Friday, March 5, 2010

Simple things

I just heard the sweet, sweet sound of my own electric water kettle boiling. Why all the excitement? Well, I'm glad you asked!

I got here (to my field site) on Monday. I made arrangements to stay at the field station until I could get things sorted to rent a house because it is much cheaper. I gave the house-renting people a letter in August asking for repairs to be made to a particular house that I wanted to rent. I emailed them several times but received no reply. On Tuesday I went to talk to them. It would be too expensive to repair that house now, so they offered me a different one. Actually just a few rooms in a very large house but for a very nice price. After briefly considering my options (including renting the (dumpy) house I was in last year, I decided to abandon my dreams of the cute little fixer-upper on the hill and rent rooms in the big house because it already has a bed, mattress, mosquito net, and even a shower (or at least some of the fixtures for one). Totally. awesome. I made arrangements to move in on Thursday evening, thus giving them time to clean the place and change some of the outlets (they are an old type for which I do not have an adapter- I had the same problem last year).

On Tuesday the power went out during the day while I was in the field. It came back on on Wednesday night. Without power it is difficult to do much on the computer and I reserve the use just for necessities related to field work prep. But whatever. I just have to expect that here once or twice a week.

On Thursday I talked to the guy about the house and he said the shower isn't ready but otherwise it's ok. Great. That evening I got a lift (important since I now have SIX bags/boxes) to the new place, after dark. I couldn't get any of the lights to turn on even though there were bulbs and there was a light on outside. There also wasn't any running water inside (sink, toilet, nothing). I had neither electricity nor running water. I unpacked all of my things using my headlamp and a candle (kindly provided for the frequent power outages), and I eventually went to sleep.

I slept terribly. I'm staying in this house alone so I slept so lightly and I think I woke up at 3:15 or some ungodly hour and never fully went back to sleep. I needed to get an early start because I arranged for a lift at 7 am from a guy who lives down the road and works up near where I am prepping an experiment, so starting early seemed better than walking for well over an hour to get there on foot. I got up and got everything together, no breakfast (no way to prepare it without electricity), and was just starting to tell the guard outside about the problems with electricity and water when my ride showed up. I gestured to him to wait a minute while I tried to explain the problem to the guard in Ukenzagapese, that I would be gone all day, but I was leaving a key so that the problem could be fixed. I went inside to lock up, and when I came back out, my ride had left without me! He hadn't seen me and was already running late so he left. I tried to call, but couldn't find his number fast enough. I hurriedly tried to explain my problems (now a third- no lift) to the guard and then set off down the road on foot cursing and trying not to burst into tears because I had no water, no electricity, no breakfast, and no lift. I didn't even have much charge in my phone.

I hauled ass down the road and made it to my destination in only 70 minutes, and once I composed myself enough that I knew I wouldn't start crying I texted Jon to ask him to call me. It was good to talk to him, but I was in such a foul mood. I had a lot to do today and missing that lift really felt like a huge blow. By the time I got to where I was going it was fine though. I listened to podcasts and worked until my field assistants came and then we got down to work, and actually managed to accomplish everything we needed to do today (that's practically a first). I ate a whole coconut and some berries and drank 2 liters of water before I got back to the house tonight. Still no water or electricity.

Thankfully, on Tuesday I was invited to have dinner with the local priest tonight (Friday), so I didn't have to scrounge together food for myself. I had a lovely dinner with the priest and two nuns, and then returned to the house around 10:30. The guard came with another man, and they turned on the water! The only problem now is that there's too much water- the shower faucet doesn't turn off. They say they'll get someone on the problem tomorrow. I was able to fill a large bucket for the time being. Then the two guys set about solving my electricity dilemma. Guess what they did? They went to the house next door to grab some new bulbs. Apparently, every single bulb in my house was burnt out! Why didn't I think of that? I guess it didn't occur to me that all 7 bulbs or whatever wouldn't work, and most of the outlets are the wrong shape so I couldn't try those either! I'm sitting in the hallway with my computer, phone, and electric water kettle plugged into my universal power strip, and I could hardly be happier. It's a good end to a long, hard day.


EcoGeoFemme said...

That sounds rough! Especially when you're probably feeling anxious about getting your field work up and running again.

I hope things continue to go uphill from here!

m.e. said...

Hugs! Glad to hear things are (slowly) working themselves out. Good luck! Miss you!

KGG said...

I loved reading this post. Reminded me of my PC days. I so remember those moments of feeling so frustrated. Miss you and think of you often!