Wednesday, November 21, 2007

humiliation at its finest

so today i locked myself in a latrine. yeah, i know.....what kind of idiot would do that? for the past couple of weeks i've been painting a big sign for mirna's family finca which is in ahuachapán. i was telling antonio's mom about the project and how i was going to take the sign to my house and paint it because at the time that i started, school was still in session and i couldn't paint it at the school because the kids would've been all over it. so antonio's mom suggested i just bring the sign on down to their house and paint it there instead of haul it on the bus to apaneca and back when i was finished. so i took her up on the offer and for two weeks spent the afternoon painting, despite feeling terrible about the strong paint fumes overwhelming their kitchen (not to mention my troubled thoughts that i was going to set their house afire when antonio's mom decided to start up the gas stove to make café every afternoon while i was there.....i think somewhere on paint cans it says 'keep away from flames' or even, 'don't bring this paint can anywhere within 100 yards of open flames, ever').

anyway, so today i finished painting, and antonio's mom gave me the customary pan dulce and café and i sat in the kitchen chatting with her. antonio's dad came in later and joined the conversation, as did antonio when he got home from work. at one point i excused myself to go to the bathroom (i don't know why i even use this phrase here, everyone i know in san jorge has a latrine which is a far, far cry from a ¨bathroom¨....maybe that's why some people give me a funny look when i tell them "voy a usar el baño." but i find this more appropriate than saying "prestéme su servicio" - which is what everybody else says and which literally translates to "lend me your toilet.") anyway, so i went to the latrine, which like every other latrine, is about a foot shorter than i am. so i hunch over and shut the door behind me. i actually don't mind antonio's latrine. it's clean (as latrines cockroaches, at least not during the day!) and it has a door. most, if not all of the other latrines i've had the pleasure of crawling into don't have a door, but have one of the following: 1) a big sheet of plastic that doesn't quite cover the width and breadth of the doorway, so you're constantly looking out the doorway in anticipation of someone seeing you; 2) a shower curtain....this isn't a bad option, unless it's windy, in which case you'll find yourself fearing the same "who's coming 'round the corner" surprise; and 3) nothing at all - clearly not the best option, but they do exist.

so i shut the latrine door behind me and i heard a click and realized that the wooden slat on the outside that keeps the door from coming open when nobody's in there had come down. i'm still hunched over, mind you, and wondering what the hell i'm gonna do now. using the latrine for it's intended purpose was the last thing on my mind at this point. the latrine's made out of wood, so there are openings in-between the wooden slats, so i searched around on the floor for something that would maybe fit in-between where i could push the slat that was locking me in back up. i found a couple of sticks, but they were too fat. then i saw this piece of wire sticking through the slats where the roof and wall met. so i pulled on it and i got a pretty long piece of it through, but then it wouldn't budge. i kept yanking at it for a minute, then heard someone come out of the kitchen, presumably to see what all the racket was. i stood motionless in the latrine waiting for them to leave.

i mean, what was i gonna do? yell "hey, somebody help me! i'm stuck in the latrine!" which in spanish would translate, loosely, to "ayudéme! ayudéme!" how embarrassing. i must have been in there 10 minutes or longer. finally i decided to strip one of the sticks i had found earlier and lucky me, it became skinnier and skinnier and finally i was able to stick it through and maneuver the latch to an upright position. and i was free! i looked outside the latrine to where the wire had been sticking through and i saw that it was holding some branches to one of their lime trees up. well, not anymore it wasn't - as i'd yanked it so the branch was drooping almost to the ground. i decided to just leave it - antonio's dad will realize it "accidentally fell down" or the ¨wind knocked it down¨ ** and rig it back up. i re-entered the kitchen and sat down to drink the rest of my coffee and realized that i had forgotten to actually use the latrine....and now i was really needing to use it. i decided to gulp down the last of the coffee and tell antonio's family that i was off to apaneca to finish some work that was due the next day on my computer. they would've thought i had a serious gastro-intestinal problem if i'd have gotten up and told them i was using the latrine again after being in there for 10+ minutes. now that's embarrassing.

it could've been worse. it could have been a super smelly latrine. or i could have been locked in a walk-in freezer or something. but i did dodge a bullet i suppose. i mean, if it would've come down to it, i probably would've had to yell "ayudéme!" and then antonio's family would've reminisced for years and years to come about the time i got stuck in the latrine. i think i've already made an ass out of myself enough here in el salvador. no use in adding to the list!

i have to say though, i don´t know why so many people complain about latrines (including me when i first got here). from an environmental standpoint, i actually don´t mind latrines all that much (just give me a door). they save on water and if they are built right, they don´t harm the water tables. they´re hassle free (no clogged toilet to fix) and if you can get past the late-night cockroaches in some of them, they´re actually not that bad. however, in a situation where i´m sick or it´s 10-below zero outside, i wouldn´t give up my inside bathroom for anything in the world. all other times though, the only concern is making sure i´m on the lookout for kids making strange ghost noises.

hopefully next week i´ll be able to post about my trip to el pital (the highest point in el salvador!) and our fabulous fiesta de patronales. i´m so looking forward to the fiestas this year...don´t know why, but i´m just super excited about them this year. PLUS, los hermanos flores, one of the great, great salvadoran cumbia bands, is playing for the final night of the fiestas. yay!!!! here they are again.... if you would have told me 5 years ago that i would be excited to dance, i´d have probably punched you right in the nose. but here i am, geeked that i´m gonna get to dance to cumbia all night!

saludos y felices fiestas!

** this seems to be a pattern with me. i'll re-tell a story here about how i had a cabinet "accidentally fall down" at my ex-boyfriend's house a long time ago. i'll only tell it because it's super ridiculous (and kind of funny) and i'm certain he doesn't read this blog, and even if he does, who cares. i'm not dating him anymore, right? so i went with my ex to his mom's house one day because he was going to help her move some furniture from his grandmother's house. when we got there, his uncle was there too and there was no room for me in the truck so i stayed at his mom's house. his mom was being super hospitable and showed me the cabinet where some snacks were if i got hungry while they made the trip to grandma's and back. so they all left and i started to watch television and realized about a ½ hour later that i could use one of those snacks. so i went into the kitchen and opened the cabinet where the snacks were and the whole cabinet falls off the wall. i'm not even kidding. it just came right off the wall and i was trying to hold it up and finally i had to ease it to the counter, where it came to rest on top of a bunch of tupperware containers. i stood there for a minute saying out loud "what the fuuuuuuck?????"

i shit you not, as i'm trying to figure out how in the hell that happened, i hear the truck with my ex, his mom and the uncle pulling into the driveway. seriously, how was i going to explain that? i panicked and ran back into the living room and sat in front of the television and acted like i hadn't left the couch since they all had left. my ex's mom came in and was like "we weren't too long were we?" and i say "oh, no, it wasn't long at all!" or some other fake response because inside i was thinking "she's gonna see that cabinet, (which was hanging perfectly on the wall when she showed me the friggin' snacks), and think i was using her kitchen as a jungle gym, swinging from the cabinet doors or something." i had no way out of the situation. his mom came in and eventually so did the uncle, but they were out on the porch bringing in the furniture. then i had an idea. i sat there for a few more minutes and waited until they were making a bit of noise and then shouted out to them, "did you hear that!!!" my ex's mom shouts back in from the porch, "no, what?" i then said that i had heard a loud crash in the kitchen (not my finest acting job, i'll admit). but it worked, because my ex's mom then says "oh, the cat must have gotten into something." so my ex goes in the kitchen to check it out and discovers the fallen cabinet and bingo, i am off the hook. just like that. even though, in my opinion, i was never ON the hook. i just happened to be the unlucky person to open that cabinet door when it was ready to fall off the wall.....right???

anyway, while i don't have much luck with anything that would be considered "lucky" (winning raffle tickets, finding a hidden van gogh behind an old paint-by-numbers painting in the attic, winning blackjack hands, etc.), i have tons of luck with things that are considered "unlucky" (canyon toe, falling down in the middle of the street or on buses, walking into the men's restroom by accident, etc.). that pretty much sums up my life to this point. i'm an expert at unlucky situations that eventually lead to humiliation. if there were only a way to make that a career...a moneymaking career...i'd be set for life!