Sunday 16 August 2009

Culture shock

I had always thought of myself as an environmentalist. I realize now that was somewhat disingenuous as in fact, every single Kenyan I meet puts anyone in the so called developed world to shame.

Of course, it is not necessarily out of noble conviction, but because life is hard and things are scarce.

Resources, materials, containers and “utilities” are so valued that nothing is taken for granted.

Every single glass container is kept, washed and used again. I go to a small supermarket at work and there are no plastic bags at all- a cardboard box if you really need it to again but it’s bring your own or struggle carrying and balancing things in your arms.

I see slightly rotting fruit today and my stomach turns as the ants surround it and the flies amass. There isn’t really anything wrong with it though and I offer the fruit to the very grateful guards at the house I am staying. I feel like a brat as I see how they jump for the fruit and smile gratefully.

Every single appliance is turned off at the wall. Why? Because electricity is scarce, people in Nairobi are used to power cuts frequently and if you have a generator – then great – but let’s not waste it.

Water- I can’t tell you many times I go to the kitchen tap and forget there is no water in the kitchen at the moment. Again, there are cuts and rationing. There is a reserve for washing and we buy containers to drink. I don’t want to exaggerate – I am lucky enough to be able to go and buy water and have access to water reserves and generators but it gets you thinking.

As for owning a washing machine, of course lots of people do, but many, even those that can afford it, prefer to handwash to save water and because they its deemed more thorough.

I’ve been here two weeks and learnt more about being an environmentalist and how precious these things are that we take for granted in the developed world really are.

Onto some funnies….I was asked to be estate agent’s fourth wife. I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or an insult. I was asked to fill in a form at work of all the forms I’ve filled in – a form for the forms..I jest not…and apparently “flashing” here isn’t about dropping your pants but is actually when you ring someone’s mobile phone to tell them you’ve called or to give them your number.

Who would know?


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