Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Home Improvements - The Kitchen

Yes, I'm still alive :) Just really busy. But I must admit that I hate it when I get too busy to write in my blog or follow what's happening on Facebook! Anyway, one of the things keeping me more occupied than usual is the fact that we're making improvements to our kitchen. The paint job is an old, dirty, hospital yellow (yeah, yuck is right!). Some of the cupboards aren't painted inside, so you never know what's crawling around in the darkness back there! But it all started with the kitchen counter.

The kitchen counter in our little place in Ouaga is made of a whole pile of small, one-inch square tiles. Over the years, some these have been coming off and the counter was beginning to not only be a pain to use, but also an eyesore. So we finally decided the time had come to replace the whole thing, as well as the ugly pink tiles that made up the backsplash.

After buying the necessary tile (much larger ones this time!), we began looking around for a mason. We insisted that it be someone who owned and knew how to use a level. Finally, we engaged someone recommended by a Burkinab√® friend. Well, this mason certainly had a level and used it, but I’m not sure why! Virtually every tile he laid was on a different angle! I had to verify nearly every tile, as well as the overall slope of the stainless steel sink / drainboard unit and the counter surface. Had I left it the way he placed it, half of any water on the counter would have run towards the sink, and the other half in the opposite direction and onto the floor! I even had to check the alignment of the tiles for the backsplash and make him correct things several times. To give the man credit, he was good with a trowel and cement, but I think a straight line was a foreign concept to him.

Our old faucet was history too. So we got a new one, and I decided to put a shut-off valve under the sink while I had things apart. Going to a nearby hardware store, I selected a valve and some washers. When the guy behind the counter told me that the valve was 2,000 francs and the washers were 125 francs in all, I asked if I could pay 2,100 francs instead of 2,125 (a saving of a mere 5 cents Canadian isn’t a big deal, but people like to bargain here, so why not :). The guy shook his head dubiously and said he’d have to ask his boss. So off he went.

A minute later he was back. “My boss says you can have the valve for 1,750 francs and the washers for 150 francs.” Wait a minute! I offered to pay 2,100 francs and the guy is telling me that I only need to pay 1,900? Well, I sure didn’t argue with him, but I was shaking my head all the way home. I don’t recall anything like that ever happening here in Burkina before. I think I’m going to have to go to that hardware store more often!

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