Tag Archive | people

Stuck in Gisenyi

It is April 7th and I am back from the Congo and stuck in Gisenyi once again.  Buses out of the city have been cancelled because it is Genocide Memorial Day in Rwanda.  I intended to spend only one night in this town, but I have been here for four days.

I’m not the longest resident tourist, though.  RT and GJ have been here for a week.  And at breakfast today I met Gabriel, an American who broke his leg coming down Mount Nyirangongo and who has spent the last ten days in Gisenyi recovering.

Plastic bags are illegal in Rwanda, so Gabriel has fashioned himself a device out of tinfoil, tape, and garbage to protect his cast from the rainy season.  The tinfoil is smeared with gobs of red, and RT asks in horror whether this is blood. “No”, he says,” it is just the remnants of the hamburger I had for lunch one day.”



Today is Friday and there is electricity.

J, one of the lawyers that I share an office with, is particularly happy about the electricity.  J was called to the bar last year and is a source of entertainment in our office, with his loud and unrestrained sense of humour.  J also has a fondness for technological gadgets.  He has three cell phones, and usually has one pressed up against his ear while the other two ring in his hand.

On days when there is electricity, J also has the remote control for the office air conditioner in hand, which he adjusts to lower and lower temperatures until we are all shivering and my other officemate, L, intervenes.  A battle for the remote control usually ensues.  L usually wins.

Today is Friday and there is electricity and L is not in the office.

This morning, J was perplexed to find me sitting at my desk with the air conditioning off and the window open.  Megan, he said, today is Friday and there is electricity.  I love Fridays.  Life is too short to sit here in the heat.  We must turn on the air conditioning.  We must seize the moment.  All too soon the work day will end and we will have to go home and there will be no air conditioning and we will be hot all weekend.  Okay?

Okay, I said.  And I wondered whether L would be back in the afternoon to rescue me from the sub zero temperatures.

Walk a mile

On Saturday afternoon, ER and I zigzagged between jewellery stores, clothing stores, and markets selling vanilla pods by the dozen, before turning a corner to end up in a small dark shoe shop.  The shoemaker, with his white hair and unsteady hands, offers custom made leather sandals for $15.  His designs decorate the four walls of his shop.

Although his own feet were bare, the shoemaker told us that anything was possible.  He offered to replicate any of the samples on display or any other design that we could imagine and articulate to him.

The shoemaker’s young granddaughters sat quietly on the front steps and watched expectantly as we walked around the store.  Slightly more wary, the shoemaker stood and gently prodded for a decision.

I found a pair of sandals available in my size.  The shoemaker knelt and measured and adjusted the length of the straps to make sure they fit snugly.  His son, younger and with stronger hands, helped by glueing the straps down and then forcing the needle and thread through the stiff leather soles.  The shoemaker traced ER’s foot onto the back of a magazine to make a pattern for the sandals she had chosen.  His son helped cut the leather.

We were told to come back the next day to pick up the completed shoes.  Unfailingly polite, the shoemaker-without-shoes stood to shake our hands and to suggest that we could stay in the guest room of his family’s house the next time we are in Stone Town.

Down the Craigslist Rabbit Hole

It’s been six long weeks.  There have been 193 emails, one yelling match, and countless frustrations.  Despite all of this, I have finally sold most of my belongings on Craigslist.

I am no stranger to the Craigslist scene, having purchased and sold and repurchased and resold furnishings for several apartments on the website since I moved to Vancouver.  However, after this most recent experience I now understand why some have termed Craigslist a portal to hell and described it as an alternate dimension of bad vibes and broken promises.

Here are some of the highlights of my most recent foray into the Craigslist world:

  1. One of the first people to respond to my ad was a woman who expressed interest in my baby bonsai pine tree.  Once invited into my apartment, however, Ms. Bonsai tried to buy various personal items from me instead, including my spices, my alarm clock, and photographs of my family and friends.  I reminded Ms. Bonsai that this was not an estate sale and that the pictures of my family and friends were not available.   She told me that she didn’t want the bonsai tree and left.
    Baby bonsai, why does nobody want you?
  2. A nameless and faceless individual set up an anonymous email account under the name “Craigslist Offer” and persistently emailed me to offer very low prices for my furniture.  These emails were terse, contained no punctuation, and were rife with grammatical error.  One example: ten dollarz for chairs finale offer.  Another, even more concise, example: 10/-.  After a few of these offensive emails, I put Craigslist Offer on my spam list so that all future correspondence would go straight to the trash.
  3. Ms. Bonsai waited two weeks after our initial meeting and then called to ask if my lamp was still for sale.  When I told her that it was, she said she had to think about it some more and that she would get back to me.
    What is there to think about?
  4. Multiple people set up multiple times to come look at multiple items.  None of these people actually showed up or called to cancel.  My only hope is that karmic retribution will be swift.
  5. One woman came over under the auspices of looking at my couch and asked to use my bathroom.  She complimented my view of East Vancouver and stared out my window for about 15 minutes while I pondered whether it would be appropriate to ask her to leave.
  6. A woman who was away on vacation emailed me to indicate that she wanted to buy my turquoise armchair, and begged me to hold it for her until she returned from vacation.  We set up a time for her to come see it a week later.  She cancelled a day before our scheduled meeting because she had found another chair on Craigslist that she “could not resist”.  By this point, I was no longer fazed by this kind of behaviour, and I sold the chair to someone else.  Ms. Armchair emailed me back a week later to say that she could not stop thinking about my chair, but that she had noticed it was no longer on the Craigslist site.  She speculated that maybe I had sold the chair but wanted to let me know that she was still hoping to buy it.  If I had sold it, could I please email her back and let her know how much it had sold for?

  7. Ms. Bonsai waited a few more weeks before she called me back again to ask if my bar stools were still for sale.  When I told her that they were, she said she had to think about it some more and that she would get back to me.  By this point, I was convinced that Ms. Bonsai had no interest in any of my furniture and that her only goal in this whole charade was to torture me.
  8. One woman bought my Groupon to have two photos printed onto canvas with an online company.  We arranged to meet so that I could give her the code to use online to redeem her Groupon.  She emailed me eight pictures before we met.  At first I thought she had misunderstood the ad, and I specified again that the Groupon was for two pictures rather than eight.  She clarified that she wanted my opinion about which two pictures she should use.  She asked me to go through all of the pictures with her and tell her which ones I thought would look best in her apartment.  We spent at least twenty minutes contemplating which pose of her dog would look best when printed onto a large canvas.  Future Craigslist buyers please note: I am not a professional photographer, artist, or interior designer.
  9. One man called me and indicated that he wanted to purchase my Griddler but that he really did not want to get out of his car.  Could I come down and deliver it to him in his parked car?
  10. N, my last customer, called me several times one afternoon to ask a series of very detailed questions about the three Ikea frames I was selling for $15.

N: Hi, I am calling about the Ikea frames.  Are they still available?
Me: Yes.
N: Okay.  Are they in good condition?
Me: Yes.
N: I may call back later to set up a time to come see them.

N: Hi, I called earlier about the Ikea frames.  Do you remember me?
Me: Yes.
N: I just have a question.  Are there any scratches on them?
Me: No, no scratches.  They are in good condition.
N: Okay, thanks.  I may call back later to set up a time to come see them.

N: Hi, I called earlier about the Ikea frames.  Do you remember me?
Me: Yes.
N: I have a few more questions.  What are the precise measurements of the frames?
Me: I don’t have that information with me, but the measurements are listed in the ad.
N: Oh, so you mean those are accurate measurements?
Me: Yes.
N: Well, I have some pictures that are slightly bigger and may not fit into the frames.  Do you think I could cut them to make them fit?
Me: I don’t know.  I think that would be up to you.
N: Okay, thanks.  I may call back later to set up a time to come see them.

N: Hi, I called earlier about the Ikea frames.  Do you remember me?
Me: Yes.
N: I have a few more questions.  Do you have the boxes that the frames originally came in?
Me: No, Ikea frames do not come in boxes.  The frames were shrink wrapped when I bought them.
N: Oh.  Well, I was going to give these frames to someone as a gift.  Do you have any boxes I can have?
Me: No.
N: Okay, thanks.  I may call back later to set up a time to come see them.

N: Hi, I called earlier about the Ikea frames.  Do you remember me?
Me: Yes.
N: Do the frames have bed bugs?
Me: Bed bugs?
N: Yes, bed bugs.
Me: No.

After several more of these exhausting exchanges, N made arrangements to come look at the frames.  N was almost two hours late, offered me $5 for all three of the frames, and then told me he was going to have to think about it and he would come back later that evening.  My Craigslist-patience, which up to that point had withstood all of the annoyances listed above, bubbled over in a stew of anger and I decided that hell would freeze over before I sold N anything.  I can’t quite remember what I said, because my memory is blurred with rage, but I made it clear that I was no longer willing to sell the frames to N.  The last thing I remember is N standing on the sidewalk with a dazed look on his face while I ran for the elevator.

Next time I post something on Craigslist, I’m tempted to include a disclaimer: please note that this offer does not include the following: gift wrapping, the use of my bathroom, my company or friendship, personal effects in my apartment, delivery to parked vehicles, or my opinion on whether a specific item will fit / look good in your apartment.  Please save us both some time and do not respond to this ad if your offer is going to be so low that you feel that you must use an alias or respond anonymously.

I’ve decided to pack up the frames and put them in storage.