009_I Call It Home

Written Date: 24 July 2015
Posted Date: 24 July 2015

The “Bottle House” – that’s what everyone else calls it. To me, it’s home for the next two years, maybe more.

The walls are made of rows of beer and wine bottles, laid side by side and alternating necks and bases by row. The space between is filled with a clay/concrete mixture that is hard and pretty durable, but crumbles fairly easily with directed effort.

Turns out homes and other smaller buildings made of recycled materials are fairly common in Namibia (and elsewhere). Several visitors have commented on seeing buildings made from beer/wine bottles and clay or concrete throughout Namibia, particularly in the rural areas. This one was built in 1999, and I coincidentally met a Dutch man last weekend that was here, then, and helped construct it! He is away this week, but will be back mid-week and we plan to get together and get to know each other before he returns to Holland next month.

So here is a quick tour. Photos appear a little farther down after an initial description. It is one of most interesting and comfortable of the homes my Peace Corps colleagues are occupying throughout Namibia. I feel very lucky to have this particular dwelling. There are many PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) with more modern housing, some including washers, some are air conditioned, and many have drywall or stone construction and would feel at home in any modern US city. Some of the PCVs live in mud huts with no running water, electricity, or indoor toilets, not to mention no internet!

The common phrase associated with my home is that is provides a real “Africa Experience”. And that it does. And it’s roomy – a real luxury. While it has been occupied over the years for brief periods, and spent major time as a storage building, it is turning into a genuinely welcoming residence and home. The floor (tile) was replaced just a month or so before my arrival in anticipation of long-term occupation.

One of the truly outstanding things about this place is the peaceful setting. Penduka is located inside the city limits of Windhoek in an area known at Katutura, a very poor area of a very tough city. Yet, I open the door to this view, taken from my small porch, facing south towards Windhoek:P7060003_Resized

Turn around and step back a few steps and you see the Bottle House:

150723_Towards Front_Resized

The window is just above the kitchen sink/counter. The door has “burglar bars’ as a gate. Steps leading off the picture to the right lead up to the rest of the Penduka compound that I’ll cover in a future blog. The orange LPG tank feeds my range/oven and there are a couple of mosquito net frames next to it that I’m messing with to try and put netting on the windows. The bugs can be a problem here in the summer (Sept – March. Southern Hemisphere).

Incidentally, Malaria is not a concern in the Windhoek area and southern Namibia, so I don’t need to take Malaria prophylaxis or sleep with mosquito netting around the bed as I did in Okahandja, about one hour drive north.

Step inside the door, and you see:

150723_Door to Bed_ResizedMy bed is in the back right corner, and just five days ago the couch/fold down bed (for guests) was delivered, and is just at the bottom of the picture. The steps to the loft are on the left, and I turned the area under the stair landing into a “closet”. The wicker shelf units (right side and back), and the bureau on the right, were put in the building just before I arrived. They are in pretty rough condition, but serviceable, and I’m very fortunate to have shelving at all!

Turn slightly to your left inside the door and see:150723_Door to Desk_Resized

This is my desk, with temporary desk lamp deliberately left pointing into the camera for “artistic effect” (ha!). I bought a desk chair since I’ll be spending a LOT of time working at the computer at the desk, which is actually a small dining table with a student desk from a nearby school set up for the laptop. This is a good view of the stairs to the loft. I could put my bed in the loft, but it is likely to get really hot up there in the summer.

150723_Desk to Bathroom_ResizedNow we walk over to the desk, at my chair, and look towards the front (south) of the building into the bathroom. Note the refrigerator on the left (the kitchen area). The toilet is just to the left of the shower behind the wall in the center of the photo It’s pretty exposed at the moment, but the craft shop is making me a batik curtain to hang at the entrance to the bathroom. That should be finished next week. Note the stack of papers on the desk – this job is already very involved. More on that in a future post.

Now move over to the bed area, and look towards the door,:

150723_Door and Kitchen_Resized

The refrigerator and gas range/oven are on the right, window  with a view of the lake is just above the sink,and the door on the left. I’m extremely fortunate to have a gas range/oven! There was no range or oven in the building when I arrived and I was planning to get a small countertop unit that has two electric burners on top and a “toaster oven” below them. BUT, when I was visiting the TB Program office with Penduka, they had a brand new but two year old unused gas range/oven sitting in the corner they didn’t need, so they gave it to me! I bought an LPG tank and some hose, punched a hole in the wall for the host so the gas bottle would be outside, and now I have an absolutely fabulous five burner gas range with a full size oven!  And I love to cook! Omg.

150723_Batik & Wall_ResizedFinal view is of a Batik Apron the craft shop gave me, and which I use as a wall decoration at least temporarily. This is made here in the Penduka Craft center as part of the operation I am working with.  I’ll also have them make a large Batik “curtain” to hang around the “bedroom” area to provide privacy for me and for a possible house guest staying on the couch.

I love this place. Friends who have visited have said it just seems perfect for me, and I agree. I’ve only been here five weeks, and it feels very homey – with more to come.


2 thoughts on “009_I Call It Home

  1. Thank you for the tour. I am thinking the term “happy as a clam” likely fits just fine-it’s certainly bigger than the boat! The one thing you didn’t mention is whether or not your “shell” is impermeable to Puff Adders. Running into one outside is one thing. Putting your feet down onto one while getting out of bed in the morning is quite another.

  2. Happy Birthday! I hope you are celebrating. I love the pictures and description of your bottle home.

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