Friday, 24 July 2009

Village Life Part One

I will break with the main narrative briefly to try to illustrate what living in Eramba without running water, electricity or western toilets is like.

We are lucky enough to have three water sources; a large tank (2300litres!) stands within our small compound and collects the rain from the roof. It can be simply fetched using jerry cans using the handy tap on its side. Unfortunately, having sat in a plastic for up to several weeks, the water takes on the taste of the tank so we restrict this source to use in washing. Luckily, there is a small stream in the same valley that the school overlooks, around which most people in Eramba seem to congregate in the evenings. The women and children always find it hilarious that a young man is fetching water but given that our house is up a steep hill and that the container is 20 litres I do it by necessity as much as choice – Sophie simply cannot life the barrel! The taste is delicious. No Alpine spring, but considerably better than plastic (for parental benefit, yes we are purifying it, don’t worry). The third source is rainwater that we collect in some of our pans during the frequent heavy afternoon storms.

As we have to carry all of our own water, even over short distances, we have become far more aware about exactly how much is required by certain tasks. A basic wash will only be a few litres, cooking one, tea (which we have both become addicted to) about three quarters, hair wash 2-5 with more for Sophie, washing up a couple more, but by far the biggest consumer is clothes washing. It always requires at least a whopping twenty litres, even for a modest pile.

A lack of electricity is also manageable, with the aid of our lamps and the kind help of our paraffin seller, Kevin who showed us how the mechanism works on the first night. Toilets however, prove a little more challenging. The recently constructed long drop that even has a ceramic bowl rather than a simple pit also happens to be infested with wasps around three inches long, as I painfully discovered in the first weekend! Although Mr Ouko had the white spongy egg sacks and the attached wasps removed immediately, they have a nasty habit of reappearing at inopportune moments. The fear of another dive bombing generally keeps us both out of that cubicle. To make use of the alternative older long drop is a refined art. As there is a pool of stagnant water at the end of the ‘drop’ certain precautions must be taken against the inevitable hoard of mosquitoes. Morning is the best time as it is too cold for the menaces to appear. If I must use it in the warmer afternoon I apply repellent before opening the door (paying special attention to certain areas that will be vulnerably exposed to the hole). I then charge in, drop trou, and finish as quickly as humanly possible before the smell of repellent asphyxiates me or before one of the hoard finds a chink in my DEET armour. I emerge, as though from an underwater dive, gasping for breath and blinking in the face of the bright sun. Needless to say, flushing western toilets are a frequent fantasy – Kisii is a haven in this respect.

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