September 10th, 2010
When you don’t own a mirror many things can happen. You might accidentally walk out of the house with toothpaste in the corner of your mouth. You may be unaware that your skirt is tucked into the back of your underwear. You may let your hair go unwashed for one too many days or forget that plucking your eyebrows is a necessary evil. All of these things may happen, and truth be told have happened to me over the last 21 months, but today I discovered the worst part of not having a mirror…YOU DO NOT NOTICE YOU HAVE GROWN A KWASHIORKOR SIZE BELLY!
For those of you who know me from the States you know I am not at all a thin person. I have been ‘voluptuous’ pretty much since the 3rd grade; a fact which was pointed out to me when I was 11 years old and trying on swim suits with my Mom. When I came to Ethiopia I thought this would be the true test. If I don’t lose weight in the land of “famine and drought” then my body is just as God intended it, for better or worse.
After PST (pre-service training), where I lived full-time with an Ethiopian family I had gained 8 lbs. As it turns out my “famine” theory was very wrong when it comes to people of wealth in Ethiopia, and my host family was one of the wealthiest in town. We ate huge meals, full of fatty meats and oils, none of which I felt I could politely refuse. I figured once I got to site and was in control of my own diet I’d shed the extra lbs and settle into a work-out regimen.
Once in Arjo Guddettu I did drop my ‘host family lbs’ but that is where it ended. I was barely eating because truth be told I couldn’t cook and with no frozen dinners in sight I was at a loss. I was walking a good five miles a day during the week and more on the weekend basically because I was bored and had nothing else to do. Considering it was over 100 °F I was also sweating like a boxer in their 12th round, but still I stayed at my pre-host family weight and never went any lower.
Over the years I’ve sort of lost interest. I still walk for enjoyment but realized any outside exercise only draws unwanted attention from the locals. I still don’t eat much (because I still can’t cook) and despite the cooler rainy season still sweat like it’s no ones business. So I wasn’t going to come back from Ethiopia with a Supermodel body but I figured as long as my clothes still fit I was good.
That was until I saw videos taken of me at a recent Peace Corp summer camp program. The video was of campers and PCVs in a shallow pool, which only came up to the knees. When the camera paned over to me my jaw dropped…no way is that my stomach! I was rocking an old stretched out Speedo swim suit and had obviously not bothered to check myself in the mirror before stepping out in public. Not only did I appear to have quite a belly but I also did not seem to have a care in the world about letting it all hang out.
I paused the video and stared at this strange version of myself in disgust. How did I let it get so bad! The answer is all to obvious. I hand wash and line dry all my clothes, no wonder they continue to fit, they are growing with me! I have also been told every day for the last 21 months that I am fat (it’s a cultural thing…) so when someone says “Oh Jaaili, you are so fat” while patting my belly I just shrug and go about my business instead of taking that comment to heart. But, above all I blame the fact that I have no mirror… no way of standing and scrutinizing my body in the nude, no way to check if a shirt has started to cling in a bad way or if a love handle is hanging over a waist band. When you don’t own a mirror things can get ugly! … Today starts my jump rope program; Kwashiorkor belly you’re going down!