Toilets. Ohhh toilets. Bright White porcelain toilets cleaned until they shine with some sterilising bleach. The gentle scent of Ocean Wave or Pine or Fresh Linen. A welcoming wooden seat that’s warm and comfy on a cold bum. Ooooh! Three ply toilet paper…what a treat! Look at that reliable chrome toilet flush that washes away all the bad memories. How convenient that your sink is so nearby. Cold water or hot water!? Oh what the hell, let’s use both until we get the perrrrrfect hand washing temperature. What soap shall I use!? Why not the fancy Imperial Leather soap that is full of glitter and smells like Christmas. Dry your hands on a warm, fluffy towel. Potter around – take your time! It smells like angels in here and if somebody else needs the toilet, you have ANOTHER. ACTUAL. WORKING. TOILET. DOWNSTAIRS! Take a few minutes for some Me Time. Gaze at your spotty face in the mirror. Have a chat with the nautical themed decorations – as after all, your bathroom has walls, may as well decorate them! Why don’t you run yourself a nice warm bath, you deserve it. Or a luxurious long shower with warm water and lots of bubbly shampoo and body wash that smells like strawberries. Why don’t you keep your big towel on the radiator so it’s warm when you get out? Step onto the bath mat so you don’t get water on those pretty turquoise tiles. Hmmm you smell delicious, now take once last sniff because….
ITS TIME TO WAKE UP!
Time to answer the question on everybody’s lips…
WHAT IS A LATRINE!?
Where we are living in Nicaragua, they don’t really have running water – they get all their water from a hose which is attached to the village’s central water source. They fill up buckets from the hose and carry them to wherever they need them. Needless to say, they do not have an indoor bathroom. The latrine is the toilet and it doesn’t need any water. It sits in pride of place in the yard and looks like a medieval tardis: a tin cubicle on a cement block. Our host family are, as far as I can tell, relatively well off for the village, which means our latrine is a fancy one with a chimney coming out the top. Inside is what looks like an upturned concrete flower pot, with a big hole, and this is the toilet. Don’t look into the toilet!! Oh, okay, if you’re feeling curious, like I was, then hold your nose and have a quick peep. Far down below in the murky darkness is a huge pile of human poo, wee etc. I know that you’re thinking – doesn’t that smell!? Well why yes, it does! BREATHE THROUGH YOUR MOUTH. No, seriously. Breathe through your mouth. Don’t put paper down there, you just put your paper in a cardboard box at your feet and every few days the host family burn it on a fire by the pigs and the coffee bean tree. Most of the family spend their day sitting outside the kitchen on the small veranda, and they seem to quite enjoy watching us walk to and from the latrine.
Seeing as there’s no indoor bathroom, you also shower outdoors. Well, actually, the first day we asked where the shower was they giggled a to me and said “there is no shower here….”, but I don’t know what else to call it so I keep saying shower. It’s right by our bedroom. The walls are made of tarpaulin and there’s no roof. The door seems to be an old Pizza Hut advert. Inside the floor is made of rocks and there are two big barrels of water and a red bowl. You pour the water from the barrel over your head, using the bowl, and you nearly die of shock as it’s so cold! Showers are brief! Then you potter back to your mud house and think, am I actually ANY cleaner!? Until one day you try not showering and you realise showering is important. Nicaraguans are generally shorter than British people (though theyregularly remind me that there are some tall Nica men if I fancy finding myself a chico) so the shower walls aren’t that high. When I stand up my head pops out the top. This means everyone can see me but it also means I get an enchanting view of the surrounding country sides, palm and mango trees, distant hilltops and grunting pigs. It’s lovely.
As well as showing us the ins and outs of the bathrooms here, our host family have been making a huge effort to make me and my housemate feel welcome. They’ve made loads of different foods to see what we like, have taught us how to make tortillas from scratch, traditional biscuits, how to hand wash clothes, sweep the floor and wash up (somehow I knew how to do these things in England but everything Is different here.) Then, one lunch time this week, one of our host aunties came to us with two little bags and said, we have some gifts for you! We felt shocked as we really didn’t deserve a gift as we are such liabilities. My housemate opened hers first- a pretty jewelled headband as she likes to wear headbands. Then I opened mine. I had two gifts. The first, on top, was a pair of nice earrings. Tucked underneath was – yes, you guessed it, because what else would you buy your sweet English lodger?!? – a black G-string. Yep. Imagine opening that at the dinner table! My host aunty then informed me it was my dear little old Nicaraguan grandma who had picked it out. So random.
Some people have been asking what we have actually been doing here in terms of work. There are weekly updates on work on the Progressio website blog but I know you muchachos cba to go over there, so here’s an overview. The project consists of making the El Bramadero community more resistant to the impact of Climate Change. This means giving them more varied sources of food by building allotments, providing them with stoves that require less wood to burn, and making a number of water filters. The water here is super contaminated with E-coli and other dangerous chemicals. The water filters are made of sand, pebbles and carbon and eliminate contamination. SO COOL! This week we have been doing surveys to find out where the most vulnerable families are, but as there are four cycles of volunteers here, basically every family will benefit in some way from the projects in the end. We also run community events and educational activities, like English lessons and educating people about climate change. Life here is incredibly hard, so we are feeling motivated to try to do some things that will help. God knows what they think about us trying to help, seeing as from their point of view we don’t even know how to sweep a floor, but being a good worker is 90% enthusiasm…right ? RIGHT!?
Anyway, see ya on the flipside amigos,