Wednesday, August 28, 2013

July 24, Pommern: Preview Post.

(As written in my journal that day; grammar and minor edits only. Italicized portions are additions written after the trip.)

Today is the day I don't want to write about. So before I start, a couple notes...
  • When Mamatony cooks us a chicken for dinner, it is a plucked, chopped-up and complete hen. Lungs? Still shriveled in a little duo, inside the tiny skeleton chicken ribcage, sitting in the pot, staring at the last person or two in line, too late to get decent meat. How happy I was tonight to be in the line a bit earlier and have a dark meat leg available! Unlike 11-year-old Michael, I could find the meat. And it was wonderful. Protein, my friend. 
  • In case you remember, and are wondering about, the solar repairman who rode all day with us from Dar... well, he fixed it! But no one knew that while he may be a solar expert, he is not also a plumber. So the heater part works - but it can't be hooked up to the house, and alas, no hot water will be flowing from our faucets any time soon. We're told it could be next week, but that's our last week, and I find the optimism amusing. It must be to keep us quiet?  
I realize I haven't filled you in on showers and water yet. We have a bathroom with two Western toilets behind stall doors, and two shower stalls beyond that. There is another little sink near the dining room table. That one gets a lot of use - hand washing whenever we enter the house, before we eat, before we make coffee or eat peanut butter from the tea table. The sinks all have pump soap - Tanzanian soap with English writing, something along the lines of DOUBLE EXTRA SUPER CLEAN XX SCRUB YOUR SKIN OFF IT IS SO TOUGH! Or similar. 

I started calling the toilets "magic toilets" after the first morning. The water comes from a gravity-flow system, so it works best when the big black tanks, high up on a tower outside the house, are very full. But I don't really know when this happens. All I know is: the magic toilets are thus named because a flush gets rid of the water, but nothing else. Everything in the bowl stays there, and the water just drains away slowly, and then refills. Magic! Right?! Replace the water but keep the contents! Within minutes of walking in the door on the first day, I had to put away my inner clean freak. The toilets have dried chunks of... stuff... on the outside, and each has a couple brutally strong developing-world mothballs behind them (probably made by the XX SOAP COMPANY). We're cryptically told these help "with the smell". What smell? I don't want to know. I only smell mothball. 

And if you've never used TP in the developing world, well, suffice to say the world's great paper processing IS great - and it is saved for the Western world, most especially for America. This stuff is far closer to cardboard and it flakes onto your pant leg and the ground around you just unwinding it off the roll. 

When it comes to the two slightly spongy-floored showers, with random nails for hanging your items, they do indeed turn on - with cold water. And here I would point out again how cold we've all been each night and well into the morning, just to say this isn't tropical "cold" water; this is truly cold! The lone male volunteer tried to shower the first morning, and he made us laugh with an imitation of trying to force his body under the water. He couldn't do it. He got a slight shampoo but that was it; no other body part would endure the discomfort. I'll spoil the shower surprise to say that our fantastic family of volunteers brought FIVE sun showers! (Six actually, but one broke.) 

We put them out on the cement block each morning and by about 4 PM, they are anywhere from 90 to 110 degrees - amazing. We end up sharing a bag with a friend about every other day - for example, I hang a bag in the shower stall (and by the end of next week, we've broken a few nails with the weight) and go first for about 3 minutes with a "navy shower" and then Meggie goes next, with the final 3 minutes of water. It's a weak spray, and it's navy style - and I have hands-down never been so refreshed by running, splashing water in my entire life as I am on the days I take one here. We take them in the afternoon and I feel like a new person. Meggie takes one in the morning one day - by adding cups of boiling tea water to the now-cool bag to get tepid water. And you guessed it. She runs out of water with a head full of shampoo! I, on the other hand, don't waste water on my hair, sheesh! So this is six days of no hair-washing, just before I get back to Dar and a real shower and wash it twice:

Pictured are the blessed sun shower bags in the backyard on the left side of the frame. Useless solar power machine is center/rear, behind the pole.

  • You know how you always think of a thing to say in response... too late? This time I got it in real time! The adult helping our teenage volunteers and young villagers on the brick project today (water tower base to add gravity flow and water storage tanks to the secondary school kitchen, pictured below, completed brickwork) said that the village young men were so slow - and our Global Volunteers kids were faster. "This is why things here take so long! This is why they don't get done, or done on time. I mean, we were working much harder than they were." I replied, "Well, you did have a warm shower and a hot meal, with more than enough to eat. I don't think those other guys did." And I'll say this - she took it with total grace and kindness. She was truly thoughtful and said back to me, "Huh, yeah. I hadn't thought of that," as she wandered away. 

And now, rather than go two days without posting to the blog, I'm leaving this as a cliffhanger. 

As I wrote in my journal in the first line - and it's there, you can ask John, he saw it - this really was the  first day I didn't want to write about. It was too hard, and I made too many mistakes. So I'm going to wait until tomorrow to post the real journal entry, and hope you enjoyed this Preview Post. 

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