Reasons why I am on a two year camping trip:
Bug bites. Unbelievable in their variation and constancy.
Well, after the first 4 months, I no longer shower out of a bucket, but I still wash my dishes in one. And my laundry. With the rain water from outside tanks, note, because the only tap that works is the shower.
My fridge broke, and for the two months that it took to fix it (yes, it takes forever to figure out how to fix anything because there's certainly no one in the town that can), I figured out about how much time I could leave specific types of food on the counter until they went bad.
I walk up and down the road looking for cell phone service.
I cook on a gas-powered hot plate.
I am never fully clean, especially my feet.
I wake up before the sunrise.
Bats fly through my house at night, and lizards crawl on the walls during the day.
Rain radically changes the possibilities for the day. It's kind of like planning a hike- if it rains, you stay in the tent and play cards. If it rains here, you could tramp through mud just to find yourself stuck on the wrong side of the river, soaking wet. So you stay in the tent.
I never know where my next meal will come from, or what it will be. The neighbors are constantly placing a bowl of soup or an ear of corn in my hands, which I must eat, hungry or no. There is no place to buy fruit and no one will hear of me paying them, so I have to wait to see if someone will gift me some (they usually do). Sometimes there are no vegetables. For three months, there was no milk. It's hard to plan how it will all work out, so I just make sure I have a lot of oatmeal.
I still brush my teeth outside with a cup of water.
I always leave with a backpack of things to fix, books to return to our communal bookshelf, lists of errands to run... and return with a backpack full of food that you just can't find in the mountains (which occasionally includes four pounds of oatmeal).
You know (Emma, Jess, Hannah, Sara, Tyler, Lucas) how when you are camping, something unexpected will always find you, and it might be a disaster or a blessing, but the crisis moment is inevitable. Like when your car breaks down in a rainstorm, but you meet a few cute Wisconsin-ite mechanics, or when you drive for hours to find a camping site, but when you get there and set up, the moment is all that much sweeter because of the struggle. Or when you get stuck on an island during a massive storm, but it means that you have the whole beautiful thing to yourself, or when you haul 21 plastic milk jugs down half the east coast and end up with too much fresh water after all. Or tossing your shoes when you get to the beach only to be attacked by prickly grass bushes. Or when you almost leave Virginia for Florida with no oil in your car. Or when you drive for four hours through a blizzard up mountains with faulty windshield wipers and your dear friends try to keep you from going too crazy (and also somehow figure out how to feed you bean soup from a Nalgene as you drive...)- but you get to the house in the mountains, and wake up to a stunning sunrise.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that my days here are all like that. I never know how they will turn out- maybe I'll hear about a community conflict that's recently hit the fan, or negotiate a failed crop in one of our food security projects, or be invited to a church revival meeting. Maybe I will play soccer with the girls, or the meeting will be canceled, or someone will get in a huge argument about one of the projects, storm out, and then show up five minutes later wondering what all the fuss is about. The electricity will die. I'll drink a cup of juice that turns my stomach. Everyone will be two hours late. I'll have an encouraging, honest, completely unplanned conversation about religion on the back porch. I'll be invited to go wild-honey-hunting. People will agree to contribute to the community fund, without objecting. My phone will completely stop working.
I told Jess once that I constantly feel like I'm surfing- catching my balance minute by minute as the waves appear. I'm trying to learn how to take the unexpected for what it is- crisis or epiphany- and calm it down, make it real, and deal with it. Reacting to the excitement of the wrenches that are thrown in your work doesn't actually help your work, but trying to understand from where and why the wrenches were thrown does. My mom helped remind me the other day that we who work with people work with ecosystems. We work with living beings, who are never predictable and never relate to each other or to us in predictable ways. It's hard, and it requires damn good balance, flexibility, willingness to get your hands dirty, and relentless hope, but at least it's not boring. Kind of like a good camping trip.
(PS. My fridge broke again. Peace out, folks.)