It’s been well over a month since my last post, mostly because I was too drained from working during the mornings on the shrimp farm to have any mental energy left for updating my posts, but also because I didn’t thought it would be a waste of an experience if I spent all of my free time squinting at a laptop screen as opposed to conversing with my new entourage of male companions. That said, I decided to write about my experiences on the shrimp farm after the fact. So here I am at the end of May after six eventful weeks on the shrimp farm catching up on my posts. However, since I was rather secluded from the pleasures and comforts of my usual life, such as alcohol and toilets that flush, the first order of business is assessing the extent of my reverse culture shock and of course indulging in some of my Gringa needs that can only be met with ease in a big city such as Guayaquil.
Six weeks certainly doesn’t seem like a long time, nor did it actually feel like a long time, but after one day back in a completely different atmosphere, I’m definitely aware of the fact that I may have picked up some strange habits while staying on a rustic farm full of men. Some of such habits are probably advantageous to the ordinary backpacker and thus I hope to keep, while others make me seriously question the type of life I’m leading.
The habits that I hope remain intact…
- Efficient laundering – As you could imagine, clothing gets dirty a lot faster than normal when you’re working under the blazing sun and sitting in a less than fragrant pile of shrimp feed. Even though I’ve relaxed my standards on the definition of clean clothing while traveling, I did find it necessary to do my laundry almost every day, either washing it outside in the buckets or bringing it with me in the shower. Either way, this made for more efficient mornings with less digging into the bottom of my backpack for clean clothes. So here’s to hoping I keep up my good laundry routine because traveling with dirty clothes in your backpack happens to be less than enjoyable.
- Hoarding toilet paper – After an ‘unfortunate but fun for those around me’ experience in Bali, I decided that toilet paper is one of those necessities that I usually take for granted. On the shrimp farm, the odds of having a sufficient supply of toilet paper when nature called were not exactly in my favor, so I made a habit of collecting napkins at meal times to be used later when needed. Weird, yes, but given that I’d rather be kidnapped by drug gangs than suffer through a public gastrointestinal “event”, I’ll live with the ridicule.
- Continuing to expect men to treat me like a princess – I’ve never thought of myself as high-maintenance but I won’t lie, I definitely enjoyed being treated like a delicate flower and showered in compliments and chocolate cookies. I mean, from where I stand right now, I fail to see the downside of refusing to give the time of day to any man who doesn’t have cookies on his person.
The habits that give me pause…
- Manual Toilet Flushing – Along with the less than abundant supply of toilet paper in the bathrooms or non-bathrooms, it was also a crapshoot, pun definitely intended, as to whether or not the toilet would flush by the traditional means of pushing on the handle. In cases where it did not, I deferred to my trusty bucket to pour water until the toilet flushed manually. This was all fine and dandy until yesterday when I noticed my arm instinctively reaching out for the bucket.
- Siphoning Everything – As I alluded to above, the plumbing situation on the farm was not exactly automatic and as such, the flow of water required the assistance of manual changes in atmospheric pressure. This was also the preferred method for transporting most other liquids around the farm such as the lovely tomato soup and molasses bacteria that is applied to the pools on Sundays. So I had to siphon for water at times. Awkward at first, especially if any of the 30 men were around to see me to do this, but after a while it became second nature. Though I imagine, nowadays, some eyebrows would be raised in my neighborhood if my parents asked me to water the plants and I immediately started blowing into the hose.
- Using 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner as an all-purpose cleaner – I’m actually on the fence about this one. This habit started off on a slippery slope. I originally switched from separate shampoo and conditioner to a 2-in-1 solution to both save money and space in my backpack. Then, when I was moving from Puno, Perú, I didn’t feel like hauling another separate bottle of body wash so my 2-in-1 now became 3-in-1. And why stop there? When I started bringing my laundry into the shower with me on the shrimp farm, I figured if my shampoo could clean my body then it could also clean my clothing. Now, I have one bottle of all-purpose cleanser for my body, hair and clothing. This does make for a simpler life and a lighter backpack, but I’m just slightly concerned that I might take this further.
So now that I’m aware of some of my new rustic life quirks, it will be fun to see how I transition back into a world of public transportation, commerce and flushable toilets. The first order of business though is eating all of the gringa-rific foods I’ve been craving for the last six weeks such as hamburgers, tacos, ice cream and of course, beer and wine. After that, there is some body maintenance I will tend to which is another post in and of itself…