jueves, 31 de mayo de 2012

Home Sweet Home!

With my upcoming trip to Chicago just DAYS away, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on the things I won't be taking for granted stateside...

1.  Toilet Seats

I don't knw what Colombian's have against toliet seats. Maybe they are just a popular item to be stolen or maybe they have thighs of steal and can squat all day, but more often than not when you're out in public, and even in my own home, there are no toliet seats! 

2. Toilet Paper...that you can flush!

So, any good traveler knows that you always have to bring your own toilet paper while out and about.  But on the coast here (who knows, maybe it's different in the rest of the country), due to bad plumbing you almost surely can NOT throw your toilet paper into the bowl.  There is a garbage provided next to the toilet to throw your used toilet paper into.  Not gonna lie, this one took me a while to get used to...a habit of 25 years is hard to break! Looking forward to no smelly toilet paper bins next to the toilet stateside!

 3. Garbage Dumpsters

 In most places on the coast, people don't use garbage bins or garbage bags, they just put garbage in small plastic bags that you get from the store.  Because of this, the garbage men come by three times a week to collect these small bags full of garbage...and smelly toilet paper.  However, you can't just throw the bags out front any time of the day because of rodent issues and rainy season so you have to do it late at night, or before you leave the house on garbage days...which I always forget to do!  I miss the days of garbage dumpsters and garbage bins you emptied when necissary and the rest was taken care of...instead of having a weeks worth of garbage pile up : (

4.  Washing Machines Hooked Up To The Water

Fortunately most families that the volunteers are living with do have washing machines (although a few don't!).  However, not very many are hooked up to the main water supply.  Instead we have to take the washing machine outside (so not a rainy day activity!) and use the hose to fill it with water and then rinse the clothes off.  Luckily I've been able to evade my host mother's suggestion that I wash my white load first so that I can reuse the (dirty) water for the next load. While doing laundry here there is no downtime.  To do one load takes about an hour of constant working and monotoring. The days of spinning a dial, pushing a button and relaxing for the next 40 minutes are looking pretty good!
5.  Air Conditioning

This one's a no-brainer!  Every day for almost two weeks the heat index has been between 107 and 109.  Maybe if you were sitting perfectly still, barely breathing then the fan in my room would cut it and keep you from getting heat stroke, but add any movement or activity to this heat and it's brutal.  True Story: The teachers at my old school told my students I didn't work there anymore becaue I had a 'sweating disease.' If that were the case, I wouldn't be able to work anywhere on the coast!!

6.  Seasons

Okay, so I'm not exacly hoping for another massive blizzard, but I sure do miss the weather changing and having that change to look forward to.  This heat would be more bearable if I knew it lasted only a couple of months! My dad has always said he could never live without seasons.  I take all my scoffing back father, I now agree with you 100%.  I want all four beautiful seasons and all they bring with them!

7. Sidewalks

The sidewalks that I've grown accustomed to here, when they exist, are woefully inept!  Now part of this is due to old neighborhoods that lack planning and crazy rainy seasons that wash everything away, but I look forward to walking down the street without having to watch my every step (to the point where you can barely have a conversation with the person walking next to you you're concentrating so hard)  or jump out into the road and join the none-to-friendly drivers whose greatest joy in life is honking their horns.  
8.  Reasonable Public Transportation

                                                                          Public Transportation is kinda out of control...especially in Barranquilla!  The buses are so full you can't breath..and you also can't help but sweat all over people.  There's is an itty bitty aisle that people have to stand cramped together holding on for dear life as the bus driver (or chofer) drives like a maniac.  I'm pretty sure they're all still learning how to drive stick..and then when someone has to get off the bus and squeeze through the aisle, the real fun starts.  Some of the worse experiences I've had in Colombia have been on buses in Barranquilla!  And while we'e at it how about letting pedestrians have the right away!  Nothing Strikes terror in my heart quite like having to cross the street in this country...fairly certain their aiming for me. Bonus points for gringos?

9.  Express Check-Out Lines

So hot, coastal areas have a reputation for doing things slowly.  It makes sense when you think about it.  But my god do I miss express check-out lines!  You will loose 30 of your life, minimum walking into any grocery store here.  The lines move excruciating slowly.  Excruciating.  And in the grocery store by my house you can pay your utility bills too...so you never know you got behind a ridiculously long transaction until they pull the bill out of the purse or pocket!  10 extra minutes for that transaction alone when all I really wanted to buy was this bottle of water...
10.  Food Variety

Okay, I am clearly not wasing away down here, but the lack of  variety and spice on anything can be frustrating!  I pretty much get the same meal every day from my family consisting of rice, beans, and either eggs, chicken, or fish.  We don't even have an oven in the house! Luckily there are a handful of ethnic food places in the center of Cartagena, but dining out tends to be beyond the Peace Corps Volunteer's budget!  A friend of mine lives with a family who owns a restaurant and actually had to introduce them to pepper...that how little spices are used!  I am looking forward to some home cooking from my mom, crab, sushi, mexican, deep dish piza, lasgna...well, you get the point!

11. Wine

Speaking of things out of the Peace Corps Volunteer's budget!  There's nothing quite like relaxing with friends and a glass of wine to chat or forget the stresses of the day.  Seeing as we don't have spaces to call our own to invite friends over to, and the fact that small mixed-gender gatherings are frowned upon culturally, and the fact that I'm not eating delicous food that I would want to pair a delicious wine with, I've been managing to cope...but I know I've already got a few bottles of full-bodied reds waiting at home for me.  I can't wait to share them with the ones I love and catch up on the last 8 months of my life. 

Miss you all and let's make a deal to see each other or chat when I'm home next week enjoying everything and everyone I've missed so dearly!

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