You’d think knowing Kenya is in the midst of the long rains I’d carry my umbrella everywhere; alas, another day walking home in the rain without an umbrella. I did have a minor epiphany about umbrellas while sitting in the matatu on the way home, though. I had just run a kilometer through Uthiru to the bus stop in a thick drizzle, trying to get to a matatu before the rain picked up. By now it was raining properly, and some poor suckers who had reached their stops had no choice but to get out and face the elements. We even saw one jamaa (guy) slip and slide down a muddy slope, dropping all the fruits he was carrying. Pole sana (so sorry…).
Strangely there was no rain in Westi (Westlands, in sheng), which I assumed to be my good fortune. I alighted the matatu at ABC place (a few kilometers from my stop) to do some grocery shopping and then walk home, one of my weekly routines. By the time I was done it was raining again, go figure. My groceries and I set off on foot, in the rain. I just kept thinking how funny it must be to see a white guy walking in the dark, in the rain, without an umbrella.
Several people asked me, “Hauna mwavuli?” (you don’t have an umbrella?), and some others even laughed. Plenty of cars drove by and sprayed me, to which I said, “Wewe!” (you!) but thought, “Asshole!” It’s my fault, and I sealed my own fate when I looked out the window that morning at 7 am and, seeing a clear, blue sky, left without my umbrella.
Here’s a novel idea: it’s May, and there’s a high chance of it raining (regardless of the color of the sky in the morning), why don’t I carry my umbrella with me everywhere?
No, not Jesus (but he is still coming), I’m talking about el niño! It’s all anyone’s talking about right now in Kenya. There is a drought in Kenya, and the meteorologists announced a few weeks ago that “el niño rains” will come to save the day. Well I think they’re here, because I just got home from walking around town and I’m soaked. I went to town with a few colleagues after work to drink a cup of coffee, but on the way home I was caught in a rain storm. It’s Friday so there are a million people in town enjoying the beginning of the weekend, all trying to catch matatus home. That’s nice and all but it means there’s no room for me to stand under the cover of the nearby shops while waiting for my matatu. I figured it just meant I’d be first to hop in the matatu when it came, albeit sopping wet.
Less-than-average rains this past year mean Kenya’s hydroelectric dam at Masinga is bone dry, forcing the government to start rationing electricity. There are so many reasons why failed rains suck (not the least of which is a pending famine), but here’s one I haven’t heard anyone talk about: how does an electric security fence work without electricity? You see, in addition to security guards, every private compound has a wall around its perimeter, topped with either broken glass or a few rows of electric cables. How are those fences going to zap intruders if power is cut from 6 AM to 6 PM three days a week? That’s not to say I’m worried about my security (I live on the fifth floor of my building, behind a bullet-proof door), it just seems like it would be a serious concern to some people.
The lack of rain is agitating in other funny ways too. For example, it’s hard to wash your hair when there’s no water in the house. This is, of course, a complication of the government’s other new rationing program: water! The worst-case scenario here is sleepily assuming you’ll be able to take a quick shower and snoozing your alarm, thereby grabbing an extra thirty minutes of sleep before work. This is fabulous until you wake up and crawl over to the shower, only to flip the knob and watch an anything-but-impressive stream of water dribble out. It’s happened to me twice in the last week! By the time I capture a pot of water, heat it on the stove, and wash my hair with a cup another half hour has passed and I’m cursing myself for nabbing those extra Zs… but they are always so sweet, so there is a good chance I’ll do the same thing tomorrow morning!