Tuesday, January 15, 2019

What A Mixed Up Day

Its now 4:10 am. Over the past 3 days I think I have successfully slept for a total of 6 hours. I awoke initially at 3:03 am and forced myself to try and go back to sleep. Around 4 am, I surrendered to the fact sleep was avoiding me. I might as well to something productive.

I  decided it would be a good time to address the clothing/closet dilemma. Get that task behind me before opting to live out of my suitcases for the next 10 weeks. I opened the armoire doors, stared at the small empty space for a few breaths, and closed the doors deciding "nah." I thought of the shower and clean hair! I optimistically approached the hot water button and flipped it on, assuring myself that somehow, overnight, the hot water miraculously found its way to my room.  After all, Father John stressed the importance of one's faith! I removed the sweaty, insect repellent soaked cotton dress I slept in, grabbed my coveted bottle of recently purchased shampoo, and optimistically walked, without any hesitation, straight in to...yes... an unwelcoming frigid shower.

Determined to wash my matted and greasy hair, I positioned my body in the same half-in-half out posture perfected yesterday. Leaning my head into the cold stream, I grabbed the tiny bottle of shampoo and poured a large amount into my shivering hand. It took a nano second of paralyzing horror to realize the greasy white substance mounding in my palm was not shampoo, but copiously thick and greasy conditioner. Good God there were only 2 shampoo bottles available at the supermarket yesterday! How did I make this mistake? I shivered and stared at the mess in my palm for a good 30 seconds. The only thing I seemed to be able to accomplish in that moment,  besides an uncontrollable chatter of my teeth, was a rapid and furious stream of such incredible profanity that I was confident the words jolted every priest and nun in residence awake. I imagined each one, bible or rosary in hand, pausing with a simple nod of the head, confirming his or her belief from the day before—after I explained my somewhat fuzzy "spiritual but not religious" identification—"I don't think she is ministerial material."

Uninterested in being defeated, realizing creativity was a necessity at this most vulnerable point,  I grabbed the tiny bar of deodorant soap sitting at my sink, crumbled it into little pieces  with my one available hand, and mixed it with the conditioner dripping off my other hand. I scrubbed the concoction firmly and deeply into my scalp, down the strands of wet, cold hair hanging over my face. I felt clever in the moment, proud of my cleaning and conditioning blend–a popularly and expensive novelty in the states.

It did not take long before my scalp started to tingle, then revolt with spasms of burning barbs. I rinsed the mixture the best I possibly could, given the stream of cold water had mockingly morphed into drops of icy liquid, wrapped my hair in my one white towel, and smiled at the grande accomplishment of "washing" my hair.

I will admit, there is a bit of cognitive dissonance that  occurs whilst  slathering my freshly cleaned skin with insect repellent containing the prescribed high concentration of DEET. Frankly, it comes down to a "which would you rather" game, like my kids use to play on long road trips. For example, "Which would you rather: eat a can of maggots for 5 days straight or have the end of your pinky cut off?"  So, it goes like this "which would I rather?—use my luscious patchouli body butter that makes me smell lovely and feel smooth in a hippy sort of way, while increasing the likelihood of being swarmed and surely bitten by a disease carrying mosquito; or, would I rather slather on DEET that is rapidly and assuredly absorbed into my blood stream (muting my good cells along the way), resulting in such a toxic environment that every blood sucking little shit knows not to risk nibbling my flesh, hence avoiding a very real African horror like malaria or Zika that would result in a stay at the local hospital. A place that everyone who has ever been to Kenya warned me to avoid at all costs?

I think I will apply this game to future conundrums. For example, think about what you would rather do in this situation:

A) When asked where the laundry facilities were, I was handed this:

What would you rather...admit you have absolutely no idea how to use these said products, appearing entitled and ungrateful, or simply google the closest laundry facility that allows drop off and pick up? I will admit, in the moment I was handed the bucket, I changed the negative attitude regarding my overly packed suitcases, calculating I could possibly stretch my wardrobe out several weeks before I had to think about this situation again! Furthermore, and to my advantage, I have duly noted that natural body odors are something this culture seems to not take offense to.

Its around 4 pm and I am back in my room after another day of class. It seems like days ago I wrote the above narrative. My day was filled with waves of incredible exhaustion, sweaty bouts of nausea, a very greasy, burning and itching scalp, get-aways to my hot room where I plopped on my bed even if the break was only for 10 minutes. I distracted myself from my misery by cultivating a plan to escape this place, unnoticed. I would wave down a taxi to drive me to no less than a 3 to 5 star hotel where I could take a warm shower, wash my hair and body with complimentary sweet smelling shampoo and skin softening soap, order room service and a couple glasses of a chilled sauvignon blanc, and crawl under crisp, cool cotton or silk sheets. I would freely turn on the air conditioner and the overhead fan, settling in to these creature comforts. After a peaceful and long needed sleep, I promised myself I would return.

I am ending this note now with a few quotes from Father John given in class today:

"What should you fear the most in life? You should fear the one who does not know that he or she does not know" (I admit I had to repeat this several times to myself before I understood it's meaning). "These people do so much damage in the world. These are the types of people who have damaged us and revel in our suffering."

"When there are other words for what is being said, it points to the complexity of peoples reality."

"We are here to become integrated, and rid ourselves of our dangerous dichotomies."

"We must first acknowledge and understand the baggage we carry,  then rid ourselves of the toxicity that prevents us from authentically listening, respecting ourselves and others, and learning."

"Religions separate us as human beings. This is not good."

I am going to say goodnight for now. Yes, I spent a few minutes of my day questioning what the hell I was doing in this place. But I know these thoughts will not defeat me. For now, I am going to close my eyes and thank the Universe for the day. I am going to trust I am where I am meant to be. I'm going to "let go" of my disappointment that I most certainly ruined my expensive Keratin hair treatment with my deodorant soap-conditioner, resulting in spots I have itched to the point of bleeding. I give thanks Jebetta did not make brown porridge this morning, instead offering us eggs to accompany the brown bread. I especially give thanks for the incredibly delicious rice, smashed green pea and zucchini type soup she prepared for lunch. Finally, I am giving myself permission to close my eyes and imagine I am in a candle lit room with a gentle fan moving sweet air around my body, zen music caressing and relaxing my overactive and frenetic brain, while a skilled aesthetician is providing a cooling and soothing facial treatment with lotions that smell of eucalyptus and lavender.

Love to all

PS: as I went to store my computer and enter my fantasy world, I felt the ground shake along with so much commotion at the police station outside my window. Glancing out I saw no less than 20 of those same solders with camo and red berets I witnessed at the airport. They were in various stages of pumping rifles and loading into jeeps rapidly being driven out of the compound. I am now witnessing a line of helicopters flying low overhead. I just received via email a UN warning: apparently there has been a bombing at a hotel nearby that Al-Shabab has claimed responsibly for.  I hear distant gunfire. I know I am safe in this compound, heavily guarded by the soldiers I am seeing out my window. This is a 24 hour guarded facility.

I thank God I did not act on my fantasy of escaping to the hotel! I am grateful for life, and sad for the insecurities and the damage held in our world, oddly enough backed by religion. This is a literally "in my face" lesson on priorities.

Let me restate to you all, securely nestled in your homes far away,  I deeply love each of you. Life for many is violent and scary. It is impossible to empathize with those who live in constant fear and marginalization without feet on the ground. Our news networks, all of them, delude and create alternate narratives in order to motivate a certain ideology. I ask you to be smarter than this. We were created with intellect and a soul that knows we are to unquestionably LOVE ALL.  Don't let any form of manipulation take that from you.

I can't help but cry right now for the little girl I held in my arms yesterday. Is she afraid right now? Is her mother and father terrified for her safety? We know as parents, nothing will prevent us from protecting our children.

Special love to our soldiers! And I ask us all to think of the words we use and the actions we take in our small, protected and comfortable place we reside. Someone, at some point, loved his or her family enough to immigrate to the land of the free and the land of opportunity. We inherited the privilege of freedom they worked and sacrifice for. It is not ours to own, but ours to share.


  1. I love Father John's musings. Especially the one about fearing the one who does not know what they do not know. It sounds like he is calling on our species to remember who we are---not this flesh and bone but conscious beings of love. And I love your descriptions. I feel like I am in the room. Thank you for these posts. Hope you scalp heals quickly and your "would you rathers" offer gratitude and comfort. Can't wait for the next chapter!

  2. So glad you reached tour destination safely! I think of you everyday now when I put on my lipstick, primarily plum! Analyze that for me someday! Enjoy our adventures and we will dedicate a girls night to you in 11-12 weeks. Hugs!

  3. Mary, wow! God bless you and those around you. It must be unsettling to say the least! Thinking of you as your embark on this journey. I know you will return a changed woman, with an enlightenment that only an experience like this can bring. Stay safe! ��

  4. I try to always try to remember how fortunate we all are, living in our comfortable houses, not worrying about our next meal or money or our safety. One never really realizes or comprehends that fortune until we have lived without it. How fortunate you are to be on this journey as it will forever give you such a greater appreciation for what you have. How silly my daily worries now seem. I promised a friend from work I would take her to lunch today and I am sitting in my warm comfy bed seriously contemplating cancelling because it is pouring rain and I don’t want to ruin the blow out I just got. Geez. Thank you Mary for sharing your journey with all of us. Not cancelling lunch now by the way. ❤️


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