"How Africa Changed Me" Chapters, Travel

“How Africa Changed Me” – Chapter 5

 

Chapter 5

What I Was in For

It seemed it wasn’t OK for me to hide in that back room forever though, where me and my tears could be left in peace. Instead, I had to get up and “bathe,” as they called it. You’d think this would excite me after the long, tiring journey we had just endured, but no and here’s why.

There was no shower, nice bath, or hot water. For health reasons, we were told to be careful with the water – don’t consume it in any form where possible. It’s funny because when I went to get my vaccinations, my doctor turned around and said there was a “national shortage of Hep B vaccines so…sorry, be careful!” Really, that’s what she bloody said! It was mad.

Anyway, it wasn’t the fear of Hep B that got to me. It was the fact that it was freezing and I had to go into a room with no lock and get naked in a strange house in Africa that was filled with my boyfriend’s family; then crouch down in a tub, use the cut-off bottom of a bottle as a bowl, and scoop water out of this huge dish in order to wash myself. Yes, this is how it’s done.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no snob. I come from a low income, single parent household, and I have bathed in sinks and used bowls and bathed with my siblings in the past. And this wasn’t far from what I expected, either. It’s just expecting something and actually doing it are kind of different – and the house was soooo cold. So much for Africa, right. I was a shivering, confused, naked mess. Later, I found out that they had warmed the water using the coil from inside a kettle which hovered into the tub of water! Resourcefulness was something that they had in abundance in Africa – let’s ignore the potential death associated with it, though…

I made the mistake of leaving the bathroom only wearing my towel and with no shoes on. The floor had no carpet so the (lino or tiling) was freezing even against my already dithering body. My boyfriend told me not to walk out in my towel again, as it would seem disrespectful – I hadn’t thought of that, but it made total sense. But I soon learned my lesson anyway. I brought my clothes for the day into the bathroom in order to get changed. I made a point of telling as many people as I could that I was bathing, and even shut the door loudly so that no one would walk in on me – turns out this was simply an invitation for a certain little boy, who moseyed on in whilst I was naked, though. I screamed at him to leave, but he just gave a cheeky grin until his mother came to get him. I also brought flip-flops in with me and a bottle of water so that I could brush my teeth without catching a disease.

Look at me, I’m mastering Africa already!

On the evening of the first day, though, it was really late when we finally ate – I say ate, but I mean that I forced down a few potatoes and some chicken, that’s all. Naturally, we prayed before eating which was foreign to me as an agnostic, and took my off-guard when they announced it because it was said in Shona and I’d already started eating – fool!

After that, my eyelids were becoming heavy, but apparently the evening wasn’t over. Instead, Baba Precious had to explain is way too much detail about plans for travelling to Durban, and the sleeping arrangements that I bet no one listened to. Then, they did something even more foreign to me – they prayed again, then sang, then all prayed aloud whilst standing and we all had to wait for the last person to finish before we could move on. I’m not sure where this practice came from, though. Hold on, let me ask my boyfriend…

He didn’t know! So much for him.

The singing was beautiful and I definitely would have appreciated it more if I hadn’t been so tired from still not sleeping yet after all the travelling. I know people noticed that I didn’t pray aloud, but Patrick and Diana didn’t either so at least it was us pesky British folk and not just me. Finally, someone turned and said to me that I could go to bed and I practically ran! Then, I remembered that I was sharing a room with his nan and his sister, so I felt a little less excited. Plus, I was expected to fall asleep to the chorus of chattering new family members. Uh-oh, I will not be sleeping for the entire trip. Yippee.

END OF DAY ONE.

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