Cordie Aziz is a former congressional staffer who moved to Ghana after losing her job last year. Follow her daily adventures at goneiighana.blogspot.com
When I first moved to Accra, I envisioned my perfect house as a self-contained space, near the water, just large enough for me and an occasional guest, or two. After all, I like think of myself as a minimalist. But I must also mention that I am a realist, and the truth about Accra, is that rent is expensive. Finding a decent house, especially one near water, in Accra for a reasonable rate is almost next to impossible. Embassies and other high profile clientele have rented out the best houses at astronomical rates. And to make it worse, in Accra you pay your rent, up-front, for, at least, one year; sometimes renters even pay multiple months up front, depending on the lease. Therefore, non-government and non-corporate citizens have to struggle to find decent housing at an affordable rate. As a result, many people choose to live on the outskirts of Accra for more reasonable rates. But my time in Washington, DC, taught me you either live in the city or you don’t, and I definitely am a city girl.
So when I ran across an ad for a 1 bedroom house in Labadi, the beachfront area in Accra, for rent, I just had to go see it. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was actually a 2 bedroom house, which fit all of my previous criteria, and, better yet, it was in my price range. Talk about getting lucky.
But before I signed the deal, I had to make sure the house had a polytank, which stores water for household use when the tap doesn’t flow. That’s right, I should mention, that Accra has a water issue, which means that water doesn’t flow from the tap every day of the week. Some people who live in surrounding areas can sometimes get water only once a week. So, now, I am sure you understand why having a polytank at your home is essential. Fortunately for me, the polytank at the house was big enough to keep me sustained for several weeks, if not months, should the tap not flow. So I signed the deal.
However, I obviously didn’t ask the right questions, because when I moved in the house, last week, I noticed that water wasn’t flowing through the house when the tap was off. Then I discovered the tank needed a pump. Yes, I totally screwed that one up. Identifying the tank needed a pump was the easy part, finding a pump and a plumber to fix the issue, now that has been the challenge.
Unfortunately, prices of goods and services really aren’t regulated by the market, so people will sell products and do tasks at whatever price you are willing to pay. This means that if you aren’t vigilant, you will pay three times more for a product or service than what it’s worth. Furthermore, my ability to properly negotiate “last price”, also known as the fair price, is hindered by the fact that I am not only a woman, but a foreigner, as well. It’s ok though, I am frugal, and I actually enjoy the adrenaline rush of getting a great deal, so I am willing to bargain battle.
After all I am a minimalist, and a few days without water won’t hurt; especially since young neighborhood boys will fetch water and bring it to your house everyday for a small fee of .30 cents. I just thank the Higher Being that the tap flows almost every day. Because if it didn’t I don’t think I could find the strength to bargain.