Sometimes I take a step back and think about all the crazy little things that make up my day to day life here that have just become normal to me. I realize that if I were to describe these things to people in the US, they wouldn’t sound normal at all. Things like walking around my house with a headlamp half of the time (the half of the time I don’t have power) because up until last week when I got my hands on a super cool solar lantern, my headlamp was the only source of light I had when the power was out.
Speaking of headlamps, I often have to get people to bring me AAA batteries from the US for my headlamp and D batteries for my fan because they run out rather quickly from all the use they get, and I have no idea where to even begin to find batteries here.
Speaking of lack of electricity, I buy a block of ice from the “ice factory” whenever my fridge starts getting hot from being off for too long. About a dozen men are set up on the side of the road with ice covered in sawdust (because it keeps it from melting!). I pull up on a Moto taxi and sometimes have to fight my way into getting a chunk of ice before they run out and have to go fetch another one. Typically it’s my taxi driver who does the talking while I wave my 50 gourdes at the nice ice man, while more eager customers congregate and wave their own money in his face. I have learned that lines tend to be a flexible thing in Haiti, and as a white girl afraid of confrontation in English let alone in Creole, I often end up getting cut in line whether I’m at the market or in a store.
Still speaking of lack of electricity, when the power does come on, I have to immediately plug up everything I can think of to charge, and remember to change out my 3 backup phone batteries since I just have one charger for them. I also have to remember to turn on the electric pump for the water for the house, because if I don’t do that a few times a week, I may suddenly run out of water while I’m in the shower. It takes about 20 minutes for it to fill the tank on top of my roof, and I often forget about it until it sounds like it’s raining outside my window because it’s overflowing and I have to run and turn it off before my neighbor scolds me for forgetting.
Yep, still speaking of lack of electricity. when we’re not in a gas shortage (which we have been for the last 3 weeks), I have to wait until I can fill my generator up with one last gallon of gas, then go to the gas station with my two little gallon containers and stand in line at the pump amidst a ton of confused and amused Haitian men. I’ve grown accustomed to not using my generator much at all, but I really like to always have a little gas on hand just in case.
Okay last time, speaking of lack of electricity. When power is irregular, I bring my backup battery to charge off the generator at work so that I can plug that into my battery powered fan at night, and sometimes make the decision to use some of the battery on WiFi so I can call people or watch a show.
Speaking of things I take with me to work, I keep a little compost container (making you proud, Dad!) mostly because if I have food scraps in my trashcan for a few days, I’ll suddenly open the trashcan to find worms squirming throughout it. I dispose of the compost in Kathy and Beaver’s compost pile, and while carrying it to work I get a lot of strange looks from those wondering why the heck I have mango pits and eggshells inside of Tupperware.
Speaking of trash, I strategically try to finish my jug of drinking water at the same time that my trash needs to be taken out. That’s because I get the drinking water filled and dump the trash at my roommate’s parents’ house, and I can kill two birds in one stone. I give the water jug to the taxi driver to set in front of him on the Moto while I try to balance the trash bag behind me. I drop the water off at the water filling place while I run to dump the trash in the trash dumping place, trying to hurry so my taxi driver can’t charge me more.
Speaking of paying for taxis, I am constantly trying to get change for “small money” so that I can have the right change for things I buy on the street or pay for my taxi rides. Money is often exchanged is mille gourdes (which is equivalent to about $10) but I need something more like 25 cents and 50 cents to pay for things a lot of the time.
Speaking of money, I have to be strategic about that too. Oftentimes all of the ATMs in town aren’t working so I can’t withdraw money without standing in a long line inside. I also don’t like to go to the bank alone because of safety concerns so that complicates it more. But! My roommate pays me monthly for the rent I had to pay for the entire year in advance last October. So I get cash from her that I change at the small convenience store down the road, but I have to be careful to not be too routine about that because everyone is watching the white girl change her money at the cash register. While I’m at that store, I often have to grab simple things like peanut butter or olive oil, even if I already have some at home, because sometimes they suddenly run out. (I do the same with little packs of Oreos or M&M’s too!)
Speaking of leaving my house, my front door locks automatically when it closes. Because I accidentally locked myself out so many times, my friend had to use a wire to make it to where it didn’t do that so that I had to use my keys to open it from both sides. I also had to make a little hook for my keys right beside the door. Then I got locked on my porch one time. So now, when I’m on my porch, I have to put the mop bucket in the door to keep it mostly closed so mosquitos don’t get in but to also keep it open so I don’t get locked out again. C’est la vie!
And the list goes on and on! What a beautiful, quirky, complicated, strategic thinking required life I get to live here! And I am strangely thankful for every little bit of it.