It's a Samoan pub.

October 9, 2006: The beginning of my adventure in the Peace Corps. I've been invited to serve as an Information and Communication Techonology volunteer to teach computer skills in Samoa. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are mine and do not in any way reflect the views of the Peace Corps, the US government, or the country of Samoa.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The New Addition

When I first moved into my house in late January my host family and about five of their relatives poured into the house and listed all of the improvements that they planned to make: a new paint job, curtains, a table, a desk, a cabinet for my dishes, and a new bathroom. Most of which were obtained with the disappointing exception of the bathroom.

After about two months, I began to accept that a bathroom was never going to happen when one day some men came and dug a six foot deep hole behind my house. My proud host parents explained that they were starting to build the bathroom. I was ecstatic. In my enthusiasm I bragged of my bathroom to my Peace Corps neighbors. I excitedly told the news to my family back in the states. If there is such a thing as Karma, it exists in concentrated quantities in the Peace Corps. It seemed as though my mere excitement had jinxed the operation. Construction stopped immediately.

Over the months I got used to my system of getting water. Showers were taken on the other side of the compound. The pipes in our village very rarely work and when they do, there’s not enough water pressure for the shower pipe to work. So, I honed my skills at taking bucket showers. I would grab all my soaps, my towel, my clothes, and a bucket. Then I would tramp to the other side of the compound, fill up my bucket from the pipe or, if the pipe wasn’t working, from a large barrel of collected rain water. I could shut myself in the concrete shower and have my bucket shower there. It’s not really the bucket shower that I minded. It was more the time that needed to be invested.

When I needed to do dishes I filled up my bucket with dishes, carried it over to the pipe and washed them outside. On days when the pipe wasn’t working and I had to use the rain water it took me twice as long.

I used the toilet that was in the family’s main house (which thankfully was hooked up to a water tank and so always had water). This was mostly a problem at night. I can’t go outside in just my shorts and t-shirt so I would need to get up, find a lavalava, grab my flashlight, and a roll of toilet paper. I locked my house behind me and headed over to the main house.

Now, I don’t want you to think I’m complaining about this. My family does these things every day and I was quite capable of doing them myself. The only cause for discomfort was the idea of my own bathroom nagging in the back of my mind. If I ever forgot there was the ginormous hole behind my house to remind me.

It wasn’t until much later that I learned of all the village red tape that was holding up the construction of my bathroom. It seems that within the School Committee (the village group that funds my housing) there was a disagreement among the matai (village chiefs). Village politics are nearly completely controlled by the matai so if they don’t want something done, it doesn’t get done. Again I resigned myself to not having a bathroom.

It was like going through the stages of grief. I was infuriated, saddened, and frustrated by the fight in the school committee but over time I came to accept the reality of my situation. I could do this. I could spend the rest of my service using the family’s water sources. In all reality it wasn’t that big of a deal. What ever doesn’t kill you, right?

I pretty much had my system down and was falling into regular patterns when I came home one day to find the hole had been filled in with concrete. What did this mean? I couldn’t even let the idea formulate. That would be too good to be true and I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment again. I decided to wait it out.

I would like to point out how little I am aware of the goings-on here.

Suddenly men were coming every day and hammering things, pouring concrete and it looked like they were actually building something. My host family told me that it was my new bathroom but after a few preliminary questions I didn’t push the matter further. What if something happened and they couldn’t finish? I felt like telling anyone would jinx it. I watched as they connected the bathroom to my front room. I watched as they built a water tank so that I wouldn’t run out of water (water tanks collect rain water so as long as it rains every once in a while, I will have water and I don’t have to rely on our village pipes). It wasn’t until they were actually tiling the finished shower that I began to speak of it but, even then, only in a whisper. After it was finished, I used it a few times before proclaiming that it was complete. I even waited a few weeks to post anything in the off chance that that whole section of my house spontaneously combusted.

Now it is finished, a shower and toilet of my very own. I can get water for my filter and wash my dishes in the shower. I don’t have to go out in the rain or in the middle of the night. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to make this post. I don’t think I’ve ever fully appreciated anything like I do this.


Anonymous Ed said...

Great post! I'm sure it's hard being a volunteer at times but I think the PC slogan is true "It's the hardest job you'll ever love".

Julya's Dad

6:56 PM GMT-11  
Anonymous Ed said...

I got it wrong. It's "The toughest job you'll ever love".

1:29 AM GMT-11  
Blogger Siri said...

This post was VERY entertaining. I couldn't stop reading. Through some of my experiences in India, I felt like I could relate a bit. I'm VERY happy for you and your new bathroom. Hopefully, nothing goes wrong.

8:38 AM GMT-11  
Blogger Village Boy said...

Great Story, it's an Island thing...and make sure you bring a cooked pua'a to the village meeting. Just kidding. Keep up the great work!!

3:41 PM GMT-11  

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