Before I was assigned to my site, I was prepared to handle almost anything. I was willing to live an hour’s trek from a bus route, I would have been fine in a village without electricity. I did request to be placed in a place with running water, but a well system would have probably have been just fine. While I was still in the US, the idea of using a latrine for two years freaked me out, but by the end of training I had decided it wouldn’t be too bad. My one wish was that I wouldn’t have to live in a dirt-floor home.
When I got to my site I was pleasantly surprised. For an Agriculture volunteer, I’ve got it kind of cushy – we have running water for at least two hours every day, so I don’t have to haul water from a well; my house is wired with electricity; and best of all, I live right on a road – newly paved – along which pass eight buses a day. I can’t receive calls right in my house, but it is possible for me to find pockets of cell coverage in my community.
I sometimes think about what it would have been like to have been placed in this site back in the old days of Peace Corps Nicaragua, i.e. the nineties. At that time, the community had not yet gotten electricity, nor was there a running water system. And the country did not as yet have any kind of cell network at all. The road was a rutted dirt track that became impassable during the rainy season.
The odd thing is that one year ago I was prepared to take it, whereas now I don’t think I could. Contrary to what I expected before I got here, as time goes on, I am less, not more willing to give up comforts of any kind. I am accustomed to using my computer almost every day and listening to my ipod whenever I’m in the house. I download podcasts whenever I go to Esteli, which thanks to the easy bus transportation, is about twice a week. When I talk to my host family, I realize that they feel the same way that I do about modern conveniences. My host mom lived the first 39 years of her life without electricity. Now, when it goes out for one day she’s bored without the television. And she can’t imagine going back to hauling buckets of water – sometimes six trips a day – up the steep hill to her house.
I think the point of this is that it is very difficult to go back, no matter if you have a lot or very little. For those of us, like Peace Corps Volunteers, who choose to give up (at least for a time) many of the comforts we are used to, it is possible to prepare for that moment and to make the transition willingly. But once you’ve settled in to a simpler life, it becomes just as hard to give up anything that you’ve come to depend on as it was the first time, maybe even more difficult.
Note: Ironically, just after I wrote this the charger for my laptop stopped working, so I am currently without the ability to download podcasts, write blog posts at home, or watch DVDs. Hopefully the situation will be resolved quickly.