I have been back in Pereira now after my visa run and I am living with a co worker who offered a room to me while I work and search for an apartment to live in. So I am staying with them in Cuba, a somewhat notorious and dangerous part of the city mainly because it is one giant poor neighborhood. At times susceptible to outbreaks of violence, Cuba is a city with in a city and while most of it has running water and steady electricity, if there is a shut off people go on about their routines and have learned to survive on less than their fair share. So here is my account of a humbling experience I had while there…
It had been a long hot sweaty day, full of walking and sun, finally I decided to take my evening shower. For once I was actually looking forward to the coolness of the water. I turned the knob but to my surprise nothing appeared… Surely the water bill was paid. Should I offer to help? Instead, another reality hit home. Our rations were gone.
Sometimes we (Americans) take an awful lot for granted. Water is one of them. Upon further inquiry I discovered that once the allotted amount of water is used up….that’s it. There is no calling and bitching to the utility company. No crying and complaining. Just acceptance and prior preparation.
I am discovering that the best survivalists live in South America. They are the people who are so used to doing without they don’t even see it as abnormal. With my inquiry I was given a bucket of water, no protests, no demands and no limits. It was humbling. So humbling that I started asking when the water would come back. Only a shrug. “But how will the other 7 or so people in the house take their usual morning bath?”. She simply pointed to another bucket with an equal amount of water. That was when I realized that these gracious people were going to give me a bucket of water and share the other one between 7 or 8 people. I couldn’t do it. So thus began the most efficient and careful shower of my life. I warmed up part of the water to cut the chill, dumped it back in the bucket and then got my skin wet, soaped and rinsed off. Proudly I carried the remaining water downstairs so that through my contribution there would hopefully be enough to go around. I was quite happy to realize the next day our water was back, but not so sure that is always the case.
Such is the reality of life outside the US. Are there still benefits? Sure! Are there disadvantage? You better believe it. However, I learned a valuable lesson about survival in the real world: always keep a tank or buckets of water on hand. I am very blessed and humbled by the amazing love and generosity of my hosts to offer me a bucket of water that they could not easily afford nor instantly replace. I also feel like I did my fair part in accepting the crisis graciously and doing my part in the efficient use of water. This is my crazy life. 🙂