Today I found the pictures I had taken of a 21-page letter that I wrote to my mom in January of last year. I was 2 months in, adjusting to homestay life, and super pathetic (as I read it today). Allow me to summarize a large portion of my letter: rats all up in my batheing space, a big scary cockroach here or there, two lizards who wouldn’t stop mating every night above my head, and a reoccurring abnormal spider self-named Frank. I mean, I’m a pretty tough girl by nature so these things didn’t give me mental breakdowns but I noticed them, which says that it wasn’t “normal” to me just yet. It took me until today to take a hot second to pause and reflect on the fact that the shit I mentioned in that long ass letter doesn’t even phase me anymore. A shift in my normalcy, one might say. Orrrr a shift in my sanity. Potayto, potahto. Carry on.
Which brings me to right now. A little reflection on my day-to-day life filled with the all the necessities I need (usually) and then some. While my definition of “necessities” has also drastically altered, I digress.
My house got hit by lightning a few days ago. Felt like a bomb went off and smelled fire, so I fell back asleep. I haven’t had any functioning electricity since said incident (& it was sparse before). I pay a guy in bananas to charge my phone during the day. All flashlights are very dead and I used my last candle yesterday. I’ve never had so much fun, too. I actually tried echolocation for the first time and have gotten really good at working out in the dark.
Found out that my neighbors have been attached to my electricity for the last 16 months and I’ve been paying for theirs too. No wonder.
Dry season has eliminated all water from the tank and nearest borehole. And since yours truly is not hauling her ass 1-2km to fill up 50L of water and haul it back… I’m gross. 5 days in, I finally got water today and took a beautiful bucket bath. I hadn’t washed my hair in 19 days, hadn’t used more than 5 French Presses full of water to rinse myself off (1 each day). I ran for an hour each day as well which is messed up. What’s worse? (To some of you but not to any normal human being) I HAD some water, I just rationed it for coffee every morning. Coffee > hygiene and if you disagree you can leave now.
For 10 months I had an absolutely infested pit latrine which would be coated with cockroaches by the time the sun set everyday. This was my opportunity to learn a lot about cockroach behavior. For instance, always fling the door open so The Climbers don’t flop onto you while opening said door. Always, I repeat ALWAYS, enter with a closed mouth. Keep your feet moving like you’re standing on lava for The Runners. And NEVER make sudden movements with the flashlight. Since then I got a cover for my latrine and there’s only ~20-30 so that’s a bummer but also nice. Oh well, it was a real roommate bonding opportunity.
On that note, I can count the number of toilet paper rolls I’ve purchased in the last 16 months on one hand. Four. And only for visitors actually. No, not because it’s expensive or scarce but because, well, ya really don’t need it. Don’t argue me on this I don’t care what you have to say. Just know that there are old newspapers, tissue paper from care packages, failed exams, 1984 curriculum remnants, and sometimes even banana leaves getting down and dirty in my latrine (like, literally).
When my phone is dead I leave it at home and go running with headphones in anyways so my ignoring people is more forgivable.
Dry season has ended my feet forever and I owe a pedicurist at least four times her salary to touch these puppies. I do scrub my heels against my wall when I lay on my sofa which does something to the calluses. I think.
I’ve worn the same 9 pairs of underwear for the last 16 months. By choice. Don’t worry I wash them you sicko.
I still name all my roommates (i.e. Rats, roaches, lizards, massive spiders) which probably makes it really messed up that I have brought myself to being able to stomp on those big cockroaches which spew their juices all over my floor. In other words, I kill my roommates.
There’s been the same grey, black, and white spider (named Charlie) near the padlock of my door who comes out to see me every morning. I can’t bring myself to hurt him.
I talk to the goats who hangout around my latrine. They hide in the shade sometimes and startle me to which I catch myself saying, “You kids get away from here!” That’s normal.
I walk through a legitimate mound of mushy trash everyday because it’s the only shortcut to the market. Ugh, fine. That’s a lie. It’s not the only one but it’s the shortest shortcut.
One time my teacher bent down to pet my leg hair.
My teachers also poke my sunburnt skin to watch me change colors.
Oh, and strangers always try to rip off the little mole on my neck and freckle tattoo on my arm.
The layer of permanent dirt on my skin sometimes gets me thinking I have a tan. Then I bathe and realize I still manage to be pale as fuck and I live on the equator.
During rainy season I bathe under the gutter next to my house (with clothes on) and it’s the best water pressure in Arua. My neighbors don’t flinch anymore when I shampoo up my hair. Sometimes they even help.
When the rooster is an asshole every morning at 5am, I always wake up and yell, “Shut up, Roger,” chuckle to myself, roll over and fall back asleep because this is how I entertain myself evidently.
Sometimes I use laundry detergent and dish soap interchangeably. And by sometimes I don’t actually mean anything less than all the time.
You’re not a true PCV until you have pissed, shat, and barfed in the same bucket. Bonus points if it’s in that order. The best part? You then have to let it fester until morning and empty it out like your own litter box… That’s just superb when you’re sick to begin with.
I guess it’s just cool to realize that no matter your conditions, salary, location, and environment in life you can make it work. Not only make it work but make it your “normal.”