Welcome to Part Two of my moving out story! I know, I know, it’s been a long time coming. But I’ll make it extra long and juicy (I hope) by telling you the good, the bad, and the ugly of my moving out.

Here we go!

The Good

I realise in retrospect that I may have painted an unfairly grim picture of my moving out. After my last post, you may very well be imagining me crying myself to sleep every night, begging my parents to take me back in, and on the verge of being kicked out by my landlord due to late rent payment. It has not been anywhere near this bad, I promise! To be honest, most parts of moving out have been pretty damn awesome! Here’s why:

It’s My House (For Now), and I’ll Paint It If I Want To

Remember in my last post when I mentioned that I had started getting radical ideas about painting patterns on my walls? Well, I did paint them, and they are spectacular.

Some may question the wisdom of painting a rented place. To those naysayers I say, why not? Sure you may move out someday, but is that any reason to live with bland walls? Most landlords are perfectly OK with tenants painting walls by the way, just as long as you can commit to painting it back to its original colour when you’re moving out. Also? Paint doesn’t cost nearly as much as you may think it does, and painting is surprisingly easy and fun!

I mean, look at this gorgeousness. And yes, this is my bedroom. And yes, that is paint and not wallpaper.

I may or may not write a post on how exactly this gorgeousness was achieved, but here’s the abridged version:

Pinterest + Awesome Friends/Colleagues + A Healthy Amount of Adventure/Determination/Thinking Outside The Box = Magic

I had what I like to call a painting party where I bought paint, rollers and brushes, and invited a few of my good friends and colleagues to my new apartment. We painted the heck out of the walls in my bedroom and living room, and then I bought them pizza and soda after. Can’t thank them enough for coming through, they are awesome! Oh and those lovely curtains? Made by Zuri Home Designs – they did a great job! The sheers are from Nakumatt Select – only KSh. 650 a meter. They come with a rod pocket, and they were 40% off when I bought them! 🙂

Look Mummy, No Hands I’m All Grown Up

I’d be lying if I said I don’t derive copious amounts of pleasure from the fact that, despite being the last-born of four kids, I moved out the youngest in my family. Take that, People Who Say Last-Borns Are Irresponsible! Pow!

Now, is moving out in and of itself a sign of responsibility? Not necessarily. And can you still be responsible in your parents’ house? Sure. But managing a house, no matter how small, is a big deal! If you’re doing this, you deserve to be proud of yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Yes, I feel like a grown-ass woman when I pay my rent well on time, buy an electricity token, pay for my Internet, and buy groceries, all by myself, sponsor-free! I feel like a grown-ass woman when I fish my keys from my bag at the end of a long day at work and open the door to my very own space. I felt like a grown-ass woman picking out the fabric for my curtains and finding out what 100% gathers were. Heck, I felt like a grown-ass woman when I was buying bulbs! And that feeling? It’s priceless.

The Many Pleasures of Living Alone

I think everyone should live alone at some point in their lives. It’s glorious. It would be hard to convince me of a greater feeling than knowing that within the four (or more) walls of your apartment, under your very own roof (or more accurately, under your upstairs neighbour’s floor… but let’s not get carried away with tiny details), you are queen and you reign supreme. What you say goes. You don’t want to take a shower all weekend long? Fine. You want to lounge around in your birthday suit? Go right ahead. Need to fart? Let it all out. Don’t want to pay for electricity this month so you can save some cash? That’s a bit extreme, but do you boo. No one to consult. No need to think about offending or bothering anyone. No need to speak to anyone at all if you don’t want to. It is amazing.

The Bad

If Only I Could Have This For Free

Moving out costs money. Yes, I know, stating the obvious, but it really is true. Putting together the deposit (which could be one month’s rent or even two in some places, and could include a few utility deposits) and your first month’s rent is bad enough, but then you need to think about curtains, and furniture, and even basic things like a broom, a mop, a dish rack… trust me, it all adds up.

Don’t get me wrong, I was prepared financially to move out. Refer to the section above about me being a responsible adult now. 😎 I save with my SACCO, put some extra money aside for a rainy day, pay my rent and utility bills, and still have enough for a few treats and nights out. That said, I wouldn’t say no if some benevolent stranger offered to pay my rent every month for nothing in return but my delightful company over lunch every other month (which they would also pay for). Because let’s face it, moving out is oftentimes your first real taste of how much parting with a not-insignificant amount of money every month really, really sucks.

Maybe I Should Be Saving All This Money

I probably spent more than KSh. 120,000 just moving in (and by the way, my kitchen and living room are still mostly empty). That may be enough to buy a small plot somewhere – I don’t know. And yes, it can get tempting to think about what the money you’re spending can do – plots, investments, trips, a car etc. How I get past that is this: I was going to move out of home at some point anyway. And property and rent is not going to get any cheaper! So why not do it now? I want to, and I can afford it. I also get some solace from the fact that I save more every month than I spend on my rent. 🙂 Try to keep your rent as low as you can possibly stand, don’t go crazy with partying, save as much as possible, and you should be fine. I think. I’m just winging it, myself, so don’t sue me if things go wrong!

The Ugly

So this is the part I alluded to in my first post, about things not going to plan. These are the things that have driven me crazy these past few weeks.

When Electricity Meters Go Rogue

When I moved in, my electricity meter had some units of electricity left, so I didn’t have to buy a token right away. A few days in, the units started getting a little low, so naturally I bought a token via M-Pesa worth KSh. 1000 and received 61.6 units. This was around the 27th of the month, which I later learnt is a bad time to buy tokens because you apparently get a crap rate. But hey, I had my 61.6 units, which, I was advised by those in the know, would last me at least a couple of months since I was a single person with limited consumption. Easy peasy, right? What could go wrong, right? Ha!

I first suspected something was awry when, a day or so later, my units had gone down to 46. Wait a minute (insert record scratch sound here). What the flipping fudge-sticks? How?!! It all went downhill from there, because when I checked shortly after, it was down to 40. About half an hour later, it was at 37. It was literally decreasing by the minute! That’s when I panicked properly, and began to contact KPLC on Twitter and Facebook and by their customer care phone numbers (which were all busy), all the while desperately calling my caretaker and even the managing agents of the property. Safe to say, I was frantic. How do 61.6 units of electricity just disappear like that, before my eyes?

As it transpired, I ended up spending a couple of nights in darkness. Nothing is worse than not having electricity through no fault of your own. I mean, I paid for those disappearing units with my hard-earned money, yet I had no Internet, couldn’t charge anything, and no hot water! Meanwhile, KPLC had a whole bunch of useless solutions. “Ensure your meter is properly charged.” Umm… with which power? “Get an electrician to check whether your wiring is okay.” I had no idea where to get an electrician! (I still don’t. Maybe I’m not quite the grown-ass woman I think I am.) Anyway, after a couple of days, the caretaker finally got a technician from KPLC to sort out the issue. Apparently the meter wasn’t even at fault; it was something or another in someplace somewhere. It should be obvious by now that I still don’t know what the real issue was. The point is, it’s solved now, and I got my 61.1 units back. Still, that was a tough couple of nights. And I still give my meter the stink eye from time to time, just so it knows it shouldn’t mess with me.

What do Caretakers’ Promises and Bull Excrement Have In Common? (Or, When Water Tanks Don’t Mean Shit)

This is the worst part of all. Brace yourselves: it’s a sad and sorry tale.

When I first visited this house, naturally I checked the taps for water. And there was water. I must have visited the place four or five times before moving in, and each time, there was water. “Huku kuna maji mingi sana,” the caretaker assured me. “Unaona hizi tanks zote? Hatuwezi kosa maji hapa. Hata usinunue mtungi. 

So, despite there being a drought and water rationing in the whole city, I was pretty confident that it wouldn’t affect me. I laughed at all the memes about Roysambu not having water. “Poor folks,” I thought, smug in my good fortune. You can probably tell where I’m going with this.

Some potent combination of failed rains, poor water management, and just rotten bad luck colluded to ensure that on the very weekend I moved in, my apartment ran out of water. For the first time since people started living there, there was no water. Yes, I talked to the neighbours; the water problem started that weekend. Naturally, I was pretty upset at having been caught completely unprepared. I called the caretaker that very night, and his response was just legendary, especially in retrospect: “Haiya!” He said, in a tone full of surprise. “Maji bado haijafika hapo juu?” Slow clap for the caretaker. That response had the intended effect: assuring me that the water was en route and there was just some kind of delay in getting to my apartment. Ha!

When a week later there was still no water, I went to him again. “Ah, usijali. Hamutaishi hivi. Hiyo story tunai-sort.” And over the coming weeks, the stories went on and on and on:

Ngoja hizi tanks zijae. Moja ikijaa, inaeza kutupeleka hata one month.

Tunaweka underground tanks na tuna-connect na maji ya kanjo. Hii shida yote itaisha.

Tunachimba borehole. Tumepeleka karatasi kwa NEMA sasa tunangojea approval.

Oh, unataka kuhama? Tuma notice by the 6th. Lakini hata by the 6th maji itakuwa iki-flow kama river, ngoja tu.

More than two months later, and I’ve only had water come out of my taps twice. Let that sink in: twice. At first I was all diplomatic and solution-oriented. I called the management office and proposed the idea of bringing water via bowsers every week, and having the tenants split the cost. That would come to around KSh. 800 per house per month, which I thought was such a tiny cost to pay for the privilege of running water. The management office totally agreed and brought the water one random Sunday afternoon, filling up the building’s numerous water tanks. It was promptly depleted by the end of the day. My guess is people had left taps open, and those who were actually home filled up every mtungi, bucket and bottle they had on hand. Management refused to bring more water, and then refused to pick up my calls.

Now I have two mtungis, a 50-litre and a 135-litre, and have been buying water from external providers who lurk strategically outside our building, for KSh. 80 per 20-litre mtungi. And before you start with the “80 bob! What! We buy them at 20 bob in Githurai/ Jamhuri/ Smallville/ King’s Landing”… I’m going to stop you right there. I’ve heard that several times before and if I had a shilling for each time I’d be able to start my own mtungi manufacturing business by now. Yes, I know it’s an exorbitant price, but unless you’re willing to deliver those 20-bob mtungis to my doorstep every couple of weeks, I’m really not interested. It’s a moot point now anyway, because I’m moving out.

Know When To Stay, Know When To Leave

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you heard it here first. I’m leaving my gorgeously painted apartment because I can’t stand the lack of water. Opinions from friends, family, and workmates have been many and varied:

“It’s a problem in the whole of Nairobi! You can’t run away from it.”

“You don’t have a borehole? Us guys have a borehole and the rent is even cheaper than yours. Aki just move out.”

“The water shortage is coming to an end, just be patient.”

“Two months without water! I wouldn’t have stayed even one.”

“What!! After all that work painting!”

“You’re so spoilt; how can you leave a nice place because of water?”

“Wait, you don’t get water at least every week? How?”

“I thought you had mtungis? Oh you do? Then what’s the problem?”

At the end of the day, the decision to leave or stay at an apartment rests solely with you, the tenant. We’re all different: what you can’t stand, another person can tolerate. You know best what your deal breakers are, and for me, I draw the line at not having running water, especially for the amount of rent I pay (which, by the way, includes water).

And about the paint? I don’t regret painting at all! Now I know that I’m actually capable of creating a beautiful space without hiring some expensive interior designer or professional painter. Also, I’m pretty sure one of the reasons I haven’t sunk into total despair over the water situation is because my house looks so pretty. Those walls are what get me out of bed every morning. 🙂 But at the same time, I’m not going to stay just because I painted. What I keep telling people who bring it up is this: have you heard of the sunk cost fallacy? It’s the idea that just because you spent lots of money, effort, or time on something, you should stay longer to make it “worth it”. The fact is the initial cost has already been made whether you stay or not. That money, effort or time has already been spent. I still don’t have water, and I’m still unhappy, so I’m leaving. (Oh, and the sunk cost fallacy applies to relationships too!)

So What’s Next?

I’m currently looking for my next place, and water is definitely a priority. I’m wiser now, so hopefully less mistakes will be made. In my next post, I’ll give some tips on house-hunting in Nairobi for newbies – stay tuned! Also, looking forward to hearing your views and experiences in the comments below – let’s chat!