How Well Would We Survive?
I have just returned from a five week stay in Kenya, not as a tourist, but living with ordinary Kenyans, as they live.
The house where I was staying has four rooms plus a wet room, a small plot of land which can be cultivated, and electricity (sometimes!).
There is no formal kitchen and the wet room was just a room with a squat toilet with a cistern, although there was no piped water.
Water has to be fetched from a borehole 300 metres away and carried up a steep hill to the house, or, during the rainy season, it can be collected from the roof.
Cooking is over a single propane gas ring, or a charcoal burner, and food is grown. Staples like maize flour is bought, but just about everything else is grown by the family. They have laying chickens for eggs, and they buy chickens for slaughter from neighbours.
Washing clothes and dishes is carried out in the yard in bowls of water heated over the gas ring.
A shower consists of wetting the body, soaping all over then tipping the bowl of water over the whole body to get the soap (and dirt) off, unless you are lucky enough to be a small child, in which case you can sit in a bowl of water.
Travel – “My feet is my only carriage”, to quote Bob Marley, at least until you reach the road, where you can catch a matatu, motorbike taxi, or if you feel rich, a car taxi.
I lived like this for almost three weeks, and settled in quite happily. But I was living with Kenyans, so I did not have to carry out a lot of the chores such as killing and plucking a chicken for dinner.
And it got me wondering … how well would Mr & Mrs Middle-England with 2.4 kids survive if they were dropped into a typical rural Kenyan life-style?
No computer or Playstation for a lot of the time, and difficulty in charging a mobile phone due to the erratic electricity supply.
When it rains, it is all-hands-on-deck to get buckets and bowls placed strategically to collect off the roof – one evening I collected 75 litres of water in about 20 minutes – and storing it in the 100 litre water butt.
Where I was staying, Kisii in SW Kenya, the soil is sticky, so walking when it is wet is a challenge. The mud sticks to the soles of shoes and within 100 yards you can be 1 inch taller! The ground is also extremely slippery, and Kisii is in the mountains. There is not a flat path anywhere! So butt-skiing is also a distinct possibility, as I found out at the expense of my dignity.
So how would the Middle-England family cope? You want chicken for dinner? buy a live one and dispatch it with the kitchen knife, then pluck it. Vegetables? Well, did you plant any? If so, go to the plot and harvest what there is, usually sukuma.
You want to go into town? walk to the road and wait for an overloaded matatu (they are licenced to carry 14 passenger, but they will always manage to squeeze a few more in). Or take a motorbike taxi, a 125cc two-stroke Chinese-built machine. You can usually get two passengers on one of these.
As I said, I settled in quite well, but I was living with Kenyans. But if I were alone? Yes I would survive, but it wouldn’t be pleasant.