I debated with myself about whether I should even write this post. But I committed to sharing the stuff that happens during this year and this was too much on my mind for me to skate past it. Plus, it would be dishonest of me to only share the good or funny or interesting stuff. So, here goes.
When I arrived here, this place was a dump…by my standards, anyway. I did hint that the cleanliness of the place was an issue in my post about walking around without shoes. It was a very vague hint, I admit. I didn’t want to share too much about it because I didn’t want my friends and family to worry about what kind of place I had gone to. My anam cara and my sister knew, but I didn’t really share with anyone else. Now, I’m coming clean…literally.
This centre is run by year-long volunteers, like me, who are responsible for ensuring that it is properly maintained. My understanding is that the local person who cooks for us is supposed to clean as well but apparently, she doesn’t do that; I don’t know why that is.
So, every international volunteer has come here and I suppose they have had their own definition of ‘clean’ or simply didn’t care, and since there is no constant cleaning person, the place deteriorated into what I found when I arrived.
To be fair, ‘dump’ can be a subjective term. A dump to me may be perfectly acceptable to another. On the other hand, they may also think it’s a dump but they may not be sufficiently motivated to do anything about it.
When I arrived and saw what I had walked into, I realised that I was in a quandary. On the one hand, I was very aware of my ethnicity and had no intention of establishing myself as the cleaning lady. On the other hand, living in uncleanliness is unacceptable to me. I can do untidy; I cannot do dirty.
But how to proceed? I couldn’t just come in and start talking about how dumpy the place was and demand a deep clean right now! That would immediately drive a wedge between my colleagues and me – I would come across judgmental and like I was calling them nasty. I absolutely wasn’t; they had inherited a dirty facility and, while they may also have believed that it was a dump, they were simply not motivated to do anything about it.
Handling my bedroom was no problem – that’s my personal space and I can do whatever I want in there. So I cleaned it like a maniac when I just got here, but I was still bothered by the state of the rest of the place. I was so bothered, in fact, that I finally realised I was losing sleep over it.
My problem was not only that I can’t live in dirt; I also believe that we need to set an example for the children who come here. Yes, many are young children and could perhaps consciously care less about how clean their environment is, but children live what they learn. Plus, these children need to know that all bule aren’t nasty, that we can keep a clean place; and I have to represent for all my Black bule! But most importantly, I want my name to be associated only with excellence; dump ≠ excellence (for the non-mathematical among us, that means dump does not equal excellence).
Faced with this uncertainty about how to proceed but determined that something needed to be done, I did what I do with just about everything in my life; I turned to prayer. I implored God to make a way for me to improve the state of things without being offensive and alienating my work team. Less than a week later, He answered my prayer in dramatic fashion; we had The Disaster. God had given me the perfect excuse to do a thorough clean without stepping on anyone’s toes too much.
So I got to cleaning. I arose early on my day off, 1 week and 1 day after I had arrived here, had my time with God, Skyped with my parents, drank a cup of Milo, did a little writing and started cleaning at 8 am sharp. I finished 8 and a half hours later.
I cleaned from top to bottom. I swept, I cobwebbed, I moved furniture, I killed spiders, I threw out crap, I wiped, I mopped. I must have changed the mop water 50 times and the wiping water just as much. I prayed my way through the nastiest stuff and just kept it moving. The broom broke just as I was finishing up for the evening; apparently the pressure was just too much for it.
I didn’t ask either of my colleagues to help because I felt that if they had wanted the place clean, it would have been clean. Also, I was doing this more for myself than for anyone else. I just could not continue to live and work in conditions that were not reasonably clean. To be fair, they did pitch in a few times to help; I think they felt bad. Otherwise, I just cheerfully did my thing while they seemed to marvel that it was even possible for someone to clean a place so thoroughly.
I won’t share the horrors of the grossness that I mentally ‘eeewwww!’d and ‘sweet Baby Jesus!’d and ‘Holy Spirit, help me!’d my way through. Just know that, in the end, I can now walk barefooted on the floors, if I want to (I only do it when the children are here). I don’t have to feel a little pang of shame at the state of the place every time a new parent comes by to register their child for classes or when my next overseas short-term volunteer comes in a few weeks. And I feel like I’m living in a healthier environment; as my sister said, now I don’t have to fear catching scabies (we had a good laugh at that one).
I’m just relieved that this is behind me. Now to keep it that way. However it must happen, there will be weekly cleaning here, and soon. I’m putting that under prayers immediately.
In any case, my sleep has improved since my mind is now at ease because, finally, this place is all clean.