“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.” Jer29:5
“Wurze is a German word for Root”
It took a gruelling 6 months from the first time I learnt I was relocating to Germany to the day I “first” set my foot here. By this time, I had been through all kinds of emotion; missing people, my place, my community, my friends! I was scared, yes scared! Of the future, my wife my kids! would I make it? Would WE make it? Will I be liked? How will my strengths and weaknesses play out in this new story? Will I like it… will I thrive? So many questions.
20 June 2022, I landed in Frankfurt! Three suitcases, one more than the hands I have. It was also the dawn of a terrible storm through most of the country. Let me put it like this, I had heart, in a situation where you needed more than that to survive! I arrived in a cold, stormy Bonn, drenched to the bone! I got a cab to my new aboard and hauled my 60kg pack of luggage up two flight of stairs, as my hosts benevolently watched me… not a flinch. This can also be read as, “This is your struggle”! I HAD ARRIVED!
It was not long before I received my first orientation snippets of advice; “Good luck finding a house in Bonn. My husband worked in Bonn for 4 years and never got a house”, they said. There was new terminology to contend with as well, SCHUFA, which is a credit score, and reference from my previous landlord, which I didn’t have. You’ll need three months at least because most house notice periods are 3 – 4 months. Time which you don’t have :-). “Most Germans don’t want to rent their houses to foreigners”, they added. This new reality was daunting.
Being the Sub-Saharan dweller I am, I couldn’t wait to find out for myself! I have run away from buffalos, treaded among lions, leopards and cheetahs. “Surely, what could be harder than that?” I mumbled as I silently reassure myself.
With that I started the very next week by getting as much information as I could! The first two weeks saw me digging into websites, starting German conversations on a foreign-language deficit, deepl and google translate suggestions. You may say I was taking things seriously but I was desperate to get this house conversation started.
June and July were tough to say the least. I was juggling multiple pressures of full-time work commitments, coordination of paperwork for my Wife and Kids while trying to hastily hack a house conversation. It wasn’t easy. I was dropping an incessant stream of emails calling up landlords on the classified list and spending my early mornings and late night drooping down my computer screen for hopeful information. After 8 weeks of labour-of-love, I was invited to view two houses in total. Both ended up far from my desired areas of operation and without a solid commitment. I was desperate, sinking in frustration, feeling helpless.
I remember my waking thoughts of Jeremiah 29: 5, that a friend of mine CJ shared as a prophecy one Sunday afternoon. My tears flowed freely as I pondered the newness of this verse. For the first time in my life I was going to be registered as an Alien, (Ausweis in Germany). I have always depended on God but this was different. Was the God of Africa going to work a way here? Germany is a “school” of systems, rules, guidelines, do’s, don’ts, and nosy neighbours! (more on nosy neighbours someday).
I needed to travel back to Nairobi in August to “close shop”, pick up the family and come to Bonn. The Kids school was due on 24th August 2022 which was an important date! On the 21st July the house conversation started, I got contacted by Glen (not his real name), who asked if I was interested in a house they were renting. To be honest, I felt like I was gliding down the same road of rejection! To tanned to be a tenant! I had already lost track of the mountain of mails I had sent out and to whom they went to. At the back of my mind, the SCHUFA business was still looming among many other credibility questions.
Wurzestrasse it was. The ROOT Street or the Street of Roots. Our conversation; my horrible German and Glen’s bad English, lasted a good part of 10 minutes. They opened the house and let me in. I remember the intense smell of dust, the feeling that this place hadn’t hadn’t seen a soul in a while, unless maybe dead. I “masked” that reaction and replaced it with a smile 😁, thank to our COVID19 regulations. How to make Friends 101. “You like it?” Glen asked. “Very much So!” was my response. I inspected the toilet, bathroom, kitchen, living room and bedrooms to demonstrate that I had the decency to do some due diligence then I asked, “So what are the next steps?” “We’ll send you a contract on Monday”, Glen responded. It was Saturday and I imagined that by Monday they will probably have changed their mind after interacting with the darkest man they now know. I went back and as a good man would do, wrote back and told them that I look forward to the contract.
I was fidgety all Monday. I was supposed to be travelling to Nairobi the coming Saturday. I received a note from Glen on Monday telling me that they are sorry they couldn’t send the contract that day. Which was a bit worrying. Was I going down the all familiar road? On Tuesday, a tingle in my Gmail brought me a smile, the draft contract was here. It was in German. I was trying hard to read, translate and understand all at the same time. Neither SCHUFA nor any questions saw I. It felt Iike I was missing something critical. I sent to contract to a German colleague to review just to make sure.
Long story short, I signed the contract on Tuesday and by Wednesday they countersigned and sent it back. I had a house, no SCHUFA, no questions, no discrimination, maybe a bit of suspicion but I could always blame that on the dodgy “Nigerian-like” looks I rock. I should never had consumed that fufu with so much gusto. It did alter my genetic structure. Ha! I was finally ready to head out to Sub-Saharan Africa to pick up my crew.
This is the account of my non-triumphal entry into ROOT-House. In the meantime, I decided not subject the family to the travel chaos I went through. I went to SIXT and booked an Octavia 5 seater with adequate boot space. “We will drive from Frankfurt” I told myself. Little did I know this was a recipe for disaster. A path that was leading yet to another miracle.