House Hunters International, Algiers: Episode 3, "Is It Over Yet?"

Sunday, November 10, 2013 | Algiers, Algeria

What do you say to a gift like that? I was damn near speechless.
The joys of homemaking in Algiers continue where they left off (see Episode 1, "It's Worth It for the View" and Episode 2, "MacGyver's Revenge").


By the time October rolled around, my apartment was finally starting to look like a proper home, except that I still had no bedroom door, no lamps, and a satellite dish that picked up only German channels. As the extended Algerian summer finally faded away, the long-promised patio furniture and barbecue for the terrace—probably the features I had been most excited for back in June—were still nowhere to be found.

The first fall storm brought water creeping in from all sides. Hamid—jack of all trades, master of none—was soon up on the roof, first to jerry-rig some temporary gutters from chewing gum and water bottles, and then, in the following days, to build proper ones. (They sloped toward the middle. No surprise then, that the season's second storm brought more water damage. Soon after, a man with an eye patch was working on the roof; we'll see how his gutters fare.)

Though apparently incapable of buying basic patio furniture or hiring competent roofers, landlord Aziz otherwise went to great lengths to make sure I felt at home. Back in the summer, he had snapped a few pictures around the apartment, including one of me sitting at my desk. I thought nothing of it until one day he showed up at the house with a "present": a screen-printed coffee mug with my picture inked on it and the words (spelled, in French, completely incorrectly) "Welcome to Algeria".


After five months of "tomorrows" and "next weeks" and the infamous "ten more days" promised and failed, I've long ago stopped counting on receiving much else. Nobody really comes by anymore to work on the remaining odds and ends. Reda and his team are now renovating an apartment downstairs to make an office for their wildly successful new real-estate-and-home-renovation agency. Each morning when I leave for work, I see Hamid down there, puttering away with a hammer or stirring some concoction in an old cement bucket.

I've taken things into my own hands to finish up the apartment, buying missing items, bringing a repairman to install something other than German satellite channels, and hanging my own decorations around the apartment. (Aziz's shiny walls didn't inspire much confidence in his aesthetic tastes; nor did the fake-diamond-encrusted spice jars he and Reda proudly presented to me one day.)

Looking back, I never should have let them get my hopes up. Yes, Aziz and his contractors did a terrible job of managing expectations. But I was all too eager to set my sights high, and hoped anew for a finished apartment every time they promised "ten more days". These days, I've gotten used to the crooked ceilings, windows that won't shut, splattered paint drips, leaky gutters, and cabinet placed awkwardly above the sink so that it's impossible to stand up straight while doing dishes. These are just some of the many quirks of my new apartment.

After having so much fun along the way, I must admit: it's almost been worth it for the view.

Some shots of the more-or-less finished apartment:

Living room, including television that until yesterday spoke only German.
"After" view of the kitchen. Compare to "before" view.
La terrasse, spectacular though still sans tables, chairs, or grill. (Photo courtesy of R. Feeley)


E.A. said...

WOW, I'd live in a shack with that kind of view!! Funny, I remember visiting a mud hut in a village in Kenya, crazy poor living conditions but they had this view of the Great Rift Valley below that an American would pay millions for.

On a good day, you can see the mountains wayyy far away between two high rises from my east balcony, and a gorgeous garden just below the west one (and the fields of the durk el-watani in the distance), so I can't complain, it's probably one of the best there is in Ain Naadja.

LOVE the mug - ha!

Alamosa1 said...

In the movie L'aldjerie it looked like nothing had been updated since 1962 sort of like fresh paint nothing. Talk about a city with views...There are were all kinds of highrises with spectacular views. Your place looks less than solid? What was noise like? When I lived there the population was about 800,000. In those days the nice beaches were to the west---forĂȘt des pins and so forth. People rented beach houses there. You had to go quite far to the East to get to the beach areas.

Andrew G. Farrand said...

@Alamosa1 The population is at least 5x that now, so you can imagine how substantially things have changed. The views are still great :)

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