I’ve been sick for the past few days and our resident nurse (my teammate, Rachel) ordered me to stay at home to rest. Hard as it was for me – really, it was – I did it. Yesterday I slept. But today, sleeping seemed so yesterday, so I opted for watching Little Rascals and laying low – I figured I could tuck in early and it’d even out. My rest day progressed and before long, the beautiful African Sunset rolled in, the moon and stars made their debut and I knew it was time I begin my bedtime routine. Grabbing my bag of toiletries, I headed across the lawn to our bathroom. Now, if this were a dramatic movie, creepy boisterous music that usually pairs with the goriest of scenes or a horrible turn of events would be played here. I climbed the two steps only to see (wait for it) BUGS EVERYWHERE. Yes, bugs. Red, black, brown complete with too many legs and beady eyes and wings. They coated the walls, ready to attack at any moment!
So much for my shower – I’d be too vulnerable to the soaring things. Maybe I could forgo washing my face and brushing my teeth. After all, I thought, it’s only one night. They’d just installed a new light and it was left on, attracting massive hoards of bugs. Tomorrow we would certainly leave that light off. For now, the dilemma remained. But alas, there was one non-negotiable. Nurse Rachel gave strict advice to hydrate. I’d followed that to a T. Therein lay my problem: drinking a lot of fluid leads to much needed bathroom breaks. While meeting this need would not endanger me as much as a shower, it’s undeniable— I’d be much more open to the wrath of the swarm than were I to opt out. I considered, but there was no opting out. This was a must. Then, a thought… what about the Leaders’ bathrooms?
I traversed the rest of the yard to the Leader’s bathrooms. Drat! The light for those, too, had been left on. The walls surrounding the toilet here were much higher, allowing much more room for the bugs to rest, awaiting unsuspecting “friends” such as I. My bladder is small. Time was running out. It was do or die (I admit, my thought process was a tad dramatic). By the skin of my teeth, I made it out alive.
Okay, now my recounting of the tale is growing dramatic. But the thing is, that was how I was feeling. As I came out of the bathroom, I tried to calm the adrenaline rush and swelling frustrations with reassuring thoughts of the American bathrooms awaiting me. Those glorious places where bugs wont plague me with fear and the leaving the light on will have only unseen implications. But then I remembered that every Ugandan I’ve met is exposed to these bugs – and there’s no escaping to American bathrooms for them. Shoving that thought away, I began rationalizing my clearly irrational overreactions, “Ugandans grew up with these bugs. They know which ones are harmful and which aren’t; I don’t, so I have to fear them all (even those pesky ants)!” “I’m sick, I shouldn’t have to go through this when I’m sick.” “Wait ‘till my friends at home hear about this, they will be astonished at all I had to go through.”
By this point I was ten seconds into washing my hands and I finally paid attention to the water I was looking at. There I stood, in Uganda, washing my hands with water that comes from a faucet. Some Ugandans walk miles to the nearest “bore hole” to stand in line, to pump undrinkable water into jerry cans, to carry them home on their heads, to boil some to drink and divvy up the rest for washing dishes, clothes and their children. I journeyed across the lawn to my bonda, contemplating the huge property we live on here, the toilets we use contrasted with holes in the ground. the cement floors and tiled walls our bathrooms boast rather than dirt/mud(hopefully) floors and ratty old wooden walls that 20+ huts share. Snap back to reality. Those sobering realizations kept rolling, and still roll as I sit in my bed writing this.
One of my leaders, Amy, wrote a blog earlier this week after we helped in a medical clinic in another village (serveproject.wordpress.com). I remembered what she wrote about the difference in how the Acholi people and most Americans view pills. Almost as if to reinforce Amy’s point, my mind flashed back to that afternoon when one of the women who work for the property we live on encountered a pill mid-sweep. She picked it up and handed it to me, asking whose it might be. I stared at it, figuring it could be a vitamin, and thinking it odd she picked it up from the dirt – no one would take it now, I thought. But here, most everyone is sick with one thing or another, and medicine is terribly expensive- especially when rice and beans are on the line.
What luxuries I’ve been given. How foolishly I write them off. I know I can’t dwell on it all excessively, but I’d forgotten that I don’t have permission to flippantly excuse the way life is lived in third world countries – the injustices, the poverty, the inequality. So now, though it’s hard when the bugs bother, I’m thankful that God used these buggy buddies in the bathroom to catch my attention.