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Monday, December 04, 2006
Rollin', Rollin', Rollin', Dang My Behind Is Frozen...In Mexico
Okay, I have not written in a while, but I have not had as much cross cultural travel lately. But I just spent 9 days in the Southwest between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico, and I have several things I can think of. First, Saturday night.
Saturday night I went to stay in the home of this wonderful sweet Christian family from one of the churches I visited. The husband is an elder and breaks his back in one of the well know maquiladoras, factories in the borderland. His wife sews and raises their two cute girls. They live in a lower class neighborhood, I am guessing, in a small house with a bathroom, two rooms, and a family room/kitchen. Their house was nice though sparsely decorated. But what got me is they really have no heat. They have one heater in the wall near the bathroom.
Ok, so I have been to Africa. FOUR TIMES, I have been to Africa. I have seen no AC, no heat, no windows, no plumbing, dirt floors, thatch roofs, etc. I have seen toilets that are a trench or even just a hole. But man I can tell you one cold night in Mexico really challenged me. I don't know how they do it. These people are wonderful. Their house is small but they keep it nice, and have some nice things, and they make the most of what they have. This is in NO way a criticism of them. It is a commentary on my needs, mostly. And the culture clash that resulted from being deprived. So even though they don't speak Spanish, if someone reads this who knows them, it is not meant to say anything bad about them, because I have absolutely nothing bad to say.
They took me in after having met me once, maybe twice. They let me stay under their roof even though I arrived at 11:30 and don't speak their language. They made their home my home. They slept in a room with their two daughters so I could have a room. And they fed me well. They were very gracious. The food was good. And they had music on. So we sang. I did puzzles with the girls. I even sang hymns in Spanish with the Mom, though my Spanish is horrifying (I am certain of this). So no issue with them.
But this week there was snow in Juarez. It did not stick. It is rare to see snow there. But what happened is, while the snow did not stick, the temperatures dropped all week, and that night, I am guessing, it must have been in the 30s or even the 20s. And the cinderblock wall next to the bed was so cold, that the pillows got cold. I had three blankets and I was able to sleep, but I woke up always cold the few times I woke up. And there was NO hot water. Yes, people live like that all over the world. And despite several times in Africa, I have not been able to adjust. In Africa, we used pitchers with coils to heat the water. I need to buy one of those things for myself because the Africans provided them. I need to travel with one. Because I did not shower. I self-determined that I did not stink, and so I did not shower because the water felt like ice. And so, I just couldn't bring myself to do it.
In defense of my pathetic self, I might say that I had developed a bad cold two days before and was sick and did not want to be sicker. I did have to sing that day. And I was far from home. But really, my only excuse is, I can't take it. I cannot take the cold. I am weak. And yet people live with it every day. All day. It never ends. I wish I knew how they do it. I wish I were a better man. Not so spoiled, perhaps. I wish I could do it myself. But I just couldn't.
So I send my respects to those who do. You have strength of character I do no possess. I am sorry you have to suffer that way, but even as I say it, I KNOW you do not consider this suffering. You don't mind cold showers. You have not been spoiled by hot water like me. And you are just happy to have running water at all. I am ashamed at my own wealth and privilege -- the privilege to know that hot showers exist at all. I hope to keep learning from those less privileged. I hope it changes me. And I hope my writing about it here makes you want to change too.
A writer of stories and books, especially science fiction and fantasy, my first novel, "The Worker Prince," comes out in 2011. My first collection, "The North Star Serial, Part 1" came out May 2010. I've had stories and articles published in a number of magazines and newspapers, released 3 CDs of original music, and love to teach others how to be more effective with their creativity. I also read avidly and review short stories and books for Tangent Online (www.tangentonline.com) and my blog. My author site can be found at www.bryanthomasschmidt.net