I wasted a lot of thought over which of the two oversized, overly posh houses we would choose to live in – the one had fancy furniture you couldn’t find anywhere else in Liberia and a huge jacuzzi tub but was (too) close to the office (my colleagues would live upstairs) and had a ridiculously loud generator at the back. The other was right in town and a drive from the office, a ‘slight’ bug problem, huge white rooms that I couldn’t imagine ever being able to fill up and that echoed when you walked around, a tiny kitchen, but a fabulous porch…
We chose the porch. The previous tenant had built wooden benches along two of the railings, had cushions made to cover them and big overstuffed pillows in orange, blue and white to throw against the railings. He had also had billowy white curtains put up along the railings to offer some privacy from the guards as they made their frequent rounds (more to stave off boredom, I am sure), the bright midday sun and the glare of the security lights at night. After work we tossed out the pillows, poured the wine, put on music and just hung out. Sunday afternoons were spent lazily reading on the porch, napping in the sun and wishing the rusty ceiling fan actually worked. I brought back colorful lights from a trip to Chatuchak in Bangkok to light the place up. Friends ate burgers and hotdogs grilled by a rowdy bunch of South Africans on the 4th of July.
Only a few things marred the relaxation of the porch. As many places along the coast in central Monrovia, the beach near our house was used mostly as a latrine, so sometimes when the wind blew the wrong way….well, you get the idea (we called it ‘poo-poo beach’ for a reason!). There was also a finicky water pump at the house next door that wouldn’t stop running – Nick tried everything to insulate it, but for quite awhile it just ran and ran LOUDLY…eventually it got replaced, which meant we were submersed in quiet again. So nice! A mean tom cat took a dislike to the porch at one point (not sure what it ever did to him) and decided to spray…ew. But we got all that sorted out, and that porch was really the best part of the house.
We never did manage to paint walls or hang nice curtains, or even come close to filling up the space. The bugs were exterminated, for the most part – you can never fully get rid of roaches when you live a few blocks from the sea. But none of it really mattered because we hadn’t chosen the house, but the porch. Now that we’re moving out, what makes me the saddest is leaving our little slice of (almost) heaven.