Things I don’t have to think about in America

Part 1 of a two-part series.

I have swept more times in the past week than in the previous 24 years combined. When you don’t have insulation, sealed walls, or ceilings, you get dust (and critters that follow dust) everywhere.

Getting water
I would go to war with a small country in order to get potable, temperature-controlled water out of a tap. Related: did you know that wells can run dry? I learn something new every day.

Going to the bathroom at night
Think about all of the things that used to scare you at night when you were a little kid. Picture them in great, terrifying detail. Got the mental image in your head? Good. They’re all real here, and they all live in my chimbusu.

Carrying toilet paper
Using someone else’s TP when going to their chimbusu is akin to raiding a person’s fridge and drinking their beer. It can be done, but the person better really like you or there’s going to be grumbling behind your back after you leave. Public restrooms don’t tend to have it, so you quickly learn never to go anywhere in Zambia without toilet paper. Diarrhea strikes hard, without warning, like a black mamba. And flows like the Zambezi. (FiZ rule #47 — never miss an opportunity to use topical similes.)

Paying a thousand times too much for something without realizing it
The Zambian kwacha was recently rebased so that 1,000 of the old kwacha (K) are now equal to 1 new kwacha, or Kr. The head-scratching thing is that the old and new bills look almost exactly alike except for the year of mint. So until all of the old notes have been pulled out of circulation, the new 100 kwacha notes (about $20 USD) are at a cursory glance indistinguishable from the old 100 kwacha notes (roughly $0.02). That’s not confusing at all.

Where my electricity comes from
Peace Corps volunteers must single-handedly keep portable solar panel manufacturers in business. I cart mine around with me everywhere, trying to milk the sun for enough juice to tap out a blog post, read a book on my Kindle, or charge my headlamp so I can spot giant-ass spiders moments before I shriek like a little girl on my way out to the chimbusu after dark.

Making heat
I revisit a lesson from 9th grade physics every day: heat is a direct function of energy, which is a direct function of work. Cooking requires a good amount of heat. Over and over again I design elaborate charcoal pyramids in my brazier like a schizophrenic architect. Then I light it up, swing the brazier or blow on the charcoal furiously to deliver oxygen, and engage in a bit of psychological persuasion to help get the coals glowing. If all works perfectly, I now have a roaring furnace of the perfect temperature for searing the nonstick off my nonstick skillet and blackening everything I cook.

Whether it’s going to rain or not before I do laundry
Botflies are tiny, inconspicuous flies that lay their eggs on wet or damp surfaces like clothes drying outside on a line. If the clothes don’t dry up completely in the sun, the eggs hatch into larva which then burrow into the flesh of the host and literally make your skin crawl. The only way to remove them is to pop them out the same way they came in.


7 thoughts on “Things I don’t have to think about in America

  1. Reading your blog reminded me how much I complain about “first world” problems… my internet is too slow, the microwave doesn’t warm by food fast enough, etc. I’m sure your high school science teachers will be thrilled to know you’re using what they taught you : ) !!

    • Oh, when we go to the prov house and the internet is slow we’re the biggest bunch of whiners. Nothing like complaining about 1st world problems when you’re not even in it!

  2. “The head-scratching thing is that the old and new bills look almost exactly alike except for the year of mint.”

    On the plus side, you’re only a Sharpie and a steady hand away from instant wealth. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Things I don’t have to think about in Zambia | Fishing in Zambia

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