What we have and what we don’t

Here’s a bit more about our sweet home situation. It’s a wee bit different from life in New Zealand, but to Ugandan readers it probably seems fairly luxurious. Feel free to ask questions!

What We Have

‘Chigiri’: I.E. charcoal stove. Not only do we possess this crucial life sustaining item, we have the super-duper-deluxe energy saving prototype. The upgrade includes a thick outer shell filled with clay, which conserves heat and transfers it to your pot. This amazing device cost us a grand total of $10 NZ

Jerry Cans: Water’s important, right? Every morning we’re a walkin’ 150 meters to the borehole, where we ‘goyo’ (pump) and ‘tingo’ (carry) 40 litres of pure, fresh borehole water – yes mum, we still boil it for safety (but noone else does). I measure my bicep size after pumping every morning but am yet to see a significant improvement. I inherited dad’s Mr. Puniverse winning genes.

ImageApologies for the overenthusiastic editing. I thought I could create modern art with Jerry cans.  I probably failed.

Electricity: I could kiss Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and God right now. And for the record, Electricity > Running Water. Disagree if you like!
Electric Jug: You know that annoying question “if you could take one thing to a desert island, what would it be?” My answer now is an electric jug. Even with no power on the island I could gaze at the beauty and imagine how useful it could be. Before the jug we had to boil our water on the chigiri stove which would take at least 30 minutes. Now it takes 2.


Basin x 4: Where would we be without our washing machine, dishwasher, sink, bath and shower?

What We Don’t

Running water: As evidenced by Jerry cans and borehole… Running water certainly is a time saver, but  we’re managing on only 30 litres a day which is pretty great from an Eco perspective.

Consistent Electricity: Calling them power cuts probably doesn’t do the situation justice. We can’t rely on power as it is off about ¼ of the time. Besides boiling the jug there’s nothing we need power for (Computers and phones can charge whenever). Even if people could afford them (which they can’t), this sporadic power would render fridges and electric ovens fairly useless.

Rubbish bin: Only because we don’t need one! You produce very little rubbish with no packaged food (besides bags which are re-usable). The minimal rubbish produced by us and our neighbours goes in an open pit about 15 meters from our house (which somehow doesn’t even smell). It would be nice to compost food scraps though, which no-one seems to do.

Inside toilet: Which is absolutely fine! The pit toilets and washing room are close by and with the hot weather, are not much of an inconvenience at all. My squat though could do with some improvement.

Multiple stove elements: Cooking is the most time-consuming part of our day, and a big part of thatis only having one element to cook on. If you want to cook 3 things (rice, greens and peanut sauce), you have to do them one after the other, which takes a while…

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12 Responses to What we have and what we don’t

  1. Aaron says:

    Miss you guys so bad! So is a petrol generator for backup power too expensive?

    • ntlaing says:

      Hey man miss you too. Interesting point about the generator. People who are really, really well off have generators but often even they barely use them as they are so expensive to run. The main use of generators is for bigger businesses that can afford them. The big internet cafe we went to in town had 2 price lists – the one when power was off was nearly twice as expensive which is fair enough. The real tough part with power is not for people like us (if we’ve boiled enough water, not having power doesn’t cause much inconvenience), but for businesses. Its pretty tragic walking around town when there is no power and sewing guys with small businesses like internet cafes, photo booths, printing/photocopying shops, movie watching booths etc. just sitting around unable to earn money all day because there’s no power. Solar may end up being the future on this front but it’s still fairly expensive.

  2. Ross Elliott says:

    I want to see a photo of Tessa carrying a full jerrycan of water on her head! Then I will know that the process of assimilating to the culture is well advanced!!
    Well done for using a chigiri stove, they are excellent for slow cooking which is needed for much of the dry food products which you will be using. They make the best possible porridge! How do you start your chigiri?

    • ntlaing says:

      Tessa’s still actually struggling with the water carrying. It made her neck sore when she’s tried so far. There’s a small 10 year old girl living opposite us who carries 20 litres on her head. She can’t lift it on her head, or take it off (someone helps her), but she carries it all the same! We are (kind of) cheaters when it comes to starting our chigiri. We use a few bits of kindling then add a drop of parrafin to make the process nearly infallable. Even with that we still had a failed start yesterday. At the start we were using half a plastic bag to light it like a lot of people here do, but we couldn’t stomach burning a plastic bag every day from an environmental perspective!

      • Ross Elliott says:

        How do you buy your milk? Does it come in cardboard Tetra Packs? These were used extensively in Kenya (for containing & transporting milk of course), but the secondary use was starting chigiri’s. Unfortunately with a result similar to using a plastic bag, as the Tetra Pack is lined with a waxy plastic! Plastic bags are similar to the word ‘goyo’ they have many uses. I found plumbers used them as a thread sealant in screwed pipe joints! Cheap and effective.
        I’m looking forward to your first role on the silver screen!

      • ntlaing says:

        We have only bought milk twice in the last 6 weeks, as people around here don’t use it very much (apart from our neighbour who buys it for her baby). We just by it fresh from the market. The first time i didn’t think about containers so it just came in a plastic bag, the second time I just filled a bottle. The two things we used it for were

        1. Pumpkin soup. Amazing for us but universally despised by neighbours! Apparently we should only fry pumpking.
        2. Pancakes for the kids.

        Eggs on the other hand are cheap and abundant. Chickens are everywhere.

    • ntlaing says:

      Hi Ross- new update, new update. This morning I successfully carried 20 litres on my head for the first time!!! Yes, I’m feeling quite chuffed 😛 My trick was to carrry it on my head on its side, not upright, made it a lot easier. Its a technique used by kids mostly, but as a novice I don’t feel so bad …

  3. Myriam says:

    Wow!! A different life…good to hear about your new life. Yay for electric jugs! Myriam xo

  4. Rose Pearson says:

    where are the tables – all the photographs are on the floor.

    Anyway, awesome to hear how you guys are doing!

    • ntlaing says:

      Good point! We do have a low table (coffee table height) in the middle of the room between our lush couches (they’re by far the fanciest thing in the room!) but we store many things on the floor/ground. There’s no benches/tables at standing height which takes a bit of getting used to. Good to hear from you rose, hope you are managing!

  5. Denis says:

    Can you buy at least one more chigiri to make your cooking process quicker? 🙂

    • ntlaing says:

      Hi Denis, I think I know who this Denis is but not 100% sure. Hope the new crew is less annoying then us! The simple answer is yes, we could get another but it would be a bit unusual so that’s why we are not. We’ve definitely thought about it. Also lighting, putting out and managing the chigiris takes some effort so it is not quite as straightforward as 2 elements on a stove.

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