Of water and basic needs in Pokot Mountains

 When I wake up - no spiders in my face or inside my mouth 👀 - Tamugh valley is laying over my sight. The sun is already shining, strongly, and this is catching me unprepared. After the rains and the cold in Eldoret, I came with 2 jackets and lots of warm clothes, but no shorts!

I slept well, but I needed more sleep - there is such a thing as "enough sleep"?. My eyes are sticky, and struggle to open. The light is too strong. They would refuse if it wasn't that the view is so green, and pure, and impressive that it is worthed the effort! And so, this is the view!

Breakfast, then I urge to wash my hair. Honestly, yesterday evening I spent so long in the (smoky) kitchen of my hosts that I smell like smoked salmon. I still didn't get used to this, despite it is all about my research! No need to say that there is no running water here, right? and that the toilets are latrines and that you shower with a bucket! but in the end, no need to be picky: this is exactly how our grandparents lived, at least in my valley in Italy!

Bucket, shampoo, and beauty routine.

Then, I am good to go. Today we are going around the valley, to check the water quality of some water wells and to repair the leakages of some water pipes. My friend is running this project for more than a decade in this valley. Previously, people would just fetch water from the river, which would become very muddy during the rainy season. As so, very dirty and unhealthy.

These wells serve entire communities, of 100-200 people who come a long way to fill their buckets. It is a bit like when our grandparents were going to the fountains, to recall the comparison... Well, to be honest: women who come a long way to fill their bucket. In African society, water and fire are jobs for women - but I am wondering, only in African societies? How would be the domestic division of tasks in the West if we wouldn't have switched to our current water and energy systems - to cook, light and warm the houses?

The wells are genuinely scattered, so we keep moving into the forest with the car. Every time, new people come to greet us - difficult not to be noticed, we are their entertainment! Mzungus! and Kids, lots of kids who come closer and closer to see what we are doing. The littles girls are always carrying something - water, or bags with food, or their sibling on their shoulders. They are scared of us, and must admit I kind of had fun in making them laughing doing what I thought were funny grimaces.

I quite easily realise that Pokot mountains have nothing to do with the place where I have been last weekend. These are mountains, harsh, steep, remote mountains. Also, yesterday I thought that Tamugh was the end of the world, but today I will discover that the Pillars of Hercules of Pokot valley are much further. We would go up, and up, and up with the car. Potentially endlessly. And we will always find new houses, and new markets, and new people. Especially, new schools, with their banner in the outside saying "Kenya Ministry of Education". I am somehow surprised that the government have reached here...

We are going around, with our big car. still up and down into bumps and muddy roads, crossing rivers, crossing obstacles, climbing up hills which looks unattainable. The water wells are located in the middle of the forest, or of the jungle... not sure what term is more appropriated.

I am not sure I am going to be very helpful in this: basically, I just enjoy myself doing the PH test of water samples :-) but I want to take the chance to work a bit, and to get some glimpse of what is life in the villages to compare with what I see in Langas every day. Well, we would say that "there is no comparison", but it is also important to remember that urbanisation is a very recent phenomenon in Africa: the people who we meet in the cities, like in Eldoret, have moved there relatively recently. Life in the villages must still be shaping their daily urban practices. As so, I am here to escavate the roots a bit: what I am interested in the most is women, domestic tasks, fetching energy sources and water - and somehow, I need to experience myself...

There is so much to describe, but I feel so tired, and somehow overwhelmed. I cannot even put in order my anthropological observation. I hope the picture helps to get an idea of the place.

On our way back to the place where we are staying, though, while the darkness was taking over the light, I had one of my very much cathartic feelings. Initially, I was sad. These people live sooo poorly, so isolated, with no electricity, no phone signal, not always clean water. They eat ugali and beans twice a day, with barely fruit in their diet - fruit trees struggle to grow here because it is too dry during the dry season. The road to reach the first city is in such bad conditions. The only few things which come from the outside world - because honestly, this looks like a completely different world - are some tomatoes, some cabbages, and some coca-cola bottles - ah, the globalisation! Nothing else. Everything else they may need has to be produced here. Basic needs, then.

But then, my sadness was compensated by this nice sunset, and this nice profiles. Profile of people and nature that, somehow, remind me that connection with Nature is really the only thing we need to stay alive. Maybe, also, to be happy...



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