So when I joined the Peace Corps I have to admit that I think I skimmed over the part about the hardships one endures. I think it never really occurred to me that I might not have a toilet for the next 2.3 years. That I really might not have a shower for the next 2.3 years. That I really might not have a stove to cook on, or internet to connect to, or a friend around to talk to.
Reality has now set in. Yesterday we met our host families. The Armenian tradition is that you break bread with new friends. So each volunteer had to break off a piece of bread dipped into salt, and eat it before meeting our host families. It was really nerve-wreaking walking outside to a huge group of Armenians and not knowing who your family would be. I walked up timidly with my group wondering what my fate would be, waiting in a line of 9 other people to have my family revealed to me. I didn’t have to wait long, my host mom, Anahit, called out to me from the group and grabbed my hand. She didn’t even wait her turn!
So after the introductions and hugs, we basically just stared at each other. I mean what else is there to do? She doesn’t speak English; I don’t speak Armenian yet, so you just stare and smile. The Peace Corps had a local village school put on a performance for us, and the whole time I just kept wondering what my fate would be, toilet or no toilet.
Finally I was taken to my new home in Alapars village. It is a beautiful village where cows and sheep and chickens roam free. Each time we passed a house I would quickly offer up a prayer that it was either my house or not my house, depending on what I perceived it to be. When we finally got to my new home I almost immediately knew my fate. The house is small and made of stone and brick. It is cold with no carpeting to give it warmth. When entering you walk upstairs and there is a tiny tiny kitchen to the right, I peered in timidly and saw a sink with no faucet. Reality was upon me, and yet I tried to ignore that indication. I pretended that, the small fact in front of my eyes meant nothing. I was shown to my room, which is huge, and unpacked. Then for about an hour I sat with my host sister and brother. I am amazingly lucky to have a beautiful and wicked smart host sister who speaks English. She was able to hold a conversation with me, yet it still was a very awkward situation.
When I asked to brush my teeth, I knew I was in for a difficult 3 months by the way my host mom and host sister looked at each other. They lead me down the stairs to a little stone room with uneven ground that is neither outside, nor inside, where a tub sat. The mom grabbed a cup and filled it with my water from my filter and showed me that they had no water and I would have to get it myself. She told me in the morning she would get me a bucket with hot water and I would have to bucket bathe. I wanted to cry. For the first time this whole trip I almost broke down in tears, not because I mind so much about the shower, but because I knew the toilet situation would be worse. And it is. I have an outhouse =) So foreign to me! The place smells something wretched. It was a slap in the face to reality. I really don’t know how I will figure out how to use that thing and live with it. I don’t care about the shower, but the outdoor toilet still makes me want to cry. I really did think I would just be one of the lucky ones that ended up with a toilet…