Friday, April 13, 2012

April 13, 2012 - The Fortress

I think I briefly blogged about the security at our house here in Dar before, but to recap: 

First you go through one gate.  The day guard (DG - whose name actually might be Sheldrick or something that sounds like that) now stands at that gate acting as security for our house and Mrs. S' house too.  Once the DG lets you in, you drive by Mrs. S' house and you see two more gates in front of you. On the right is a gate to an empty plot with dogs and construction storage for the time being.  On the left is another gate to our house, which is opened during the day so you could drive right up to the house.  At night, Mrs. S has her own guard at the first gate and our night guard, Abdallah, is posted at our second gate, which is closed from 6 pm.  At night the 3 dogs - who do bite! - also roam the first part of the compound (Mrs. S' house). theory, we are very well-secured.  We also have an alarm system of sorts and various locks and bolts on our doors.  Great.

But yesterday presented an interesting challenge to our security.  Around 4:30 the kids and I opened the front door to go outside for a few minutes.  We usually bring the gated dogs a treat at this time, hoping that someday they will be used to us and will lose their instinct to hunt us down.  In front of us were two white men (wazungu) taking pictures of our house.  I was shocked!  They claimed to be the guys who built and installed the windows and doors on our house, and said they were taking pictures for their catalog.  But once I came outside, they left. 

The question that immediately popped into my head was: How they hell did they get in here?!

So this morning I talked to two people:  the DG and Mrs. S' son, who is the architect of our house.  When I described the guys to the architect, he said that yes they did do the windows and doors, but nobody gave them permission to take pictures and they couldn't do that without our permission, which we obviously hadn't given them.  He's going to call them about it.  

The more interesting conversation happend with the DG.  He said they told him they wanted to come in, and so he let them in.  He didn't know which house they were coming to or why.  REALLY TIGHT SECURITY OVER HERE!  Just ask, and you can come in!  Doesn't matter who you are!

I wanted to ask him if he knew that they were armed with weapons, but decided that that wasn't a nice or fair thing to say...EVEN THOUGH THEY COULD HAVE BEEN!  Of course in his head, they were white so they were not dangerous.  But we don't know what they were actually doing taking pictures of our house.  If you take pictures of the US Embassy or the World Bank you get arrested!

So, I gave the DG what we will now call Lisa's Security Training Tip #1:  Do not ever let anyone onto the compound unless we give you permission to do so.  Either come to the house to ask, or call my cellphone to ask, or go to Mrs. S' house to ask.  Ask ask ask.   

I plan to follow up tomorrow with Lisa's Security Training Tip #2:  Repeat Tip #1.

In his defense, he seemed to understand my directions and was apologetic.  But there will be an email going to his supervisor today as well, to make sure that it doesn't happen again.  The DG is probably a very nice guy, but a security guard?  Not quite.


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