Monday, September 17, 2012

An Ode to Dust, Dirt, and Laundry

I guess if I had to pick one word to describe KBC, it would be dusty. I’m not sure I can accurately describe how dusty it is in text. You know how after a long day of working outside in shorts you take your socks off and realize that you have a sock tanline? That happened to me today. Except then I realized it was actually dust. Later I was admiring the nice shade of red-brown on my shoes. Then I realized I didn’t buy them that color. It was dust. I pretty much exist in a constant state of being covered in a fine film of dust and having huge piles of dust in my shoes.

On the good side of it being so dusty, it doesn’t even matter that I don’t wash my hair that often. OH YEAH SORRY this blog is probably going to touch upon my showering habits as a notice. Topics like these are unavoidable when discussing a program that’s incredibly remote.

*Please don’t judge my personal hygiene habits based on those practiced and documented by me here. I just made a commitment to being accurate and honest in reporting my experience here. So yeah newsflash: when you live in a field station in rural Kenya you don’t get to shower and wash your hair every day. Fact of life. As a note, in the time since writing this and actually posting this I did shower and promptly looked like I rolled in dust on my way back to the banda. Showering makes legitimately no difference in my personal appearance nowdays.

Anyway yes so all of the empty space in my hair is rapidly being occupied by dust. It actually works out well since the dust kinda soaks up all the oil and grease and I can look almost presentable. On the downside, I don’t think my hair is able to move any more. Kenya’s strongest winds straight down from the summit of Kilimanjaro could not dislodge my hair. I think that if I didn’t wash my hair at all, I might be able to headbutt a buffalo by the end of the semester. I can’t decide if this is a good goal to have or not.

In kind of a similar vein, I did my laundry for the first time today! I budgeted to have my laundry done by one of the mamas in town, but it was mostly socks, underwear, and my hiking pants anyway. By design, my hiking pants were SUPER easy to wash. Really. It was awesome. Because of socio-cultural norms and expectations, we have to wash underwear ourselves. Socks? Socks are a nightmare. My sock nightmare is the result of a series of mistakes I made that started well before the program.

Mistake number one: Buying white socks
Mistake number two: Putting all my super dusty socks in a bucket of water together
Mistake number three: Thinking I could scrub the dust out of my socks with just a washboard and some elbow grease

So my socks went from having huge splotches of red-brown dust to all being dyed a lovely shade of beige from the dust. They’re currently drying above my bed in the banda so we’ll see how well that goes. Everything else (like shirts and pants) washed quite well and dried quite readily out in the super, dry weather. If I do end up having the mamas do my laundry, it will likely just be a bucket full of socks.  I don’t really want to have to do that though because a) I am cheap and b) I would really love to live long term at a field station (I guess this doesn’t count as long term?? Haha), and feel like I need to master the art of hand washing clothing.

Tomorrow I may try again and do a second washing of my socks, though I’m anticipating being pretty busy! Tomorrow is the first non-program day. We’re going hiking in the morning, heading to a market in Olitoktok, volunteering at an AIDS/HIV help center, before heading off to Kimana. I’m really excited to go back to Kimana! We walked over there yesterday. It’s about 6 km, so it took about an hour. We walked around town a bit, sat and drank Cokes and chatted with some locals who helped us practice our Kiswahili. We also found a place that sells ice cream, which is MAGICAL. I didn’t buy any, but I filed away the location for future reference. We ran into one of the Maasai women who was at the boma we visited. She reminded us of greetings in Kimaasai.

Kimana is a great town. Mostly everyone is incredibly friendly and understanding when practicing our Kiswahili. It’s so different from the States where you would never strike a conversation with a stranger. Actually I’m not sure if that’s commonplace here, either, but it’s certainly been my experience! Haha.

Kids are also VERY friendly. Today a few girls and I were outside camp doing some field work and some kids ran up to chat with us (Note: I said something in Kiswahili and the kid actually answered without looking at me like I had three heads or laughing! Yeah milestone achievements!). The kids saw that we had a field guide with us and their eyes TOTALLY lit up. It was great. They flipped through it and admired the pictures (zebra and giraffe illustrations were a big hit). They practiced their English names for animals and told us the Kiswahili names of a few. I was also really impressed by their counting skills. They counted to 12 no problem in English and probably would have been able to keep going. I can count to… four in Kiswahili.

Getting late, and I should go to bed. Big non-program day tomorrow followed by our first field trip to Amboseli National Park. Ridiculously pumped for that? You bet. Sorry for no pictures this entry. Definitely after we get back from the first field trip!

P.S. For all my SFS Tanzania Summer 2011 friends following along! Born in the USA is playing right now. I’m not sure how or why Bruce Springsteen has dug his way into an SFS East African adventure, but know that I am smiling and thinking of all of you right now! (My cup of joy is overflowing!)

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