Category

life

Without Prejudice

Just like that, after nearly 3 hours of trying to make up our minds, we signed the contracts and paid the dues. We finally had a place to stay.

All of a sudden, once the money had left our accounts, it was possible to obtain the keys to the house, something that could not be done before. Strange. Once the paper work was done and we got the keys, I suggested that we see the house before we went back to Nayim’s accommodation where I was now crushing at because my contracted ended before we could get a new space. Nayim agreed.

When I tell you that utter shock befell us when we walked into the house, trust me! It was a like being hit unexpectedly in the face by a wrecking ball. Not that I know the feeling, but I imagine that is how it would feel. The signs were telling right from the minute we got onto the first few streets leading to the apartment. DODGY! I had already decided that should we live there, there was no way I could walk home late at night on my own. It was nothing like Wembley Park where I lived for a whole year prior. The outside of the complex screamed council houses but I tried to remain optimistic. At this point, none of us were uttering a word.

It got painfully silent when we walked into the house. My heart dropped! It was the black greasy walls in the kitchen, the black melted toaster and microwave, the live wires, the broken windows, the mould, the brown bathroom titles that were probably once white, the ungodly state of the toilet and bathtub (where was the shower head?), the unsecured stair case, the broken curtain rods, the dusty beds… dilapidated doesn’t even begin to describe the state of that house. My heart was beating fast, my blood was boiling, fear was creeping in. Then the door was opened from the outside and a tall white boy walked in. He wanted to know who we were and we wanted to know who he was.

We quickly found out that he had rented a few rooms in the house together with his friends a week ago and that they had been living uncomfortably for a week. He said that he had just come back from Flintons to complain about everything wrong with the house, complaints he said he had been making for a week with no help or response from Flintons. Apparently, there was no water, no gas, and everything seemed to be falling apart. The housing agent did not care.

I was panicking. They hadn’t cooked in a week and neither had they showered. The contract claimed that the amount paid covered all utility bills including WiFi but it didn’t. One had to foot the bills and then claim a refund, something that they do not highlight when walking you through the terms and conditions. In fact, their contract is so vaguely written and is open to misinterpretation.

We had to go and get back a refund. Considering that we had paid that very day, it surely would be possible. We were wrong. Very wrong.

Flintons took us in circles with processes that didn’t seem to exist and our daily commutes to their offices demanding our refund were met with arrogance and mocking. Our second agent and his team laughing in our faces at our distress. They knew what they had done. They didn’t care. It was their MO, it worked. — Housing in London is BIG business. There are loads of people streaming in from all over the world looking for places to stay. Rent has been hiked and the living spaces are getting smaller and smaller. Everyday desperate people are being scammed. It just the norm. There are loopholes in the law and people have taken advantage.

Mymorning showers were routined by tears because I didn’t want Nayim to see me crying. Full days spent outside Flintons offices and commutes on the tube painfully silent between us. The knot in my throat tightening further as the days went by. The emotional distress was painful and had the potential to sink us into depression. I remember one silent tube ride back to Nayim’s place where he broke down into tears. It didn’t matter that we were surrounded by Londoners trying to make their way home. His tears just flowed. It was painful.

It took me about three days to tell my dad that his money had gone down the drain. Before then, I didn’t know how else I would break it down to him. It was a lot of money. As a widower and father of three doing your best to provide so that your children continue to have the same standard of life that they had when their mother was around, I would imagine this is the last thing you want to hear. I didn’t want to worry him, but I couldn’t raise the money on my own to get another place. I had spent nearly all of my savings helping to pay for my accommodation and personal expenses during the one year that I had been away (I didn’t want to be a burden, even though he keeps saying that he would do anything to make our dreams a reality) and now I couldn’t afford this on my own.

I made the call.

Nayim was grabbing us dinner at KFC and I stepped out to speak to him and as I narrated the ordeal, I broke down. I cried. Painful hot tears streamed down my face, the knot in my throat now tighter than ever. I wish I had made that phone call when everything went wrong. My father was calm, his voice reassuring, confident that everything was going to be okay. “Barbs, it is just money. The important thing is that you are okay.”

We had been so consumed with the pain that we had forgotten that we could try and find other means to solve the matter. We reported the case to our bank and reached the civil courts. I spent my days combing through the UK housing laws pertaining to renting houses etc. and followed necessary procedure to take the matter to court. When I was not doing this, I was crying myself to sleep every night and wishing that I listened to my gut. I cried every day for 2 months. How could I be so stupid to get conned? I was so embarrassed about getting conned that I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. I got off social media and only spoke to the people that I needed to speak to.(Looking back now, I wonder what I was so afraid of, people lose money every day, I didn’t see it like this at the time) I let the situation eat at me from the inside. I suffered on my own. Nayim was in similar pain but talking about it or trying to comfort each other made it worse.

Eventually, Nayim moved into an airbnb and I moved in with Samantha who had fortunately not paid for the house and was able to get another place. I was going to get an airbnb but Samantha wouldn’t have it. “You can stay with me as you look for another place, there’s no need to spend more money.” While she was lovingly hosting me and happy to have a friend in her new space and we could hang out all the time, I felt like a burden. I continued to cry in the shower in the mornings and would sometimes sit in her closet by myself and just cry. I couldn’t get past how they played us, how I missed the signs and how cruel human beings could be. My brain just wouldn’t process it all.

Without Prejudice

Satan and Saturn have been at it this past week.” — That is what I thought when the week of September 3rd 2018 came to an end and I found out on Twitter that Saturn’s retrograde was ending.

Never in my life, bar my mother’s passing, has my core been so challenged, so disturbed, so overturned…

I would never have expected the override of my comfortable reality. I was just about to be homeless in a foreign country and I was NOT ready.

I got conned. I got conned in the UK. I don’t know to what regard I had held the first world in, but one of the things that I did not expect was getting conned in London. It’s funny how, after I went through this whole ordeal, I found out that it is a more common occurrence than I thought and probably more common there than it is in Nairobi.

My student accommodation contract was coming to an end and I needed to find a new place to stay for the next 3 months. Since I was no longer considered a student, student accommodation was not an option. I needed to find a house or an apartment or something and rent a room.

I teamed up with one of my friends Nayim and we decided to find a house together, which we did. However, about two days before we were to move in, the agent let us know that the Landlord no longer wanted us living in his house. I couldn’t believe it. After the long process that we had gone through getting this place, I couldn’t imagine having to do it again for another place and in TWO DAYS!

Nayim and I set to work, we needed to find another place. We combed through websites upon websites to find accommodation but nothing in our budget was forthcoming. We then opted to go onto SpareRoom.com and try our luck. We found a place and an overly enthusiastic agent contacted us and asked us to pay him a visit at his office to show us the property and many more. Finally, something was looking up.

We paid the agent a visit at the Flintons offices on Bow common lane desperate to find a house, pay for it and move in as soon as we could. He was a bit busy when we walked in and we stood at the entrance of the office together with a number of other house seekers looking to find a place. It seemed like a busy morning and all agents were attending to someone or the other and had other clients waiting to see them. The dojo (I am using this word very lightly and out of context) seemed legit.

Finally it was our turn. We asked to see the house we had inquired about and unfortunately it was currently occupied but the current tenants were set to move out in two weeks. “We can give you another option for the two weeks and then you can move in to this place once the other tenant moves out.” The agent asserted that since both properties were being managed by Flintons, it would be easy for us to move into our preferred house. The deal seemed fair.

Just as we were about to go into the details, the agent informed us that he had another client but his colleague would be able to assist us. The first red flag.We moved over to agent no.2’s station and begun to look through the different options that we had for the two weeks before our dream house could come available.

Now, this new agent. His demeanour IMMEDIATELY unsettled my spirit. Slumped in his chair, eyes red and half mast (if you know, you know), slurrish and sluggish, something was off. I could feel it in my gut. The decision about making the payment took nearly an hour. I just wasn’t sure, but we were desperate. We went between chatting our parents, discussing amongst each other, texting Samantha (my good friend who was to move in with us as well) and personal internal debates. It didn’t help that the agent kept pushing us to pay saying that if we didn’t make a decision, someone else would take the house. He even directed our eyes to the first agent’s screen where he was displaying the SAME house to the clients he was attending to. The chances of losing that particular house were near 100% and nothing else we had seen up until that point called out to us. We had to decide and we had to decide NOW.

It seemed like we did not have a choice. We also had no time.

“Is it possible for us to see the house before we can make a decision?” — apparently we couldn’t. “It is so busy today and no one is available to do the viewing, maybe we schedule the viewing for Saturday when you move in and get the keys?” Red flag.

It didn’t seem right. Nevertheless we were the ones that were time bound. “Where do we sign?”

This was the first time we were laughing or smiling since we signed the contract. Nearly two weeks post signing.

Sometimes I write but my musings never get to see the light of day for some reason or another. I think I wrote this piece at some point in 2016 . I am not too sure why it never went up but reading it today, it seems so fitting especially as I start a new phase in life: life after my Master’s. It is just as well that we are close to the new year (okay 2 months shy, but still) and there’s no better time to start preparing for it than now. I think what I get from it now is not necessarily the presence of a physical vision board but rather the importance of having a VISION to start with. A vision coupled with a drive to see it to fruition. I hope my 22 year old self motivates you as much as she motivated me. Happy reading and all the best! 

We are officially halfway through the year and for some reason I’m feeling a new burst of energy coming through me. Literally, I can feel it in my bones 🙂 The last time I employed my writing skills was in January and to be honest if it was not for the excitement that comes with a new year, I probably wouldn’t have written anything.

Last year September, I decided to take on my masters which meant moving across the world (dramatic, it’s just 8 hours away). I was excited! I have always had a special place in my heart for education and books and all that jazz. It’s not that I’m a genius but mostly because it seems to pose a new challenge. I like challenges. What I hold even more dear and I like a whole lot more is travel. Traveling brings me alive. This move meant more travel. Books and travel. I was truly excited! 10 months in and I have had the time of my life but at the same time it has been one of the most challenging times.

The Good

God! We are working on our relationship. I am working on our relationship. The shy girl that sits at the back of the church stepped out of her comfort zone and attended bible study. She loved it. I’m going to be more involved. That is for sure. This building energy among young people about the things of God is so exciting. Truly we must live our days for Him. He is so faithful, that, I can tell you for free.

Travel! GIIIIIIIIRL, my wanderlust is just thriving! 30 Pounds on return trips! Man, as far as my reasons go for why I love being here, this has got to be the best of them all. Cheap Travel. Africa needs to do something about making it financially easier for us to travel within the continent.

Opportunities. London is that place. Opportunities knocking left ,right and centre if you are well poised and positioned to take them up. My mantra has always been that “Opportunities dance with those on the dance floor.” So go on, make sure you’re always on there. Ready to dance 🙂

Books read. I set out to read 20 books this year. I’m proud to announce that I’m halfway through! I might just make it this time! My best reads this half have been as below, with Obama’s and Selasi’s being my absolute favourite. Both have sparked relatable emotions. Thick with relevance for one reason or the other.

Focus — Daniel Goleman

Give and Take — Adam Grant

We’re Going To Need More Wine — Gabrielle Union

Dreams From My Father — Barrack Obama

Ghana Must Go — Taiye Selasi

Beyonce! I watched the woman live in concert! Amazing. She brought it! I still think I need to watch her perform on her own though. Full concert, just her. This time sharing business she had with her husband I was not feeling it. Especially because I know close to none of his music. Still, an experience and a half!

2018 is here and boy is it exciting! It’s like turning over to the next chapter of a book you’re really engrossed in and you can’t wait to see what happens next.

The end of last year ( lol, we can say that now) had a lot of us talking about all the things we would leave behind in 2017 as we carry the good vibes on to the new year, but how about those things we are carrying forward? Every journey needs some supplies and so does the one into a new year. Humor me as I share with you some of the things that I am definitely carrying on into 2018.

OLA!

I am hoping that you are all well, it has been a while.

We are at the end of 2017, Imagine THAT! I don’t think any year will pass me by without making me think that it went by waaaaay too fast! Where does the time go?

The last time I did a post like this was in FEBRUARY ( I am quite embarrassed actually) and seeing as we are at the end of the year, I figure taking stock for the whole year makes more sense.