Life in Kisii, Kenya: Of drop hole toilets, bucket baths & cockroaches

This is the first post in a series about my life on volunteering placement with Balloon Ventures ICS in Kisii, Kenya. It’s really been a hell of a ride. I’ve met some lovely people, learned about a whole new culture, and am still a tiny bit scared of having to go for a wee at night… because the toilet is a drop hole outside and who knows what kind of animals will come out to hunt and eat me!? This one is exactly about the latter: Of drop hole toilets, bucket baths and cockroaches.

I’ve started my placement here on a rough note… On my very first night at the host home, I balled my eyes out and the sky seemed to cry with me. I came home to a house in the woods without electricity or running water. The toilet a drop hole outside the house that was full of all kinds of insects and I don’t even want to mention the stench… I was given a bucket for bathing outside in a stall next to the toilet and my first bath was an ice cold one.

In our kitchen we’re cooking with gas but mostly over charcoal

The fact that I was woken up in the middle of the night by this weird sound which turned out to be a cockroach crawling next to my bed didn’t really make me feel any more at ease. When I woke up the next morning to take a bath, I was told to use this dangerous-looking brown water from a bucket. And that was supposed to be my living situation for the next ten weeks? Oh boy…

Just imagine the following: It’s 6 am, you’ve been woken up by the sound of a cock. You toss and turn for an hour and then reluctantly get up to bathe with water from the well with its not-so-inviting brownish colour. Then you fetch a bucket or two of water because it’s time to do some laundry. Soak, scrub, rinse and hopefully you’ve managed to get rid of all the mud stains on your clothes from walking home on the muddy road to your house. Finally, it’s time for breakfast. If you’re lucky, you get boiled sweet potatoes and some deliciously sweet mango (okay, that part is awesome!).

My bathing water… yummy


When you come home from a long day at work, you may have come home to a completely dark house – no electricity again! You read, eat, wash in the dark with a tiny flashlight. As soon as it’s bed time, which is unsurprisingly early if there is no power and nothing to do, you’re neatly tucked in underneath your mosquito net only to realise you need to use the toilet. That means you need to venture outside, in the dark, into a toilet that houses a million flies, lizards, spiders and other crawling or flying creatures – all of which must surely just be waiting to feast on your sweet blood. Yikes! When you finally manage to fall asleep, you’re woken up by the sound of a massive cockroach which, if you’re unlucky, may disappear into your backpack, never to be seen again…

I’m sure I’ll be able to laugh about it when I take a three hour bubble bath back in good old London.

But jokes aside, actually, despite the part about all the crawling and flying things, and after the shock of the first week had died down, I don’t actually mind this lifestyle so much anymore. Just as my experience in India and Guatemala, life in Kenya has been teaching me a lot. Traveling to developing countries/poor communities has taught me to be more conscious about my consumption habits: reduce water usage, produce less waste, and much more.

In front of our gate at sunset

And also, thanks to my host family who have been so welcoming and kind, my experience in Kenya has been a good one. Our mum is very caring and always makes sure we go to bed with a full stomach. The love I receive from the little boys really does make any grim day so much brighter which only goes to show one thing: a life filled with love and happiness is worth a million times more than all the money and material possessions in the world.

Kids loving Snapchat on my phone

Do you have any funny stories to tell about living abroad in very different conditions? Any challenging experiences? Would you ever consider living like a local in poorer communities for a while?

By the way, Kenya is also amazing for safaris and you have plenty of options. Check out and book some great safari offers here.

Read the all posts about Life in Kisii:

Life in Kisii 2: Of microenterprises, slippery roads and wild traffic

2 Comment

  1. Great post! That selfie stick better not be coming to South Africa

    1. Thank you, glad I have an admirer! And you bet that will come to South Africa – it’s my GoPro!

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