Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I'm not really feeling any better today. I'm getting a little tired of brushing my teeth with bottled water, of sleeping under small mosquito nets everywhere I go, and of sweating constantly. I don't mean to complain...I was expecting these conditions when I came here and it gives me an understanding of what the locals must live through every day, but if I'm being honest about my feelings here, it is wearing me down a bit. I think I will feel better after the Larium has dissipated tomorrow or the next day.

Now would be a good time to give you an idea of some of the sanitation challenges faced by the people who live here, and how lucky we were to have won life's lottery when we were born in a developed country (against heavy odds). Kilimanjaro does not have trash service. Everyone just throws their trash on the ground, and when the pile gets too big, they light it on fire. Everywhere you go is the toxic smell of burning plastic. There are no trash cans anywhere.

People also do not have plumbing, which also means no bathrooms. Sarah was wondering where her kids kept going when they'd disappear behind the school, and then she realized they were using the back of the school as a bathroom. They also have no way to wash their hands, which poses a challenge to visitors like us because we are then introduced to many different types of bacteria. We must be persistent in scrubbing our own hands constantly, especially before eating our food.

The children here have nothing. They don't have pencils, they have a few short stubs that started as pencils brought by volunteers. They don't have pencil sharpeners, so they have to sharpen their pencils with an old razor blade and throw the shavings out the window (no trash cans). There are also no erasers. Lucky classes have one eraser that is shared by all 50-100 students in that class.

The children have no toys whatsoever, but luckily there is trash covering the ground in every direction so they can often find trash to play with. It isn't uncommon to see a kid trying to roll a flat bicycle inter-tube down the street with a stick, or a group of kids playing soccer with a bag of trash as the ball.

Despite all of this, the people here put on a good face and at times seem genuinely happy. I honestly can't blame people for trying to rip me off constantly...who is to say I wouldn't do the same thing in their condition? I'd like to think I wouldn't, but it's easy to say this coming from my own lot in life. If I were born at the bottom end of the world's economies, would I really feel bad about trying to get a few extra dollars from a mzungu who is probably so rich he wouldn't notice it anyway? For all I know, they extra money is to feed their children.


Mario said...

Well stated, Grasshopper.


Mom said...

We are so blessed.