Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Daily Life on Mfangano Island

Water: Something that we used to expect at the turn of a knob here is a precious resource. Though surrounded by the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the world, water must be collected from rain, due to the pollution and endemic organisms in the lake. Each home is fitted with a gutter system which collects rainwater for storage into large cisterns. We carry our daily supply in buckets to our home, though we have not yet mastered the local talent of carrying anything and everything on the head. For drinking water, me must hand pump this rain water through a filter then treat with iodine.

Showering/ Toileting: Showering is accomplished by collecting rainwater into a tub, then using a cup to pour water over the head, collecting the runoff back in the tub, as water is a precious resource. Going to the bathroom, or as we say here "using the hole", consists of going outside the house to a shack with a bicycle seat shaped hole in the concrete floor. Stand, sit, squat-- do whatever you can to hit the target and avoid the dreaded "kick and roll". In all seriousness, we are very lucky to even have this type of toilet, as many around the area have no latrines available to them.

Sleeping: Each night we sleep inside mosquito netting on inflatable sleeping mats. The nets are to protect from malaria transmitted by the mosquitos which come out at night. The nets have served more than this purpose as we find bats, large spiders, and new species of insects on the outside on a nightly basis. We awaken around sunrise (6-7) each morning to maximize the daylight hours, as there is no electricity on the island. We go to bed early (8-9) as the island turns completely balck past sundown. We rely on headlamps, lanterns, and flashlights while the people of the island have the innate ability to see in the complete darkness.

Cooking: All food is prepared over a clay pot filled with coals. Each morning the fire is started early to boil water and begin breakfast. A local friend, Rose, has been helping us learn to cook and prepare local meals. The food is basic but very edible. An average breakfast consists of mondazi- a fried dough, like a doughnut wihtout flavor, and tea. Lunch is carried with us and consists of a boiled egg and bread. Dinner is the largest meal of the day and can range from the common beans, rice, or lentils to special feasts of tilapia, Nile perch, and the prized goat. Accompanying each meal is a starchy side which helps to fill the belly. Chipati is dough rolled flat and fried (like thick pita), and the local favoirte in ugali, a mix of flour, water, and oil, made into a mashed potato/playdough mixture. Ugali also doubles as silverware as all eating is done with the hands and scoopers made by molding the ugali into little bowls.

Transportation: Around the islands, all transportation is by boat. We travel island to island each day aboard a long wooden boat with a small motor. Most of the other boats on the lake are fishing boats, powered either by oar or make-shift sail. Our trips across Lake Victora have provided some of the most picturesque and relaxing times of the trip.

Laundry: All clothes are washed by hand in a bucket with a bar of soap. Each article must be scrubbed, rinsed, ringed, and dried in the sun. Wearing clothes for the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th time is becoming a more and more common occurance.


Anonymous said...

Kevin and John~
It was wonderful to get your daily account of life on Mfango Island. You'll be glad to know that friends here are eager to read the updates. Keep up the good work, and God Bless you.
Love, The Mom & Dad at 269

Kelly said...

Kevin and John - sounds amazing! I can't wait to see the pictures. I am sure you will be carrying everything on your head by the end of the trip. kevin - thanks SO much for the Granderson jersey - peter wears it EVERY day. :) We'll miss you this weekend and will drink many margaritas in your honor.
love, kel

Carrie Howe said...

Hey guys!! Keep it coming, it is great to read when im lonely here in France! I want to see the buckets on the heads! I know you can do it. I thought my laundry situation was bad but you definitely win. I will trade some cheese and wine for some fish! We are about to start our World Championships for 2006. Miss you guys. Carrie

Carrie Howe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Justin said...

Hey Guys-
Glad to hear some news about your adventure/mission. I have to say your living conditions closely resemble what I can currently afford in New York. I'm serious. We miss you both and are all very proud of you.

Anonymous said...


so glad to hear you are well and living. to say i am proud of all you do is an understatement.

Deye mon gen mon


Jennifer said...

My, oh, my I love the internet,

I am actually traveling to Mfangano, to explore both 'beach management units' and aquaculture in and around the island at the beginning of June and enjoyed reading your blog. I welcome any advice you have to offer. Feel free to contact me at jenniferjohnsonlee@gmail.com.

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

If you want peace of mind and to enjoy being in aplace that so far has not been poluted and with the lowest rate of crime ever recorded, then make a trip to this beautiful island. You will be amazed to realize that there are still people in this world who love visitors and will always welcome you to share the little they have. Take a trip and enjoy the beauties of Mfangano.