Thursday, September 4, 2008
The Happy Accident of My Amazing Bathroom
This week’s mouse count is 1. He died in the trap, as is only good and proper. After several direct hits with poisoned bug spray, Toilet Spider remains alive and thriving. And that’s it for dead animal news.
I successfully painted my little house. It’s amazing how happy paint makes me. I got white, red, and yellow paint in Tamale with the goal of painting my living room peach, my bedroom yellow, and my bathroom um-we’ll-see-what-happens. Ghana is without those handy little we’ll-mix-paint-for-you-in-whatever-shade-you-want centers featured at home improvement stores in the U.S., which meant I found myself mixing my paint myself. That joy (which actually was pretty fun after I got going), coupled with my general unfamiliarity with the special techniques required for working with oil-based paint (namely paint thinner, which, thankfully, Nathan knew to buy), made me especially glad no one was around to watch as I began my painting process. Christina the Incompetent triumphs again. Oy. I endured much dripping and flinging of paint splattering. I discovered oil paint’s amazing stickiness and how it adheres to flesh with great ferocity and soap is no match for it no matter how diligently applied. But by the end, I’d painted my living room a cheerful light peach—almost, but not quite, pink—and my bedroom a darker, warmer orangish-peach. I seem to have an affinity for mixing peach. Karissa, Annaka, and Aili even took their turns with the roller and did a quite admirable job. And my bathroom, by happy accident, became the most amazing bathroom ever. Not kidding.
It all started in January when I arrived in Tamale and Sarah took me shopping at Melcomes (more on The Melcomes Experience later). I needed a shower curtain, and Melcomes had two to choose from: moderately depressing dots or arguably tasteless butterflies. Always preferring tasteless to depressing, I chose the butterflies. To serve as bathmat (the height of luxury, bathmats), we found a bright and cheerful rug made from scraps of fabric by the Coalition of Women in Distress (they have a little shop in Tamale). In the village, I selected bright blue fabric with fluorescent green swirls for curtains because it matched the shower curtain (that’s right: blue and fluorescent green butterflies). I often see this fabric made into clothes in the village, so there’s the added bonus of Sound of Music showtunes suddenly flitting through my head when I’m out in Nasuan. Anyway, I’d thought to paint my bathroom orange—not because I thought orange would compliment the existing décor, but because I had red and yellow paint for the living room and bedroom and it seemed wasteful to buy another whole gallon of paint just to get a “sensible” color for my already sketchy bathroom. I was shooting for a basic, Crayola orange, but, well, I got a little excited with the red and ended up with a very red, tomato-orange—very bright, very shiny. If you’ve ever seen my car, you’ll know the color. It turns out, though, that this red-orange suits my blues and fluorescent greens amazingly well. It dispels the slightly creepy “camping with the spiders” atmosphere my bathroom once had, replacing it with a loud beckoning: “Come. Pee here and Welcome.”
Melcomes, as I mentioned, is a nice [read: the only] place to buy shower curtains and other luxury household items in Tamale. The Melcomes Experience is not just an experience. It’s an Experience. Oy. For contrast, recall that in many stores the shopper moves through the store collecting items to purchase and then gives these items to a cashier, who collects money in exchange for them. At Melcomes, the shopper looks at the items but isn’t allowed to collect them. Instead, sentries stationed at various intervals issue “tickets” (torn scraps of paper bearing indecipherable scribbles) for the items the shopper wishes to purchase. The shopper takes these “tickets” to the cashier, pays money, and receives a receipt. The shopper then takes the receipt on a scavenger hunt back through the store and collects the items he’s purchased, showing the receipt to the sentries, sort of like a permission slip. “See, I have purchased the plastic pitcher with the blue lid. Please allow me to pick it up.” The shopper then takes his items to the second check out counter, where the clerk compares the shopper’s pile of items with his receipt and allows him to exit the store with them. I’ve heard this method is supposed to be some kind of theft deterrent, but all I can figure is that the store might make money on the stuff people pay for but can’t find the second time around.
There’s another store in Accra, called Game. Not sure why it’s called Game; it looks a lot like Sears to me. Anyway, Melcomes has a billboard near the Game store. It says, “At Melcomes, we don’t play Games.” Perhaps they feel scavenger hunts don’t count.
In other village news, I got proposed to again at Market the other week. This proposal is noteworthy because the guy only asked about me after he was absolutely certain Aili was taken. Friends, it was unflattering. If it’s not too rude to mention, Aili was not even looking her best—sleeping tied to Sarah’s back with her mouth open and her sweaty hair plastered to her head. Call it vanity, but nobody likes to be second choice.