So, a funny thing happened today. I was about to write up a blog about a typical occurrence in my life and the electricity goes out. Talk about typical. Fortunately I have battery and some time to kill, so here goes.
I’ve thought for a while about writing this incident, as it is really a great picture of life around here. For all of you that are prim and proper, this may not be the post for you. I can nearly see my sweet Grandma fainting and my wonderful Grandpa saying, “I thought we taught that girl better than this.” Maybe this won’t get back around to them, but at any rate, here goes.
If you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know that I spend a lot of my time in Vridi. It is a lower income neighborhood in our fair city. I came to love it nearly at first sight and have been there regularly for nearly 4 years. Many of the people there are immigrants along with a good helping of my precious Burkinabe women and a host of other lovely people. I’d guess that most of the families that live there make $5 or less a day for their whole family! Many of the houses are made of pieces of falling apart wood nailed together with a piece of metal on top, patched with plastic to keep it semi rain proof. Most often they don’t have running water. The family, which is often 7 or so people, lives in an 8X10 room. They cook outside on a little fire or a gas burner. They share a common “outhouse” that is nothing more than walled, no ceiling, stall with a tile or concrete floor and a drain at the back to take away excess liquid. They would use this for using the bathroom and showering. They would bring in their own bucket or small pitcher or water to use as this area doesn’t have running water either. As many as 5 families or so would share this “outhouse”.
So now that you are all up to speed on the background details that you can’t see, here comes today’s story. I always make sure I use the restroom before heading out to my beloved Vridi for reasons that I am sure are already clear to you! This particular day I didn’t need to go, but I did what my Mom always told me on long car trips and went anyway. We’d had a particularly spicy African lunch and it didn’t really register in my head that I had probably put down a half gallon or so of tea. I was in a hurry as usual and hit the ground running. After about 10 minutes of the car ride there, I realized I “needed” to go again. I should have stopped somewhere at that point, but since I had just gone, I figured it would be OK. After another 10 minutes of the trip, things had gotten to be more of an emergency. I began to look everywhere for a place to stop, but I’d gotten out of the more modern part of the city and couldn’t find any place. I began running through my options in my head and none of them were good. I had about 10 more minutes on the ride to Vridi. I could make it, but it wasn’t going to be easy. I had 20 minutes to get back home and I couldn’t make that. I could have an accident in the car, but then I’d have to walk past the guard and our visitor that was at the house. Not a good option. If I made it to Vridi, the only possibility of in door plumbing would be at a pharmacy and I didn’t think they’d let me back into the medicine area to use theirs if they had one. Being turned away at that point would have probably caused an accident before I could get to another place. This left my only real option of going to some of my acquaintances house where I park my truck and asking to use their “outhouse.” I don’t know these ladies very well yet, but I figured now was as good a time as any to get better acquainted! ;)
All of this terrible problem was compounded by the fact that I wouldn’t be able to use any polite language to describe my predicament. I would generally ask for a toilet, but knowing they wouldn’t have one, made that choice of words impossible. Other polite phrases I know are not always understood by the type of women I would be asking and so I was about to have to walk up to a lady and say, “I have to pee now!” I was excited to see two young teenage girls sitting in the place of my new friends and figured this would be the least embarrassing route anyway. So I walked up and blurted out my phrase. To my chagrine they looked at each other and pointed down the street and said go that way. Now at this point, I HAD TO GO! I didn’t know if they were pointing me to a public toilet, which would consist of several holes in the ground for which I’d have to pay a few cents. I didn’t know if I had a few cents, but I did know I didn’t have time to find it nor the public toilet. So I looked at the closest adult female there and again repeated my phrase. She started to look around and I got desperate. I dropped all sort of manners and formality and said, “I have to PEE NOW!” clapping my hands to punctuate my need. She seemed to understand and started walking back to her house. She didn’t say a word, but I followed like a hungry puppy. She went into her house, but did not invite me. I waited at the door and she returned and signaled for me to follow. There were a few women in her courtyard and she looked at them all and announced, “MamaBenjamin has to pee.” GREAT! Now even more people know. I wave and smile politely. Not sure what my response is supposed to be at this point.
She turned on her heal and headed back out of the courtyard. I have no idea where we are headed, but what choice do I have at this point? We headed down into the next courtyard. We find a lady with a baby in her lap. They have a short discussion, then my “helper” announces AGAIN, “MamaBenjamin has to pee!” REALLY?! Another smile and wave. “Well you can’t take her in there!” says the other lady. “Oh yes she can!” I say. On we go.
Now we come to yet another LARGE group of women. Here we go again. 1…2…3… “MamaBenjamin has to pee!” I’m figuring at this point we should just get a megaphone and let the whole neighborhood know so as to save some time. I gave up with the smile and wave now and try a desperate look. Now my “helper” turns to me and matter of factly says that the woman to my right just lost her mother. HORRIBLE timing! I murmur I’m so sorry and then look to the closest person begging for the directions to the outhouse. She says, “You can’t take her in there it’s dirty!” “It’s fine,” I say. “OK, but I don’t have any water in my pitcher. I’ll have to go get some.” “Water or no, I have to GO!” Another lady offers up her pitcher with an amused grin. As I am ushered around the next corner, I gladly run for the tiny wooden smelly space. I couldn’t have been happier to be anywhere else! As the immediacy of my problem fades, I now realize that I must walk back past all of the women who are just now discussing the nutcase that is using their outhouse.
You’ll be proud to know that I got myself together. Walked back out like nothing was going on and faced those ladies. I walked directly to the poor soul that had just lost her mother and asked for the details. After being sufficiently informed, I asked to pray for her. This also gave me a few seconds to ask for divine help for my wounded ego. Fortunately it also gave me time to remember that He cares more about my humility than my comfort. I drew myself back up, thanked all of the women for their kindness and hit the road to find some more friends and see if anybody needed to hear a story.
I am sure that news of my exploits has leaked far and wide by now. I hope that I have been sufficiently deflated so that more humiliation can wait a few days anyway.
Here’s hoping that I have decreased so that He can increase.