Latrine Luxuries (or lack thereof)

Once again, my apologies on the delay in getting this post up. Internet certainly isn’t easy to come by here, especially since we were traveling a little over the weekend.  But in an effort to give you a clearer picture of what life is really like in Butare, I decided I would update you on the more difficult, “funny” aspects of our new life today.  Don’t get me wrong–all of the wonderful things we’ve said so far are certainly true, but as they say, there are two sides to every story 😉

So I’ll begin by giving you a peak into our bathroom, since many people have asked me about that situation. First let me just say, no, we don’t poo in a pile of dirt. Our toilet is similar to those in America, but I think a fellow GROW member who came down with an unfortunate case of the stomach flu described it best: “I was sitting on the bathroom floor waiting to throw up, there were mosquitoes flying around my head, the toilet was spraying water at me, and all of a sudden the remaining toilet paper rolled into the puddle of toilet water on the floor. I thought to myself, ‘I’m in Saw II’.”  So the toilet leaks. A lot. The first week we had little to no water pressure or hot water in the shower, but suddenly last week it arrived! It was such a relief, until we realized that the shower hose has a hole in it that sprays water into the bathroom (shower curtain?? no way), adding to the toilet’s puddles, which just so happen to leak into the hallway and the bedroom that MJ, Katy and Jaishri sleep in. But like I said, we get to flush our poo. So that’s nice.

Here in Butare there are about 6 restaurants that we get to choose from each night, most of them with the same options. Don’t get me wrong–the food here is good! But coming from DC, I guess you could say that we’re used to a bit more variety.  In attempt to overcome that, I decided to break out my Italian genes last week and cook some pasta. This sounds like a simple task; in fact, that’s how I’ve perfected the art of cooking pasta–because it is the simplest thing to cook. However, nothing comes so easily here. Since we don’t have a stove, we have to ask Nyamwasa, our housekeeper, to use his small portable coal stove, which sounds easy, except that Nyamwasa refuses to speak any english. So we simply have to say “fire”, “stove”, “food”, “eat”, and make awkward hand gestures until he gets it. But I guess that’s better than ordering “bread with jam” at a restaurant, and then receiving a ham sandwich, which is what happened in Kigali.

As many of my friends and family members know, I’m really bad at doing laundry, and I don’t do it often. At home I could literally toss my dirty clothes from my closet to the washing machine, but still despised it. Well, I guess I should have taken more advantage of that simplicity, because now I have to fill up a bucket, put funny smelling powdered detergent in it, and then soak my clothes, which are typically covered in dirt, and hang them on a line in front of our house. I guess all I have to say about this is Mom, you’re never allowed to call me undomestic again!

We’ve mentioned before that the children here are obsessed with the mzungus–white people. It’s funny, really. The moment one sees us, he or she will begin screaming “mzungu, mzungu, mzungu!!”, and all the children will run from their houses to look at us. But what they love most is touching our skin, as if it feels different. They timidly walk toward us with their adorable little smiles and eyes full of wonder, and they simply reach out, touch our skin, and then giggle as if it’s the best thing that’s ever happened. I warn them every time that white skin feels the same as black skin, but it’s somehow still fascinating!

While there are many other things that confuse us about African life–especially at restaurants–those are some of the funny things that make us laugh most often. Oh, and the fact that our electricity decides to go out at REALLY convenient times! But overall, we have it good in Rwanda. There are so many others who literally do have to poo in the bush (but I guess I can understand why now that I know the alternative requires hours of mopping each day). The experience is definitely allowing us to be empathetic to those we’re here to help, and we really couldn’t ask for anything else. After all, who needs latrine luxuries when you have empathy in your heart and toilet water cleaning your toes??

Until next week,

Alyssa

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