Sunday, February 12, 2012
My Ankles and Their Dirty Feet
For these past two days we’ve been without internet. In fact, it’s a blessing we’ve been able to keep electricity. There are three main grids for power in our area, and on the morning of the 10th, we lost all three. We recovered one, for basic electricity, but the other two (one including the internet) are down for now. We’ve been regrouping, communicating, and running around frantically trying to find written studies on our scientific writing project topics. I had decided that mine would be on the social behavior of wildebeest.
In this time of lost internet, and no way to find scholarly articles outside of our guidebooks, I reconnected with my ankles, and their dirty feet. I name the feet as belonging to my ankles because they had, I had noted, lost their place as a part of my body’s entirety. This is to say, they were simply no longer my feet!
Allow me to explain.
In East Africa, the shoes of choice are kandambilis, or sandals. We wear sandals as often as possible, and exchange for boots or tennis shoes when we play soccer or head out on field excursions. Socks and shoes dirty quickly, and hand washing one’s smelly socks after a day of hiking it across Tanzania is unappealing at best.
In the end, no matter what shoes or socks one wears, the red dirt from the earth finds its way onto the skin of your feet. They, along with the sun’s rays, discolor and change your feet, seeping into the pores, creating new shades and lines on their surface. Thus, you are presented with new feet other than the ones you woke up with.
This dirt and sun dig so deeply into your skin that no matter how many times you wash your feet, the red coloring never quite fades. My toenails have new faces, with their long skinny torsos browned and changed by the sun. These are not the feet I’ve kept with me these past years, and they’ve become new entities attached by my ankles. Thus, these feet belong to my ankles.
I often laugh and joke, wondering if I’ll ever meet my feet again. These feet that allow me to move about Karatu, Mtu Wa Mbu, and these other parts of Tanzania are becoming battle-hardened, and find it easy to navigate the dirty, sometimes rough terrain. But I wonder, when they see a warm bath, a scrub brush, nail polish, and the paved roads of home, will they become recognizable to me once again? Or will they simply be these new feet, traveling across borders, taking me to new places, and collecting dirt from other places as well?
People should take the time to know their feet, for they often tell many great stories, and are a map to all of the places we’ve traveled.