It’s day 6 in Dombe and we are surviving. We’re figuring out the carvão (charcoal) stove and are able to light it in about five minutes without much paper. The lack of electricity really sucks but we’re dealing with it as best as we can and know who has solar panels so we can charge our phones when it comes time. We got some big water jugs in the market and have a good system of getting water regularly from the pump down the path so we always have it when we need it. And we boil water for our filters at least twice a day to stay ahead of our thirst. Issues we’re still working on are the nasty latrine, the bugs and critters in our house and food.
First off, we are in a temporary house right now while our real one is finished. It’s half of a duplex that is better described as a cement block with a tin roof. Professors at the school basically all live on site in these rows of little houses. Our current row is three of these two person structures with us sharing half of the last one. The front has a slit of a window with a screen and a door that opens into the front sala (room). Its small, maybe 8ft by 10ft, and stuffed full of our suitcases, boxes, buckets, the two chairs the school gave us and at night, our stove, water jugs and carvão. There’s a doorway that leads into the quarto (bedroom) but no door so I rigged up a curtain with a couple capulanas, some safety pins and a bamboo reed. The back room had a window but no screen so we have to keep it closed if we leave or go to sleep making the whole house a little oven. I don’t think the new digs are much different except newer with a bigger front window, screens and we’ll each have our own. Supposedly we will be moving this week. Cross your fingers for us.
Okay back to the issues at hand. The latrine is pretty terrible and, how shall I put it, not exactly built with the female anatomy in mind. First off it’s small, so close quarters with the smell and flies. But the opening is literally a 6in by 6 in hole in the cement with these two raised spots for your feet. Their location isn’t very accurate so you end up squatting awkwardly and aiming. There’s no cover of any kind and no door so the flies are awful and it definitely smells. Makes you appreciate that lovely porcelain throne at home right? It’s our only option so we obviously use it and don’t complain but we’re hoping and praying that our director lives up to his promise to build us a new one with a door and lock.
As for bugs and critters, we’ve had more than our fair share so far. The school didn’t have the money to get the bed frames we were supposed to be provided with so our mattresses are currently on reed mats on the floor. The first night was cool and rainy so bugs weren’t really an issue but night two provided our neighbors with some lovely entertainment as we screeched and screamed for an hour or so. First was the weird flat spider I found near my bed, then the rat/mouse (who we’ve “affectionately” named Stuart), the cockroaches and the alien like creature that emerged from the wall after I missed the cockroach with my sandal. Fortunately we have a fabulous neighbor that said we can knock on his door whenever we find something big and scary. He killed the spider, helped us unsuccessfully search for Stuart and got assistance to try and smoke/burn the alien out of the wall. Quite literally, I smacked the wall, missing the cockroach, and this large blackish thing pulled itself out of the large crack in the wall. We didn’t stick around long enough to get a good look but by then a crowd had gathered and some brave souls went in to investigate while we stood outside in the dark. It was determined that it was either a bat or a scorpion but either way it couldn’t stay. Meanwhile my mom has called and she’s on the phone as two neighboring professors attempted to kill the beast with smoke and fire as we watch from the corner. They called it good after a while and we had a restless night sleep tucked into our mosquito nets. The following morning we were woken up by our director with two guys to fill in the crack with cement. So whatever was in there is now sealed in and hopefully long dead. The good that came out of that adventure was that word spread quickly to the guy in charge and we fixed the situation quickly. Good to know for future “issues”. Unfortunately now our fearless neighbors are all off on holiday and we’ve been left to fend for ourselves. Last night after another round with Stuart and mid-conversation with mom, I found a huge, hairy spider crawling along the wall in our room. I screamed and ran out the door with Mona on my tail and luckily the spider followed suit. But we couldn’t leave it to re-enter the house so we proceeded to push it along the wall with a broom, throw large pieces on cement at it and trap it injured in a hole. This morning the hole was swarming with ants feasting on its defeated body. It was a scene worthy of an audience I think. But like I said, my mom was conveniently on the phone so you can ask her for confirmation. We’re now in search of a carpenter to get some bed frames made and us off the floor. Oh and Stuart is still loose in the front room.
The third and least exciting issue is food. We are limited by both the carvão stove and the inadequate food availability at this point and aren’t sure how to proceed. We have lots of beans, rice and pasta and can get bread, bananas, tomatoes, onions and garlic in the market 5km up the road. We had bought Agua e Sal crackers, peanut butter and apples in Chimoio before we left but those running out and our current money situation leaves something to be desired until we can get back to the bank in Chimoio. We’re trying to be creative with our dinners (mango curry pasta, feijao and veggies, curry rice) but it’s tough. We’re always thinking of things we wish we had or are missing. We’re often hungry during the day but then we aren’t doing a whole lot that requires much energy. We have a plan though and a growing list of things to buy when we are in Chimoio before and after Christmas. Maybe we’ll be the exception to the “girls usually gain weight” rule?
But don’t get me wrong, things are rough out here in the mato, but we’re doing okay. It’s absolutely beautiful and so green. The vivid greens against the clear blue sky is impossible to describe and the scattering of mud houses amongst the trees reminds us we truly are in Africa. I’m incredibly thankful I’m not alone out here and we do have amazing phone service. We have tons of free time to fill right now and are counting down the days until Christmas but I imagine we’ll be beyond busy once school starts in January, looking back on our languid days in the shade with envy.
Running Up That Hill - Placebo