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Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Essentials

I mentioned earlier that I was mulling over a post on 10 essentials.  This mulling as prompted by a post I read at recently on his 10  essentials.  He starts by saying his mulling was prompted by a list in GQ, and how he thought that the lists there were tributes to luxury consumerism.  You see, is written by one of the best of the minimalist bloggers, and one of the first, Leo Babauta.  I wrote a post awhile ago blasting all the bloggers out there trying to make a buck by telling us all how to live on their blogs.  Well, this guy actually does it right, IMHO (in my humble opinion).  He unfortunately inspired a lot of insipid imitations.  But I digress.  His 10 items are nicely minimalistic, to the point that he only could think of 8.  He only needs 8 things to make him happy.  Bless His Heart.   (those of you in the South know just how I mean that...)  Generally I like his posts.  However, this one came across to me like fingers on a blackboard.  That he started out pointing a finger at others' lists was setting himself up for the same from me.  His might not have been a tribute to luxury consumerism, but it definitely was a list made while living in a first world country where he has the luxury of taking a LOT for granted.  So, here is my list.  I'll aim for around 10.  My point is to really stop and think about what you are saying and define your terms when making a list like this, especially if you are poking fun at someone else.

1.  Water:  This was one of the things that set me off, his comment how he 'drinks from the tap'.  Good.  I did, too, when I lived in the US.  Bottled water is a bane of trash and a sign of consumerism in a first world country.  I live in Honduras.  I am sternly admonished to only drink 'bottled' water.  This includes not getting ice in drinks at restaurants, something I still do.  I am working towards getting a setup with the refillable 5 gal bottle, but for right now I am using the small plastic bottles of water.  I hate that I'm doing this.  However, I am more afraid to actually drink the local water than I am of causing trash.  Right now I'm in the middle in that I'm hanging onto my bottles since I don't know where the trash here goes.  The fact that I also follow a blog called The Last Straw about someone going a year (living in the US) without using single use plastic doesn't help my conscious.  Clean water is not to be taken for granted.  Hot water is another issue altogether, that I'll cover later.

2.  Food:  He talks about nice fresh from the local stand food.  I wanted to get there when I lived in the US.  No packaging, etc.  Wonderful.  However, that part about being in Honduras again.  the X-Pats here talk about not just getting dysentery from the food but also parasites.  So far I have not been sick at all.  I have been eating almost exclusively at restaurants, first world chains if not at the DFac on post.  Yesterday I did eat some fried banannas from a street vendor that T bought while we were stopped at the road construction.  He didn't like them, so I tried them.  I figured I'd end up sick.  I haven't so far.  They were like salty banana chips I got in the US.  Not a lot of flavor, but ok as an experiment.  At some point I'll get up the courage to go grocery shopping, maybe, and perhaps even make it to an open market.  Funny, I don't remember being so conscious of flys back in the US as I am here.  So, I'll give up on saying that I want nice fresh local market food, and just ask for safe food that won't make me too sick or give me lingering parasites.

3.  Cleanliness:  I was just going to call this Soap, but there are many parts to this that I'll just lump into cleanliness.  Leo doesn't address this at all, which is why I say he is posting from a first world luxury viewpoint.  It's not something we have to think about much in the US.  Here, I wonder about the tap water I use to rinse my toothbrush with and rinse my mouth out with.  I didn't even think about those things until I'd done it a few days and then realized I haven't gotten sick from it.  My shower has hot water from a hot water knob.  That is unusual down here.  Most houses have what is referred to as Suicide Showers.  The water heater is on the end of the shower fixture.  Wired with Electricity.  From what I'm told, you can get a bit of a shock if it's not wired just right if you don't use some kind of shower shoes.  This is one of the non-trivial reasons I am staying here at the hotel.  Then there is laundry.  I haven't seen any laundromats.  Here at the hotel I take my laundry down to them and they deliver it back to me in a few hours, clean and folded, sort of.  It's not the way I fold them, and the things I tend to not dry in the dryer are put in with the rest.  So, I now sort out those things and do them by hand.  Not a huge deal, but I do miss my washer and dryer that was in my apartment back in WA.  The thing is, I have to actually think about keeping me and mine clean, and plan for it.

4.  Clothes:  In Leo's list, 2 of the items were his favorite clothes, a t-shirt and a pair of jeans.  I don't really mean to keep ragging in his list.  However, I do need appropriate clothes.  Not fancy, or even new.  But, my official work requirements are a collared shirt and jeans.  I had quit wearing polo's (collared shirt) in favor of nylon shells, short and mostly long sleeved.  It's warmish here, though not as warm as it will be in a few months.  I pulled out my polo's that I had packed away and not gotten rid of just because I hadn't worn them in a year.  Washington State was cool.  Here is not.  So, my wardrobe is changing.  So far, the packed away things are working just fine, and I'm packing away my heavier things for when I go back up to the US.  Is it worth keeping this stuff and shlepping it all around.  I don't know.  I just know that I'm glad I already had what I needed on hand and didn't have to go shopping in the middle of moving.

5.  Shelter:  Not even mentioned in Leo's list, again from a first world viewpoint it's taken for granted.  Here my requirements are safety first.  The environment is such that shelter from the outside isn't as necessary as up home, but once it gets hot I'm sure the air conditioners will also get a workout.

6:  Safety:  In a third world country there aren't many decisions I'm making on a daily basis that safety isn't a serious consideration.  From how to get to work, to when I go someplace, to what I wear or carry with me, when and where I shop and what I buy.  Safety is the first thing I think about.  That is why my IPhone got left in the US, why I don't wear even as much jewelry as I used to (which wasn't much), why I'm thinking about not carrying my day pack that I've carried for years.  It is why I'm going car-less.  The drivers here are nuts!  However, the only way to get anywhere is to drive just like them.  I leave it to the taxi drivers.

7. Sense of humor:  Without this I would be miserable.  I laughed when upon leaving the airport we ended up on a road that was under construction and all the traffic was just driving in the construction area, picking it's way along.  Major traffic, as this was a major road.  I laughed when I saw cars driving 3 abreast passing on a 2 lane highway on a hill and curve unable to see if there was any on-coming traffic.  I laugh as I bite into street vendor banana chips.  I laugh (weakly) at how I can't communicate.  I just laugh.

8:  Faith:  When my sense of humor gets strained, I reach for faith.  It takes faith to go out of my hotel room each day.  Faith not so much that I'll be protected.  Faith that I'll have the strength to face whatever happens.  And, so far I have.

Gee, I only came up with 8, too.  Sorry this is so long.  Just had to get it off my chest.

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