Sometimes you just have to laugh (at yourself)..

I, Mollie, have had a ridiculous week, and it’s only Tuesday afternoon!

Over the weekend, our water went out, which while it may not be an unusual occurrence for Cameroon, it was unusual for Nkongsamba. Normally, if our water goes out it is for a few hours at most. Well, our water went out on Friday night and didn’t come back on for more than a few hours until today. It is a pain – let me tell you – especially when you are unprepared. Of course, the water company does not let anyone know in advance it is going to be shut off, so surprise! There is no more water. All that to be said, Shaun and I were rationing water all weekend…waiting till the last moment to shower, resorted to going out for grilled fish for dinner with a house full a groceries so we didn’t have to worry about dishes, and paid the neighbor boy $0.60 for 3 buckets of water. Things get gross fast without water, and at that point, somewhat dirty well water is better than nothing, especially if it is just going to be used to flush the toilet or wash your hands.

By Sunday night, we just wanted to eat a normal meal and not have to stress about dishes, so, we packed up our groceries and walked over to Gillian’s house, another volunteer who lives on the other side of Nkongsamba. We made dinner and did dishes, it was wonderful! When we got home, still no water. After laying in bed and watching a few TV shows, we heard the water come back on! Only in Cameroon would it seem normal to get up out of bed to do dishes — and a few seconds later, our neighbor was banging on our door to tell us the water was back and that we should fill up our buckets. After washing all of our dishes, filling up the water filter, and filling every bucket or anything else imaginable with water (like our tea kettle, coffee in the morning is essential!), we went back to bed. And, good thing we filled it all up, water was off again on Monday morning.
All that to be said, the weekend wasn’t nearly as relaxing as we had imagined it to be, and come Monday morning, I was ready to just have water again. I realize, more so now, how spoiled Shaun and I are to have water the vast majority of the time. I had a lot to do in town, and, of course, nothing went as planned. It was a million times harder than it needed to be to buy internet credit, no one at the post put the mail in our mailbox yet from last week, I couldn’t buy stamps for letters because the director wasn’t there, and then after being told I was late to meeting for showing up 3 minutes late (which is on time in Cameroon), I started tearing up. It was all too much. I just wanted to shower!

So, then today, Tuesday morning, I decided I would make this shower happen. Thankfully, Gillian’s house still had water. I didn’t want to use our buckets because who knows when our water would come back on…so I headed to her house as she was leaving the house. I took her keys and was going to go shower and leave, simple you would think. Her house has an exterior gate on the outside that is locked, but you have to reach through the gate to unlock it. And, of course, I dropped the keys as I was reaching through to unlock the gate. Awesome. I am on the outside of the gate, the keys are on the inside, Gillian is at work at the hospital, and our spare keys to her house are in my house, a 30 minute walk away. Thankfully, Gillian’s landlord lives nearby and is a huge help to all of us volunteers in the area. I called him, after I tried to hop the fence myself without any luck, and asked him to send his son to rescue me and let me into someone else’s house. Her landlord told me to go to his house around the corner and make myself comfortable while he sent his son to hop the fence, get the keys, and bring them to me at his house. At this point, I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous the last few days have been for us.

Behind the scenes of all of the water dramas, Shaun and I have been asked to help find a few new organizational partners for the Peace Corps in Nkongsamba, which is quite the task when almost no one here has internet or a printer and the Peace Corps needs completed paperwork. My director is coming tomorrow for meetings with these potential partners and I have been running around trying to get it all in order.  Between coordinating new work for Peace Corps, not having water and therefore not being able to get anything done at home, and then to have all the difficulties yesterday, I sat on Gillian’s landlord’s couch and laughed to myself: This is Peace Corps. A million things at once and yet nothing at all. It is all too much sometimes, but it is always the simplest of things that make or break your day. I had to laugh, only in the Peace Corps would I need someone to hop a fence to retrieve keys so that I could shower.

I did get my shower. It was a warm bucket bath. And the kicker of it all, after going through all of that, our water was back on when I got home.

  1. estelle said:

    I like your post or letter. I am a cameroonian and can understand what you are going through. We all hope this situation will soon come to an end.
    But, it is also a good experience, because you will understand how it is difficult to be from a poor country. We face that everyday but, still not die because of that.

    Be couragous, after all Cameroon is a beautiful country with more things to enjoy than to complain.

  2. Lesa Beth said:

    Oh, Mollie!!! I’m glad you can laugh, but I’m sure there were moments that justifiable homicide would have been an option!! Hang in there.

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