Monday July 6th: Namuhla ngu sombuluko. Today is Monday, and because today is Monday we’re going to start something new. We have realized that our blog may become a bit tedious should we rattle off what we’re doing everyday in every post. So last night during a spirited discussion over a simple question we decided to break the monotonous string of our posts every now and again by revealing to you an aspect of rural Swazi life. The question posed last night, and the one which all our readers may credit this change of pace with, was:
“How would you feel if I peed in a bucket?”
Let me begin by trying to explain our situation here in our house as married volunteers. Our house is octagonal in shape with no interior walls or other means of dividing the space. It is very simple. Concrete floor, block walls, and some form of masonry roof. We have access to a latrine a mere 50 yards from our front door. It is our only bathroom (save the fact that I am a man and the world is my oyster when it comes to “passing water”). The latrine is a very porous structure composed of block and a simple tin roof that requires me to duck but allows Grace to stand. There is a rusty, perforated corrugated steel wall dividing quite quaint pilot-to-copilot style toilet seats set into raised concrete mounds. There are a variety of visitors to the latrine and the pilot-to-copilot nature of it all allows a certain level of intimacy with your fellow visitor be it human or creature. This is our situation, and may I add we feel very fortunate to live where we do and with the lovely family that we do. None of what I have said thus far is intended to paint a negative picture, merely an accurate one. If you think it negative perhaps I should have mentioned the flowery mat that is resident to the “women's” side of the latrine. (On occasion it makes me jealous that the men are not privy to such beauty).
Nevertheless I set out to include you all in our lives and life style so allow me address the simple question at hand within the context of our daily hygiene routines. Swazi’s are very clean people, and knowing this, the Peace Corps expects volunteers to be very clean people. The PC in all its wisdom provides various basins that are intended to be used as baths during the not so efficient process of bucket bathing. Grace and I must bathe everyday in these basins. We typically rotate days washing either our hair or our bodies so as to prevent a sizable flood in our small very intimate house. Grace is beginning to adapt quite well to the bucket bath whereas I tend to look like a crippled duck in a bird bath fit for a hummingbird. Such is life in rural Africa.. It is routine. It is an awkward routine when there is no escaping the sight of a crippled duck splashing about but it is a routine nonetheless. Now our bathing routine is typically accompanied by a joint trip to the latrine in the dark of night. Such trips are always joint trips because…well…I believe myself a gentleman and no gentleman would allow his wife to face the vermin of the latrine unaccompanied. This lays the foundation for the spirited discussion we had last night. “How would you feel if I peed in a bucket?” I felt like any American with no prior knowledge of rural Africa would feel, or so I thought. It is not okay to pee in a bucket which may one day be used to fetch water from the river with which to bathe or even drink. It is not okay. Or so I felt. However, I began to turn as my wonderful, logical, and rational wife began to explain the various benefits of moving our latrine inside after nightfall. No more awkward encounters after dark with our host family. No more latrine rats clamoring for attention. No more worries of what lies in wait in the high grass on the way to the latrine. The list goes on and on as you may imagine should you possess a logical and rational mind, or if you possess the mind of an American you may be suffering from increasing shock as you continue to read. This I cannot determine so onward I press. Now once my belief was changed and I agreed with establishing a #1 only, after dark, latrine in what would otherwise be our living room, it took some time for me to convince my better half that I was indeed ok with this new latrine despite my initial shock. Eventually the question was laid to rest and the bucket was placed in the living room under a stack of chairs. It was christened that very evening and I must say it has greatly simplified our lives and led to a much more efficient nightly routine.
In conclusion, do not be mystified or shocked by the life we live here. It is full of uncompromising closeness, uncontrollable laughter, and at times, a little awkward grace.