Doing laundry isn’t always as simple as putting soap and all your clothes in a machine and pushing a button. A bath isn’t always as simple as turning the nozzle to the “sweet spot” where you get perfectly warm water to fill the tub. Coming to an intersection isn’t always as obvious to know when to go as looking for a green or red light.
Being in a third world country is so different from anything I’ve ever experienced before, and we’re nowhere near experiencing some of the more common living conditions in this area. We live in a large 1-bedroom guest house with running water, electricity, and wifi, located on a large and beautiful property with a cement fence, a locked gate, and a security guard. But despite having a pretty high level of comfort and safety, there are a few things that we’re still not used to dealing with that would be common in most of the places in the world we’ve been to.
We knew before we came here that we weren’t going to have a washing machine. We really don’t have many clothes so we felt pretty confident in being able to handwash them all. I did the first load a couple days after we arrived and I almost got blisters on my hand from ringing the clothes out. Not to mention my aching back from having to squat and lean over a wash basin. And, the clothes smelled horrible after they dried! Scott was nice and didn’t say anything about how my attempt at hand washing our clothes was a failure, but kindly offered to wash the next load. He washed half as many clothes as I did and complained of the same pain from ringing them out. He was completely on board when I suggested we take our clothes to the laundry shop.
Taking our clothes to the laundry shop is also an inconvenience for us as it is about a 10 minute drive from our place and it takes 2 days to have the clothes ready. But, we are lucky that we have this option and we can afford to have some of our clothes done by a laundry service. We do still do 2-3 loads of hand washing a week, so we’re definitely getting the experience!
Since I was naive enough to think handwashing would be a piece of cake, the first thing that made me gasp a little when we were getting acquainted with our accommodations was that we didn’t have hot water. I immediately thought of how uncomfortable I would be showering in cold water. I could honestly say that I had never taken a cold shower before and I was not looking forward to the experience, let alone having to do it for a whole month. What I didn’t think about was bathing Carter.
It didn’t even dawn on me that the bath water was ice cold until I stuck him in the wash basin and he looked at me with his big blue eyes like I had just ran over his puppy. I was still a little confused as he started to cry, then I stuck my hand in the water to wet him down and I literally froze out of embarrassment. Worst mom moment ever. I felt so horrible. How could I have filled the wash basin for him without even checking the water, let alone stick him in it?? Let’s just say that was the fastest bath he’s ever taken, and I haven’t made the same mistake twice.
We do have a hot plate/frying pan combination thing and we are able to boil water to mix with the normal water. I am able to bathe Carter in a very comfortably temperatured bath now, but it is a huge inconvenience to have to prepare the hot water separate from the cold. I didn’t realize how lucky I am to have running water and a quick way to heat up water until we drove to town.
Driving here is an experience all on its own. There are no lines on the road, no stoplights, or stop signs. No signs telling you who has the right of way or to yield to pedestrians. No crosswalks. No laws about passing other vehicles. No laws about helmets on scooters or the number of passengers per scooter. It’s really just a free-for-all. At first it was a little tricky, but you learn how to read the traffic and people are actually pretty nice on the roads.
From our home to the city is about a 15 minute drive and on the drive we see many different homes. Some are very large and new with tall gates surrounding them and a security guard. Some are very simple and made of cement. Some are small and made of bamboo.
The real kicker for us was driving past the river. The first time we passed it we noticed someone doing their laundry on the rocks. The second time we noticed someone digging out the small rocks and mud from the bottom of the river. The third time we noticed someone smashing rocks together to make them smaller. The fourth time we noticed several large bags of rocks for sale. The fifth time we noticed a very small shack with no walls just up from the river. We then started to piece everything together and we realized that the “someone” we’d been seeing at the river was the same man and that man lived in the shack with no walls and he collects, smashes, and sells rocks to survive.
We are very grateful for what we have, even though it’s not much, since there are many others who have less. We’ve recently been inspired by the “Tiny House Movement” that’s becoming more popular in the US, and being here in the Philippines has demonstrated to us that there are so many things that we can really do without. That being said, I will definitley have a washer in my home, and hot water. I am grateful for the experience of living in a third world country, but I am also very grateful that I don’t have to live in a third world country.