So, I’ve been living here for ages now. 17 years to be exact (not that I’m counting). There are a few things that I won’t say that I have become used to exactly, but I am some way toward accepting. These are things that I wouldn’t encounter back home but they lend themselves to life’s rich experience in East Africa and beyond. #neveradullmoment.
1. Africa Time – There’s that expression ‘Africa Time’ that means that time is often pretty loosely interpreted. It might be unfair to still use this term in many circles since times have changed radically here but traditionally, a plan to meet or deliver something could feasibly get stretched not just to half an hour late, but half a day, or even half a week. If this does happen, it can be frustrating but best not to get your knickers in a twist. #reduceexpectations
2. Power cuts – The electricity goes off for at least one full day a week at the moment. Sometimes it pops off then returns with minutes when we are watching TV. When the lights cut out no one in the family says anything. We might sigh or raise an eyebrow. Meanwhile, if we have visitors staying here, they are understandably asking ‘what the heck is going on? When will the power come back?‘ We just shrug our shoulders. Since it has been raining, the power often cuts out during the night as well. We get up early, so it’s very dark with no lights at all. #gettingusedtogettingdressedbyiphonelight
3. Water Shortages – having no water in the house is my pet hate. No shower, no washing machine, no washing-up possible, no flushing the loo but what really gets me down most the inability to wash my hands. I’ve run around the house telling the kids to turn off taps in fear of running out of water more times that I can remember, or at least told them to run taps into a washing up bowl instead of straight down the drain. They kind of get it. We store water for the household in tanks and get a piped city council supply once a week but this supply is subject to fluctuation. It could be disrupted depending on maintenance work or the level of Nairobi’s main dams. Others use groundwater from boreholes. #nowaterabsolutelysucks. Right now, during the drought in India, people are queuing for water for days in soaring temperatures. I don’t know how they cope. They are heros. India Drought: 330 million people affected
4. Insects – we have our fair share of ants in the house at the moment. The sugar bowl and biscuit tin are getting invaded regularly. At night, flying ants somehow keep descending into our 10 year old’s supper and don’t get me started on mosquitoes. I had one in my mosquito net terrorising me all last night. Yesterday morning I was discussing the best method of catching a rat in a friend’s kitchen (peanut butter on the trap, not cheese). Last week, my husband picked up a tangerine which had a dead baby gecko attached to it (the critter had apparently fallen into the fruit bowl and expired). My husband still ate the tangerine, though he through the skin out of the window and into the garden. I said, ‘you have lived here for way too long’.
5. Early mornings – Don’t expect sympathy when you announce that you got up at 5.30am because EVERYONE ELSE does this EVERY day. It’s a case of ‘suck it up sister’. If you do want to survive the ordeal, then forget satellite TV and go to bed at sundown the old fashioned way.
6. Living within your means. There’s no tipping over into credit here. If your account is empty, then your card won’t run, or your cheque will bounce. Simple as that. Harsh but #thatsjustthewayitis. Even more harsh is when your bank folds, freezes accounts and shuts out all customers, but this has only happened a couple of times this year. #chasebankkenya #imperialbankkenya
7. Vaccinations – there’s no shortcut or way round this. Whatever you do, keep on top of your vaccination schedule or risk get struck down by Typhoid, Hepatitis A, TB, Yellow Fever etc. Tropical diseases; it’s a real thing! You can’t vaccinate against dysentery and other common illnesses (the good news is that we suffer less from coughs and colds) but you can protect yourself against other tropical diseases, so give yourself a fighting chance and get the jabs.
8. Traffic jams – in developing cities traffic is crazy. In Nairobi, public minibuses will cut in front of you. Fact. When things get really stressful and the umpteenth person has cut in front of my car, I exhale and repeat the mantra ‘it’s all about flow – just let it go’ (or did I just make that up?). You can’t change how everyone else drives so there’s no point in stressing out. Also, try not to bump into other cars in slow moving traffic. So easily done (twice in my case) and, frankly, it’s an absolute killer. You’ll be left stranded in the middle of the road then find yourself at the mercy of the nearest traffic cop. #nofunatall. I haven’t even touched on potholes, cows, dogs, donkey and goats in the road and other obstacles such as handcarts.
9. Tropical Rain – and I mean heavy rain. Dramatic storms, crazy rainfall, flooding so that you can’t see the sides of the road to the point that your car could easily fall into a ditch. Rain dripping through the roof of the car, the roof of the house. But the upside is that the storm is generally over in a short time and then the sun comes out. It’s kind of exciting actually and it’s never cold. 🙂
10. Nightwatchmen – or night guards who are employed to watch your house. Hiring a night security guard, most often via a firm or company, means that you have one or more men patrolling your garden at night, all night. When it rains, I cringe when I think about the poor chap outside. This must be the toughest, thankless and, let’s be honest, the most needless job in the world. But labour is cheap here and security is a huge business. Just look at the shopping centres now teaming with guards since Westgate was attacked by terrorists. Will the West be able to afford so many guards since the Paris and Brussels attacks? I don’t think so. Hopefully they will find a better way.
Image credit: www.theguardian.com
*Apologies if this comes over as a bit negative – will definitely be sharing my x10 very positive things about living here soon! #beauty, #wildlife, #placestovisit, #friendliness, #freedom