In the middle of washing my hair last week, the bathroom suddenly went dark. The power was out…again. In the pitch black of the shower, I scrambled to turn off the water before it went ice cold. (Our water is heated as it comes out of the showerhead, so when the power goes off the water goes ice cold.) This was the fifth time in two weeks that the power had gone out while I was in the shower.
I stood there shivering in the dark, waiting to see if the power would come back on. But after a few minutes it was obvious. No power today. Time to towel off in the dark and then rinse out my hair in the kitchen sink…again.
Such is life here in Peru. In the past three months, we’ve dealt with lack of power and water at various times as our new owners struggle to get this new hostel up and running. The fact that the owners haven’t always been transparent (or even honest) about the situation hasn’t helped matters.
We also have bad, slow, and often nonexistent internet, depending on the time of day or day of the week. There is a funny Oatmeal cartoon about no internet vs slow internet and it is totally true. I’ve taken to going to Starbucks every morning to guarantee at least three hours of fast internet so I can get my work done. I hate Starbucks, but at least they always have fast reliable internet.
Sometimes, (particularly on a day where I am left dripping and cold in a dark shower with soap in my eyes) these little inconveniences wear on me a bit and I start to feel the beginnings of a tantrum that could make a three year old take a step back. It can be so easy sometimes for one of us to spin out, particularly if we are tired or have a set schedule or deadline and things like lack of power or water throw things off.
Most days, we can just laugh it off. But other times, the two of us work each other up even further. We have nobody but each other to call us on our shit and talk us off the ledge. Nobody but the two of us to remind each other that this (whatever “this” is) isn’t really that big of a deal. If we both start spinning out at the same time, it just ups the ante on the drama and the “We want what we want and we want it NOW!” subtext. More than once this summer, we’ve whipped ourselves into a frenzy and actually had the “we should just pack everything, tell them all to go to hell, and leave immediately” conversation. On a few occasions, we’ve even booked bus tickets or tried to book plane tickets. Of course, in the common sense hangover of the morning, we usually realize we’ve overreacted and put our underwear back in the wardrobe drawer, feeling slightly ashamed that we even considered leaving.
It can be easy to be whiny about first world problems. It is especially easy to be whiny about them in a third world country. But what we sometimes fail to remember in our tantrumy moments is that we’ve chosen this life. And it is a life that affords us so many improvements over our first world life, especially in terms of the quality of life. Sure, the shower isn’t always the most reliable and we have what would pass for a garden tap in our kitchen sink. We have to boil our water in order to be able to drink it, our internet is slow, and if too many people try to do too many electrical things at once in our building (such as taking a shower AND running the hot water kettle) the power blows.
But there are so many good things about this life too. Neither of us has to work a full time job. We set our own schedule. The pace of life is much slower here. We get to spend many long mornings or late afternoons sipping coffee or tea and chatting with each other or some interesting person we’ve just met. We eat healthier, all organic food, from farmers whom we’ve met. Our time is spent on projects and activities that we are passionate about and that inspire us. We’re healthier in this life, because of the fresh healthy food and all the extra exercise that comes with not having a car and a full time desk job. And all of it costs us less and interests us more than our old life back in the US.
Travel and expat life has taught us so much about what is really important. We’ve learned that we can live with so much less. By giving up so many material things, and letting go of conventional ideas about what our life should be like, we’ve been given the opportunity to experience so many magical new ways to live our life. And the challenges those new ways bring are just part of the fun.
It has forced us to figure out what sort of life we really want to live rather than just living by default. And the hard times force us to reevaluate our choices and leave us even more determined that this is the right path for us. So I will happily trade in a hot shower and reliable power for this magical life we’ve managed to carve out for ourselves. I will give up fast internet for the opportunity to go out and explore this big beautiful world. And those “no power” or “no water” stories. Well, they are the funniest ones to tell later on.
What sort of life do you really want to live? What would you give up if you could live your dream?
Update: This morning, as this post was already queued up to post, the hot water stopped working just as I finished putting shampoo in my hair. The unreliable and surging power in our apartment had finally fried the heating shower head. It is the 8th time something has happened in the past two weeks while one of us was in the shower. It followed an evening in which the power in the building blew 5 times. I called out to Kyle for a towel and then burst into hysterical laughter. We leave Peru on Friday. Time to move on to unreliable water and power in Central America!