Gratitude; Day 24, 25, and 26

Day 24: As I spent the last few days in Kuruman at 2 different guest houses, I can’t help but say how thankful I am for a shower. Bucket bathing is alright, but I never get 100% squeaky clean. Bathing in a gallon of water just doesn’t allow for it. So when I arrived in Kuruman, I was in the shower within 10 minutes or so of finding my room at the guest house. And over 2 nights, I had 3 showers and a bath. Running water is amazing, and a hot shower is a true blessing. PC has taught me to be incredibly thankful for showers, and I’ll never forget the 2 years I lived without running water! 🙂

Day 25: I came home from Kuruman today, and noticed a bunch of dead bugs on my floor. This made me happy. Why? They weren’t alive. And that brings me to another point: I am thankful for DOOM. DOOM is an insecticide that works amazingly well. I have DOOM powdered sprinkled under my bed where a Tarantula and Wind Scorpions like to hide, and I frequently spray DOOM to kill the flies and other insects. DOOM helps me keep my sanity, and helps me feel like my room isn’t likely to have a total infestation. Now, I’m sure I’ll find some horrible side effects from DOOM years from now, but at the moment, DOOM is a BFF.

Day 26: I am thankful for my stoven. What is a stoven? A stoven is a toaster oven with 2 burners on top, and a common item for SA PCVs. When I moved to site, I could’ve spent a few hundred rand on a double hotplate, but instead spent about R600 on a stoven. And boy am I glad! I enjoy baking cookies, making toast, roasting pumpkin seeds, or toasting a batch of croutons out of stale bread. It’s a small luxury I allow myself, and I appreciate this luxury a lot. Plus, saying “stoven” is a lot more fun than saying “hotplate”….just sayin’.


Gratitude: Day 15, 16, and 17

Day 15: As far a PCV living quarters go, I have it pretty good, and I’m thankful.  I have a nice, big room with a fairly new ceiling and a window or door on every wall.  That means I can almost always get a cross breeze.  Some PCVs are in tiny rooms and can hardly host one other PCV, and some only have 1 or 2 windows, and I have to imagine their rooms are boiling how right now.  My living quarters aren’t perfect: sometimes chunks of the wall fall down in my kitchen area, I get wind scorpions on occasion, my electricity is not stable, and I don’t have running water.  But I do have a yard tap (can’t drink from it, but can use it for all my washing needs), which means I don’t have to haul a wheelbarrow to a communal tap.  Some PCVs have their own houses, or two-three rooms, but my room serves me just fine and gives me enough room to stay sane!  For that, I am thankful!


Day 16: I never thought I would say this, but I’m thankful for burglar bars.  What with the crime rate in SA and the fact that I have more wealth in my room than almost everyone in my village, I am a target for crime.  But with my windows and door secured with burglar bars, I feel safe.  I feel secure at night, when I hear drunk men hollering outside.  Someone could still break in if they wanted, but they’d have to cut through my roof, and my host family would probably notice.  I am very grateful for the peace of mind my burglar bars give me.  Also, I can lock my burglar door to keep curious family members out while still having a nice breeze.  Another added benefit. 🙂


Day 17: I am thankful for the motivation of the school’s garden workers.  Without the garden project, I probably would’ve thrown my hands up in frustration by this point.  Most of my work is with the school garden, and it’s having an impact on my community.  It makes me happy to see a patch of brilliant green when I walk to school, and I love purchasing veggies from the garden to support the project.  Seeing the joy on kids’ faces when they get to help in the garden is one of the best rewards of my life.  And visiting villagers to see their new home gardens made me want to cry for joy.  The garden project has been an incredible part of my service, and to have such dedicated and hardworking gardeners and educators has been a true blessing.


Bath Time

I’m not sure I have ever adequately discussed this on my blog, though I have definitely alluded to it a few times.


Just to be clear: I bath in a bucket.  If that grosses you….well, you need to travel more and see what most of the world lives like.  Seriously.  Bucket bathing is a reality for those of us who live without running water.


I’ve spent the last 16 months bucket bathing, and while I’m far from a natural, I can clean myself pretty well.  At least, nobody has told me I smell.  And while it took awhile to get a good system down, I can bath without complaint in about a gallon of water.


Yup, I only use a gallon to bathe myself.  Every day!  Once every few weeks I’ll use a little more, the African equivilant of a nice, long bucket bath.  Often, I use less.


Me and my basin.

And while I call it a bucket bath, I should actually call it a basin bath.  I use this big gray basin when I want the African Bubble Bath, and usually end up using more water.  Maybe a gallon and a half.  So much water, right? 🙂

Yes, I usually bathe in this.


Most days, I use this pink basin.  Now, I know I’m squatting in it here, but I actually set it on a chair and make use of a washcloth to bathe my body.  Starting with the face, then hair, then on down the body.  Makes sense, if you think about the fact that you want the cleanest water touching your face.


Bucket bathing isn’t exactly enjoyable, and not always refreshing, but it DOES make me appreciate a shower.  I get to take a shower on Friday this week, and I’m REALLY excited!!  This is what Peace Corps does to sane people.


It does make me happy to lower my ecological footprint by using so much less water than I used to.  Since I live on the edge of the Kalahari, I know how precious water is, and I hate the thought of wasting it.  Since I also poop in a hole (pit latrine) I never flush a toilet in my village.  So I end up using 1 20L bucket of water in a day, usually.  I’m willing to bet you use more in your morning shower.


If you’re in PC and don’t bathe in a bucket…*cough cough* Posh Corps *cough cough*.


PS. Notice how long my hair is?  Remember, last year this time it was about 1/2 an inch long.  It’s sooooo long now!


Water Worries

In America, we don’t worry much about water.  We can turn on the faucet in various places in our house and have unlimited clean water flowing out.  Heck, the water we poop in is clean enough to drink.  Some people go crazy and buy bottled water or a purifier, because they think the tap water is harmful or tastes funny.  But we really don’t worry much about water.  It’ always there.


In Africa, it’s a whole different story.  Water consumes a lot of my brain power, because it’s not easy to find clean water.  I don’t have running water in my home, but there is a tap in the yard.  This is great, but I can’t drink the water.  First of all, it’s borehole water, which is NOT clean and requires and lengthy process of boiling, cooling, and filtering.  And even if I do that, the water in the yard has a high salt/calcium/lime content, so it tastes horrible.  I use the yard tap for washing, cleaning, and when I make coffee/tea etc, but not much for drinking.


For drinking water, my family brings me a 25L “scoop” of water (really big, heavy jug) once a week or so.  I tried in earnest to find where they collect the water from and do it myself at the beginning of service, but my family sends the kids out to do it a few times a week, and eventually I just accepted that they wanted to do this for me.   This water is from municipality taps around the village, and my family takes a few scoops and the wheel barrow and collect water.  I should boil and filter this water too, but I usually just filter it.


Sometimes, the family’s yard tap doesn’t work.  This happens on a fairly regular basis.  It usually is only out for a few hours, or maybe a day or two.  But it can be bad for me if I haven’t stored enough water in my room, and therefore can’t wash, bathe, or do anything else.  Sometimes, the municipality taps don’t work, which worries me even more because I HAVE to drink water, even if I can’t bathe or wash dishes.  So I always keep a bucket full of this water in my room, for emergencies.  I also stockpile filtered water in bottles at the beginning of the week, and try to always have a few liters, again, in case of emergencies.


I always carry a bottle of water with me to school, as the school only has borehole water, and I have no way of purifying it there.  Sometimes I am extra thirsty, or it is extra hot, and I drink all my water.  Then I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.  I can either risk dehydration, which can come on very quickly and be dangerous in this climate, or I can risk a parasite by drinking the borehole water.  I always choose to drink the borehole water, and sometimes I pay later.  That’s Peace Corps.


The rains are coming, which means soon our water barrels will be full of rain water which drains from the roof.  This water will definitely need to be boiled, filtered, and possibly chlorinated because there are all sorts of critters that scurry around on the roof.


Water is one of my biggest sources of stress.  The worst feeling in the world is walking up to the tap, turning it on, and having nothing come out when you have unwisely not stockpiled any water.  It’s happened a few times, and I think I’ve learned my lesson and have been keeping water stored up in my room.


Next time you turn on that tap, be grateful that’s all you have to do.  All things considered, I have it easy compared to most of the developing world, even though it probably seems complicated to you.


Summer’s Arrival and the Rains

Here is a conversation I had this week with my principal:

Me: I think summer is coming.

Principal: Summer has come itself.  It did not send its cousin or uncle or brother, it came personally.

So, even though we just passed the Spring Equinox, summer has arrived for all intents and purposes.  The sun is already scorching hot during the days, flies have swarmed into my room, and the garden is growing happily.  There is no real spring on the edge of the Kalahari.

The rains are just starting too, which is really exciting.  This past week, we’ve had 2 real rainstorms, complete with thunder, lightening, gale force winds, and lasting rainfall.  I am beyond excited!  It’s been months since any real rain has fallen on my village, and water has been scarce, according to many people in the village.  I’ll write a post about water really soon, because it’s a huge preoccupation of mine, and consumes a lot of my energy and worry-time.  But if the rains really have begun, my village shall be flush in water soon, and the watering holes might actually fill up this year-last year they didn’t.

Rains bring spongy, sticky sand that clings to and stains everything, so I shall be spending more time sweeping and cleaning my shoes from here on out.  I also make sure to keep my candle and matches close by, as rain often knocks the electricity out.  Sadly, I must now wage war on the ants, who come out in force after the rain.  Have you heard stories about people who fall asleep under a tree, and then the ants swarm them and kill them?  I think those guys live in my village.  I call them warrior ants.  They are BIG and can cling to shoes (or skin) better than I could.  And their bites HURT!!  If you get enough bites, your feet start to swell.  It’s great fun.  Luckily they don’t come in my room, because my house is pretty well-built.  But sometimes I have to run and stomp through the village to get the darn things off!

Even with the ants, I am excited for the rainy season.  It’ supposed to go from September to April, but last year the rains didn’t really start until December, and petered out around the end of February.  Thus I’m hoping we have a real rainy season this year.  Our garden would like that!