Knee-Deep in a Crappy Situation
By Marisa Notier
The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
This week has been a lesson for many of us on the power of nature. Back home across much of the US, winter storms have been debilitating, sometimes even deadly. And it just goes to show that no matter how much we try to control our surroundings, every once in a while, nature deals a heavy blow.
Here in Kenya, we learned this lesson twice this week, and the first time was with sewage.
We think we have it all under control - we flush our toilets, and it's gone forever. But we don't expect the entire town's sewage line to clog due to storms and washed up debris, and for everything to return to us and back-flow onto our property. But that's exactly what happened.
I was living my life quite happily not ever knowing about the strange things that people flush down their toilets here - batteries, chip bags, large screws, pieces of metal, wires, dirty diapers, and even avocado seeds! Who does that? And how did they manage to flush an entire diaper down the toilet?
But first came the stench.
Then I heard Tim screaming at me from downstairs. And when I arrived at our kitchen door, I saw a sea of sewage creating a stinky moat around the house. It was spewing up out of the nearby drain pipe like a geyser. And it wasn't just water, but lots of garbage and clumps of literal feces. And worst of all, it wasn't stopping.
I didn't realize it at the time, but our house is built right over the sewage line for the whole town of Nanyuki. Perfect.
The landlord and plumbers were immediately called, and I'm happy to say that they came right away and fixed the blockage. It was nerve-wracking for a while because the house is not built on any higher ground than the rest of the property, so I was concerned that if the level of sewage raised an additional inch, it would flood the whole house. I watched that line of blackness creep closer and closer to the door, but the workers came, the volcano stopped its eruption, and the house was saved.
Next we had to figure out what to do with the lake of muck outside of our front door. I don't know what people do in the States when this happens. I'm assuming sub-pumps and other machinery are involved. But I'm not sure any of that exists out here.
Yet once again, the people of Africa proved to be as optimistic and as helpful as ever, never letting a neighbor suffer. Right away, the neighbors all came by to give a hand. One woman, Sara, grabbed a hose, gave me a smile, and said to me, "Don't worry, we will clean this all up. It will be gone soon." And I was in awe that a neighbor who had nothing to do with any of this, would literally step right into the muck and even smile as she faced the situation. She immediately put me at ease, and she was right - it took a few days, but it all got cleaned up.
Africa is obviously not the only place in the world with sewage problems. I've had similar things happen to me in Chicago, and I once lived in a new development in the desert of the United Arab Emirates that had some real sewage issues. Proper drainage was not adequately planned for (it doesn't rain much in Dubai), and so when the streets starting filling up with sewage, it just sat there for weeks. You had to drive your car through streets of fecal water that could be as much as a foot deep. The place was called International City, but people started calling it International Shitty.
So yes, it can happen anywhere. But it's very heartwarming to see so many neighbors come together to help us. Even the landlord with his nice slacks and leather shoes got into the grime to help clean. And for that we're incredibly thankful.
There's still a lingering smell, but Tim bought more incense for the house than the Pope in Rome has ever purchased. And everyday, the stench gets a little bit better.
In other end of times news, we also got swarmed with locusts this week. It was the power of nature once again.
I stepped outside and noticed these strange little shadows darting across the ground, like shadows of a flock of birds flying overhead. But these didn't stop.
I looked up and immediately realized that it was not birds making the shadows, but giant insects. And thousands of them, no, millions of them! Biblical proportions!
The swarm must have been miles long, bigger than our entire town. They weren't clustered together so tight that they blocked out the sun, but I could see how terrifying it would be if they had been. And even with them spaced out, the whole fifteen minutes or so of them buzzing overhead was creepy. You could hear their little paper wings flapping, and you just felt helpless. Every inch of the sky looked like a pointillism painting, or the static on your television - zillions of dots moving everywhere.
Even with all the technology we have today, what can we possibly do against a swarm of locusts? How can you stop them all? The fact is, we're not much better off today than we were a thousand years ago. Once a swarm gets this big, there's nothing you can do. It's like a Twilight Zone or Black Mirror episode where the tiny robots are all invading, and you might be able to get a few of them down, but you'll never be able to take them all.
Thankfully, the swarm passed (and they didn't fly into my hair or else I'd be traumatized for life). Though I am concerned for all the surrounding farms, there's really nothing we can do. Just watch in awe at the power of nature.
It definitely gives us perspective.
I hope your week has been less eventful than ours, and I hope everyone out there is staying warm, safe, and that your toilets all properly flush!
See you next Sunday!
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