Friday, September 20, 2013

On The Surface

I keep sitting down to write a post about all the things we are taking in and experiencing culturally but I feel tongue tied (finger tied?) when it comes down to it. There is too much and I haven't fit it all into a neat synopsis in my mind or anywhere else. Maybe there is too much to synthesize: the collapse of perceptions carefully built throughout my life may take longer than 2 months to rebuild. Instead, I find it easy to give superficial descriptions of some of our experiences like life with irregular power and water. 

We have been pretty blessed so far to have regular running cold water in our house. The school campus near us has a well and from there pumps water into a holding tank for the school's use. There were a couple weeks when the water was touch and go and that was apparently due to a broken pump. The school has the ability to turn on water from the city's tank but it costs money and so they try not to if they can help it, if we asked enough times they would "send us some water" as they called it, turning on the city tank for a few hours so we could get our business done. It took a little while to learn all this! 

After these difficulties we decided to purchase ourselves a rain barrel as some security. As soon we had our barrel in place they fixed the pump and we had no more water issues of course! Until the students came that is and then we had another day with no water. All this is preparatory for what everyone tells me is to come. Dry Season! We are currently in the end of the rainy season here, which is very much like a wet East Coast Fall in feel. Chilly and often rainy, but warm and crisp when the sun is out. Dry season supposedly is just as it says, dry. For about five months or so there is almost no rain and the water tanks soon go dry. And water must be carried every day. 

I can't even explain how difficult it is to have a basic level of hygiene here when there is water, but without, it becomes pretty grim. The children get grubby and grubbier, and suddenly washing your hands before you eat, or rinsing a piece of fruit seems to be a monstrous waste of water when you consider you don't know when else you will have any. Imagine what that looks like in a hospital when they lose the ability to flush the toilets. Apparently the boarding school here had to close for a few days because the toilets were so bad one season. I guess they don't have snow days. . .  

The power here is regularly irregular, mostly without seeming rhyme or reason, except that is Sundays. Sundays there is no power because why would you need electricity on the day of rest anyway? It can be inconvenient, but there isn't much point wasting energy lamenting the situation. And candlelit mosquito netting can be quite romantic... ; ) I was chewing over the idea of a way you could share a bit in our mission: Perhaps you could live in solidarity with us by going one day a week without power until it gets dark. Or, hire someone to randomly throw breakers on and off throughout the week. (Los Alamos, you already have your own power issues... especially when the accelerator is running). However, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised at how life goes on, albeit more peacefully, without the hum of electricity reminding you to stay busy.



  1. Last fall when Sandy came calling we were out of electricity for a day, two days? I can't remember. It was fun finding and lighting candles, but I do remember feeling rather bored and occasionally worried as the storm raged. Before losing power I watched old black and white films about a horrible hurricane that hit Long Island back in the late 30s on PBS. That really set the mood. My memories of Sandy are shadowy dark blues and grays.
    Nai nai

  2. Logan, you sound a little wistful in your post. I am interested in understanding those carefully constructed perceptions (or preconceptions) that have collapsed. Sounds like a topic for another day. It certainly sounds a little rough, especially the little or no water deal. I have never minded power outages. The quiet is so rare.

    It sounds like there are also many great blessings. Hang in there. We all miss you and are praying for you daily.

    God Bless,

  3. When I volunteered in England (which I know is a very, very different situation culturally than what you're going through...) I found it difficult to put into words the things I was learning and how they changed me. I wondered to myself how I'd respond when people asked me "how was England?"... hard? trying? good? adventurous?... It just didn't seem like anything I said could encapsulate the difference in my soul. But I found little stories, although inadequate for the whole picture, were the best snapshots I could give. And surprisingly years later, some people still remember some of those stories. So as much as it may not be a neat package and you're living in the midst of constant adjustment rather then looking back on it, keep on writing. We're listening out here. :o)

  4. Just think of it as a really, really long camping trip!

    I briefly considered going without power... though I wouldn't be able to work without electricity or water, as science is a very fastidious business. As for home... well I probably could go without it at my apartment but I don't really know what I would do all alone... read, I guess? Heh, I don't even know if I have any paper books at my apartment actually! What a nightmare!

    Call me sometime, pleeeeeease? On Saturday?