Living here in a land of meager means has made me realize just how easily we let ourselves consume to excess back at home. Some examples:
1. I’ve been taking “bucket baths” here instead of showers. You have a large bucket of water, and you use a small pail to scoop some up and pour it over yourself. Repeat. It’s very effective, and efficient. Occasionally I will travel and stay at a hotel, and then, taking a shower feels like such luxury, but it’s also a bit unsettling because I’m so conscious of how much water I’m using, and wasting. It’s the soap that does the cleaning, not the water. So you really just need enough water to lather, and then rinse it off. I thought I was being good before by turning off the shower while I shaved my legs, but going back to using gallons of water every time will be a shock!
2. I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty the food was in the Coast region of Kenya. Previous visitors to NW Kenya had warned me of severe blandness. But here, there is a mix of cultures that make the Swahili cuisine something different from the rest of the country. However, there are about five main dishes in this cuisine. And they’re all starch-heavy and salt-low and begin to taste the same. And no one ever makes anything else. Especially in Likoni – it’s all the same, everywhere you go. Every restaurant has literally the same exact menu. So, despite the pleasant tastes, I got very tired of the food, very quickly. I adjusted to smaller portions, and ate only enough to satisfy my hunger. I think I have eaten until the point where you feel achingly full maybe five times in Kenya. This is of course the healthiest way to eat, but it is hardly the norm in the developed world, where delicious, eclectic tasty food is readily available, and lots of it is served to you in every portion. Now that I’ve gotten into the habit of eating so little (and seeing the benefits!) I’m a little wary of returning to the US (oh no especially during the holidays!), and facing the piles of delicious we so eagerly present to loved ones and customers.
3. Soda here is served with a straw, every single time. You rarely see someone drinking directly from the bottle. This is for two reasons. 1 – the bottles are returned to the shop, and then returned to the bottler, and used again. So the lip of the bottle might end up chipped or have a rusty cap on it… it’s easy to wipe the lip, but it’s also easy to just avoid it and use a straw. 2 – The other reason though is that the straw makes you take small sips of the bubbly, sugary treat. Straw-sips let you get the taste without having to pour it into your mouth. You can make it last much, much longer, allowing you to savor the unnecessary food item that you decided to purchase anyway. I’m not much of a soda drinker, but sometimes I will get a Stoney’s (mm, ginger beer), and I can really appreciate the slow, savoring method of drinking.
I’m no ascetic saint though, I won’t lie – as soon as I get to a country with potable water (the Istanbul airport?) I plan on parking myself at the water fountain and drinking from the tap until my bladder bursts. As soon as I get home, I plan on soaking in the tub until all the grime on the bottom of my feet, that bucket baths just won’t cleanse, finally comes off. And I am looking so forward to a sushi feast, and rushing to a Thai restaurant in SF for duck curry, that I will probably start having dreams about it soon.
But as the holidays approach, and as the new year begins, I hope both you and I remember to savor our bounty, every bite, and every sip.