Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rural life

I have written before about the gap between rural and non-rural, but it always requires a bit of a shift in position when I make the transition. Or perhaps it is the gap between poor and very poor, or comfortable and poor. I don't want to impose external categories, and the lines are not hard and fast. But I remembered, with a start, when I woke up this morning, that I cannot just jump out of bed, make breakfast and take a shower like I could in the parish hall in San Miguel Ixtahuacán. Making breakfast means lighting a fire in the wood burning stove; cleaning myself means filling up a large cauldron at the cold water tap outside, lugging it to the stove, and waiting until it is hot enough, and then filling up a big rubber basin outside with hot water, and finding another small basin to pour the water over myself. I don't want to claim any heroism for accomplishing any of this; hundreds of thousands of Guatemalan women (and men) do this every day. Lighting the wood burning stove successfully is also not an instantaneous act, at least not for me, and not even for my friends whose house this is. You have to select the first wood you are going to use carefully, find some kindling (my friends, who are poor, don't purchase pine pitch, called ocote, at the market, but hack out the inner part of pine logs that they gather or cut, which is somewhat resinous but not as much as what is sold in the market), make sure that the matches aren't wet.  

So, now my water is heating... then I faced the task of getting the mud off my shoes. My friends live at the bottom of a dirt path which gets very muddy, and both my sandals and the soles of my feet were covered in mud just from walking from the car to the house and back, and then walking up the road to get the chicken for dinner, and back, and then going to the car so we could pick up a bottle of wine and some lightbulbs... So my sandals are caked with thick, red mud and pebbles.  Luckily I had other shoes to wear inside the house, but I wanted to clean off the sandals I wore yesterday as those are the newer and better ones. 

So, having indoor plumbing, having a gas-burning stove, having hot water are things that distinguish rural from not-so-rural (obviously there are people in rural areas who have indoor plumbing), or not-so-poor from poor. Adobe rather than purchased bricks as a building material. Some kind of tiling on the floor.  A toilet that flushes and not a latrine. These don't all go together. That is, I know people who have large, well constructed houses and tiled floors, running water in the kitchen, but outdoor latrines.  

No comments:

Post a Comment