As we move into autumn in the southern hemisphere and the weather turns colder (yesterday peaking around the mid 60s, today starting out in the low 40s), my outdoor shower without hot water has become a bit of challenge. It takes a certain frame of mind to motivate oneself to bathe in 50ºF weather when the water in the lines is no warmer. There is nothing like the feeling of being nice and clean, but this fall and winter, that feeling is going to come at a price.
I always told myself that losing my hygiene would be the first step toward losing my sanity. Therefore, I promised myself to maintain both while serving in the Peace Corps. It seems that this commitment will not be easily fulfilled, especially while living in a brick house without a heating system or insulation and with a thin wooden door.
This morning, with the temperatures so low, it is once again raining in my house. The warm, moist earth seems surprised at the sudden cold and leaks its condensation over every possible leaf and blade of grass. My tin roof acts like a greenhouse in the morning sunlight and thousands of small droplets of dew trickle down my walls. In a way it is beautiful, so long as I am properly bundled and tucked away in some dry corner of my house (hard to come by when you are living in a brick box that measures 10 feet by 15 feet). It is crazy to think that just 2 months ago, I felt as if the heat might kill me. I can’t say which extreme I like more, but give me a few more months of the cold and I will be sure to let you know. —Mario Machado
It’s raining inside my little brick hovel. Two days ago, the biggest storm I have yet experienced in Paraguay charged across the rolling hills during the course of a long day and an even longer night. My tin roof, which I had previously attempted to fix several times, leaked like a sieve. This inevitably led to what I imagine would have been a comical scene to any onlookers: a wildly cursing, laughing Peace Corps volunteer running his bed and furniture between the house and a covered patio in response to the arbitrary leakage patterns, which seemed to change as frequently as the strong winds. By the end of the storm, my house had been turned inside out.
By 9 or so in the evening, I realized I hadn’t eaten all day. During the confusion of the storm and my frantic attempts to stay dry, the water lines had been shut off. This meant that I was without both drinking water (meaning without coffee as well—possibly the greatest crisis of all) and a means to wash food or dishes. That night was cold and wet, but certainly one I will not forget. These are the kinds of experiences that one gets in the Peace Corps.
The weather took a splendid turn yesterday, however, as the Antarctic winds have begun their surge northwards, heralding fall (and eventually winter) here in the southern hemisphere. The sun broke through yesterday around noon, giving way to what I could only compare to perfect autumn weather in the northeastern United States. The only things missing were leaves changing colors and apple cider. It was a perfect day—not too hot, not too cold; just right. The ample midday sunshine dried all my clothes and sheets. Last night I slept snug as a bug. —Mario Machado