01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: Nairobi city - would you pay to pee? 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Nairobi city - would you pay to pee?

We have recently plugged our radio alarm clock, which has been gathering dust for years, into the kitchen. We initially bought it with the intention of waking to the gentle murmurings of the radio rather than bleeping alarm, but discovered that frequent (almost daily) power cuts wrecked havoc with the digital clock and the thing therefore cannot to be relied upon.

Ironically, the only station we can receive clearly is Easy FM because the reception is not very good in the kitchen. This is ironic as Easy FM is also the only radio station I can get in my car since my aerial broke. Now I am seriously overdosing on instalments of popular real life phone in; ‘Busting cheating spouses’ (the radio station were offering free paternity tests to settle disputes a while back!) and ‘Blues and R&B’ generally. The upside is that Easy FM run hourly five minute news updates which I am addicted to. I arrive at the school car park and won’t shut off the ignition until the news is over. There is not too much to report, mostly wrangling over constitutional review, MPs pro or against the taxation of their allowances and the ongoing problems of resettling Internally Displaced Kenyans (who fled their homes since election). Curiously, Zimbabwe’s problems have hardly been touched upon in the local press, especially in light of the fact that Kenya was so recently caught in the mire of a flawed election itself.

Back to the point. Yesterday evening while chopping vegetables, I heard a news item about the construction of public toilets in Nairobi. It flashed through my mind that when shuttling between school drop offs and pick ups every day, one of the most familiar roadside sights is to see a man peeing, bold as brass, on the verge. I must see at least twenty per day and wonder why my children never point and laugh, but I guess they are as used to seeing people attending to calls of nature it as I am. Last week I spotted a child squatting down in the open right next to the road in a built up area. I thought to myself, it won’t be the same old Nairobi if there are public toilets. As my mind wandered I heard that the Minister of ‘whatever the relevant department was’, say that the public toilets were planned in an effort to try and combat disease in the city, I thought;
‘OK then, great idea!’
I visualised the state of the art, self cleaning stainless steel models that I had seen in England. The newsreader then told listeners that using the facilities would cost five shillings per time and crestfallen I thought;
‘It will never work because they are asking people to pay.’

The lack of public toilets in Nairobi is a major problem giving people no choice but to use the roadside as their public convenience. On Monday, whilst picking up my middle daughter (aged 5) from kindergarten, I casually asked the youngest (aged 2) if she needed a wee. She gave the usual response of ‘No’, but I had a hunch she was lying. We clambered into the car and started on the 25/30 minute drive to the school of my eldest daughter. After about five minutes in the youngest piped up and said (predictably);
‘I need a wee – and I can’t panic!’
I kicked myself for not frogmarching her to the loo in the kindergarten, after all she is only two (though soon to be three) so doesn’t really know better. However, this did not stop me from feeling cross, mainly because I wasn’t sure about my options. Pulling up on the side of the road and letting her do a wee there might be socially acceptable here, but I was driving along a road that is renowned for car jacking and I didn’t fancy being unlucky – I was in too much of a hurry. We bounced over the potholes with my middle daughter consoling the agonised youngest;
‘We are coming up to a smooth bit of road soon!’
And I was driving like a crazed woman, risking accident, in order to get to my next stop as fast as possible. We passed one shopping centre but to search for a parking space, then sprint past all the line shops to the loos inside at the back would take as long as it would getting to our destination. When tears began to spring from the youngest’s eyes, I had a brainwave, we were passing a small children’s medical clinic with off street parking so I screamed in there, ran past expectant receptionists and made it just in time. When I had finally strapped the relieved youngest back into her car seat, the middle daughter said sweetly,
‘I actually need a wee too, but its OK Mummy, I can wait…’

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