A Day in Africa

October 8th 2012

The Kenyan day starts with the camp’s support team visiting each tent to turn off the outside lamps, to fill our washing bowls with warm water and to knock on each tent to wake its sleeping occupants. Mostly, we’re two people to a tent, sleeping on camp beds with sheets and blankets – so much luxury compared with the sleeping bags on the floor that we expected.

The day starts early – 5.45 am – because we only have 12 hours of daylight here on the equator so we need to make the most of the time available to us. No morning showers here. That pleasure is reserved for the evenings because the bucket showers have to be filled with water boiled on the camp fire. (A ‘bucket shower’ is literally that – a canvas sack full of water raised above head height, with a shower attachment and a chain you pull to turn the water flow on and off. After you first run out of water while fully lathered up, you soon learn to turn the water on only to rinse off!)

By 6.15 am, the first of us are at breakfast. The mess hall is a long tent open at both ends with a table down the middle and eight chairs on either side. This is where we gather to start the day together and where we end our day over dinner and a wee dram.

The mess tent

The mess tent

By 7.30 am, we’re ready for work and either walk down the steep, rubbly track to the road or jump in one of the Land Rovers. The school is off the main road (for which, think dirt track not tarmac) and only 15 minutes’ walk.

The Kenyans count time differently from us. Their first hour is from dawn around 6.00 am and they count through ’til sunset 12 hours later.

We can manage an hour’s work before assembly but break to join in with the kids and their teachers. After that, it’s work until the mid-morning tea break then again until lunch at 12.30 pm. The food is amazing – the freshest salads with spaghetti or pizza or cold meats. Whether it’s the work or the ingredients, the food here tastes phenomenal.

In the middle of the day, it’s just too hot to work – and that’s not just us but the local workers too. So we rest in the shade until 2.00 pm, chewing the fat, planning the afternoon or catching up on sleep. It’s still hot by the time we start again so we have to keep hydrated with plenty of water, tea and foul-tasting salt-based drinks.

Taking the mid-day shade...

Taking the mid-day shade…

By 4.30 pm, we’re bushed so it’s back up to the camp for five-ish and quick bucket showers before we congregate around the camp fire for drinks and a catch up. The view from here is amazing, both across the plain while the light lasts then in the heavens as the myriad stars appear in the inky sky. It’s impossible to recognise the most familiar constellations – there are just so many more visible without all that light pollution.

Eight o’clock and a three-course dinner. Whisky is then the order of the day and much laughter tends to follow. But even then we’re in bed by ten at the latest, recharging the batteries ready for another big day tomorrow.

Lyndsay Wright