Sunday, April 11, 2010

Rules To Live By

A young Haitian girl stands outside one of the hospital pediatric tents.

There's an art to living on top of people, one which I suspect actually gets taught in naval submarine schools and fire academies.  My existence for this trip to Haiti has been highlighted by the return of communal sleeping conditions to my life, something that I've not experienced since my days in Special Forces. I fear that I've grown accustom to 5-star hotel suites with multiple flat screens and ocean views. Those that know me are laughing right now.

The group that I'm with on this trip is camped out in a small, open room with 15-20 thinly mattress-ed metal frames placed within a foot of one another. My personal space extends from my bunk to 6-inches on every direction; I am the master of my kingdom.

The first and really only rule is to be overly considerate.  Here are some things to think about:
  • No unnecessary banging around of things during sleep hours.  Even the slightest rustling of stuff can be annoying to those that are trying to sleep.
  • iPods can be heard by neighbors, also typing on keyboards.  Take it elsewhere.
  • Be mindful of your neighbor's kingdom… no border excursions however unintentional.
  • Keep your things packed and neat. You're not setting up house - it's temporary. 
  • Flush the toilet.  Even if there's no water in the tank, that's what the big barrel of water and bucket are for sitting right next to it.  The water goes in the bowl, not the tank. Also, in most third world bathrooms- the paper goes in the trash not the bowl.  Get used to it.
  • Learn to love cold water bucket showers. Close your eyes an imagine a tropical waterfall.  It lessens the shock.
  • Personal hygiene.  It's not a competition to see how nasty we can all be. Wash yourself, especially your hands as often as you can.
  • Pick-up communal spaces, and especially don't leave stuff for others to have to deal with.  Leave it cleaner than you found it. Pack it out baby!!
  • Pitch in, pitch in, pitch in.  Someone has to take the trash out and sweep the floors. You know it needs to get done.  Don't ignore it.
  • Keep valuables secured.  You never know who will come strolling though your living spaces, and  other cultures look differently upon opportune acquisitions than we do in the west.
  • Share electrical outlets.

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