Friday, February 02, 2007


My front door and all its locks across from the kitchen.

My first week in the house I learned a very important lesson. Lock the kitchen door at night.

Every morning I have to ask myself the same question before I can leave the house and go to work. "Where the heck did I put my keys!" I have three sets of keys that I have to carry with me when I leave the house. I have a key to my bedroom door, two keys for the front door, one key for the security bars on the front door, one key for the kitchen, and one key for the gate to the courtyard. Here in Kenya many of the smallest tasks can take a considerable amount of time and securing a house is no exception. Many times when I am leaving for work I will go outside and make sure everything is locked up tight and then it occurs to me that I have forgotten something in the house and I have to go through each batch of keys that I have and unlock all of the locks to get into the house in order to retrieve it. Then I have to repeat the whole procedure to relock the house before I can leave the second time. It's always AFTER I've locked up everything that I remember that I've forgotten something, never BEFORE. Appearently, Murphy's Law applies in Kenya too.

My kitchen is in a separate building across the courtyard about thirty steps from the house. Just to get up in the morning and go into the kitchen to make something to eat for breakfast it requires three keys and the unlocking of four locks. I lock up before I go to work, I unlock when I get home for work, and I relock after dinner before I go in for the night. Sometimes when I lock up and go in for the night, I get into my pajamas and get ready to brush my teeth... Then I remember that we don't have any water in the house and it's all stored in the kitchen. You guessed it... I have to find the keys (usually still in my pants pocket, but could be anywhere by this time), unlock two locks on the door, unlock the security bars, walk across the courtyard in my pajamas through the gauntlet of Malaria mosquitoes, unlock the kitchen door, get the water, then do it all in reverse. So you see it can be a pain sometimes.
My new two-burner gas stove.

What I have been leading up to is the night that I forgot to lock the kitchen. We had some of the other volunteers over for dinner that night and we were in and out of the kitchen so many times that I thought it would be easier just to keep it unlocked for the time being. Later we went into the house and when night fall came I still had not locked the kitchen. I went to bed that night with out any worries. When I went into the kitchen the next morning I found the door open and many things scattered about the room, but the worst of it was that somebody had come into my kitchen and stolen our two-burner gas stove.
At first I got angry over the situation. I almost felt as if the hospitality that I have been shown by the Kenyan people to this point was all phoney. As if they had plotted to steal my stove all along. But later it was explained to me that the Kenyan people did not see it this way. They did not hate Americans. They only saw that we had a lot and they had a little. And that we could probably afford to buy another stove. Whereas it would take them several weeks or even months to be able to afford what we probably didn't appreciate anyway. Sometimes I can forget that I am the foreigner. I have come into their country...and I really should have locked the kitchen.
I soon got over it and bought a new stove and the supermarket. It cost me a whole 2,200 Ksh (Kenyan Shillings) which is the equivalent of $31.00 US.
...and now I've learned to keep the kitchen locked at night.


Tim said...


It is too bad that some of the folks from the Bible study back here aren't with you. They could just stand outside the kitchen and just talk all-night long, just like they did in front of my house last year!

Veronica said...

Hi Tim,

Your blog is awesome! All of us here really appreciate you doing it. I just wanted to let you know that we have a package here addressed to you. Please let us know if you need this urgently or if it can wait until one of the sisters come to visit. You can reach me via email:

Again, keep up the great work!

- Veronica (NDMVA VISTA)

Heather & JT said...

Tim -
If we could - we'd love to stand outside your kitchen and talk all night long...especially since I'm sure it's warmer in Kenya than here in Detroit right now.

Hope all is well and look foward to reading more about your wonderful adventure.

Heather and JT - who were always told to 'GO HOME!'

Anonymous said...


You don't know me but I really enjoyed reading your blog. I just wanted to say that I spent a few months in Nairobi last year and it is so nice to hear that other people have visited the Mikuru slum as it is a very special place. I spent most of my time at St.Catherine's primary school where the children where so amazing. Mikuru will always have a special place in my heart. I really pray that more work will be done in this area and that it will grow into a place where opportunities can be met and people can enjoy life to the full. God bless:)