Dirty Is The New Clean

Almost two months ago, every Fellow had to make a vision statement about the upcoming seven months. One of my goals was to learn not to worry about going to bed with dirty feet.

And while I do prefer to sleep with clean feet, I am happy to say that I have gotten much more comfortable living with dirty feet. In fact, the state of my feet is a good measurement of how far outside of my comfort zone I am; a subtle way in which I am changing.

Every night, as I layer under my three alpaca blankets in my cinderblock home in the poorest cantón in all of Ecuador, I think back to my adventures that day–and how most of them would not have been possible if I were worrying about the dirt between my toes.

I think about how I bathed outside with a bucket and a teacup. How I helped my mom kill a chicken, blood spewing onto the kitchen floor like lava from the nearby Volcán Tungurahua. How I played soccer with my two host brothers, dodging cow pies as we ran around on the nearby pasture, only to get yelled at by la dueña as she muttered insults in Kitchwa. I think about how I navigated my way through the country’s biggest indigenous market every Thursday, my eyes jumping around from all the vibrantly colored alpaca hats to the rows and rows of exotic fruits; my nose inhaling the sweet smells of freshly baked pan and different types of fried bananas. I think back to when I helped my mom on the farm, walking for over an hour up the 90 degree angled paths, pulvo permeating my thick hiking shoes and seeping into my socks.

In my New Jersey home, my walk from the bathroom to my bedroom is a short one. My feet are treated like royalty as they pad across the polished wood floor and onto the freshly vacummed carpet. In my Guamote home, my walk to the bathroom is through the kitchen, down the outside steps, past a sheep and into a tiny dark outhouse. My Ecuadorian floor has character, not polish: Traces of dirt from my five siblings and numerous relatives trekking in and out; the stain on the floor where the cat knocked over the bowl of soup; peels from potatoes and carrots, seeds from mandarinas, and blood from the chicken all leave their mark. And as I walk across it, I don’t care that my feet aren’t clean.