It seemed strange to TaD that it was only last Thursday when he had spent the first night in the apartment. That night had entailed a broken sleep on a mattress on the floor. His bags remained packed at the foot of his mattress and clouds of dust, awoken by the tirade of sweeping and cleaning earlier in the day, still circled the empty building. But TaD was a tough man and he persevered. Though he was not renowned for his labouring skills he had somehow managed to turn his nimble fingers to the basic tasks necessary to turn a house into a home. He was now care-free. Henceforward he could spend time after training stretching on the yoga mat in the living room; in the evenings he could read and write by the gas stove with a mug of Kenyan tea.
We have just entered the second week of our trip. On Thursday we moved into the ‘apartment’ that is to be our home for the next fourteen weeks. We are renting a four-roomed building within a compound of similar buildings. Our compound is owned by Sylvia Kibet (Silver medallist 5,000m in the World Championships in Daegu earlier this summer) and her husband, Erastus. This arrangement (four-roomed buildings within a compound owned by a successful runner) is very common in the area. For example, our flat is nearly identical to the one our mates Dan Mulhare and Myles Edwards are currently renting from Linet Masai, about 400m from ours. We are paying 4,000 Kenyan shillings a month for it (2000 each) which equates to roughly a mere £4 each per week.
Thursday night was a bit bleak. The flat had been vacant for a while and left open. As a result it has probably been housing squatters. It was very dusty and dirty and the toilet had an unholy smell to it. Upon any disturbance it would emit a foul stench. To quote Dougie on that first day, everytime you go to the loo you entered with the fear of ‘reawakening the wrath of ancient manure.’
During the day we had to buy a broom and a mop in order to do a bit of basic sweeping . Then we negotiated the purchase of two reasonable mattresses and managed to get them transported (via motorbike) up to the flat. By the time we had done this, completed our training, and eaten, it was dark so we simply had to pull our sleeping bags out of our bags and leave all the sorting out and cleaning for the next day. The rough conditions were made worse by the fact that, by this point, I had not managed to secure a mosquito net. Mosquitos are not a problem but flies and spiders are so it was a bit uncomfortable.
Since Thursday we have managed to expand our number of household possessions beyond just a mob, a broom, and two mattresses. Omandi, a carpenter from Eldoret, knocked up a couple of beds for us (for £20 each) and a table (£7). We have purchased, from the market in Iten, things like plastic chairs, straw mats for the floor, pots and pans, gas and stove, bed sheets and containers for our clothes. We sketched an image of some shelves and a small table we would like Omandi to craft for us and he is bringing them to Iten on Saturday for us to collect.
Perhaps the best side-effect of having to furnish your own house using only your wits and a limited supply of cash is that it forces you to be inventive. Take, for example, this curtains which came about when I was left alone for an hour one day armed only with a penknife, a sheet of cotton, and a long piece of string.
Right now the only thing we are feel the lack of is we a supply of running water inside the apartment. Hopefully a plumber will pay us a visit soon. Otherwise we will have to continue to make do with our outside tap, which is also doubling as a shower:
I am, however, able to communicate all of this because we have reliable electricity. Upon arrival in Nairobi we purchased a ‘USB Dongle’ which plugs into the computer and gives us internet access. We top up the credit on it as one would a mobile phone. Due to limiting our expenditure on luxuries like the internet, and not wanting to be too mazungo, we are keeping internet use to a minimum. I have even started buying the ‘Daily Nation’ in a vain attempt to live like a Kenyan.
Furnishing the flat has been a graft. Every day until now we have had to make the 20min walk up and down the hills on broken road to buy furniture and necessities and walk back. It is not only the blazing sun that has been crippling in our attempts to do this; the persistent haggling and bartering in conjunction with the incredibly slow pace of live out here makes shopping a bit of an ordeal.
At the same time, however, it has been a useful experience as we’ve really had to think about what things we do/ don’t need. Moreover it has made us appreciate actually living in a foreign country for a duration of time. Before I came out here many people asked me what I would be doing in Africa and a lot of people were under the impression would be travelling. We won’t be doing much travelling on this trip, except of course, when we’re running around. By setting up a life in a new house amongst a new group of people one can really get a feel for a place and adapt to how others get by from day to day.
Our daily routine at the moment, compared to the daily routine of a ‘traveller’, is rather mundane. We get up at 6 to train, then we have breakfast. At 10 we train again, then we eat and rest before training at 4. Between 6 and 8 we eat and by 10 we are asleep. (I’ll go into the specifics of the training in a later post.) This is how all of the other guys in our compound are living and how the vast majority of people in the town live. It is also very different to how I have spent my days over the summer. Altogether this is an incredibly enriching experience. Regardless of the training, simply living a completely different mode of existence helps one to see and experience things from new perspectives, which can only be good.