When we approached my new apartment for the first time, yesterday afternoon, I was relieved to see it ticked all the (South African) security tick boxes.
High wall. High gate. Electric fence. (My mother would be able to sleep at night knowing her daughter was behind lock and key.)
But the relief quickly evaporated when young Martin, the care-taker’s son, pushed the gate open with one hand to let our car into the complex.
Was there a power failure? Was the gate faulty?!
But no one else seemed to notice this breach in security.
(Non-existing) Alarm bells rang even louder when we got to my apartment on the 5th floor and there was no alarm! No security gate! No burglar bars! No trellidoors! Niegies. Niks.
But I was not panicking. Dah. They obviously have beams.
And last night, after work, Richard walks me to the front door of my new apartment.
When he leaves, I lock the door behind him. And check the handle, just to be sure.
As I turn around, the first thing I see is the kitchen window standing wide open!!
I run over, slide open the mesh screen and slam the large sliding window securely shut before closing the screen again.
Beyond the window is a balcony, with a metal spiral staircase that leads straight down to ground-level, behind the block!
From the kitchen, I half-run to the bedroom where, to my horror both large, street-facing windows are also standing wide open, for every in the street to see!
A (30 x 30 m) parameter-check of my new abode reveals that every single window in the apartment had been left open.
And when I tried to close some of them they did not have latches! By now my heart is pounding loud enough to trigger ADT 4807.11 km away.
How is it that the flat-screen TV was still in its barricaded against the wall?
I baracaded myself in my room, and spend the rest of the night making a list of security-concerns to raise with the landlord.
This morning when Richard collects me for work, I was barely in the car before I said:
“Richard, some of the windows in my apartment cannot close!”
Richard: “For the mosquitoes? They bothering you?”
Me: “No, Richard, not for the mosquitos! For the people who will climb up the staircase behind the building.”
Richard: “Yes, they will climb up to collect the rubbish.”
When I was reciting stats for my mother on Ghanaian vs SA crime levels (South Africa is the #17 most dangerous place to visit in the world. Ghana is #126.), the true meaning of this did not sink in.
I thought Richard was walking me to my front door for my safety, but now I realise it was to make sure I did not get lost!
I am such a South African.
PS I should change the title to Safe As (Echo) Houses! Today (Saturday) we had to go into the office to work on the pitch.
Because my grocery shopping went MUCH faster than expected (See Day#12 ) I arrived at the office an hour before the agreed time (+ another hour for GMT (See Day#10 ).
When we drove in, I realised that the building was locked, and no one was going to be around for a while.
No problem said Richard, we will just use the access card. I thought he meant his access card.
No, he meant the access card they keep on top of the access console next to the front door.
“How else would one get in over weekends?” How else indeed!
Either the Ghanaian Tsotsis are on serious GMT, or they have all moved to SA.
PPS Today, on my 4h 20m return Uber journey from Kokrobite (See Day#13 ), in bumper-to-bumper stationary traffic, I kept marvelling at all the unlocked door latches! God help any Ghanaian who visits South Africa.
PPPS I also had to explain to King Appiah (See Day#21 ) what a “Smash&Grab” is.
PPPPS I have lived here for 11 days before I realised my balcony sliding door can slide open from the side that has been hidden behind the ceiling-to-floor blinds as well. And that it has been standing wide open all along!! When I say “open” I mean wide open – an inch-wide gaping gap!!! And I am still here.