How Do I……Wash Clothes?

Clothes get damaged quickly here in Kenya since we wash our clothes by hand and hang them out to dry.  I have to admit knowing how to wash your clothes by hand is a handy skill that comes in when you travel (you don’t have to pack as much).

First, I get rainwater from a water tank.  If no kids are around (e.g term break) then I will wash my clothes outside.  When school is in session I usually bring the water inside and do my washing inside in the wash room because 1) the kids will either want to wash my clothes for me 2) kids + school staff will analyze how I wash things 3) people will ask me for my clothes 4) it takes a lot longer to get things done when you have kids around who want to chat 5) our school cows LOVE water and will come over to try to get some….their horns are scary…


I pour water into a basin (basins are so helpful around here) and add powder laundry detergent.  The kiddos use bar soap because it’s cheaper and lasts longer.  Then rub the fabric of a clothing article against each other to get all the dirt out (hence the reason why clothes wear out so quickly)….make sure you get a good lather.  You’re also likely to end up with blisters and rips on your hands afterwards.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Empty the dirt/soapy water out and add fresh water to rinse.  This gets tricky because it’s hard to get all the soap out…’s a challenge during the dry season when you’re trying to minimize the amount of water you use.  There have been times when I save the soapy water and use it to mop my house floor afterwards….the kids are told to do similar things during the dry season.

SQUEEZEEEEEEEE as much water out of the clothes as possible.


Put clothes into a bucket and take them outside to air dry.  Sometimes if I just have a few items, I’ll dry them inside my house by open windows…they dry quickly during the dry season because it’s so humid.  Also, undergarments should be dried inside (we were told this during in-service training) to be polite, besides I don’t want my kiddos to see their teacher’s underwear!

It’s not always easy to find a place to hang my clothes to dry when school is in session and I prefer not to put my clothes on the barbed fence (like some kids end up having to do) or on the grass/bushes (cows sometimes end up with the kids’ uniforms on their horns).  I also usually end up with ants crawling all over my clothes when I bring them back inside.


Sometimes during the week when the school staff don’t usually wash their clothes (usually done on the weekends) I’ll end up walking into the clothes wire on my way to the choo.  The wire always ends up sliding down the tree to about neck level after a school staff moves it up the tree.


During the wet season, we have plenty of water to wash clothes with but it’s hard to get clothes to dry.  It’s not as humid so I hang my clothes outside but sometimes it will be raining. It’s always something!  There have been times during the wet seasons that it’s taken days for my clothes to dry completely!

Laundry can take a couple of hours to do if you have a full load of clothes.  It’s a pain to wash jeans, sleeping bags, and blankets by hand.  Seriously, everyone should know how to wash clothes by hand…the skill does come in handy.

How Do I……Take a Bath?

I meant to do a series of “How Do I” posts (maybe 4 or 5 of them) when I first got to my site last year but I never got around to it….so here I go!

How do I take a bath in my village?

First, I get water from the large water tank right outside of the girls dorm where my house is located. The water tank collects rainwater so I basically bath with rainwater that’s been sitting in the tank for a while.  I bring the water inside to my “washroom” which is just a empty room with a small hole for water to drain outside.


I then boil the water on my kerosene stove that sits on the floor because I never got around to finding a table for my “kitchen” (besides most Kenyans do their cooking on the floor).


After dumping the boiled water into my bath basin, I add some cold water to make sure I don’t burn myself with the hot water. I selected this particular basin color and design because it reminded me of a swimming pool.


Then I splash water using my hands onto myself, soap up, and splash water again to rinse off. I use a cup to pour water into my hair to rinse the shampoo out.

The kids at my school bath with cold rainwater and they bath outside in a semi-enclosed area (no roof). Oftentimes on the weekends, I’ll see the older kids bathing the younger kids out in the field in front of the dorms.  The headmaster and deputy headmaster have a small stall next to a choo (outhouse) that they use to bath in.

Two Weeks Down

We’re getting ready to start the 3rd week of the new term yet it feels like we’re still on the first day of school!

Kids are still arriving. Schedule has not been established…heck, for a few days I didn’t even know what time school was supposed to start in the mornings. We’re still switching around who teaches which classes.

Then there was the Major Parties Election on Thursday which ran into Friday and may continue into Monday due to loss/confusion of where the ballots have been placed. There have been reports of protests and chaos in nearby towns but my village has been quiet. I’ve been keeping a low profile the last few days…..

Most schools have been closed due to the elections even though our school is supposedly still open (they hold most elections at schools but not at ours)…most teachers haven’t showed up to teach on those days.

I’ve learned to just go with the flow and to be prepared for anything at anytime when it comes to teaching.

Oh yes, and my Water Charity water tank project is officially completed if you want to check out the site…go here.

Water Charity

I submitted a water project through Water Charity (awesome organization that funds projects that can be completed for under $555) for a 5,000L water tank to collect rainwater at my school.  To read more about my project go to 

A group of high school seniors in the States saw my project online and sold bottles of water to raise money to fully fund my project.  Pretty awesome, eh?

I was able to work with the headmistress on this project.  She was able to bargain and get some good prices (costs below are in KSH) for the materials.

5,000L KenTank:  36,000/=

2 bags of cement:  1,740/=

1 PVC pipe:  1,100/=

2 Tuff. PVC bends:  500/=

1 Socket:  70/=

2 Backnuts:  300/=

1 Collection G:  850/=

2kg Binding wire:  500/=

1 Tap Peglar:  800/=

Labor:  1,000/= or 2,00/= (I don’t remember the exact cost now)

It took a couple of weeks for the tank to be completely installed and set up.









What Did You Do For Christmas?

There aren’t really any visual signs of Christmas in the village except for an increase in goats and chicken being transported. People usually don’t exchange gifts (unless they’re visiting then they bring a live goat or chicken) or decorate trees.  I’m not even sure if they know about Santa Claus.

One of the teachers asked Classes 4, 5, and 7 to tell us what they did for Christmas.

Almost all the kids described their Christmas Day the same way which consisted of them working, cleaning, eating (chicken, goat, or fish with ugali), and going to church.

First Day of School…..Sorta….

We kind of had school today, we kind of didn’t. This is the second week of the term but kids have been slow to arrive. We had assembly this morning with our 30 kids (out of around 90) and all the classrooms were finally unlocked today but not all the tables were in the classrooms. So, Classes 4, 5, and 7 were in one room……and there were only 10 kids total.

Kenya starts their new school year in January so all the kids have moved up a Class (my Class 4 kiddos are now in Class 5).

More kids arrived  this afternoon so I think I’ll be able to teach tomorrow. That is if the schedule gets set up, the schedule hasn’t been finalized.  I was able to grab the textbooks and prepare my lesson plans for tomorrow….woot!

I ended up just hanging out with the kids all morning and part of the afternoon. I bought in a few books that my parents had sent and the kids went crazy over them! They asked a million questions and tried to teach themselves how to draw (a couple of drawing books). Fun time!IMG_20130114_100816 IMG_20130114_092741 IMG_20130114_101048 Sorry about the low quality, I was sneaking pictures on my phone.

Term 3 Break

After Class 8 completed their exams, I took off for Malindi (on the coast) to visit Sara. I was able to complete my PADI Advanced SCUBA diving certification (AMAZING diving sites!) while I was there. Then I went to Iten to visit Jenny. Iten produces a lot of well known Kenya long distance runners and a lot of runners from other countries come to train in Iten as well (high altitude center). Good times were had and I got to see more of Kenya! I also learned to appreciate what is unique to my area of Kenya compared to other parts of Kenya.

Quick Update for December 2012

I didn’t blog at all during December so here’s a recap!

Half Marathon

I completed my first half-marathon (for World AIDS Day)…..that I didn’t train for…..and ended up walking half of it.  I could have finished it in barely under 3 hours if I hadn’t gotten utterly confused and had to follow another Kenyan who was confused as well…I ended up finishing it in a bit over 3 hours (slowpoke!)  The course wasn’t clearly marked and for a good 40-50 minutes we (me + random Kenyan) were the only runners/walkers from the race in sight on a confusing course….so we just walked the last 5k of it. It was fun to run among Kenyans who are known for their amazing long distance running skills.

It was nothing like races in the States where streets are blocked off.  We literally ran in the curbs of busy streets with matatus passing us (touts yelling at us) while breathing in diesel fumes.  We ran on busy sidewalks (almost like trying to run in NYC during rush hour).  We ran through mud.  We ran on rocky dirt roads.  We had to stop to cross busy streets.  We ran through road construction which included having to jump down from a pipe.  We ran through the slums.  We had kids chasing after us.  Water was given to us in plastic bags that we had to bite a hole through to drink.  We had to avoid cows, dogs, and goats.  We ran near Lake Victoria.  We got offers from pikpik (motorcycles) drivers to help us cheat by taking us closer to the finish line. Some Kenyans ran barefooted, some ran with their purses, and some even ran in jeans.

The winner of the half-marathon race ran it in 1:06:33 and the marathon winner finished in under 2 hours.

Just such an awesome experience that I was able to share with about 10 other PCVs who participated as well.


Cities and towns in Kenya are just a whole another world compared to villages.  Every once in a while I’ll go to Nakumatt (like Wal-Mart) and I will see a family who is obviously from the village.  I went to Nakumatt last week and saw a family who was trying to figure out how to use the escalators.  It involved screaming kids who were terrified of getting on and a woman who almost fell off trying to get on it.  They were literally just standing and staring at the escalators for a good 15 minutes before they even tried to get on.  Then they were so nervous about trying to figure out how to step off once they got to the bottom.

I give them major kudos for trying it!  Can you imagine never seeing escalators in your life and then trying to figure out how to use it?


Our school had a Prayer Day for Class 8 the day before KCPEs.  Parents, a few teachers, and pastors came to pray for Class 8 students to do well on their exams.

Class 8 students are now done with primary school and awaiting their KCPE test results (this is the only thing that matters after 9 years of primary school…no other tests….no grades….very serious exam, so serious that each school has an armed officer with an AK-47 standing guard during the exams) which will decide if and which secondary school they go to this year.

I was sad to see them leave!