Building a house – Kenyan style

Well it has been very much a Kenyan week this week and I find myself all too easily slipping into Kenyan ways. One of the endearing things that you will hear is a chorus of “sorry, sorry” if you slip or bang your head or get something wrong. Well yesterday I heard myself saying “sorry, sorry” to Cecile when she said she couldn’t hurry as she had water in her flip-flops!!

Yesterday the team were real Trojans. We had originally agreed that we would finish at lunchtime and then wander around Kakamega and look at what there was. However, they really wanted to finish off the nursery and so after going into Kakamega on the school bus we planned on going back to the school. Unfortunately, the bus had a broken spring on its rear axle and there was no way that we would get back to the school on it (and anyway it needed to be fixed for the school children). So we went out to look for a couple of Tuk Tuk’s but waiting on the roundabout we couldn’t see any, so we bartered with a taxi driver and ended up driving back in a taxi (with Ian and Angela in the boot!).

After that it was off to our favourite watering-hole the Golf Hotel. It was too late for a swim but it was lovely to chat through the day and have a quiet drink. It was a lot quieter than the previous night when there had been 90 British cyclists staying who were doing a cycle through Kenya in aid of a cancer charity. Overall the Golf enables us space and time together as a team to work through any issues that we are facing and to reflect on what we have encountered.

Today, Saturday, we were off to build a house! This was for one of the RUSH widows that we had met at the meeting on Tuesday, when it had been announced. We had visited the proposed place and we had seen the difficult situation that she was facing (with two daughters severely disabled).

The place was quite remote. We drove through town and out past the University and down a dirt track (a normal road around here) and eventually stopped at the side of the road and had to walk through sugar cane fields to the actual place. We  arrived to find that quite a bit of the wood structure had been put in place. The whole had a communal feel to it. There was quite a sizeable group of people gathered to help with finishing off the house. As we arrived we could see the outline of the structure and then we saw a group of men hacking at the ground and then water being added to it to make the mud.

Some guys were hacking off branches to make supports for the walls and others nailing them to the upright posts. One of the great sights was to see the women carrying these heavy containers of water on their heads to help create the mud. Once the men had hacked at the ground and the water poured on it then other men would step in it to make sure that the mud was well and truly soft and pliable.

Then a chain of people would grab great lumps of mud and pass it down to the hut to start filling in the walls. It was great fun, although hard work in the hot sun. We tried different aspects of the different tasks. Cecile went to get water a couple of times (and Angela went at least once) – all the women did laugh at her trying to carry the water from “the river”- they tried to get her to carry it on her head. Walking down to the river it turned out to be a small pond which had water coming out of it in a “stream”. It appears that the locals drink this water without purification!

By about 2pm everyone of our party was exhausted. They were having to prepare a new set of mud to carry on. I think most wanted to leave and we prepared to when we found out that Josephine had prepared a chicken specially for us and it would obviously have been rude to go at that point so we stayed for a meal of Ugali and chicken (including gizzards and heart etc). The chicken was obviously delicious given the free range nature of it (Cecile wan’t too impressed with the chicken claw in the pot!).

Getting back to the cars we discovered that Lucy’s car had a nail in it – but she preferred to carry on than try and do anything at that point. So, it was back home for a drink at Little Home (a bar come “hotel” next to Lucy and Andrew’s). Unfortunately, none of the drinks were cold and so there was much rushing out and putting drinks in the fridge.

Quite a few have had a snooze this evening; although Joan, Rose, Angela and I went to visit one of the local widows and came back (in the rain – its rained the last three evenings) with a bag of eggs and two live chickens!!

Tomorrow its off to church up in Butari and I’m supposed to be preaching for about 45 mins!

Took loads of video clips of the building and hope I can mesh them together to make a short film of what was an amazing day.

(Usual tip: Click on a picture to see a larger size and also to start a slideshow)


3 comments on “Building a house – Kenyan style

  1. smellofburntwiggle
    February 18, 2012 at 9:15 pm #


    I can’t believe they drink that water without at least boiling it?!?!

    Like the machete-wielding minister and Sister Joan’s head gear…


    • Will Cookson
      February 19, 2012 at 6:38 am #

      Hi Rosie,

      It is supposed to be a spring and so the local guy (named James) reckons its great to drink!! The government has been giving away water purifiers to everyone and I have seen them in people’s houses but this guy reckoned he didn’t have one.

  2. Melanie
    February 19, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    Happy Sunday everybody ! The sun is shining here this morning but with a touch of frost.

    I loved the house making pictures. What an experience that must have been. Great picture of Cecile’s face, being a veggie myself I can totally understand where she is coming from, I don’t think that I would fancy chewing on a chicken’s claw either!

    Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow and to hear your stories.

    Before I forget, please do give Lucy and Andrew from me a big hug and tell them that I said “Jambo”

    God Bless you all

    X 4 Gabi

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