La Vida a Mi Casa

21 de Mayo

Country/Day: Guatemala/7

Bikes Fixed: 10

Bicimaquinas Built: 0.5

Bikes/Day: 1.42

Side note: I got photos to upload! Check the previous post to see what you missed. There are some good ones.


The necessary tools.

(would you believe me if I told you this photo was candid?)

So I mentioned last time there’s a lot I want to write about… that continues to be the case. It’s going to be hard to segregate the topics, but I think at the end of the day that will be make things more readable, and allow me to focus more on the details of each topic, rather than jumping around.


For today, let’s talk about home life.



Ahh… home again, home again.

So Carlos owns a second… house… *ahem* outside of town up on a hill. There’s hills everywhere so this isn’t really very special. In fact, the bus ride here was probably longer laterally than it was longitudinally. But anyways. I pause on the word “house” because I’m not sure if there’s another word for it. By all means, it certainly is a house. There’s a “kitchen,” a “living room,” two “bedrooms,” a shower stall, and a toilet stall. And a yard. And a front door.


But the catch is… it’s all outside.


That’s right. There are no doors or windows. The only “rooms” with walls on all sides are the bedrooms. For the purposes of privacy, it’s good I’m alone. If any other volunteers should happen to visit while I’m here, we’ll have to put one of these tarps to use as a door. I’m pretty experienced with the whole “outdoor living” thing though, having biked across the United States last fall, among other things, so none if is really a problem… in fact, I kinda like it.



Yea… I kinda really like the furniture.

Another cool thing is that a lot of the furniture is recycled. As you can see above, the living room “chairs” are actually chairs from a car (remarkably comfortable when you can stretch your legs out), and the table has legs made from bicycle wheels. There’s also a fire pit supported by a few forks (bicycle forks, that is). While not recycled, there’s a hammock, too.


The kitchen definitely deserves its own photo, but I think I’ll save that for a much deserved post about food. For now, I’ll just say it’s the bare necessities, and that there’s no refrigerator. And that it’s one with the living room… together the make the porch.


There’s also peach trees. I don’t think I get all the peaches to myself, but today there was a ripe one and Carlos said I could have it. Delicious. If you haven’t had any fruits or vegetables right off the vine/branch/whatever, put that on your to-do list.


Oh and, as I mentioned in my previous post, there’s a family of ducks, two turkeys, and a turkey chick.



They are all penned up except for the female turkey and her chick, so they don’t bother me… for the most part. Once or twice a day the smell (you know the smell) will waft over to the porch and hang out for a bit. It’s not ideal, but it’s not bad, and I get free eggs every morning, so I can’t complain too much.


There’s also some mice around, and I let a spider or two live on top of the fruit bowl for obvious reasons, but other than that it’s just me.


Not to say that means it’s quiet. The ducks sleep from sundown to sunup, but do quack periodically. They can also hiss somehow – that’s the best way to describe it, anyways. They just breath out quickly through their beak, and it does sound almost like they are hissing. They usually do it a few times in a row, and to a tired ear, this can sound like footsteps. For the first few nights I would wake up and worry someone had broken in. Nope – just ducks.


The male turkey also gobbles defensively. Whenever anything happens he thinks is potentially dangerous, he gobbles. It’s a pretty ferocious, loud gobble – meant to scare off predators, I’m sure. For the most part he reacts to other noises. The first few minutes of accordion practice, for instance, he’ll gobble a few times. There are a couple bird calls he doesn’t like. And the neighbors have a turkey too, so sometimes they’ll go back and fourth a few times in a battle for dominance… before realizing there’s a wall there.


The neighbors also have a rooster. I think I mentioned he goes off about 4 AM every day. Yup. So that happens.


Roundabout 6 or 6:30, just as the sun is coming up, all the roosters ever go off repeatedly, along with all the birds. Usually the birds drown out the roosters, and it’s pretty beautiful – something I certainly won’t mind waking up to for the next 90 days or so.


At night there’s the sounds I got used to in India. Dogs barking. Neighbors being neighbors (though this is amplified, because nothing is enclosed). A periodic concert in the middle of town. Con frequencia there’s also loudspeakers blaring about something or other. It’s a little muffled and they use a lot of words I don’t understand… so I won’t guess as to what it’s about just yet.


There’s also an inordinate number of gunshots. Loud gunshots. In India I got used to seeing people carry guns around. At most banks and some ATMs there were usually guards with shotguns; at the airport, guards with uzis, AKs, or pistols, at the least. But they were always uniformed or otherwise employed, and I never heard any gunshots. Here, many everyday citizens carry them, too. I imagine they are used for hunting… I hear at least three gunshots per night and there’s no way those are people getting shot (…).


To level things out, there’s one more thing here that wasn’t in India. There are crickets. It’s lovely.


There’s but three more things I want to mention before I head off to bed.


First: There’s no refrigerator. My impression is that these are pretty rare, because power is pretty rare, and because even if it wasn’t refrigerators are huge and pretty power hungry. The only places that have refrigerators use them for business – eg, ice cream shops, restaurants, etc. I have yet to see a private refrigerator. So (and I’ll talk more about this in my “food” post) everything goes fast, or lasts a while The bread, for instance, lasts a while. But like I said, more on that later.


Second, and perhaps more significantly: There’s no electricity. Carlos says this might change, but for now, I’m typing by candlelight (I don’t actually need the candle, but it helps me see the keyboard, and keeps the computer from blinding me by putting other semi-bright things around the screen). I cooked dinner… by candlelight. I usually let my dishes soak overnight and do them in the morning; it’s easier than doing them by candlelight.


The funny thing is – it’s actually not that big a deal. I’m getting used to this whole “one hour of internet every other day” thing (I was, admittedly, not a big user already (compared to the average American, anyways)). Really the only downside is that I have to bring my computer to work to charge it. But not having light just means you get up with the sun and go to bed with the moon. Who cares?


Electricity is, as far as I can tell, fairly common. That is, I can tell because when I look over the wall at night, I see a city. Also, when I look at the sky, I don’t see many stars (sad). That being said, it seems to be used pretty rarely. Aside from the internet cafes that use power for their computers, the foodstuffs that use it for refrigeration, and the bike shops that use it for the occasional power tool, I can’t say I recall many people using electricity. I even walked home after dark once and yea, many stores have electricity… but many just close. I’m not sure if it’s tradition or cost.. More research is needed.


With lack of electricity comes lack of water. Well, not exactly. The water “turns on” from 7 to 9 AM every day. I’m not sure if there’s someone uphill from me who turns a valve or if there’s electricity involved. Whatever the case, every day at 7 I open the faucet and fill up my sink. When the sink gets full, I close the faucet. That’s my water for the day. There’s two other “sinks,” though they are smaller: One for washing, and one for drying. Obviously when you wash (or do anything, really) you have to be careful not to contaminate your daily water. Even when you wash your hands after using the bathroom, you scoop out some water with a bowl, then dip your hands in. To flush the toilet, you fill a bucket from the sink, then dump it in the toilet. It’s quite tricky, actually – pour too slow or too fast, and it doesn’t flush.


To take a shower, you can take one any time from 7 to 9, but the water is pretty cold, and the “shower head” is just a terminated pipe. I usually had an actual shower in India, but I did learn the bucket method – fill a bucket with water and use your hand or a bowl to put it where it’s needed. So what I’ve been doing is heating half a bucket of water, mixing it with another half (resulting in a pretty good temperature for much less work), then using that.


No, I haven’t done laundry yet. *ahem*


Oh, and yes, drinking water has to be bought. It’s delivered, in fact, in five gallon jugs (the same size Culligan uses), for Q15 per jug (about $2). You can also boil water, but gas comes in five gallon jugs and has to be bought as well.


Anyways. There you have it. This is my home for the next three months. Time to turn off the computer, blow out the candle, and swing myself to sleep in the hammock.


Tata for now.


6 thoughts on “La Vida a Mi Casa

  1. Jenna says:

    Sounds like a lovely life to live for 90 days. I want to swing myself to sleep in that hammock 🙂

  2. Dad says:

    First a Wall of Bikes, now a house with no walls. What an eclectic mix! With the former I was concerned that, for 90 days, your view would not change. But no worries, a house without walls and a turkey and her chick as wondering neighbors is enticing.

    The recycled coffee table with recycled bike-wheel legs is terrific – furnishings just for you.

    Enjoy those fresh eggs!

  3. Marilyn says:

    This sounds like a fine home – in America, we live at such a fast pace and forget how simple life can be. Living in the open air would be glorious. Ripe peach right off the tree – yummm!

  4. Marilyn says:

    Can you ask Carlos about the gun shots?

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