Thursday, January 10, 2013

Daily realities

A friend back home said she was envious of my ideal life in Peru. It's fascinating, yes. Ideal, not so much.

So, let me tell you about life without a bathroom.

To get to the latrine, I must pass through the barnyard, which is coated in cattle excrement.
When the cows are home, I have to push my way past them to get out. I'm kind of scared to do that, so I don't use the latrine at night. I have a chamberpot. Here are some of the cows (we have a bull, 4 cows and a calf). They're not Fierce Cows, just a bit much for me in the dark of the night.

 The latrine is out into the field behind the house. Here it is:

The view is nice.

But here’s the ‘toilet’.

I guess this is the moment to share with you that Peace Corps musical hit, “You’re gonna poop in a hole”. Have a listen. Please. It’s all true.

We have running cold water, but there is no bathroom. I participate in that great Peace Corps tradition, the bucket bath. I bathe in my bedroom. Here is my bath:

I heat up some water, so it’s a bit more comfortable, given that the temperature in my room is usually about 55 degrees. I can wash my hair and all the "parts that fold" with one Nalgene (liter) of water or less. I have discovered that baby washcloths are readily available; they do the job, are gentle on the skin, and dry quickly. I also highly recommend this type of clothespin rack for hanging towels and washcloths to dry in your room. Also excellent for drying socks and underwear without taking up a lot of space on the clothesline, and can be moved inside quickly when the rain and hail start. These handy things are available in the market at the same stall where you purchase your chamberpot.

Also, while we’re mentioning daily realities, there’s the mud. My road becomes brown slurry when it rains, and right now it rains a lot. Fortunately, I have ditch boots and (so far) they don’t leak. Here’s the street outside my house after a rain. Also, notice the local trash disposal system at work.
It's not that I'm complaining. As you could tell from the song "You're gonna poop in a hole", this is how it's supposed to be in the Peace Corps. If all the amenities existed, they wouldn't need us and I wouldn't get to have this amazing experience, living in Peru. And how could we understand the daily realities of the people we're serving if we didn't share those realities on a daily basis?

Actually, my house has some facilities that might make volunteers in, say, Africa, sneer and label my site "Posh Corps". We have a washing machine!!!

And for my host moms birthday, my host sister gave her a microwave!!!
 It is true, hot running water would be nice. My last shower was when we had our December Junin volunteer meeting in La Merced, and I stayed in a hostel.

 That was a month ago. I can't think of a time in my life when I've gone a month without a shower. And actually, it doesn't bother me; I'm already used to it.

So, for any of you who are jealous of my adventure, just remember, it’s not all this.

It’s also this:


  1. To have an inside vantage point on a village economy - now that's remarkable. How much of its food does your household produce by itself, and does it have any income-source besides agriculture? What do the cattle eat, and do they graze outside all year? Where? Are there hired hands? Do sellers come to the market from outside the immediate community? With what? I suppose these may not be questions for a personal blog - but the toilet hole (where it goes - so where does it come from) suggests them.

  2. Alane, this is an amazing post. thanks so much for sharing the realities. It amazes me that they have a washing machine and a microwave but no bathroom!