If home is where the heart is, my heart has been homeless for the last six months. I have stayed in a variety of guest rooms, childhood bedrooms, and -not kidding here- even inside a large closet. The entire six months I have been in someone else’s space. This is why, two weeks ago when I found my little house, I was so happy. But before I get ahead of myself, let us back up for a moment.
Two months ago in Spanish class, we were tasked with drawing our dream home. I happily sketched mine with a vantage point from the outside, showing a nearby lake surrounded by trees and mountains. A hammock stretched between two fruit trees. Nearby in the yard was my vegetable garden, complete with a cat chewing on grass beside it. A clothes-line hung between the other trees – the ones that gave me privacy from neighbors. Beside my porch was a spot for my bicycle and a radio. There were even a few flowers out front.
After completing my sketch, I realized that I had focused entirely on what was outside of my home, rather than what was on the inside. You know, the whole point of the exercise? I haphazardly wrote in the corner that I hoped to have ample kitchen space, a small dining room with enough chairs to seat all of my friends at dinner parties, a fireplace, two bedrooms so that guests can have some private space, a living room minus a TV, and an indoor bathroom with running water.
Two months later, I find myself moving into that exact house – hammock, lake, trees, fresh air, and mountains included! Imagine how big my smile is right now; trail running and hiking right out my front door that lead to amazing vistas and places to boulder? Yes please.
I chose this home as a way of living in a rural community in lieu of my original placement, in a big city. This particular spot is less than one kilometer from the boundary of my national park. Clearly, people in the community influence the natural resources found in the park, and the park’s presence influences the lives of everyone in the community. Living there seems like a great way to link community development and natural resource management.
But, being in a rural community, there are many conveniences that I will live without. The biggest one is that I have no address. The only way to direct people to my house involves a paragraph-long description, followed by the high probability that I will receive a call or text asking for clarification. I will then have to run to the main road to meet my visitor and deliver them to my house, in person.
When the Peace Corps staff was out checking on the safety, security, and suitability of my mountain casita – my little house – they joked that my new address is #19 Cactus Avenue due to the Maguey field along the nearby road. And so it will be.
Now I just need to:
- Get a cat for warmth and affection. Most importantly though, for warmth
- Build a fence to keep the sheep out of my garden
- Do some soil-prep
- Start my compost pile and some seedlings
- Put a box under the bed containing all of the Catholic decorations that were included in the furnishings
- Craft up some things to add my personal touch to the place
- Stock up on firewood
- Transport a borrowed bike a few hundred kilometers
- Meet the neighbors
- Get some rock climbing shoes
- Learn the trails
- Open my doors for parties, dinners and guests. Come and visit me!
Further proof that I am moving to a rural community. My house requires that I:
- Walk a mile round trip for potable water, carrying a 40 pound jug uphill on the return trip
- Collect non-potable water in a reserve tank every week, thus limiting the number of days that I will have no water for showers, laundry, and other house cleaning
- Adopt the “if it’s yellow let it mellow” technique in the bathroom to save water
- Wash my laundry by hand outdoors with cold water, then hang it on a line to dry. I hope the local dogs do not destroy all of my bras like they did with the former resident!
- Call the gas company; wait at home until I hear the truck’s bell; then sprint down a hill to flag them down. All because I cannot give them a delivery address
- Take public transit for somewhere between 30 minutes and one hour to access the internet
- Put my trash outside first thing in the morning rather than the night before to prevent animals from strewing it across the neighborhood
- Will host many jealous fellow Peace Corps volunteers in desperate need of cool and clean air, hiking, outdoor campfires, and fresh eggs for breakfast
Tomorrow is the day when it all seems to begin.
Making me smile
- In response to the news of my housing approval, one of my new neighbors said: “Congratulations! Now you have to come over and eat!”
- Watching tortillas puff as they warm on stove tops
- In all seriousness, I bet if you address a letter to me using only “La Güerita” and leaving out a street address, I bet it would still arrive in my hands. La Güerita means the little blondie