Disclaimer: I am writing this blog more for me than anyone else. I am not proofreading nor am I changing my voice to please the reader. I ask for forgiveness for any grammar and structure issues that may offend! xoxo
The sleep medicine helped for a couple of hours at best. I made a mental note to ask Father John what facility was directly behind my window. I wanted to know if the people back there ever slept. The entire night was filled with people talking and laughing. Occasionally, a flash of light came through my curtains and bounced against my mosquito net. When I sleep I require total darkness. I go so far as placing a towel under the door of my hotel room if any light dares to seep in. I am particular about the ambient temperature as well. The air needs to be cool enough to require my comforter, but not so cold as to freeze any limb that stretches outside the confines of the downy softness I am wrapped in.
I wrestled madly with sleep. I needed it. I desired it. But my 50-ish year old body protested the hard mattress, the sticky air and the raucous the neighbors were causing. I got out of bed at 6:00 am realizing I am not going to wallow in the bed and hit "snooze" 5 times while I hunker down in total comfort, as I do at home.
I stood in the middle of my new home and pondered the simplicity of it all: a small wooden desk, a double size bed, or maybe a cot is a better description, a night table with a reading lamp and a rickety old wooden armoire that is to serve as my closet and dresser. The room was clean, but obviously well used and a bit worn out looking. I decided it would be too pretentious and rather unhealthy of me to glance in the corners of the bedroom and the bathroom, looking for signs of a poor cleaning job, as is my custom in any place I sleep outside of my own home. I questioned myself, "What would I do if I saw signs of the one before me—pieces of hair, bits of torn paper, or, the grossest-a finger or toe nail like I found years ago in a hotel room?" This incident obviously traumatized me and I will never book a room at said hotel again! I need to set a mental reminder that occasionally reminds me that I did not opt for the spa vacation.
My eyes settled on the 3 enormous unpacked purple suitcases leaning against the wall, bulging at every seam. When I left the states, I was hoping I brought enough clothes to wear on my adventure. I spent a good 10 minutes staring into the small amour. The space-to-clothes ratio did not look good. I decided the best thing to do was close the armoire doors and hope I have a better solution tomorrow, when I am better rested. I sat in my wooden desk chair, took a swig from the really, really warm, flat sprite I had retrieved yesterday, and thought about Sister Rose. Sister Rose is a pleasant woman I met the night before. She is part of the Sisters of Saint Francis and lives near Uganda. She is here to attend the same classes I am. I thought about her crisply pressed yellow habit that is her daily uniform. Never before have I experienced nun-envy! Yet, for a very, very brief moment, I experienced a tinge of jealousy knowing unpacking her bag took no more than 5 minutes max. I sensed she had no issue fitting her modest amount of clothing she brought in one, non-bulging suitcase. She did not feel the necessity to carry a bag designated for various and asundry toiletries, make-up and hair products; or enough over the counter medicines "just in case." She lived her faith.
In my usual "I will deal with this tomorrow" mental shrug, I donned running leggings (I was instructed by many previous travelers not to show skin, especially white female skin), a sweat absorbent shirt and running shoes, and made my way down the winding hallways and staircases to a door that opened to a walled-in gravel courtyard. My body needed some movement. It felt good to stretch my legs and fill my lungs with the pleasant morning air. After a solid 20 minutes of jogging in circles, I grabbed some "good water" from the Culligan dispenser and made my way back to my room for a shower. Here is where I really struggled! It took me a good 15 minutes of trying to get some hot water before I gave up due to time, grabbed the washcloth left for me in the bathroom, and performed a half-in-half-out "shower" with very cold water.
After dressing, I made my way to the kitchen where Sister Rose and 2 other classmates, who I had not yet met, were eating breakfast. I was mentally prepared for the runny porridge described in every single "travel to Kenya" book I read. Not sounding appealing to the palate in any way, I had worked hard on the pleasant demeanor I would exude as I spooned the porridge in my mouth, as to not appear ungrateful or spoiled. I was fully willing to "offer it up" as we were told to do as children in Catholic school. I am here for spiritual growth! But to my exuberant dismay, no brown saucy porridge was to be found! Breakfast consisted of a choice of a piece or 2 of brown bread or a brown roll. Relieved, I peaked around for a toaster and some cream cheese, or possibly a small morsel of avocado and a sprinkle of sprouts to spread across my humble, lightly toasted piece of bread. No such luck. But that disappointment was minor compared to the apoplexy I endured once I realized there was no coffee to be had! There are sacrificed to "offer up" and sacrifices that just refuse to be made. This was a game changer for me.
I almost shrieked out loud and danced a happy dance when I saw one of the students walk in the dining area with a jar of instant coffee. No, it wasn't Starbucks and steamed almond milk, but it was gold! I mixed the granules with the hot milky tea water sitting in a thermos that serves as the Kenyan morning beverage of choice, grabbed a piece of brown bread and settled in to a chair at a table with 3 others. I took a few moments sipping my milky instant coffee mixture to observe how the others approached eating the bread. Was there more to it than the obvious? You must understand, dear reader, I have committed myself to approach every situation without pretense or presumption. I have spent my entire life being a controller and a leader. Here, no one knows that about me yet so I can comfortably sit back and observe. The man who brought the coffee sat down at my table. I think he has been sent here to act as my savior, and to prevent me for making any serious gaffes that make me stand out as the arrogant American. He pointed out the peanut butter, the honey and the jam on the plate in the middle of our table, as if he knew I felt the bread lacking something. I watched him slather his bread with peanut butter and honey, cut it into 4 small squares, and eat each piece with such appreciation and joy, like when I take a bite of a buttery chocolate croissant. I followed his lead and spread peanut butter and honey on my piece of brown bread (not crusty and homemade, more like the generic bread from a plastic bag). Honestly, the meal was delicious and satisfying, or so I told myself as I got up from the table with a stomach screaming for some eggs, bacon and toast, or a waffle with bananas and whipped cream.
We met for our first session at 10:00 am. There are 7 others besides me. Most of the participants are Catholic. Four of the men are Catholic priests, Sister Rose is a Catholic nun, I am, well, complicated, and the other male I believe is Protestant.
Father John started by introducing the purpose of the class with this couple of sentences: "You have never had a class like this in your entire life. No book can ever prepare you for what is ahead. The purpose of the next 10 weeks is to decide who you are and who you want to be." Bang. There it was. The reason for this journey.
I imagine my writing will become more spiritually focused once I get past this acclimation period. Hang with me. I am exhausted beyond words. After dinner, all I wanted to do was take a hot shower and wash my hair, since I learned how to flip the switch outside my bathroom that turns the hot water on. This attempt failed as well. There was no hot water no matter how many times I flipped the switch on and off. Like the morning, I ended up taking another half in cold shower, forgoing the hair wash that I desperately needed. Letting go of vanity! —Ok, not really. I thankfully realized I had a can of dry shampoo buried deeply in my bag of personal maintanance items! I lost my expensive sulfate free shampoo somewhere along the way. Father John took me in search of shampoo at the market place. I will save that story for a later time.
Tonight, as I close my eyes, I will say a prayer of thanks for surviving day 2 without any signs of travelers diarrhea, zika virus, malaria, cholera or any other disease I was warned of. I will give thanks that I learned how the mosquito net works so I do not have to spend another night battling reams of gauze adhered to my sweaty insect repellent covered body. I will give thanks that the desire to crawl in to bed and rest trumped my usual nightly ritual that included multiple hair products and a 4 step, 4 product face and neck cleansing regime that ensures a youthful glow, religiously performed before my bathroom mirror at home that seemed to do nothing but complain about my widening and sagging body. I will pray to get over the fact that finding shampoo is nearly impossible (everyone's hair is short or tightly braided, reducing the necessity to wash it to once every couple of weeks, or so I learned when asking those in the hostile if I could borrow some shampoo, to no avail!). I will question my unhealthy attachment to Aveda- color maintaining rosemary mint luxurious shampoo and give thanks I found a small bottle of a nameless sulfate ladened shampoo at the market. Finally, I will send my love out in the night sky, hoping you feel it as you look towards the evening stars.
PS: I will give thanks that the nightly invasion of voices and lights is coming from the police station outside my window that offers us 24 hour security.