Sunday, 29 April 2012

Rain and Mud

I am currently writing this blog post in the dark.  The start of the long rains has meant that while our water supply has now returned to normal, we are experiencing frequent power outages.

When I left Kenya 4 weeks ago for a visit to the UK the long rains, which are meant to last from March - June, had not yet started.  Kenyans were beginning to get a bit nervous.  Last year the long rains hardly made an appearance leading to a severe drought in the Horn of Africa and the creation of the largest refugee camp in the world being set-up in the north of Kenya.

However, while they were a few weeks late this year, the rains have indeed started.  Oh yes they have!  When it rains in Africa, it pours.  None of this weak British half rain/half mist nonsense.  We're talking proper sheets of water coming from the sky. The rainy season presents its challenges for sure. Drying clothes requires strategy as it isn't usually possible to hang them outside long enough to dry. The traffic is horrendous - there was unprecedented traffic jams of up to 5 hours in Nairobi on Monday evening which made national news.  And everything is soggy all the time.

And naturally, with the rain comes mud.  Lots and lots of mud.  Many of the pavements (sidewalks) in Nairobi are simply dirt paths, meaning that they turn to mud in the rain, and often into rivers of mud.

A few months ago I changed my commute to work to include a 2 1/2 mile walk each way to and from the matatu.  This change happened in dry season when the mornings were fresh and the evenings warm, and everything was dry. I hadn't given much thought to what this walk might be like in the rainy season, and returned to my commute this week with some important lesson learning.  Here's a few:

1. Walk slowly.  Or at least more slowly than usual.  Or at least look at where you are stepping.  This learning come from my walk to work on my first day back when I slipped on a rock and did a somersault and my trousers ended up caked in mud (my colleagues were very nice to me regardless of the fact I walked in looking a mess - probably helped by the face I brought them chocolate from the UK).

2. Be brave. Be very brave.  Tuesday the rain started around 4.30pm.    The sky was very dark and the rain was the most fierce and serious torrential rain I may have ever seen. With a bit of thunder and lightening thrown in for good measure. With half an hour of work left I began to question myself if I was really going to walk 2 1/2 miles in that. But I am made of sturdier stuff and decided I wasn't going to let some water deter me.  Full of resolve, I laced up my trainers and pulled the toggles on my rain jacket hood tight and ventured forth.  It was probably the longest 40 minutes of my life.  I was slammed with rain the entire time, which meant my ears were ringing and I couldn't look up or my eyeballs would get stung. My skirt stuck to my legs making it hard to walk, and water got in around my neck soaking my clothes under my jacket. Mud wasn't so much a problem as the water was several inches high and racing down the street.  I was once standing in water up to my calves. But, I did it.  I felt I deserved a medal afterwards, but I did it.  Every stitch of my clothing was wet when I got home - but I did it.  And a few days later when I was faced with the similar prospects as I was heading out of the office, I didn't think twice and just went.

3. Wrap everything in plastic bags. Twice.  This lesson comes from that Tuesday walk home where I had the foresight to bring plastic carrier bags to work to wrap all my things in before sticking them in the rucksack, however my poor book still fell victim to the rain (my rucksack had more or less filled entirely with water which had to be dumped out) and 5 days later is still a bit soggy.

4. Stop caring.  The rainy season is wet and muddy.  It means my trainers and rain jacket and rucksack are constantly a bit wet and muddy. So what? In the grand scheme of things it's not really that big of deal. The rainy season can be inconvenient, and I would definitely not recommend to anyone planning a holiday to come during the rains, but the rain is important to Kenya and only lasts a few months and so I will continue to trudge through the rain and mud everyday and even maybe try to enjoy it too.

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