09/07/10 – Electricity, Water, Radio, Rain, and Bad Roads
Now I’m back in Juticalpa for a couple of days. Out of the last 4 days that I was supposed to work and finish the study in the Biosphere Rio Platano I only got to work for 1 day. The first day I didn’t make it because I was misinformed about at what time the bus leaves for the community I was going to. Usually I would take a bus to a bigger community closeby and jalon (hitchhike) the rest of the way. But by the time I would have arrived it would have been dark and I didn’t want to jalon in the dark in some unknown area. So I spent the day in Catacamas and arrived the next day. What was supposed to be the second day of work ended up differently because the people who were supposed to work that day didn’t show up. I’m not sure why they didn’t show up, but it’s one of 2 things: 1) not being able to get out of their community due to really bad roads, or 2) laziness and not wanting to work. I’m not sure which one it was. The “3rd” day ended up being the day that we worked and it went well. And finally the 4th day we couldn’t work because it rained a lot in the morning and the people that were supposed to work that day couldn’t get out of their community. So I came back here because I had some other things to do and it’s the anniversary of SANAA, my office/counterpart, so there’s going to be a nice barbeque/mini-fiesta.
So some things that are different here than they are in the US. First, in the US we almost always have electricity. In Juticalpa sometimes the power goes out from 8am-4pm although sometimes it randomly shuts off for some time at night or during the day. It doesn’t seem too often here compared to some other places. Catacamas, another city close to here, loses power a lot more than we do. During the day it’s not too bad. Although if you have to do work on the computer or want to watch a World Cup game and the power goes out… too bad. At night it’s just weird seeing the entire city pitch black. In houses that use a pump for the water, well they don’t have water when the power goes out. A lot more different is out in the communities where I was in the Biosphere. There are no electric lines, but many houses have solar panel systems that I think were installed some years ago by an NGO. Many of the systems don’t work for various reasons, but those that do have enough power for lights and to charge cell phones and some other things. But by 8pm there every day, everything is pitch black except maybe a house here or there that has a light on. I had to bike from where I ate dinner to where I was staying the other night and luckily I had my headlamp because without it I couldn’t see 2 inches in front of me.
Water is another thing I’ve never thought of. The idea of ‘is water going to arrive today?’ has never occurred to me. So coming from Philly, a city with maybe 2 million people, and going to a town of a couple hundred houses it might be difficult to understand why they can’t make a system to supply them with water. In many places that do have water systems, including Juticalpa, the water isn’t always available. It’s possible that water comes only on certain days and at certain hours. So if the water is going to come on some day from 7am-10am, then you have to fill up your pila (~water storage tank) so that you have water to shower, clean dishes, cook, and wash clothes till it comes again. Usually if it rains, the water will arrive a little bit dirty. My last few days working I was showering in water that had a nice tint of brown... How clean would you feel showering or washing your clothes in dirty water? Well I felt cleaner than if I wouldn’t have showered. One community that this project in the Biosphere is for doesn’t have a water system now. So each house runs a hose to the nearest river and that’s how they collect the water. It’s enough in the rainy season, but in summer I’d imagine it’s a little bit tougher.
Radio or TV. I feel like back home if I was driving with someone and there was nothing good on the radio that sometimes they’d get frustrated, turn off the radio and say something about it. Also with TV the same. This happens although we have so many stations and channels (I never liked when I was driving and there was nothing on the radio). So the other day when we finished in a community called Rio Negro we drove back to where I was staying. In Rio Negro you can’t use cell phones because it’s not close to anything so there’s no reception. On the ride there were no radio stations coming in either. But the driver pressed the button that searches every frequency till the next station comes in (either seek or search, I forget). Every once in a while throughout the 1.5 hour drive it would go from silence to some random song that got picked up. And every time that the signal got picked up for a minute the driver looked over at me and smiled, kind of like saying ‘ayy que bueno, we have music!’. The song, no matter how good or bad it was, he was just so happy or amused that there was something playing. I thought it was pretty funny.
Finally rain and bad roads. When it rains here, it pours, and the rivers grow a lot. This one bridge I’ve passed a bunch of times isn’t elevated (pretty much it’s just a straight slab of concrete) so when the river grows the water just flows right over the bridge. Seems pretty dangerous to drive through but a lot of pickup trucks can make it by no problem, although sometimes they have to wait for a couple hours that it doesn’t rain so it lowers a bit. Well coming back to Juticalpa yesterday I passed this bridge. When I arrived at the bridge there were a bunch of cars and 2 buses waiting. Usually there are 3 buses waiting at this time so I was wondering where it was or if it had passed. Well as I got out of the car and walked up to this so-called-bridge the bus was in the middle of it. The front end of the bus was hanging over the edge of this slab of concrete and the rest of it was up on the bridge. The bus almost got taken away by the current! It was sitting there tilted and seemed like with a bit more of a push it would’ve toppled right over and been taken with the river. But it was crazy walking up and seeing this bus sitting there. I can’t imagine how scary it would be on the bus for those few seconds where you don’t know if the bus is going to flip over and get taken away by the river. Gracias a dios that I was getting a jalon to come back Juticalpa instead of taking the bus. Finally a big tractor came and pulled the bus back up on the bridge and it drove away with the exhaust dragging on the ground.
btw, more pics should be up on facebook soon