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security overseas

Meanwhile at home, S spent the morning unpacking and getting to know the house better. It feels staggering to go from a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago to a 2-floor, 3-bedroom, 2 ½-bath house with a backyard. This is especially true because all of our belongings are in transit and the only thing that filled out the empty space was the generic government furniture that left S feeling rather ambivalent about our new abode. However, things look better in the morning light. Of course, the furniture is used, so there are nicks and scratches, and it doesn’t feel like our own. Then again, neither of us liked the Craigslist-bought furniture in our Chicago apartment either. Besides, it turns out that there are different variations on the government décor theme, as we found out by visiting our neighbors’ homes. We put in several warehouse requests through e-services (an online system that, though far from perfect, is a pretty efficient way to handle all service requests, from changing the display name on D’s office phone to getting firewood delivered to our home) and were able to furnish the home to our liking.

Though S did not attend the Security Overseas seminar at FSI (Foreign Service Institute where D underwent training), she was well aware that Nairobi is considered critical for crime and terrorism. In fact, it’s the only post in the world with a critical/critical rating where all family members are still allowed, and on the ride from the airport with R & L, we talked about the carjackings and recent home invasions that are an everyday facet of life in Nairobi. Lest you worry about our safety, let us reassure you that we feel far safer here than we did in Chicago or DC. We live on a gated compound, with guards and complex alarm systems, and the compound is minutes away from the Embassy and the Marines who guard it. Our home also comes equipped with a safe haven – essentially a gate with a padlock, to secure the top floor of the house in an emergency.

While upstairs unpacking, S heard the knob of the front door turn and someone walk in. She immediately grabbed the padlock, fumbled to extract the key, and bolted the gate shut. Heart racing, she asked who was there. A young, male voice replied that he’s come to do an inventory of the house. Sounds plausible, but with no phone credit or internet access, S had no way of verifying whether the stranger was telling the truth. And, besides, why wouldn’t he just ring the doorbell if the Embassy had sent him? So she asked him to leave and come back later in the afternoon. He grumbled in response that he was told no one would be home. “But, I AM home! Can you leave?” she retorted. Amazingly, he stood around for quite some time before he finally left. Even though S was terrified, at the back of her mind she thought that the unexpected visitor was most likely some American kid, a summer intern. We later confirmed this suspicion and though we tried to coax him to come back and complete the task assigned to him, we never heard from him again. He must have been just as shaken up as S was.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I feel I would become resentful of being so privileged being on the compound. Do you both ever feel that? If you weren’t on the compound, do you think S would have less of a freak-out when the intern came?

    July 17, 2011
  2. We think that in all likelihood S would have been far more freaked out if we had been living in a stand alone house, where security is far more lax and break-ins much more likely.

    July 18, 2011

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