I think back to when I first arrived in Wabigalo I recall the feeling of being completely overwhelmed….visually, emotionally, physically and so on. I remember having my senses inundated with sights, sounds and smells. Oh the smells! They were definitely one of the extremes. Burning trash, charcoal stoves (often used indoors), raw sewage, overfilled latrines, body odor and the list goes on.
You know what is especially interesting to me as I reflect on all of this? It’s how all these smells aren’t so noticeable anymore. I guess you just get used to them and/or you teach yourself to avoid them…in a way. For example, there is a corridor, which I passed through every day for over a year on my walk from the Morris’ house to the church. It is narrow and the ground is uneven and often is used as a toilet (#1 and 2) and a place for people to dump their trash. It permeates stench. It’s the kind of thing where you are walking along and then all the sudden you’re like, aaaaaaaw naw, my mouth was open! Not pleasant, not pleasant at all, but it is the most direct route to the church and going another way would more than double your walk.
So what does one do? You simply train yourself to hold your breath as you pass through.
I remember when it was a very calculated thing. Perhaps I would even pause for a moment and inhale a big breath, but now? Now I just move right through, without even a thought. As a result, I don’t even smell the stank. Is it still there? You betcha. Or is it like the old “if a tree fell in the woods and no one is there to hear it” thing. If the corridor reeks, but Rosalie doesn’t smell it anymore, it definitely still reeks….or does it?
Nowadays when I pass by a pile of burning trash or someone lighting a charcoal stove (sigiri, as they are called here) or even a really gross looking drainage ditch - I unconsciously hold my breath.
At times I have even wondered if all these smells actually had reduced, but visitors have since confirmed they are still going strong.
One thing that has been somewhat tricky for me is my current bathing situation. A space the size of a coat closet houses the place where myself, and my housemates, shower and also use the toilet. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a flushable latrine or floor toilet or you could also call it a squatty potty. Water being a hot commodity and going out routinely several days every week, the toilet only gets flushed when someone goes for a long call (that would be a #2). So, when I’m showering I can’t breath through my nose or I would just be smelling stinky bathroom smells the whole time I’m washing my body. I have gotten quite good, only occasionally letting unwanted smells enter my nose.
Well, the other day the water was out so I had a basin of water with me in the shower-toilet. As I began splashing water on my face I smelt something delightful. I look down at the basin like, eh? And thought Nancy must of used some strong smelling soap to wash something and not rinsed it out very well. I remember thinking, I guess that means I’m washing myself with a filmy residue of soapiness, but I didn’t have the time to do anything about it so I went on about my business. A few minutes later I see a stink of incense burning, resting on one of the bricks. It hadn’t been the water at all, it was a wonderfully delightful stink of incense. As I came back inside after the shower I mentioned it to Nancy and she explained Rebecca (my neighbor) is ever doing that. What a genius idea. How convenient that a friend gave me box of incense a month ago.
Incense, it’s not just for hippies anymore.
Below are a few shots of shower/toilet that I took with my iPod.