Shorts 3.0

Let me start this next series of short stories with a simple greeting to the world out there that I have failed to communicate with over the last several months. Hello World!! I hope that you enjoy these stories

The Bare Necessities, the Simple Bare Necessities

Usually the first question that pops into my mind when I travel to a new place is: What are the bathroom facilities like? Not that I am a picky person, but I like to be prepared, especially because in my experience most other countries do not have restrooms available to the public everywhere. (While this is a topic for another time, it baffles me when you go to a store and ask to use the restroom and they respond with, “Oh, we don’t have one.” Oh, come on you work somewhere between an 8 and 10 hour shift and you don’t pee the entire time? Anyways, moving on.) My latrine, I feel, is a particularly special one. It was built by the Red Cross approximately 15 years ago, has three walls of blue, corrugated tin, a black, cracked ventilation pipe, no roof and a grey blanket which operates as the door/curtain. The standard latrine is completely sealed except for the toilet/hole and a possible ventilation pipe, which means that usually it just appears to be a black abyss below that the occasional Boy Scout ventures to shine a flashlight into and have a laugh or common “Oooh gross” with his friends. My latrine has an opening on the left side that illuminates the pit below, a particularly special feature.

Now using my latrine would be entirely insignificant if I lived in a lush forested area, but as it were I live in the desert where the only trees are the mango and fig trees off in the distance in the chakra (farm fields). The three features that make my latrine special are the skylight, the curtain and the extra ventilation. The skylight is pleasant during the morning and great at night when one can enjoy the stars while tending to life’s necessities, but during the middle of the day in the summer time the cement toilet seat is boiling lava hot and while sitting there in the sun one slowly roasts. In combination with the skylight the curtain adds to the ambiance. First it smells to high heaven and secondly it is only attached at the top so it can freely blow in the breeze. This curtain is a thick wool-like material and is attached at the corners of the frame so it dips in the middle. This dip just so happens to be the perfect height for people around my height to view the rest of the world while standing and pulling your pants up. During the afternoon in Ocucaje a breeze picks up from the west southwest and blows directly at the latrine which is only an annoyance when using it. While sitting on the toilet in the afternoon the curtain essentially suffocates you and if anyone is observing you then they see a mold of what you are doing, sort of like Han Solo when frozen in carbonate. If for some reason the wind is oblique to the latrine then of course the curtain blows to the side exposing whoever is in it to the world.

I mentioned before that my latrine has extra ventilation beyond the pipe. When walking towards the latrine from the house there is a hole at the base of it on the right side. My first reaction to the illumination of the contents below was, “Oh, how special” but I will say that it has been somewhat helpful. I have learned that I am the only person in my family that uses the latrine. How you might ask have I come to this conclusion? Well if you use the restroom several times a day and live somewhere for long enough it is easy to notice that you are the only one causing the contents below to change. While this observation would normally be tucked away in the memory bank, it is useful to me as a water and sanitation volunteer. Understanding people’s bathroom habits is valuable information because it raises the questions, where do people go if not in the latrine and why do they not use the latrines? Thus the work of a Wat/San volunteer continues.


The other day my friend Teigan was over at my house enjoying a lovely cafecito as my crazy host family revolved around us. A cafecito is coffee/tea with bread and in our case peanut butter and fruit. A few moments later Teigan says to me, “Kate, there are roaches crawling out of the chairs!” to which I responded, “Yep, this is my life.” The chairs at my dining table have wicker seats so it is an easy place for roaches to hang out and emerge from in the fading light. While this little scenario was less than pleasing it is not the worst I had seen so far and I proceeded to share the following with Teigan.

A week ago I was sitting down for breakfast and had placed a tea bag in my mug that sat next to my plate with bread and fruit. I proceed to pour some hot water to make tea from a large blue thermos from which I always pour hot water and still do to this day. When I looked in my mug I notice several of the small dark brown roaches floating in the water. They had apparently crawled up around the lid and when the hot water hit them they died. Now, I am not sure if I was just not awake yet or am a strangely non-reactive person, but at the moment I observed the roaches I picked up my cup removed the tea bag, walked outside and threw the water out in the dirt. Then I returned to the breakfast table and poured myself a fresh cup of tea and proceeded with my day. I guess I just assume that to everyone in Peace Corps and the developing world would just move on because there is not really anything that can be done.

Aissa & Latrine

Aissa is a five year old girl that I live with; she is the grand niece of my host mom and to put it simply she is hell on wheels. She is very smart and rambunctious, with a streak of the devil in her which comes out when she teases her grandmother and great aunt who are 50+ and 70+, respectively. For several weeks Aissa took to following me all around the house which is not really a problem except for when you need a few private moments. One of the particularly comical moments during my day was when Aissa would accompany me to the latrine. At first she would hold the curtain so that it was secure and from the first story you understand that this was nice. Then it became a game of peek-a-boo, with her peeking in on me. From here we moved on to racing to the latrine. I would head to the latrine and she would run in and leave me waiting outside. I thought well this is a good thing she is using the latrine and washing her hands afterwards. At least I am teaching someone to wash their hands; I guess that is how it works, one person at a time.

One day I was heading out to the latrine with Aissa beside me and I went in to do the necessities. Aissa proceeded to do the same, but just outside the latrine. I said, “Aissa, what are you doing?” She replied, “Its fine, everyone knows me here.” Well, alright then as long as everyone knows you. We then proceeded back down the hill towards out house to wash our hands.

That is all I have for now, more stories to come!



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