Monday, January 11, 2010
Oh The Adventures I've Had...part #3
OH THE ADVENTURES I’VE HAD…
Part #3 – Shared Sleeping, Short Calls, and Bashful Bathing
When I was visiting Geofrey and Lamech I had multiple moments of laughter and “what-to-do” type situations. Sometimes you just have to laugh!
Most people in Uganda sleep on foam mattresses, and many people often share a very small mattress. Even one of my friends in university has to share his small dorm room bed with another student. So when I got to Geofrey’s I fully expected to be sharing a small foam bed, which I did, with Geofrey. Luckily he is so skinny and tiny that I didn’t even notice him, and I slept much better than I normally do! When I asked him why he wasn’t sharing a bed with his wife, he showed me the room in which about seven or eight people, mostly women and children, were sharing two mattresses. I was lucky to be sharing mine with only one other person!
Geofrey’s parents also have an outhouse, which is the standard in Uganda. Very seldom have I seen flushing toilets in Uganda, and usually only in restaurants. I don’t even have a toilet in my house, so I am quite used to an outhouse. But my outhouse has a door and solid walls, very different from the one at Geofrey’s place. The outhouse there is made of mud and sticks, another common site in Uganda. The walls have many cracks through which to gaze or be gazed upon, and the small tin roof is so low you have to stay bent over the whole time, and there is no door. Napkins or toilet paper is seldom found in such establishments, but luckily there was an old notebook for use in this outhouse – the “tear-as-you-go-type” notebook. So while you are using the facilities, you can read the school work of one of Geofrey’s nieces or nephews written upon the pages of said notebook just before you put it into use again. The benefits of recycling!
I was using the outhouse in the middle of the day, squatting and reflecting on the beauty of the place as I gazed out upon the green lushness of the banana fields (remember, there is no door to this outhouse) peering upon some English and math homework in the soon to be recycled notebook, I noticed that there was a worn footpath about 20 feet in front of the opening. And there were two presumably local Ugandans walking along the footpath. Now I was in a precarious and squatted position, wondering whether I should wave or just ignore the passerbys. When I saw them look my way I decided to wave, and they waved back. Apparently this is a normal occurrence while using this outhouse - not only do you get to use the facilities but you also get to wave to your neighbors. In retrospect, maybe I should have said hello as well, but I don’t speak the local language. Maybe next time.
When I initially arrived at Geofrey’s place, I asked him where I could go for “short-call” (urinate) and I though he pointed to a certain outside structure made of loosely strung together bamboo. This seemed reasonable to me and similar to most other Ugandan short call structures. So over the next day I continued to use this facility for all my short call needs. Also on the first day Geofrey told me that he usually bathes at night, and he asked me if I also wanted to bathe at night. I prefer to bathe in the morning or afternoon, as the heat is often quite intense and a cold shower is quite nice (warm showers are not an option at my house) so I told Geofrey I would wait until the following morning. Well, the following morning everyone is bustling around preparing for the baptism. At least 20 men, women, and children are outside cooking, cleaning, and playing around. I asked Geofrey if I could bathe, and he showed me where the outside bathing shelter was – the SAME place where I had been going for short calls! “Wait, Geofrey, I thought that was where you told me to go for short call?” “No”, replies Geofrey, “the short call shelter is over there.” So in essence I had been peeing in the shower!
Bathing in Uganda is often a “basin bath”. You pour water into a basin or bucket and you splash yourself with the water. Always a challenge trying to determine how much water you need to use for initial cleaning, without running out of water for rinsing after you apply shampoo and/or soap. Very few people living in rural areas have running water, so I have become accustomed to estimating my water needs.
The shelter for bathing (and sometimes short-calling) as previously mentioned, is made of bamboo. The bamboo shoots do not fit together all that well, leaving gaping cracks, and yet again there is no door. The opening of the shelter also faces the previously mentioned footpath. I guess you get to know your neighbors real well in this place! Anyways, as I am about to bathe, there are numerous other people outside, making preparations for the party. So as I am standing in the bathing shelter, I am peering out through all the cracks and watching everyone bustle about. Now, I quickly come to the realization as to why Geofrey prefers to bathe at night. Those same people that I am viewing outside of the bathing shelter can no doubt see me inside the shelter through those same cracks. Now in such a situation my modesty may be called into question, or more often it gets abandoned all together. What to do? I needed to bathe after a long and dusty journey the day before, and in reality, most of those people would probably not see me again any time soon. And so I bathed…quickly.