one of our favorite sights

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Night and Day

Kenya is located on the other side of the world from Indiana, and is very near the equator, making both the climate and night and day very different. Basically, the days are divided evenly into two.  12 hours daylight and 12 hours night. I have to say that thus far, I find the climate very appealing although the weather is certainly not a focus for us, as it is at home. This may be because we are not gardening, but also because it is pretty much the same everyday so far (I’m told that it is much nicer now than it was during the rainy season! Visitors here tend to prefer dust to mud it seems!).
The seasons here have more to do with “rainy” or “dry” as opposed to the four seasons that we tend to experience in the Midwest. With the rainy season, which begins in April and goes through late July usually, the weather cools off and the Kenyans find it downright cold! To me it is perfect weather right now….cool mornings, blue skies, and around 75 F midday. Right now we are experiencing the “light rains” which means that it usually rains a bit every afternoon.  It’s actually a very appealing climate, but like everywhere worldwide, it is becoming less predictable. The “dry” or “hot” season is approaching in December, I’m told.  I’m expecting perfect weather and we are planting our garden very soon in preparation for it!
So, as I mentioned, night and day are literally quite different , “like night and day”, as we say. We are adapting but it definitely does not go unnoticed. For one thing, it just goes dark, “boom” (no, there is no noise…wouldn’t that be cool/weird?),  all at once at about 6:30 in the evening. No lingering  dusk or twilight to enjoy which is so different for us, especially as skywatchers from the country in southern IN! For two, we are advised not to go out at night, at least on foot, because it is not secure. I happened to be walking home a little late last evening  and was fairly nervous due to the traffic and what seemed like a lack of visibility on the part of  motorists of folks on the side of the road; so no, we won’t be walking around at night. Since we don’t have a vehicle , we won’t go out unless we’re taking a taxi recommended by the IU folks. Most people seem to hit the hay relatively quickly in the evening and there have not yet been a lot of evening goings on although I’m sure from time to time there are with the people from IU.
 Being a night owl, night falling so quickly and early  is a big adjustment for me, but since Michael is really a bear, he has no trouble going to bed early. He claims he is catching up on all the sleep he lost the last 5 years.   We tend to eat a little later and since we have electricity we have the advantage of being able to read, watch a movie, and study with the lights on. I imagine that folks living in villages or without electricity either have kerosene lamps or fires on for a bit , and then they must just  go to bed.
We are still in adaptation mode this week. I am feeling better about my adaptation skills than last week and am happy to report that Liam seems to have a large reserve of them as well. Aside from actual night and day, there are many other opportunities for adjustment as a visitor from the US to Kenya.
For one, having come from our sedate life in the country, we are having to adapt to the noise, interesting smells (not all pleasant), and hustle and bustle of the city. Although Eldoret is not  a huge city (several hundred thousand inhabitants it is estimated), it feels bigger, noisier,  and more crowded, I think, because people here are out on the street for a good part of the day. Many people are out walking around in the city starting early in the morning and going throughout the day (most people don’t own private vehicles).  People are on the street selling their wares or providing services, whether it be newspapers, various food items, corn roasting, fixing shoes, or other interesting and necessary small items that one might need, like a “top up” to a cellular phone service or a bag of sugar or “chai”. Also it feels like most people are spending their days just gathering the things they might need for that day. Since people in general live at a subsistence level, they may make a little cash then go spend it on what they need, whether it is food or charcoal, or kerosene, or medications, or what have you.
 Another big difference is safety measures. Now of course you know that we Americans are particularly over the top when it comes to safety measures, and some would say that this is mostly because of our litigious society, but there are certain things that occur that are striking. You’ve all see it in movies, the crowded streets in developing countries, with crazy traffic and all sorts of interesting vehicular arrangements weaving through traffic, at normal or high speeds. Motorbikes with three young men hanging on to each other, bicyclists carrying stacks of wood, women carrying loads on their head, crammed to the brim “matatas”, or small vans which serve as public transportation, large lorries spewing diesel fumes everywhere, bicyclists with a passenger on the handlebar and one in back , motorcycles with loads of metal sheeting, piping, 100lb.  bags of grain and even small farm animals tied on (well, not that small..hogs , sheep, and goats)  and now and then a nice passenger vehicle, a Toyota SUV  or a Benz, carrying a “wabenzi” or “big fish” travelling in the security and comfort of his luxury car. It’s a bit nerve wracking  for an overprotective and anxious mom who cringes and worries at the thought of her children not wearing helmets while cycling out on the roads of Bartholomew County!  It seems that pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way and in fact, the “right of way” goes in the opposite direction than what we are used to. Cars and Trucks first, motorcycles second, bicycles third, and pedestrians last. I find myself wanting to call out to these motorists “hey, be careful” at every step down the road. However, I somehow doubt they’d listen to me!
As a flatlands girl, it has been adjustment living up high , as Eldoret is at an altitude of 7000 ft. being in the Great Rift Valley. It only took a week of small headaches to become accustomed to the altitude. I am however, searching for information on baking at high altitudes since I like to bake and have mostly  been at sea level in my kitchens. If you have any advice, let me know please! Baking is going to be a bit of a challenge anyway, because our oven is very small but since we are now in small family mode it’ll probably work out ok. The woman from whom we are getting our house, Lori, likes to cook as well, and has done some experimenting so she is advising me. The best thing about the altitude as far as I can tell, is the weather and the lack of mosquitoes. We have not had a chance to get our outdoor seating situated,  but  I look forward to purchasing a small table and chairs so we can do just that!
Finally, another large contrast to American culture is the formality of Kenyan society. They are very formal especially at work and school.  All the men, especially if they are going to work, wear suits and ties and dress shoes, and the women are all in some sort of finery and dress shoes. High heels, low heeled patent leather, or leather sandals with many straps are de rigueur. I’m not sure how they manage walking on these roads, but they seem to be adept at it. The formality of dress carries over to their daily lives and how they intend to operate in society. Needless to say, this takes some getting used to, as we are accustomed to pretty informal relations (work, school, civic events, etc)  at this point,  but it does make me appreciate their earnestness at creating an atmosphere of respect.
There you have my early insights contrasting our two societies are.  The nice thing to realize and those who have travelled a fair amount do know this, is that people are people wherever you go and these folks, despite their struggles and challenges are just that…folks making their way and doing their best to move forward on the path of life. They may do it quite differently than we do and certainly they have been affected by the experiences that their country has undergone historically and currently, but they are making their way.  Thanks a lot for reading my blog and love getting those comments! Look forward to more soon because I am feeling motivated to write. Love to you all. Take Care!  Kwa heri!

urban farming method demonstration


roadside in Eldoret

 village elders and leaders in Turbo


  1. Hi Liz! This morning I was wakened early by a phone call from our son Ben, who's traveling in Europe. Unable to get back to sleep, I settled in to reading your latest blog entries. What a great way to start my day! You are a wonderful writer--you have me right there with you. I look forward to reading more about Kenya and your experiences there. Hugs from the heartland! Sharon

  2. "Writing that is exciting to read and scintillatingly descriptive!" (Hoosier Journal)

    Seriously, Lizzy, you have the gift of the gab and I hope you keep it up! I know this is probably the only time to vicariously experience your experience, since you are just beginning to hook in and will soon be too busy, so anything you write I will enjoy!

    I gave everyone I know your blog address, so hopefully your fan base will grow.


  3. These are great Liz! You've almost got us in the "pack your bags" mode!

  4. liam, you look pretty rad in that uniform. love you, booger.

  5. Liz!! I can just see and hear you "Hey! Be careful!"

    What a hoot! Awesome, love the details. Night and day - boom!

    Sounds like you are doing wonderfully. Hang in!! Love and hugs! Amy

  6. Hi Liz, we are really enjoying your blog. It is good to know that you are doing well and doing good work. The BBC seems to only report the bad news from Kenya - teachers on strike, violence among villages in the southeast, etc. Please tell Michael that we also enjoyed reading his recent letter to the editor at "The Republic" about renewable energy use in Germany. We love the photos and we miss you all.

  7. Liz. Keep up the writing, this is so interesting! I am putting a link to your blog into the church Newsletter. Miss you guys!