I get home and leave my shoes outside next to the pile of shoes belonging to members of my Muslim host family.
Then I see them, the ants. Thousands of them, streaming into the house through the crack under the front door. I step over the black trail and watch them file up the wall and into a crack in the ceiling. My room is up there.
“Have you seen the ants?” I call out to my host father.
“Oh,” he calls back. “They’ve come for water.”
He’s unfazed by them. I, on the other hand, am silently freaking out. And I’m confused. What water have they come for?!
Please don’t be going into my room. I rush upstairs, imagining my room spilling over with ants. Fortunately, it’s not. Their trail is filing across the hallway, up the banister, and out the window. I let out a sigh of relief. Today, they’re just passing through.
How is life so different here?
I ASK GOD TO KEEP THE POWER FROM GOING OUT DURING THE NEXT TWO HOURS.
I'am out with some local friends and we stop to eat at a small streetside restaurant. We order a quarter chicken. It’s like rotisserie chicken served with round flatbread, carrots and cucumbers, and little bowls of sauces.
I keep my left hand politely out of view. It’s considered unclean and unfit for dining, I try to tear a piece of bread using just my right hand. Then I’m supposed to use the bread to pull a piece of chicken off the bone.
Eating rice and curry with one hand isn’t too hard. You just kind of scoop it with your fingers. But this meal requires a different level of skill I’ve not yet managed.
The simplest things seem so different here.
PLEASE DON’T BE GOING INTO MY ROOM, I BEG.
It’s laundry day. I’ve set aside several hours for the task. Most families do not have a washing machine, but my host family does.
Lugging my laundry basket downstairs, I go through the back bedroom, outside, and around the corner to a tiny little room. I stand straddling the squat toilet to turn on the water pipe. No water comes out.
I go inside the house to turn on the pump from the well. I’m careful to let it run for only four minutes so the reserve tank doesn’t overflow and waste precious water.
Walking back out to the little room, I flip the switch to turn on the electricity. I load my laundry into the machine, while still straddling the toilet. Then I fill two buckets of water and pour them into the machine with some soap. This small load will take two hours to complete. I ask God to keep the power from going out during the next two hours.
After the two-hour cycle finishes, I take my wet clothes and walk to our front garden. A rope is stretched taut between papaya and coconut trees. I weave my way past the banana tree and the curry bush to the clearing. I am sweating profusely as I hang my clothes in the sunshine. When I finish, the process starts all over again with the next load.
Laundry is so different here.
These differences don’t bother me. They are simply part of my new reality. In the midst of it all, I am learning to adjust.
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