And Dirt Don’t Hurt

The other day, Russ criticized my kitchen sponge. He asked if I had a new one because I use my sponges until they’re, “like nothing,” and then told me that my dishes are dirtier after having been washed by it.

The discussion was short, and in the end, the sponge stayed, but it did make me reminisce about the health code violations that don’t exist in Malawi.

Cooking is often done about 1 foot off the ground, if not directly in the dirt. And clean dishes? Yeah right.

French toast anyone?

Lago and Brian washing dishes in the back yard.

Dish rack. Yes, those are sticks. Sticks that ants often climb to get to the "clean" dishes.

One time I saw Russ peel a hard-boiled egg and lick the dipping salt off the palm of his hand during an 8 hour ride on a public Malawian bus. I also distinctly remember providing a foot rub or two and then cooking a meal after “washing” my hands in a weak stream of borehole water.

The borehole.

And even though laundry meant scrubbing our clothes with a bar of soap and our own two hands, they were still irreparably dirty, but it felt so good to put on a “fresh” shirt after sweating all day.

If we were lucky, the neighbor, Agogo, would bring clothes pins so the clean clothes didn't fall to the ground with every gust of wind.

Now let’s discuss “showering.” Showering is in quotes here because in order to take a bafa (shower), you have to first sweep the dirt, termites, and ants off the floor of the mud hut with the thatched roof. Then, you had to disrobe with only a thin piece of cloth blowing in the wind as your door, and pour water all over yourself while praying that you don’t swing a body part too wide and dislodge any creepy crawlies from the surrounding walls or roof.

The famed backyard bafa.

Luckily, Russ and I are both of the belief that a little dirt never hurt anyone. I once saw my little sister eat a whole, live garden snail and she turned out alright, so don’t be surprised if you ever see my future kid eat a handful of dirt and I don’t freak out. The more I think about it, the more I realize that if I didn’t have a friendly relationship with dirt, I never would have survived Malawi.

And while I stand by my belief that a little dirt is okay, I did fall into a compulsive bathroom bleaching session that made my bathroom pretty close to godliness the other night. And even though I realized that the sponge I use to scrub the sink I spit into is in better shape than the one that scrubs my dishes, I think I’ll leave it in the kitchen anyway just to remember a little piece of Malawi.

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