Writing from 3.387° S, 36.683° E
You know that old saying “from dust to dust” that people usually use to talk about the circle of life? I’ve developed a new take on that: “from dusty to dustier.” Each day I move between levels of dustiness, from moderately dusty (immediately after showering) to the more common layer-of-dust-so-thick-I-can’t-see-my-skin-underneath (anytime I step foot out of the house). I don’t think I’ve been fully clean since arriving here four weeks ago, but here’s the thing:
At first, I couldn’t get past the feeling of dust in my eyes and my shoes (and my everything). But over time, I grew accustomed to it. Unpaved roads mixed with the dry season and gusts of wind are bound to throw dirt in your face, but that’s just how life is here. It’s not a bad thing — just different.
This has been one of the many reminders I’ve had thus far of the importance of being flexible, especially in regards to travel.
New cultures and environments and people can be hard to adjust to, as I touched on in my last post. Everyone needs time to reconcile oneself to change. I am a firm believer that there is no country or culture or person on earth that is superior to another, so this flexibility and willingness to adapt to differences is one of the top rules in my travel bible.
Adjustment comes in many forms: adapting to constant dust, taking bucket showers when the running water turns off for a few days, or even putting on SPF 50+ every morning lest you become a tomato like my friend Lucy after an afternoon in the scorching African sun.
It also includes being flexible when a day doesn’t turn out how you were expecting.
Let’s talk about the day that Lucy burned. Like any other morning, we left home for Pippi House at around 9am. Unlike any other morning, we knew that today we had been invited to go with Aristedes (the man who runs the project) to see the plot of land where a new Pippi House will be built, hopefully beginning next year. We had been told that the land was near Njiro, an area south by just a few stops on the dala dala. In our minds, this was to be a quick trip: there and back in time for lunch.
What it ended up being was the most exciting, exhausting, “only in Africa” afternoon we’ve had so far — a great opportunity to practice being flexible.
Our “short trip” turned into a spontaneous 3-hour hike under the blazing sun, looking for a shortcut Aristedes had heard about that didn’t exist. We walked through neighborhoods and pockets of trees and desert-looking landscapes and, eventually, a giant ravine with a river running through it.
Speaking of flexibility, did I mention I wore the wrong shoes for this?
During the entire afternoon, Lucy and I kept looking at each other and laughing because it was so far from what we expected that it didn’t quite feel real. At several points when trying to cross the ravine, we had to wait while Maasai herders attempted to pass with their hundreds of cows and goats.
It was a day I’ll never forget, and I may have missed out on the thrill if I was too busy stressing about my expectations vs. reality.
Here’s to practicing flexibility in every part of our lives, whether we are exploring a new place, interacting with different people, or adjusting our expectations. Better yet, let’s get rid of expectations altogether and simply enjoy the situation we are faced with. Adjust yourself to meet your surroundings rather than expecting your surroundings to adjust to you.
Last but not least, embrace the dust. It’s all part of the experience.
Up next: Into the wild — my first safari at Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Park.