Kigali Life: Battles with Water and Electricity (but No Complaints)

People often ask about our day to day life here. We rent a home in a nice area of the city. It is considered upscale, western style by Kigali standards. We have municipal water. Some parts of Kigali go for months with dry taps but we figured that rationing would not impact our neighborhood because we are near the Prime Minister’s office. Wrong! Our first month here, the water supply was sporadic, on and off at unpredictable but always inconvenient times. We hooked up a storage tank and frequently rely on this backup water supply.

Tank at our house.png

Larry toured a municipal water facility a couple of years ago. They strongly advised boiling all water. Sometimes they have chlorine but usually not enough. Also the pipes are old and the water gets contaminated in transit.

Tap water in Byumba

Look at the color of this tap water! I took the picture at a church in the Northern Province. Whenever there is tap water, they fill this container to flush the VIP western toilet when there is no running water. I am not complaining…the church members use an old fashioned stinky outhouse (called a pit latrine – a small hole in the floor over a big hole dug in the ground).

At home, we rely on Sawyer water filters, the same filters that we distribute to pastors. We use the .1 bacteria filter for brewing coffee and cooking. We use the .02 micron bacteria and virus filter for drinking and tooth brushing water.

Eggs come right from the farm and are covered with barnyard gunk. A friend came down with typhoid and advised us to soak the eggs in filtered water, add a capful of chlorine, then scrub them clean before scrambling (no eggs over easy on our menu). Fruits and vegetables get the same treatment as do chicken and meat because there is no refrigerated transport or USDA inspector here. At restaurants, our norm is to stick with cooked or peeled food.

Our house has a small electric water heater for bathing. It is not connected to the kitchen faucet.  We use an electric kettle to heat water for washing and rinsing the dishes by hand (you guessed it, no automatic dishwasher).

Kitchen Sink

The water heater has broken several times. The last time, the broken hose shot water through an open bedroom window, soaking the bed and floor. Luckily, I was home or the whole house would have been flooded.

We have a gas stove for cooking (a refillable propane tank sits outside by the Sawyer filter and is connected to the stove by a rubber hose through the open window).

Propane and Sawyer

Kigali’s mile high altitude requires some adjustment. I burned Larry’s birthday cake to a crisp. (Larry came outside to take a look at the smouldering cake. There was a tiny morsel unburned in the middle. He tasted it and assured me that the cake would have been delicious. So cute!) I bought a thermometer and, luckily, was watching the oven preheat for my chicken casserole when the electrical outlet burst into flames. A few more battles and I put up a white flag. It remains unrepaired. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining…Rwandan women put me to shame with what they can whip up over open fires in their backyard.


My first crockpot gave up the ghost after I forgot to plug it in to the electrical step down transformer unit. So far, my second crockpot is still in good working order.  

Electricity is as unpredictable as the water supply. It goes off and on several times a day. We are careful to plug our electronics into surge protector strips after burying a toaster and a computer. Home air conditioning units are unheard of here so we rely on a fan for relief from the equatorial heat (when there is electricity).

During a long water and electricity outage, Larry surprised me by heating tank water on the gas stove and hauling the pots to the bathtub so I could have a relaxing soak. My mood changed in an instant from hot, sticky, and homesick for California to loving life here with my big, strong, hunky husband watching out for me.


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