Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Daily Life: Take Two

      Okay, back to life in Africa.  So many people have asked me to write about what life is like here in Kenya that I am finally sitting down to do it.  I mentioned in my Part 1 post that this would be hard for me.  The main reason it is going to be hard is because the days vary greatly from one to another but I can give you an idea of what it is like for us. 
    We live in a one story home on the mission's compound.  It is a long ranch style home.  We have running water and electricity.  The house has 3 bedrooms and kitchen and a usual American feel.  The climate in Nairobi is unique and lovely.  I imagined Africa as ALL HOT.  Nairobi sits high on a mountain so the humidity is minimal and the weather about the same all year long.  Since we are below the equator, the seasons are flipped in relation to the Northern Hemisphere.  Right now in April, we are entering fall.  Most people refer to two seasons here, the long rainy season and the short rainy season.  We should be experiencing the long rainy season right now when rain will pour down for days and days not stopping but letting up briefly for a drizzle.  Last rainy season, I seriously thought about beginning work on an ark.  Mud gets on everything.  The dirt roads become like rivers and you can forget owning any white socks...they get exchanged for tan ones because no matter how hard you try, you can not keep them white. 
     We have had few showers lately but not the long days of rain.  The rain is essential.  It seems simple; no rain, no water.  A large dam holds the rain water and uses large turbines to generate power for most of Nairobi.  When the water levels drop, the turbines can not run.  A little over a year ago, East Africa experienced drought conditions.  The Kenya Power and Lighting posted new schedules for power in the newspaper.  If you lived in our section of town, the power was turned off Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 am until 6 pm.  (It did not always come back at 6pm though.)  Saturdays were sketchy.  Sometimes we would have power and sometimes not.  The first week we struggled as the sun rose the power snapped off.  The hot water heater stopped making hot water, the coffee pot, tea kettle, stove, washer, computer, tv, dvd, internet, lights, fans, and you name it, did not work.  The quiet that comes from no electricity is deafening. 
     During this time of power rationing, Kenya also rationed city water.  The water rationing greatly challenged my sanity.  From Sunday night around 8 pm until the next Sunday at 10am, we had NO running water from the city.  Turn faucet, no water.  For 10 hours out of a week, we had running water.  In our backyard giant tanks stand like towers.  Those tanks filled up during the 10 hours of running water and as much as they were able to fill up that is how much water we would have for the coming week.  Our tank,s however, were the second in line to fill up since we were on the hill.  Our neighbors at the bottom of the hill had their tanks filling up first, before the water would reach us on the line.  We got very creative with our uses for water.  I posted some pictures on facebook with the saving about 8 gallons of water every time we did laundry.  Since the water was on Sundays, we got up early, went to the early church service, got home around 10:30 and started doing laundry. It was NOT a day of rest, I assure you, but that's okay, when the power went off the next morning at 6 am, we got some rest.  We also started cooking in the fireplace with my grandmother's cast iron cookware that she gave me when Andy and I got married. (I'll try to insert some pics...I went to look for them and their on the computer that got fried by the power surge.  I'll post later.)
     I assume everyone knows this but we do not drink from the tap.  All the water we drink or brush our teeth with is boiled and filtered.  Just last week our outside helper came down with Typhoid.  I can only think of Typhoid Mary when I hear the word, Typhoid.  The sickness sounds like one that only existed a long time ago but in Africa, it is still common.  You can get sick from it by eating badly handled food or drinking contaiminated water.  So, all my vegetables are washed with clean water and those which are not peeled, are bleached then rinsed again.  We don't have an electric dishwasher so all dishes are done by hand and must be thoroughly dried before putting away because I don't use boiled or filtered water to wash my dishes.  You should see the kids when we hit American soil.  They run to the faucet and drink from it.  However, it becomes such a ritual NOT to drink from the tap that when they go to brush their teeth, the go to get a cup of water and realize Gran (my mom) doesn't have a water filter and they can just turn the faucet for water.  
     Now that we have water regularly again, it is such a relief.  The city water does go out occassionaly but most days of the week, we have water.    Electricity still randomly goes off.  You'll be in the middle of baking a cake and POP, off goes the power.  I'll blow drying my hair and POP, off goes the power.  I'll be cooking dinner for my soon to arrive guests and YEP, you guessed it, POP, off goes the power.  We have a 5 minute rule.  If the power doesn't come back in 5 minutes, it's going to be a long one!  One day the power went off and on 22 times.  That was just ridiculous!!!!  Otherwise, we just laugh it off. 
     My cooking skills have improved tremondously since arriving in Kenya.  Just like Macedonia, everything must be done from scratch.  We were really craving sausage awhile ago so I hopped online and looked up a good Jimmy Dean recipe.  Andy mixed it all together and played around with the taste and before long, we smelled sausage in the kitchen.  I miss frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, chinese boxes and all those fabulous things that Walmart has to offer in the frozen food section.  I did see a frozen  pizza the size of my hand in the store here in Kenya but I would have to sell my birthright in order to afford it.  Oh, there are frozen french fries by McCain's now.  I only have to sell my diamond ring to buy them but that's okay....better than my birthright.  I merely miss the conviences.  Imagine a world with no drive thrus.  That's my world. 
     But, lest I lead you astray, Kenya far exceeds my expectations as to variety.  They have a large grocery store that provides us with more than enough food!  We are blessed.  When a lady contacted me who was moving to Nairobi from Skopje (which is where I had lived before this), she asked me what could I get here in Kenya with regards to the food group.  I replied that it was a shorter list to say what we could not get because of our plentiful options.  Macedonia was a bit the opposite.  No cheddar chesse, no cream of tartar, no cinnamon, no this and that!  But in Kenya, this is not true.  I just simply miss the convience of coming in and putting a meal together in 10 minutes.  Or, I miss driving thru and ordering a bucket of fried chicken or hamburgers and bringing it home.  On the upside, living like this has also improved my organizing skills! 
     Hope this has helped you get an idea of what it's like here.  I'll try to occassionaly write a blog about daily life and what we encounter and do.  I know I could write an entire blog about the traffic, driving on the other side of the car and road.  During a holiday, when nobody was at work,  it took 25 minutes to get to the airport.  On a bad day, it took my friends 5 hours!  I'm not kidding!


1 comment:

  1. I find it interesting that you tell in this blog what your experience in Kenya is, because when somebody travels, the others want to know what it is like to see if they want to do it too. I wrote a blog when I travelled to Argentina. I was living there in one of those Buenos Aires apartments and I used to tell my family and friends everyuht that crossed my mind. With regard to water rationing, that was something that nobody paid attention to there. It seems that a society can be totally different depending on its resources!