Compared to what I have heard about most MSF mission housing I suspect I do live in a palace. There are six expat homes in Nhlangano and I live in Garden House. It was the first MSF home in the mission and you can guess where the name comes from. We have a wonderful vegetable garden which has been nurtured by one of the guards who is now the gardener for the mission. From the garden we have eaten fresh carrots, beets, cabbage, different lettuces as well as bananas and avocados from the surrounding trees. All of the expat homes are in the same neighborhood as the MSF offices. My walk to work is about 75 yards and takes all of two minutes. It’s so close that I walk home for lunch!
Garden House is a five bedroom and two bath house with a large kitchen, dining area, and sitting room. There is no TV in the house, which hasn’t bothered me at all… it’s actually kind of nice. We could get one and pay for service but none of us are interested. We have a washing machine (which is wonderful) and clothes are hung in the yard to dry. My room is big and very comfy… it has a double bed, a desk and a sitting area with two love seats and a coffee table. Since I’ve been here I’ve had two or three housemates at a time. The remaining rooms are for guests of the mission, MSF staff coming for a field visit from our office in Mbabane, or another expat in the mission.
We have housekeepers for the expats homes (and offices too). It is so nice to come home to a clean, orderly house as well as clean and ironed clothes. I believe MSF hires housekeepers to allow the expats to focus on work and to help the local economy. For me it is a wonderful bonus!
All of the homes and office all have guards 24/7 and are surrounded by fences and gates. All of the doors and window have metal bars over them (called burglars) which seems to be common in Africa. I have found Nhlangano to be safe, and I’ve only heard of a few instances of opportunistic theft at the offices or in the cars. We’re allowed to walk alone during the day but at night we are told to walk in pairs or have a guard escort you to another MSF home. I’ve never had a concern about security in the months I’ve been living here.
I would be remiss not to mention Rosie… the dog (and mascot) of Garden House and the mission. She’s been taken care of by many expats over the years and when I arrived I inherited her care. She is finicky about her food (and her company) and let’s say she’s not very fond of me trying to convert her to dry dog food… she prefers the raw meat from the butchery. Stay tuned to see who wins this battle!