19 April 2012

Baptized in Dust


We made it. There is a lot I could say about our trip and pictures I could post. But you’ve seen a lot of that in my day. If you want to see it though, just say so and I’ll do it. I like to have those things included in this here online family photo album, but I don’t want to bore my readers (hi, you two!) to death.

Okay. Enough of that.

We got here two days ago. Two days. We were greeted by great friends and all seventeen (yes, nine checked bags and eight carry-ons) two children and two adults were safely deposited in our apartment where there were even cinnamon rolls ready to be baked in the morning. It was an incredibly smooth trip, start to finish. Praise to Jesus.

Upon arrival, a quick inventory of the house revealed a few things. Like that our bikes were stolen. And the water pump isn’t working. And our fridge had been off. And our toilet was broken. And our car’s battery was dead. And there are wild mangy cat and kittens living on our balcony. And only one of our four air coolers work. And that the huge tree that shaded our house and gave us privacy on our balcony and provided us with some refreshing green outside was chopped down and sold for money in our absence. And the floors are peeling more than I remembered. And that someone siphoned the gas out of our tank. And the paint is falling off the walls all over the place. Just to name a few things.

And then, there’s the dust.

The dust.

Now, we’ve lived here almost six years and I KNOW to expect dust. I prepare myself for it and know it’s gonna be bad. And it was. The place was clean on the surface… the floors had been mopped and the tables and counters wiped. But that’s about it. Anything and everything else, whether it was inside a cupboard or not) has a thick layer of Sahara dust on it. I was pretty disappointed about this, because my cleaner was cleaning in preparation for our arrival so I kinda hoped the place would be, you know, clean.

I was wrong.

But it’s okay I happily told myself! I’ll just clean one room at a time, from top of the fifteen foot walls down to the crusty corners of the old painted-and-peeling tile floors. I have to do all this cleaning before I unpack any of those seventeen bags because there isn’t a clean place to put away a single thing. So before even laying my travel weary head on my pillow after close to thirty hours of traveling I resolve to start in the kids’ room the very next morning. If their toys and books and closet and furniture is clean then I can unpack their things, have a clean place for them to play and feel like I have some control in my dusty dusty life.

So Wednesday that is what I did. I teetered on the tippy top of the ladder. I scrubbed with the super-long-extended-wall-dust-scrubber-brush (yes, you can buy those here). I went through bucket after bucket of clean water gone muddy. I filled the washing machine with dirty rags. I wiped every solitary book and placed it back on the carefully cleaned bookshelf. I took each item out of the kids’ closet, wiped it down and returned it to its place. I hauled baskets and trucks and train sets to the bathtub and sat there on my knees scrubbing them under the running water. I did it all. And in the midst of it all, I dealt with needy jet-laggy children and sweated myself silly. No biggie.

But by the end of the day that one room was clean. At least clean for Africa. Fresh sheets on the bed. Washed curtains. Clean organized toys. Re-arranged furniture.

And it felt so good.

Really really good.

That was yesterday. So today my helper came and together we cleaned the kitchen in a similar fashion… top to bottom. Every cabinet, every surface, every cookbook, every decoration, every lightbulb and exposed electrical wire, etc. Every dish and drawer. And we did all that while caring for her baby and my children, one of which had been puking up blood from his multiple bloody noses the day before. It was a joy, lemme tell ya. Except I shouldn’t even say that we cleaned everything because that is actually a lie. After the two of us worked all day we still hadn’t finished. But she left anyway and I can’t say I blame her.

Enter Mikey and the three local workers he’s brought to fix our coolers and our broken toilet. I’m still cleaning the kitchen by myself and I’m constantly (and I mean CONSTANTLY) closing doors after these guys as they come in from the balcony and go back out so that dust from the filthy balconies doesn’t blow into my house and make matters worse. The muddy tracks on the freshly mopped floor are bad enough, I don’t need more dust in the air.

Anyway we’ve seen this cooler-cleaning scenario before and so we make sure to tell the worker to warn us before he turns the air cooler on in the kids’ room for the first time so that we can hold a wet towel over the vent and catch the dust. This is common sense to us.

Do you see where this is going?

I’m chopping fruit in the kitchen and turn around to see the balcony door open (again) and begin to walk over to close it. As I pass the kids’ bedroom I see the guy reaching for the switch to turn the cooler on. I try to say something, but it’s too late. Out comes the LARGEST, THICKEST, DIRTIEST dust cloud I’ve ever seen in my LIFE (and I’ve seen a lot of dust clouds) billowing and I mean BILLOWING out of the vent and filling the room in filthy, awful dust.

That’s when I loose it. I actually screamed out uncontrollably at the top of my lungs in pure horror (a feeling I don’t often experience and a sound I don’t think I’ve ever emitted before this day). Then I screamed “WHHHHYYY?” and then in Arabic for good measure “LEEEEEEEEHH” as tears burst from my eyes. I can’ t look at anyone and I am certain that all the men, my husband and my children were just standing there wondering what could have happened that would be so bad to make the white lady act like that. But I don’t care. I race to the bedroom and slam the door as the wails billow up from inside of me. I know my behavior is erratic but I can’t help it. I literally couldn’t stop wailing and weeping for a good twenty minutes.

Now people. I am a mature, very easy-going, level-headed, emotionally stable person who knows there are more important things in life.. But this dust. This DUST!!! Sometimes I just wish I could be okay walking on dusty floors and reading dusty books and sitting on dusty chairs and playing with dusty toys and opening and closing dusty curtains. But I’m not. You probably wouldn’t be either. If you were here I think you’d feel the same. Some of you DO live in this sandbox-of-a-country with me… can you back a girl up here?

I was a mess and rightfully so, I’d say. I mean… you should have SEEN that dust cloud INSIDE MY FRESHLY CLEANED HOUSE!!!!!! Oh my word. I could cry again just picturing it in my head.

Now I know this is long. But I’m not done. I was later washing (more) dishes pondering the “What made the white lady act like that” question myself. All I could come up with is it’s kind of like if you had worked ALL DAY on an excruciating report in college that you had been dreading for weeks. You’ve just finished after a whole day of seriously hard work and you click save and you admire your work and you’re so stinkin’ glad that you’re done and the feeling of completion and satisfaction is oh-so-good. You go back the next day and find out that some guy had just clicked ‘delete’ cause he felt like it and ZAP… it’s GONE. Gone gone gone and you must start over. In fact you have even more work to do now than you did at the start because not only did he delete one file, but it billowed, I mean deleted the surrounded rooms, I mean FILES at the same time. And so you have to start over on those too. And even though you have a million other things to do and you’re dead tired and you were so happy that you got this one thing accomplished you have to immediately go and do all that same work and MORE all over again before you can do anything else. All because some guy was too lazy to do the right thing.

Do you get it? Can you feel my pain?!

Oh. But wait.The guy said “Malesh Ustaaza” (Sorry, Lady) before he left. So that made it all better.

Except it didn’t. Not at all. It’s like saying ‘Woopsies!” WOOPSIES?! He makes a lil’ woopsie and I loose DAYS of my life being baptized in dust. But all he did was say the equivalent of “Woopsie” and walk out the door with his wad of cash. I couldn’t look at him I was so angry with him.



Baptized in dust.


  1. Glad you made it safely! I really wish I was there with you. You are not crazy for reacting how you did. I screamed just reading it--loud enough to scare my roommates! Love you and am praying for your transition!

  2. AGGHHHH! I screamed too. Sadness. :(

  3. Oh, my goodness!! How frustrating! Made me want to cry! And it's OK for your kids to see (and hear!!) your humanness in your screaming out. They always see your quiet, calm, organized and reasonable self. Certainly, it's all right for them to learn that all of us have other sides occasionally!
    I am sure many of us can feel your pain!!
    I love you & miss you terribly already!

  4. Turns out the tree wasn't cut down for money, but cut down by our friends who lived downstairs because they wanted to plant grass and it wouldn't grow in the shade. It makes sense, but I'm still kinda sad about it being gone. And I'm sad about our friends downstairs being gone too! Anyway, I'll correct the blog about that detail. :)


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