Thursday, March 20, 2008

In which Tim bathes...

*WARNING: The following story contains nudity.*

Last week I traveled out to the countryside to visit a Peace Corps Volunteer who's been on the job for a few months already. The purpose of the trip was to learn first hand what a volunteers living situation is like, and how they spend their time. Getting to my assigned volunteer was an adventure in and of itself. It required a bus ride to another large city (pretty straightforward), followed by a two hour ride up a mountain spent hanging off the rear bumper of a pickup truck that was loaded down with people, sacks of rice, and live chickens (less straight forward, but mission accomplished). My first thought was that this experience was starting to feel a little bit more like what I expected from the peace corps.

Patrick, the volunteer I visited, lives virtually on top of a mountain. His house is built right next to a very steep slope that drops down about 500 ft. into a lush and picturesque valley. The view is westward, so you can only imagine how gorgeous the sunsets are. Definitely a cool place to live.

On my first night there, I was shown where I could bathe to get myself a little cleaned up from the road. The "shower" is a barrel of water out back with a bucket used to pour the water over oneself. There are no walls or curtains to conceal the process from the outside world. This isn't much of an issue since there aren't really that many passersby, and everyone in the house would know you were bathing so they would be courteous enough to not come and start a conversation. Or so I thought.

I very much enjoyed my first outdoor bathing experience. The cool water was very welcome after the heat of the dusty road. It was a little strange to be buck naked in the open air, but it didn't bother me that much. In fact, as I looked out at the sun setting over the tropical valley, heard the crickets chirp, and felt the cool breeze, I truly began to feel at one with nature. I felt like Adam at the beginning of time, surveying the purity of creation, unspoiled and unashamed.

The poetic gears were just beginning to spin in my head when it suddenly all came to a very awkward stop. I glanced over my shoulder and noticed that I was not alone. There was an elderly gentleman sitting about ten feet away from me, chowing down on his dinner of yucca and salami. We made eye contact, and he wished me a good evening before continuing with his food. It was as if nothing was out of the ordinary. I began to think that nudity might not represent the same taboo in this culture that it does back home. This conclusion was confirmed later in the evening when another member of the household on his way to bathe came walking through the area where myself and others were sitting, wearing nothing but his birthday suit.

So my moment of intimacy with nature may have been interrupted, but I learned a little bit more about what may or may not be taboo here. But I can assure you that this is not a social norm that I intend to conduct experimentation with. That is a promise.

3 comments:

Elliot said...

I won't lie Tim, after your dad told me that you were blogging i was a bit excited to read, but after he told me you had nudity and blogging! well, yeah, you don't dissipation ;p
-Elliot

Sarah Elizabeth said...

what a scandal.

Jason said...

Tim,

Nudity aside, the house on a steep slope seems common in Latin America and the Caribbean. Jill, a member of Metrobrook, returned from a short-term mission trip to Guatemala City, where a neighborhood had been erected on a rapidly eroding hillside. Catastrophic mini-landslides were not uncommon.

Blessings,
~Jason

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