Mueni grew up in this modest little house in Kenya. The house has three small bedrooms and a living room. The house has no kitchen, bathroom, or storage. In fact, there is no electricity, running water, or gas operated equipmment either. It's located in the small village of Kangundo (pronounced Kon-Goon-Do). Kangundo is about one and a half hours from Nairobi on some pretty rough roads.
The house consists of mud brick construction. The mortar between the bricks has to be replaced over time, and especially after heavy rains.
The ceiling is sheet metal on a wooden framework with a large opening all around. This keeps the house from getting too hot inside. The roof was in need of repair as many small holes were present. The inside walls do not go up to the ceiling and they are made out of the same mud brick as the oustside walls.
The inside floors are dirt. The construction is quite simple and efficient and it posses the same basic construction principles for the new house that we came to build. More on that later.
The house has three wooden windows (one in each bedroom) and one door. I couldn't help but think how similar their house was to houses in the western U.S. around the 1800's.
This is a view of the bathroom and toilet. The bathroom is on the left. This is basically just a room where you can take a pan of water and wash up in private. The toilet is on the right. It's pretty similar to a camping outhouse where you have a seat with a hole in the ground.
The cook house is a separate structure because it gets too smokey inside. Note the pile of wood for the cooking fire.
Cooking is done over an open fire on the ground. Water is heated here for bathing and washing dishes. There is no stove, only two open flame cooking sites (left and right). Note the water container in the back left.
Mueni's sister-in-law Susan and her daughter Juliet getting water from the Well. The well is on the property but it's at the opposite end from the home. It's 30 feet deep and a small bucket is lowered into the well and then raised to fill the larger jugs.
Local children gathered each day to see the strange white guy that showed up in the village. I never saw another white person outside Nairobi.
Our six year old niece, Carol, standing in the doorway of the family cook house.
Another niece that came to visit with us.
Nieces Shanice and Carol giving us some dancing lessons.
This house belongs to Mueni's brother George. George built this house when he had a really good job. It's wired for electricity but there is no power on the property. This house is similar to the one that we are building for Mueni's parents. Their house will have electricity and indoor plumbing, as well as a kitchen and two bathrooms.
Note the steel framed glass windows, the steel door and the concrete foundation. While it looks like a brick house, it's really made of stone and concrete. More on this later.
Mueni and Mom shortly after we arrived in the village. Her mother was so happy to see us she was dancing and singing when we arrived.
Mom and dad near their home. Dad always wears a suit. They have a modest Coffee farm that generates an income of about $200 per year.
Guess what's for dinner? Mueni's sister-in-law, Susan is showing off the menu selection. Actually, meat is only eaten about once or twice a month and only for special occasions. Our visit was one of those special occasions.
So this is what they look like on the inside? Mueni and I had to get five vaccines before we left and we were quite concerned about a number of food and water bourne diseases. As a result, we only ate one meal a day back in Nairobi. I lost seven pounds in the two weeks I was in Kenya.
Don't worry, there's more where they came from. As with any farm, people don't get attached to their animals because they usually end up on the dinner table.
Their typical daily diet consists of three main dishes shown in the next three pictures. This picture shows a dish which is kind of like tomato soup with some vegtables. Note that the lower pan is filled with hot coals from a burning fire. This is one of the families two cooking burners.
This is a picture of Skuma Wiki (pronounced skoom-a-weekie) which consists of some cooked leafy greens. Note that the pan is sitting on top of hot coals from what used to be a burning fire.
Skuma Wiki is normally eaten with Ugali (pronounced ew-golly) which is corn meal that has been cooked in a similar fashion as mashed potatoes. In this picture, our niece (Carol) is eating Ugali and Skimawiki with the rest of the children.
Wangari enjoys some Ugali. She is the niece of Mueni's brother Jeffery and his wife Sue. Wangari lost both her parents unexpetctidly so Jeffery and Sue took her in as their own.
A Rooster keeps an eye on his Hens. Except for the cows, the animals have free reign over the property.
Mueni and dad discussing details about the new home. The first challenge when we arrived was figuring out where to build the new house. Mom and dad wanted to slowly replace the existing house as construction proceeded. The idea is that they would slowly tear down the old house as the new house is constructed. The problem with this approach is that you really want to lay the footing and pour the foundation all at once, and not in piece meal fashion.
We finally got everyone to agree to uproot some coffee plants and build the house to the right of this picture. That's our rental car in the picture.
This is the new home site with most of the coffee plants gone. Our contractor (Peter) is measuring the site (on the right) with one of his workers.
This is what coffee beans look like. Fortunately, they are not ripe yet as it's an amazing amount of work to pick these by hand. I like to be lazy on my vacations.
First, they dug trenches for the footing. The stakes in the trench are used to keep the footing and foundation level as the home site is on an incline.
This is how you make concrete. Make a pile of rocks. Pour some sand on top of the rocks. Pour some dry cement on top of the sand. Pour water and mix well with a shovel. It looked like so much fun that Mueni's sister-in-law (Susan) decided to give it a try.
Mueni's brother (Jeffery) and his son (Vincent) get the bulls ready to pick up another load of cement.
We had trucks deliver the sand and stone because the cows could never pull this much material over such a great distance.
The large stones come from this rock quarry. This man uses a hammer and chisel to cut very large stones from the rock bed. It takes him a week of very hard work to make one truck load of stones. A truck load delivered to our site costs $45.
This is one truck load of stones (on both sides of the picture). This is what the man was chiseling out of the bedrock in the previous picture.
This man's sole job is to chisel the stone surfaces smooth so they look like large bricks. This stone is very hard.
Concrete is poured into trenches to prepare the footing.
Watching all the hard work is making mom tired.
The footing is placed for all inside and outside walls. Note that the footing looks like the walls of the house. The front and back surfaces of the footing stones do not have to be smooth as they will be under ground.
Every morning we would wake up at 4 AM in our Nairobi apartment so Mueni could do a 30 mile run just outside Kangundo. I don't like running so the driver and I would get ahead of her on the road, just far enough to keep her in sight. She would eventually catch up, drink some water, and then run almost out of sight where we would start the leap frog routine all over again. We also kept in radio contact, and this really paid off as we had to intervene a few times when shady characters approached with unknown intentions.
On the road between Nairobi and Kangundo is this very unusual church built in the base of a cliff. Note the interesting statue at the top of the cliff.
Walking is the primary mode of travel in rural Kenya.
A local shopping strip mall near Kangundo.
A woman doing her laundry near Kangundo.
Nearing the end of the run as we approach Kangundo.
The village of Kangundo Kenya.
Merchants in the village.
A local hotel in Kangundo.
A soft drink distributer, a hotel and a butchery all in one.
A local bar in Kangundo.
Another Kangundo hotel.
Just when the home building was going well, disaster struck. The annual rains came and the road leading to the house was all mud. At one point, three trucks were stuck and there was no way to deliver materials for the home building. This all happened just before I returned to the U.S. Mueni had truck loads of small rocks dumped on the road so the trucks could get through and the building could continue.
Mueni's Nephew, Charlie, sent pictures and progress reports on the completion of the house. Here, the house is actually taking shape.
Another angle showing the front of the house.
The house mostly finished. Note the trench for the power lines.
A view of the back of the house.
The side of the house.
The back door.
The front door and porch.
The front of the house.
The inside hallway.
View out the living room window. Note the front door on the left.
Home sweet home.