Friday, June 22, 2012

My Latrine - The Disaster Zone

Yes. I do, in fact, realize that this will mark the third blog I've written about my latrine (not including all of the honorable mentions along the way). I can't really defend myself in this; all I can say is that, as proud owners of holes in the ground, we volunteers grow to have a special relationship with our latrines. Especially when they turn into disaster zones. Take mine, for instance:

Unlike most standing structures, my latrine no longer has a working door. I mean, it has a door, but right now it is a useless, door-shaped piece of wood that leans against the wall in a decidedly door-like manner. I guess one day it decided it wanted to be off of the wall for a while; I'm assuming it was having some kind of mid-life crisis.

Really, though, it's only a problem when I want to use the latrine, which is a lot less than I want to use, say, my kitchen. Also, there's nothing remotely valuable or worth stealing in my latrine - not even a door, apparently. I've taken to using what I call 'the poor man's door,' a piece of fabric draped, somewhat dramatically, across what used to be the door and the gaping hole it once inhabited.

Most days this works out perfectly, but sometimes, mid-pee, the door starts to look like it's falling toward me; usually because it is. I have to agree with the door - peeing underneath it is just as efficient as draping something across it, but I guess I'd rather feel like I'm peeing in a room temporarily missing a door than a pile of rubble I've stumbled on to. I'd also like to add that, while it's completely unnecessary, I still prefer to swing the 'door' open and close as I pass. I certainly understand that at this point 'manhandling' it would be perfectly acceptable, but I like to pretend I still have a working relationship with all doors. Even mangled, Ghanaian ones.

Being suddenly less VIP and more 'public access' has left the room, itself, kind of a disaster. Interest has peaked across the board and, on numerous occasions, I've found myself confronting a pair of surprised beady, little eyes attached to surprised, feathered little bodies and am left to stand awkwardly outside as they loudly, disdainfully vacate the premises.

I also find lots of morning surprises. When I do, I avoid eye contact and continue to tell myself (loudly and repeatedly) that I should be proud someone used the latrine, not criticizing their aim ... obviously it's a daily mental struggle. What used to be a cement safe-haven is now a hostile, unfamiliar place - any and all trust gained has been completely lost. Even my two yard, doing its best under the circumstances to provide a little coverage, is always dangerously close to flapping open in the breeze and  exposing me, forever, to a world that isn't even remotely ready for such a spectacle. I spend most, if not all of my time, staring at it threateningly.

These are not my latrine's only problems; its concrete floor is starting to resemble the surface of a frozen lake at the start of spring. If this were Narnia, I'd be riding blocks of ice down a fast moving river. As it is, I simply, carefully, replace the broken pieces whenever they shift and expose the ant kingdom beneath. Technically (in the absence of a door), I probably don't need a front step, but I've always been one for keeping up appearances. If anything, I hold the small hope that anyone walking by will be so impressed by the concrete slabs, immaculately placed, that they'll hardly notice they are staring into a latrine because it's missing a door.

The door frame rests mockingly against the corner, coolly sporting its now completely useless lock. If I'm being honest, the contraption formerly-known-as 'door' spent most of its time suspended from an intricate web of strings. Clearly it wasn't meant to last forever, but if there's one thing you should be grateful for in America, let it be working doors, latches, and locks - excellent ventilation is a small consolation when the possibility of flashing innocent bystanders becomes a daily likelihood.

I could, of course, fix it. That's what you're thinking, isn't it? I will say only this - if there's a second thing you should be insanely grateful for, it's regular access to capable, always available, sober carpenters. Until 'Africa Time' ceases to exist, until my doorway isn't two inches wider than the door frame on both sides, I guess I'll just have to thank the Peace Corps for making me so laid back that not only do I consider 'the poor man's door' an adequate alternative, but proudly introduce it to you via the world-wide web.