Monday, August 24, 2009

Behind the bucket baths

Hello all!

I wanted to add one quick note to Marie's post below. Last week, we shared the campus at St Philip's with fifty lay leaders from all over the Diocese of Maseno North, who were on a training retreat. And for almost that entire week, we had no running water anywhere on campus.

At first, we threw up our hands. There's a saying for any event that exasperates or confuses westerners: "T. I. A.", or "This is Africa". As our hostess, the indefatigable Nan Hardison, explained to us at dinner last night, there's actually more to it than that. Yes, the water pump broke; yes, the spare needed parts we couldn't get quickly; yes, the plumber was a couple of days late. But even when the pump came back on, we only had running water for about twelve hours. And there was a reason-- a typical piece of corrupt local politics.

You see, the water infrastructure around here, the pipes and so on, were donated and built a decade or two ago by the Rotary Club of Amesbury, Mass. Along with the pipes, they set up a local water board to oversee maintenance and rate collecting and so on. Well, a few months ago, a group of local citizens organized a coup of the local water board, secretly sold the works to a new private corporation they'd formed in their own name, and done it all without involving the community or the higher water authorities. This is effectively theft of a public water utility. Nan has been trying to expose them; so they picked last week, when the campus would be full, and deliberately shut off the water.

Most ironically of all: The man who turned the valve is himself an Anglican lay leader! But he was glad to put fifty of his colleagues through a week of bucket baths, when they could have had showers, in order to punish a whistle-blower.

That sort of pettiness is common in politics everywhere. Examples from Massachusetts certainly spring to mind. But Kenya is a shameless place, in general. Bishops here say things that I know American bishops believe, but would would never publicly say. Beggars don't say "Do you have any spare change?", but rather a straight-out "Give me money!" Sometimes it's refreshingly honest. And sometimes, it means bucket baths.

PS: By default, this blog only shows the last two posts. But you can look at previous ones by clicking on the post titles in the left-hand column. I recommend you do, as Marie's bucket bath post is currently off the front page, and it's obviously part of this post's background!

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