The Revolution Inside

From Latin American Odyssey, to a profound investigation of the Bolivarian revolution. Hugo Chavez says: Socialism or Death! Leftists rejoice, and Capitalists squeal. But what do the people of Venezuela think about all of this?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

La Vida Dolorita, Part 2: Sweat, Water, Blood, Shit

I walk up about 35 uneven steps to get to the front door of Lenis & Alexanders house. The first day I came, when they were building the radio antenna, I helped bring Johnny down the stairs. Johnny gets around in a wheelchair and a modified car. It wasn´t easy bringing him down in a chair. Johnny has an interesting story: according to Lenis, Johnny´s family has land out near Barquisimeto. He doesn´t go out there much, himself. Recently, the land was seized by campesinos under the land redistribution law. Johnny´s a big Chavista, and would normally support the land policy, but his family doesn´t have that much, so it´s kind of a conundrum for him, because he´ll have to argue against the government to get his land back. Anyway, I think the point is that La Dolorita isn´t exactly wheelchair accessible.

Sometimes I come in the side gate. I always have to be careful not to let out the 5 dogs. Five dogs, all female. We call them las perras. Niña, Negra, Gaba, Suji, and for some reason, I can´t remember the other one. Suji the puppy is my favorite. Niña is lactating right now, and when she menstruates, we call her señorita. There`s a concrete patio in the back, enough room for the dogs to run around. Every morning, someone picks up the dogshit and washes down the concrete. I´ve done it a couple of times, because I want to help, but I don´t think I do it right. In fact, I´m never doing anything right. It´s not like they´re mad at me for that, or that I always feel like a bad person. It´s just that they have all of their systems for living their lives, and they are very well articulated - and they are very different from the routines I would expect in a home in the states. I never quite understand.

For example, when it rains, a large bucket fills up with water which they use to rinse off the patio. They save the gray water from the washing machine to soap down the patio. But i´m never sure how much of the soapy water to use - and what do I do when there is no soapy water? There`s a spigot, but I know this draws water from their tank. Their tank receives water every 27 days, which I just now realized is kind of a menstrual cycle too. The last time it came was on my birthday. Anyway, I´m not sure I should use the water out of the tank, because it´s the same water we use to wash dishes, shower, and flush the toilet with - not drinking water, but clean water.

In Latin America, you never flush your shitty TP! The plumbing systems are complicated and sometimes old, and will get clogged up. Plus, they don´t really have wastewater treatment. A lot of the sewage heads right out into the rivers. Almost all urban rivers are contaminated. I was walking around with a friend from Atlanta in Merida, and we were hating the traffic, so he suggested walking down by the river. We have this idea that a river bank is a pleasant place to stroll away from the traffic on the street. But every urban river is just an open sewage pipe. They´ve generally all been fortified by concrete to prevent sewage from soaking into the soil, but there are no pleasant urban strolls by the river.

I have learned a new engineering trick, that I´m sure will come in handy the next time I encounter a plugged up toilet, something I couldn´t even imagine coming from the land of flushing paper: all you have to do, if your toilet is stuck up, is fill up a big bucket of water and pour it one medium fast pour right into the center of the bowl. The force of the water pushes through the plumbing, and takes the rest of the water with it. Astounding. There is a hose in our bathroom from which we fill a 5-gallon bucket to bathe, flush, and clean the floor. What we do is fill up the big bucket, then dip a smaller bucket in and fill it up, then dump it on our heads. Every morning, standing there, right before I do this, I say to myself, I can´t believe I`m about to dump this cold water on my head. Especially if it´s a little chilly. But then I do, and it´s done. Like jumping into a pool.


Post a Comment

<< Home