I am the type of person who thrives on order and routine; in other words, change doesn’t come easily to me. Every evening, after washing the the day’s worth of dishes, I spread an extra large white linen towel on which to place the rinsed dishes so they can air dry all night. Next, a second equally large, impeccably white linen towel covers them; thusly I keep the clean dishes, well, clean from the endlessly blowing dust and the nightly bug-body fallout.
The next morning its time for more routine. Tend the chickens, start the generator, put tea and coffee water on to boil and, while the water is heating, I continue my predictable morning chores by putting away the dry and relatively clean dishes. Next, I take my two lovely over-sized, super-white linen towels outside and hang them on the line which is stretched between the veranda pillars to dry in the blazing sun. And as sure as the sun rises each morning, there will be two pristine, jumbo-sized, beautifully white linen towels on my clothes line.
The ladies in Sierra Leone really don’t know much about kitchen towels, let alone towels as large and spotlessly beautiful as mine. When they wash their dishes they just leave them in a big plastic basin to drain and put the whole show in the parlor. If they should happen to have a kitchen towel it would only be one and it’s used more as a pot holder on their open-fire “stove” but certainly not for drying dishes.
My neighbor, Dusu, also has her own equally predictable morning routine but with three small children, she usually starts her work a bit later so our routines don’t typically cross. This day, however, we were doing our chores at about the same time. With her infant securely wrapped to her back, Dusu was doing her morning “brooking” – laundry. She hand scrubs the same load every morning. I know this because her front yard is just across the way from mine. This morning, just as I was spreading my two queen-sized, immaculate, white linen towels on my line, Dusu stood up to spread her laundry on her line. Diapers! The timing couldn’t have been funnier. Abruptly my routine stopped in its well-worn tracks. I looked at my towels. I looked at her diapers. Back to my towels. Then I turned and looked at the neighbors in the back. More diapers. Down the hill and across the small dirt lane what should I see but load after load of squeaky-clean, hand washed, gleaming white . . . diapers. Gasp! Surely all the town must think I need two jumbo Depends every night. Discreetly I removed my towels from the line and instantly changed my routine. The two super-sized, impeccably clean, sparkling, snowy-white linen towels now get hung – on the back of a chair in the house!
Post Script: Unbelievably this truly happened exactly as written. After removing the towels from the line I went into the house in gales of laugher and told Stephen what had just happened. We had fun laughing at me. A healthy sense of humor and a low sense of one’s self will go a long way on the foreign mission field!