Living in Madagascar has made me stop and think about all the convienences I’ve been used to in my life. Think about all the daily convienences you have in your life, and then think about if you didn’t have all of that. What would you do? (P.S. You’d still go on living, just a little differently). 

Think about all the manual labor our life is saved because of machines. Maybe you’ve never noticed how much there really is. I know I sure didn’t. For example, those freshly cleaned sheets you just woke up on, how did they get cleaned and so fluffy? -The washing machine and dryer. 

Here in Madagascar? -They are washed by hand in a large basin, with water from a pump, and some powdered or bar soap. Then they are let to dry in the sun. 

Next, how was your morning coffee made? -You put some already roasted and ground coffee in a machine and press go. Or, even easier, you put a K-cup in, and it was ready in seconds. 

Here in Madagascar? -The locals buy unroasted coffee at the market, measured out by an old condensed milk can into a sachet or a folded banana tree leaf. One can measurement is 1000 Ariary (about $.30). Then, the coffee is roasted over a charcoal fire (sometimes to the point of being burnt), and ground by hand with a large mortar and pestle. To make coffee, water has to be boiled (again over a charcoal or wood fire), and then it is poured through a sock filter a few times until you get the strength you want. After that, it is usually more sugar and condensed milk than actual coffee. (It’s strange to drink just black coffee). 

How about peanut butter? -Similar process: buy raw peanuts at the market (1 kapoka (size of a condensed milk can) for 800 Ar ($.25)), then wash the peanuts and roast them. Take off the red peel, and then by hand, ground them until it makes a thick nut butter consistency. (That gives you about 3 large tablespoons). 

Now. What about water? Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a faucet (which has to always be kept open because you don’t know when there will be water). Or, water has to be collected at the nearest tap, well, or pump. Some Volunteers have to pay people to fetch it for them because the source is too far away. 

These past few weeks have been a test. The electric and water company have been having issues and they can only allow electricity for a few hours a day. Most Volunteers don’t even have electricity in their village, so I can’t complain. However, lack of electricity affects more than you would think. Local shopkeepers lose out on selling their homemade yogurt and juice (and anything else cold). No electricity also means the entire town doesn’t have baguettes because the breadmaker can’t use his oven. 

Lack of electricity also means lack of a reliable water source at my house. I have learned to use less and less water for everything. I’ve cut my bucket showers down: what was once ~1.5 buckets of water (if I wash my hair) is now 1 bucket (even less if I don’t wash my hair). My hair has become so used to being washed only about twice a week (and no, it is rarely greasy and no dry shampoo being used). If I want hot/warm water, that has to be heated on the stove. So, who doesn’t love a quick cold bucket bath? 

For cooking and eating, I resuse the water I washed my veggies in and I resuse the water I boiled my pasta in. I tend to eat out of the pot I cooked in to cut down on the things that need to be washed. Gotta love one-pot meals! Conserving water has been eye-opening in the amount of water I waste in a day. Take something away, and you notice how much you actually need it. 

This past week I ran out of gas for my stove, mid-cooking. At the same moment, I was cooking by candlelight, meaning no electricity. So, the electric hot plate I bought to save on gas (expensive and hard to find!) was no use to me. Luckily, I wasn’t too hungry, and I had just bought a charcoal stove. I had to take a minute to laugh. Here I was, in a small town in Madagascar, going from no electricity and candlelight, to no gas stove, to waiting for someone to light the charcoal stove for me, all so I could eat my pancakes. 

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One thought on ““Oh, We Have a Machine for That”

  1. I am a person who DOES think about all our conveniences. I think of my grandmother every time I load wash into the washer. When she was very young she washed all their clothes (husband and 4 children) on a washboard and hung everything outside to dry summer and winter. She had an ice box and had to get ice from the “ice man” when he delivered . There was an Artesian well built by the Indians right outside her kitchen door-their only source of water (but they still didn’t have to walk a long distance to get it). Outside toilet – outhouse. She had a huge portable bathtub she would wheel into the kitchen, boil water on a wood stove, put water in the tub and then give the kids a bath. My mom had three brothers. So the cleanest child went in first – that happened to be my mom. The dirtiest child went in last and they all used the same water. I could go on and on. You are living more primitively that she did. I do love all the wonderful conveniences we have today. Keep on keeping on. It’s wonderful what you are doing for less fortunate people. But they are still happier than we spoiled Americans oftentimes are. Love, Carol

    Liked by 1 person

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