I think it is safe to say that I am a clean freak. Everything in my house has its place. My nephews know that when they come to my house cupcakes do not have icing because that is a mess waiting to happen. Actually, who am I kidding, they don’t even get cupcakes because the messy fingers, faces and furniture afterwards is just too much for me to handle! I was a pretty messy kid, but somewhere along the road from childhood to now-hood ( I don’t like to consider myself an adult) I have created this monster that has no tolerance for anything messy or dirty.
So when I signed myself up to go to Kenya, I knew I had my work cut-out for me. I had enough clean clothes, socks and underwear to last me the full trip. I packed every single type of sanitizer lotion, gel and wipe that you can buy. I packed things in re-sealable bags so that the dirt couldn’t get in. I took every step possible, or so I thought, to make sure that I could stay as clean as possible. I was prepared.
And then I got to Kenya. Within the first 24 hours my feet were the same colour as the ground, I had a line of dirt around my ankles, I had smelled things that would normally make me nauseous, and I was having a great time! The trip continued, with each day getting dirtier than the last. Running water and flushing toilets soon became a luxury. When we drove on the dirt roads it was like driving through a thick fog of dust. I tried my best to cover my mouth, nose, and ears, but the dirt still got in. I was dirty, and I didn’t care.
The problem was that I was thinking about myself, how I would feel, and how I would handle it, and not about the others.
It never really hit me, the challenges I had overcome, until I experienced the dirtiest day of my life. Yes, I am a Tough Mudder, but those type of man-made dirt obstacles do not compare to real life dirt. The dirtiest day of my life came when our team went to Maji Moto, a small village about 5 hours away from Nairobi. There was no running water, there was no electricity, and there were no air fresheners. There were dirt roads, cattle, goats, chickens, bugs the size of your hand, bushes with thorns that would break through the sole of your shoes, and people. The beautiful people of Maji Moto who welcomed us as if we were their own. They didn’t care how dirty we were, it wasn’t important.
In Maji Moto I had the once in a lifetime experience of meeting Maasai Warriors and their families, holding their children, and spending time in their school. Life for the people of Maji Moto is something I never could have imagined. Pre- Kenya Allison, would have said no way, and gotten back on the bus, but now that I had met these people, there is no way I couldn’t be around them. After spending some time in the classrooms and with the children, we were lucky enough to have a celebration with the people of Maji Moto, and had a bull killed so that we could have a community feast. Yes, in the morning we had Maasai Warriors kill a bull for us so that we could cook it and eat it in the afternoon with the people of Maji Moto. FYI There are no butcher shops in Maji Moto.
So here I am the dirtiest I have ever been, meeting people whose lives are so different than mine, sharing and learning about them and the struggles they have. Then the meal is served and it is fresh bull cooked a few different ways, with rice, and cabbage, and of course, we brought in some (500 bottles) Coca Cola. Despite how hungry the people of Maji Moto may have been, they insisted that we eat first as we were guests. Then they lined up, women and children, farmers and Maasai over 700 people in total. Seven hundred people had something to eat that day. Seven hundred people came together because they knew visitors from Canada would be coming. I was dirty, my clothes were dirty, my hair was dirty, there were no mirrors but I am sure my face was dirty, and I smelled. I was dirty and smelly and in the company of 700 hundred people and no one cared. They accepted me as I was, and I did not think twice about how dirty I was. I ate the rice and cabbage that had been prepared in a ‘kitchen’, that wouldn’t come close to our health inspection standards, with my hands, because there was nothing else, and I enjoyed it.
After the meal was finished we gave out the items that we had brought for the community, I thought to myself, what a day it had been. I had been dreading this day the most (you can ask my sister because I sent her many worried texts), just knowing how dirty and uncomfortable I would be. But the problem was that I was thinking about myself, how I would feel, and how I would handle it, and not about the others. How about the people in Maji Moto, who were going to be able to eat today because we were there? How about the young mothers that would get much needed supplies for their families because we had brought items for them? How about the children who got a break from their normal chores and could play and have fun with us?
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, my day ended with the surprise of being able to take a shower, and have a bed to sleep in at a near-by hotel (the original plan was to camp with the Maasai, which others still did) and I could not believe it. A shower, I got to shower- someone might as well have told me that I’d won a million dollars. I was so excited, I called my mom. Based on my excitement, I think she thought, for a minute, that I actually did become a Kenyan millionaire. I can say, after my cold shower, as I sat drinking a bottle of coke (again, pop is easier to get than water) I felt great. I wouldn’t have traded that feeling for a million dollars. I was the wealthiest I had been in a long time.