My feet are ugly. They always have been, or so I have been told on countless occasions by my children. They used to run away in disgust if my feet accidentally grazed them. I have snagged many a pair of hose into complete ruin on my ugly feet. Sandpaper has a finer grain. I once cut my heel to the meat trying to remove the cracked callus with one of those "potato peeler" type pedicure tools. Realized my error when I actually heard the blood plinking on the bathroom floor.
Africa has not been kind to my feet, which are my primary mode of transportation. Uganda has two seasons, wet and dry, each occurring twice during a year. That leaves dust or mud. Although Uganda has several decent paved road, taking travelers in and out of a few larger cities the majority are dirt roads/paths in varying degrees of disrepair. These roads are the means to get around for most Ugandans, into the town center, the market, village homes, school, church and most other destinations. One walks in the dust or mud.
In my town of Bwera, at the nexus of the equator and the Uganda/Democratic Republic of Congo border, shoes are optional. Many families cannot afford shoes for the numerous children with the avenger household having seven. Schools are peppered with kids without shoes, who walk and forth daily in the mud or dust. Along the road many women from the village walk without shoes, "fetching" water, walking to their gardens to "dig" or carrying goods to and from the market. Most shoes purchased come from second-hand markets carrying goods that have been shipped in from industrialized countries to developing nations. These shoes are typically displayed on a tarp on the ground at various markets, selling men's, women's and children's sizes. If you have ever wondered what happened to those lilac, satin sling-backs worn by the bridesmaids in your sister's wedding- I have seen them in Africa.
Now I have the luxury of having arrived in Africa with five pairs of shoes plus my beloved flip-flops. For a person who loves to be barefoot and only wears shoes when decorum dictates their necessity, I have found I must wear shoes at all time. Even in the house which has resulted in the need for outdoor shoes and indoor shoes. This little dilemma is created by the ever present dust or mud. My house is littered with dust every day despite daily sweeping and frequent mopping of the cement floors. Walking to the hospital, the market, or taxi park just adds more layers of dirt to my feet. My feet have tan lines which simply look like additional layers of dirt. They are cracked and filled with dirt embedded so deeply I cannot remove it. I heat water every day for my basin bath and soak and scrub those dirty dogs with little success.
Now my feet are ugly and dirty. I even lost the nail on my big toe.