Tuesday, December 13, 2011

shower curtains and vacuums...things I miss

I knew I would eventually uncover some things that I took for granted back in the states, but I didn’t expect my discovery to begin so early in my journey. There are definitely some things that I brought that I now deem excessive (like the number of sandals I thought I’d want/need), but there are other things that I really wish I had (like a bottle of WD40 for all the squeaky hinges in my house). I know this will be an ongoing journey of discovery, but I thought I’d start a list of things that I really miss having readily available to me, or easily accessible without taking a moto (motorcycle taxi), followed by a taxi van, followed by another moto in order to get to a store an hour away where I might have a chance of buying such things.
Things I miss:
1. WD40 – as I said previously, there are a lot of squeaky doors in my house, and seeing as how it is extremely quiet here at night and in the early morning, it’s a bit unpleasant to be awakened by hearing high-pitched, whiny shrills coming from all the doors in my house.
2. Curtains – although the students are supposedly going to be working on a sewing project during 1st term to make curtains for the rooms with bare windows (ie. My room), that seems like an awfully long time to “be on display” to anyone and everyone who walks by my window.
3. Vacuum – I never thought I’d say that I miss my vacuum, but it’s true. There is no good way to clean the floor here. There is a “squeegee” of sorts, and we were told to throw buckets of water on the ground and squeegee the water out of our rooms, down the hall, and into the bathroom in order to move the dirt out of our rooms/hallways and into the bathroom where there is a drain. Yes, it’s as tedious and inefficient as it sounds, and I feel like the process just spreads dirty water around the house instead of actually cleaning the floors. I decided to forgo that method and chose to live with dirt on my floor…sorry mom.
4. Hooks – again, a simple concept, but not readily available. My engineer friends must have worn off on me over the years because I jerry-rigged a few things for now until I find suitable hooks I can hang up on the walls. Those 3M removable hooks would be just perfect, but I KNOW I won’t find them in Rwanda.
5. Candles – I don’t want to paint the wrong picture and make you think that I don’t have electricity, because I do. The problem is that it’s quite inconsistent and it goes out every day, sometimes multiple times (3 or 4 times today in fact). If the electricity goes out after 6pm (when the sun sets), it’s dark…really, really dark, and there aren’t any candles I can light to cast a lovely glow in my room or my house. It’s just dark. On a related note, thank you Stephanie Briggs for my headlamp! It’s a lifesaver!
6. Napkins – I know this one sounds strange, but there aren’t any napkins here. It probably sounds snobby, but it has taken some adjusting on my part to eat without having a napkin to wipe my hands and/or mouth. Thanks mom and dad for instilling such asinine napkin-wiping habits in me…this is torture! But seriously think about it – after eating a greasy sambussa from the local market (a thin dough shell filled with meat and/or potato, spices, herbs, and peppers), you don’t want to lick your fingers (goodness knows what you touched before you ate the sambussa), your fingers are laden with grease so you don’t want to wipe them on your clothes because you’ll never get the grease stain out without a modern day washing machine, so what are you to do without a napkin? I made the decision to rub the grease into my skin and think of it as a moisturizer of sorts. It’s like Vaseline, right?
7. Shower Curtain – This one is more of a design flaw in my house, rather than me actually missing a shower curtain per se. The problem is that the shower head is not of highest quality, so when I turn on the shower, it seems to spray everywhere except on me. Now this takes some imagination on your part to understand the picture I am painting for you, but when I say that the water sprays everywhere, I mean that when I am done showering, the toilet is soaking, the 4 walls are dripping, the windowsill has water on it, the sink has water in it, and the floor has a nice slick layer of water all over it. It goes EVERYWHERE. Thank goodness for that squeegee previously mentioned in point 3 above!

To be fair, it’s time to name the things that I am surprised I don’t miss, although it’s only day 5, so we will revisit this list in a few months.
1. Hot water – I know, I know, I wouldn’t have believed it if you told me a month ago either, but the cold showers are not all that bad. They are really quite tolerable.
2. Washing machines – Truth be told, I haven’t done my laundry yet, but there are two huge sinks outside my house (one for the soapy wash water, the other for the clean water rinse), which seem completely adequate when it comes to cleaning clothes. Then we get to hang our clothes in the sun to dry. I may wish I had a wash board circa the early 1900’s, but we’ll see about that. I am going to have one of my housemates show me how they do laundry first, and follow their lead…stay tuned.
3. Refrigerator – The variety of food we have been served has been amazing given that there is not any refrigeration available in the village. Milk gets cooked in order to pasteurize it after it is retrieved from the cows in the farm, and all the food is made fresh and immediately consumed, and any leftovers are composted. So simple!
4. TV – I was really mindfully not to get too addicted to any fall shows this past year, knowing that I would never be able to keep up with them once I got to the village, and to be honest I don’t miss TV. Although there has been some downtime where I gladly would have watched Law & Order re-runs or new episodes of The Amazing Race or AC360, I like the simplicity of just going for a walk, meditating, striking up a conversation with someone, writing, or reading a book.

So, what should you take away from all of this? Continue reading...
  • Next time you take a hot water shower, think of me inadvertently washing down my ENTIRE bathroom with cold water, and not finding the cold water experience painful in any way.
  • Next time you wash your clothes, save some electricity and think about letting them dry in the sun like I do here (sorry for those of you being blanketed in snow at the moment – try this only in the summer).
  • Next time you stock your refrigerator up, think about all the preservatives in all of that food you are going to consume.
  • Next time you go to vacuum your floors, think of my squeegee situation…it’s bound to make you smile.
  • And lastly, next time you’re complaining that there is nothing on TV and that you’re bored, consider living the simple life – go for a walk, read a book, write in a journal, meditate, or have a conversation with someone. There is a lot of peace that comes along with simplicity.


  1. I like your use of the food grease:) HOWEVER - did you bring a bandana? That should do the trick, and dries quickly in the sun. If you did not bring a bandana, then I think a bandana will fit in a standard envelope sent to you via the states without requiring a trip into town for pick up:) Let me know.

  2. Can you make candles out of old jars, cotton string, and local wax/animal fat? Might be a project, but worth it if it works!

    Also, any kind of oil (baby, peanut, olive) will work as a WD-40 substitute. For easy application, put 3 parts oil to 1 part water in a spray bottle.

    I'd give you more solutions, but that might ruin your experience! ;-)

  3. This is a great blog and I enjoy reading your adventures over there. In a pinch you can also use animal fat as a grease for the hinges or if there are tractors around there would be excess grease coming from them. You could also pull some oil out of a dipstick tube if need be... You'll have to think like Mac Gyver! Is there any way that you can put something over the shower head to direct the water more toward its intended direction? Maybe cutting a water bottle or something? :D