We were sitting in the parking lot, waiting for someone to finish at the bank. We were parked by one of many salons in the area. Our driver turned to us and told us excitedly that the owner of the salon was very large. We wondered what he meant – was she tall or wide? He replied that she was ‘Not so tall, but taller than you. And FAT.’ We awkwardly giggled, trying to downplay his comment. Then he got even more excited, and jumped out of the car. ‘Here, I will show you…Hey, HELLLOOOO…’ he shouted at the door. We looked at each other in shock as we realized what was happening, right before our eyes.
Thankfully, she was not there.
A few days later, we were telling the laughable story to our second driver. He laughed and agreed heartily. ‘Yes, she is very fat. She is the fattest lady in Murkurwe-ini. She is number one.’
That wasn’t quite what we were going for. But I guess everyone is known for something.
I travelled in Amsterdam for a few days before I came to Kenya. On one of the main roads through town there was a quote by Benjamin Disraeli painted on the outside of a building:
‘Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.’
I immediately committed it to memory because I loved it so much. This Saturday, we went on a safari and I took over 550 photos. But it always happens that whenever I get the photos back onto my computer, I can’t shake a vague feeling of disappointment. It’s not because they don’t serve as great memories, they just fail to capture the full measure of the moment.
They remind me of the things I have seen, but can’t remember – but they never carry the full weight of the memory for me. Behind the printed paper of each photo is a smell, a taste, a bigger skyline, a colour or a feeling that is missed in the photo. I will always remember the expanse of the sky, the clouds moving in from a distance, the smell of Kenyan soil, the giddiness of seeing a herd of zebras fighting and playing and running in front of you, the feeling of wild freedom that wiggles its way back into your heart whenever you have forgotten that nature is spectacular, and that YOU are a part of it.
And it’s not just in the big moments, it’s all the best and worst of the little things in each day. It’s the sweat, it’s the ache of the day you missed home, it’s the story behind a relationship, a handshake, a shared meal or joke, it’s the calves and children that weave their snotty-nosed way into the parts of your heart you prefer to keep hidden. These things just never make their way onto the photo like I always hope they will. These are the things that I will remember, even though they aren’t things you can see.
Tonight, I spent the better part of a half an hour scrubbing poop out of my underwear. Shepelo overheard my uncontrollable giggles and advised me with laughter in her eyes that it would leave a terrible stain, one that I could never remove. A necessary clarification at this point: this was not my own, personal poop (although I will admit that the initial shock of the dark stain caused me a brief moment of anxiety about the integrity of my continence). Thankfully though, none of us as of yet has been visited by the ever-threatening menace of ‘The Diarrheas.’ This is no small feat, and is actually a constant and niggling thought in the backs of our minds as we take tea, fruit, and food from a variety of unknown kitchens.
I guess in that regard, it’s no laughing manner. Diarrhea is a common and life-threatening condition in many developing countries. Many people (especially children) are susceptible to diarrhea and dehydration that can quickly lead to death in severe cases. In fact, it’s one of the leading causes of childhood mortality worldwide. Because of this, we have strictly adhered to a ‘peel it, cook it, boil it or leave it’ rule that has served us well, so far.
Unfortunately, after the half an hour was over, the stain remained. It became clear to me that Shepelo was right, and that I would never be able to remove it. Earlier in the morning, I had knelt down, sitting on my boot after stepping in manure. The manure soaked right through my pants, and stained my pants and underwear in an unfortunate place. I didn’t realize it at the time, so was in for a great shock when I made a pit stop in the outhouse a half an hour later. I realized what had happened and tried to emotionally prepare myself to spend the rest of the day looking like I had pooped my pants. Thankfully, they were already splattered haphazardly with manure – making it somewhat obvious (I hoped) that I hadn’t created this particular spot on my own. Too embarrassed to ship this pair of underwear off to the lady who does our laundry (knowing what she would immediately assume upon looking at them), I did my best to scrub them clean.
Because this is not ‘the’ something I want to become known for (the number one pants-pooper in Murkurwe-ini).
I’m not exactly sure I can pinpoint what it is that I want to become known for. But I do know that when I look through my pictures at the people we have worked with, each friend and farmer will bring back a bigger memory than the picture can hold.
If Benjamin Disraeli is right, we are on our way to becoming great travellers.