[episode 8] Who is the cleanest?

Pieds de Katungula

Respect can be shown in many different ways, some of which I could not imagine. Hygiene is one. I am used to getting washed before going to bed. From the first day I have built myself a kind of bathroom behind my hut. With a few mopane poles, mopane being the most resistant wood of the bush, I have stretched black plastic canvasses with a bag full of water and a shower head in between. Near, there are chemical toilets with biodegradable products which allow me to have hygiene according to my western standards.

So, I have got into the habit of fetching my sixteen litres of water to drink, to have a shower, wash my dishes and wash my hands.

Don’t forget that the women do not use any water to wash, that soap doesn’t exist, neither does toilet paper. Despite being as open minded as possible, I still keep in mind that I am the example of cleanliness in the village.

I have however got put in my place on two occasions. Again, under our tree in the afternoon, a draught makes me blow my nose in a paper tissue that I fold in my trousers pocket. The children look at me fixedly and with disgust until Mémé feels she has to slap their shoulders and ask for respect. A few days later, we are talking about circumcision. They ask me if I have been circumcised. My negative answer causes repulsion. The gesture is to them evidently a hygienic act.

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