Life skills I’d never considered needing, ‘til this year:
How to tie the ‘day knot’ in a mosquito net.
Taking a bucket bath (the Chichewa-language sign for this is two cupped hands throwing water over the right shoulder and then the left).
Bargaining for everything
Handing out bits of money for everything: a death; laundry; pails of water; advice
Using the two-barrelled approach on lines of ants. One shoe in each hand and, if necessary, one shoe on each foot. Ah yes, picture taking time again.
How to say a most popular word in Chichewa: “ ee”. I’m not sure of the spelling, but “ee” is a profound, attentive, thoughtful answer, used more than once in almost every conversation.
How to purchase oranges. They can be extremely sour! Ee. Sour enough to use as lemons. The trick to buying edible fruits is to ask the vendor to pick the best ones. You will pay more but good fruit is worthy.
Removing bug bodies from my keyboard ewwww
Doing laundry by hand. Washing, rinsing, squeezing, second rinsing, squeezing, …
Did I ever mention that we have no running water here? You might think ewww! And then you might consider such conveniences as shower, bath, hot water, drinking water, handwashing, flush toilets, laundry, dishwasher, sinks, taps. It is an enigma why we have a toilet, clothes washer, and a shower yet no running water. Yet.
The burning question now is: where do we hang the laundry to dry once we’ve processed it through the various tubs of hand-carried waters? I’m thinking on the barred windows. This warrants a picture to the blog. There is a tendency here in this land where wealth is uncommon, to show to one’s best side to one’s neighbours – a visual brag that one can afford the best. This could mean an expensive car or hanging curtains with the front of the material hanging facing the street. I guess I’ll hang our pretties, cleanest, newest laundry in the windows in the front of the flat. Raggedy underwear on the back windows.
In the meantime …
the power is out. A load of laundry is in the new buckets purchased yesterday in town.
So we have candle light and Enya on the laptop. Supper is still to be cooked.
Doors and windows are closed against mosquitoes. It is so hot in here and we have six candles blazing; let’s go outside in the yard. Students and teachers are all gone home; ATM generator must be ignored to take in the night sky in this complete darkness. There are no lights. It reminds me of August 14th when ON and the eastern seaboard had an outage for 6 or 10 hours. Chaos. Here it is the norm, as is the constellation The Southern Cross and Orion’s Belt.
There is a choir practice happening; 15 or so kids’ sit on the chapel steps using cell phones to light their pages, making harmony, as we walk out of the courtyard, past the guards to see a brilliant 2/3 moon, that lights the mountains to the southwest. In the southeast lightening flashes. There are the night sounds - grass hoppers, crickets, toads and something I can’t quite identify. There are new-to-me critters every day. Half pound snails grace the brick wall. Butterflies are the size of hummingbirds while hummingbirds grow the size of sparrows, and yellow finches are as large as robins. It’s as if we said, “OK. Just biggie-size everything.” Even the vibrant colours and the heat are larger here. It is still swelteringly warm but it is bedtime. I have clean hair and feet after a candle-lit bucket bath.
Morning duties for tomorrow: sweep out last night’s carnage of insects and dirt. Check water supply, start laundry, move laundry to the next bucket, hang laundry, put away laundry, yes laundry. Ee. Adjust the mosquito net. If we get up early enough, and the power is still on we can get the coffee made. Did I tell you about the two mornings we were unable to make coffee? It was a bit of a giggle to have to drink beer before coffee. This is when the discussion arose around the merits of Drew Carey’s Buzz Beer.
(Note to Ashley: you are not the only one who says T. I. A. – This Is Africa.) On day one we held out until 3 PM for the first pot; on day two, by noon we were on the bus (a very quiet bus ride) heading to the MegaBite. An hour ride was worth that first sip. On that trip we investigated alternatives to caffeine and now have Plans B, C. and D. Thermos (B), chocolate (C), coke (D).
How soon can we bring Tim Horton’s or Starbucks over here?