How to Give Yourself a Pedicure Without Running Water or Electricity

One reason we joined the Peace Corps was to experience life the way the majority of the world’s population does – no hot water heaters, no indoor plumbing, and no major appliances.

We got our wish. We live in rural Tanzania, 3-4 hours from paved roads. No one in our community has running water. Women and children fetch it from a local stream or hand-powered pump and carry it home. Sometimes there’s no water during the dry season, so people must walk long distances to find it. A 5-gallon bucket full of water weighs over 40 pounds — imagine carrying that for half a mile multiple times a day. Now imagine balancing it on your head!

Once you get it home, you’ve got plenty of work ahead of you. You’ll hand wash clothes and dishes. Cooking takes hours as you slowly simmer vegetables over charcoal heat. Bathing is a multi-step process: light your charcoal jiko, wait ~30 minutes for the water to heat up, and then pour cups of hot water over your head to clean off.

You might think this sounds romantic but not for you. You’re glad you’re reading about it through our blog, but you’d be miserable actually living it. You don’t need the sunburn, the sore arms, or the shivering. Plus, without internet or electricity, how would you watch Season 7 of Game of Thrones?

Would it change your mind to learn you can still enjoy pedicures?

To share in our self-indulgence, you will need: Two buckets, charcoal cooker, charcoal, sufarias (local cooking pots), soap, lotion, clean socks, old fabric for drying your feet, nail clippers, and a file/pumice stone.

Optional: Gas stove, nail polish, wine, reading material.

Step One: Fill a 5-gallon bucket with water from your rain barrel.

Step Two: Light your charcoal cooker and start heating some water in a sufaria. Wait 20 minutes for the water to heat. Now is a great time to make snacks and gather your other supplies.

Step Three: Pour the hot water into the second bucket and start heating up another batch.

Step Four: While you wait, wash your feet with cold water. It will take 20 minutes to scrub off all the dirt.

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Eww! We might need more than 20 minutes to get these cleaned off.

Step Five: The second round of water should be hot by now. Pour it into the bucket and start a third round of hot water.

Step Six: Soak your feet in the bucket of warm water. Sip a glass of wine, read a magazine, or listen to your favorite music. Be free and enjoy life.

Step Seven: If your partner happens to be cooking soft-boiled eggs on your gas stove, ask to add the hot water to your bucket. Your feet are getting cold, and the water on the charcoal cooker still isn’t hot. Since you’re a Peace Corps volunteer, you are totally okay with washing your feet with egg water.

Step Eight: Clip your nails. File down your calluses with your pumice stone or file. Be grateful that the fourth cosmetic store you visited in your banking town had a file tucked away in the dusty corner of a display counter.

Step Nine: Dry your feet. If you want to, paint your nails.

Step Ten: Apply lotion. If you’re super granola, make your own lotion using the avocados in your backyard and the juice from a freshly squeezed lemon.

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Step Ten: Put on clean socks. The cement floor creates dirt quicker than President Trump creates controversies, so don’t put your safi (clean) feet on it.

Our Peace Corps life has perks. We cook every meal from scratch, snack on chocolate bars, and get fresh milk delivered to our door. We can see the Milky Way at night and mists rolling over the mountains on morning runs. Our neighbors are delighted when we visit and fill our arms with more fresh-plucked corn than we could ever eat.

Plus, our feet are super safi.

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