Friday, May 28, 2010

Living La Vida Catracha

When I was a little kid, I loved to go camping with my family. Our routine was to sit down about a week before we were leaving and make a schedule of all the meals we would be eating, and then make another list of all the food, kitchen tools and condiments that we’d need to prepare them. (Nerdy, I know). We had to come up with simple meals that we liked because we had limited space in our cooler and car. It was always a fun challenge for me, to see what we could make using only the most essential items, after all, you can’t bring your whole kitchen with you.

Once we got to the campsite, it was another challenge to keep everything organized and clean without drawers and cabinets and refrigerators. We filled up big jugs of water to take with us, so we had to conserve what we used. No running water of course, so if you wanted anything hot you’d heat it up on the fire. We were always repurposing things, a cup became a ladle, a fork a pot handle, a lid a frying pan. There was never enough space on the picnic table to do prep work, and rinsing things off quickly meant a 5 minute process of getting the water jug, filling a bucket, rinsing and drying that object while trying not to drop it in the mud. It was a fun time to be sure, but certainly not convenient. That’s what makes camping enjoyable I think, the challenge of living without luxuries.

I feel now like my entire life is a big camping trip.

That is not in any way a criticism of Honduras, or necessarily a problem, it’s just how it is.

Our host mom is out of town, she’s in Houston in fact, so we’ve been cooking for ourselves now for about a week. She prestar-ed us an old stove, a pitcher, two plates, 2 forks, 2 glasses, a knife, a spatula and a mini frying pan. So the week began with us trying to figure out what we can concoct with those tools. We decided we needed to buy at least one pot and two bowls, and some Tupperware. Then the list began, we can make: grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, cereal, macaroni and cheese, pasta and guacamole, some of our favorites. To begin, our fridge is in another house, so each morning to retrieve milk, we walk out our front door, along the sidewalk, two houses down, through their ‘garage’ gate, through their backyard, through another gate, through our host family’s backyard and into another unoccupied house the family owns, where our fridge is. Times 2 because we have to take the milk back. Plus it’s raining a lot lately.

Water from the tap, which is only cold, can’t be used directly for anything but washing, and everything that’s washed has to fully dry before using. That means you can’t really just rinse things off when they need it, or wash dishes in hot water. Water has to be boiled for 3 minutes to kill any bacteria, but then its fine for anything. We bought a big 5 gallon botella de agua for drinking and brushing teeth that just sits on our counter until we have to open it and carefully pour it into a pitcher or nalgene bottle. We have a table, about 2 by 3 feet, that is used to store all our food and do any prep work as well. Our spatula became a big spoon, one plate is a cutting board, and our pitcher is used to clean veggies in chlorine. I hope you see the similarities as much as I do to my childhood camping experiences.

I think I’ve said this before, but it surprises me still how fast we’ve adjusted to living here. I don’t think about all the adjustments I’ve made on a daily basis, but sometimes it just hits me that this is quite an experience. Like when I realized the first thing we bought for our apartment when we got here was a big bucket….. to wash clothes. Or when I realize I’m miffed that I just paid 16 lemps (~75 cents) for my liter of milk in a bag, when it should have only cost me 15. Or that we have to sweep our apartment twice a day to get all the dirt out because there are no rugs sold here (that may be an exaggeration, we just haven’t found rugs yet, but we’ve been told they are few and far between). Or that we have to periodically fetch water from our pila bucket brigade style to fill up our toilet tank that would otherwise take ½ hour to fill up on its own. Or having to pause our movies every 15 minutes because there is either a large truck or bus coming down the street or a chorus of wailing dogs, cats, chickens and insects that sounds like the dead rising from the grave occurring at regular intervals which is deafening.

I think you get the point, it’s different, but in a lively, endearing and eye-opening way.

1 comment:

  1. Our first purchase was the 5 gallon bucket as well! We haven´t had to adapt to cooking here yet but sounds like you are getting the hang of it! And how lucky you have a supermarket...and peanut butter! We are attempting to bribe some work partners to bring back PB from Teguc, haha!