Monday, April 7, 2014

Living in a Safe House

The architecture of my Nairobi safe house reminded me of San Diego.
In 2005 I lived in a safe house in Nairobi. Actually, I lived in a couple safe houses, but the layout was essentially the same. What's different, in the real world compared to the movies, is that most safe houses aren't obscure hidden buildings with desolate interiors. Rather, like the White House, they are reinforced houses to prevent home invasions.

Sleep safely on the second floor, behind bars.
My safe houses were located in compounds with six to twelve other homes surrounded by walls topped with concertina (razor wire) and 24/7 guards. Another group I worked with lived in, what we affectionately called, the cathouse (Civil Affairs Team house) which had everything my house had plus an electric fence.

The windows in my safe house were covered with reinforced burglar bars and the bedrooms were located on the second floor where I could lock myself in, similar to a jail cell. There was a lever on my bedroom wall that I could pull to blow out a section of the bars to escape if there was a fire.

The red lever on the wall would blow out a section of bars.
It's hard to believe it's been almost a decade since I lived in Nairobi. This metropolis is the tech center of East Africa and the weather's better than San Diego. The city is located about 1° from the equator and, at a mile up, it's above the mosquito line. The summer highs were in the 80s and the winter lows were in the 50s. Nairobi gets a little more rain than Southern California so things we irrigate for in San Diego, like banana plants and birds of paradise, grow naturally without any humidity.

I highly recommend a trip to Nairobi and safari in Maasai Mara.

Author: Joe Moreno

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