Saturday, October 22, 2011

Everything Takes Longer!

I used to think I was pretty efficient - checking off a list of things I would do in a single day. But life here moves at a different pace and sometimes I'm satisfied just to get through the day and feel somewhat prepared for the next.
What takes longer is usually household chores. Remember: not only am I teaching in a foreign culture, but I've set up housekeeping in a completely different way than what I'm used to in the US. I live independently in a rented house, but it is located away from a main road so I walk a lot.

The lack of household conveniences means I also spend more time on routine things. For example, there is only cold water from the spigot, so I need to boil and filter water for drinking. I also heat some water for washing dishes - and that's usually 3 times a day.

There is a large electric hot water tank in the shower room, so I turn that on about once a week to take a bucket bath. It takes about 45 minutes to reach an acceptable warm+ temperature. That's when I also try to wash some clothes because there's more warm water. Laundry also means washing clothes by hand. I've developed a sequence of steps that includes soaking, rinsing and wringing out by hand, then rinsing and wringing again. I hang some clothes in the shower room, and others are hung outside on the clothes line. The word chore precisely describes washing clothes by hand.

For preparing food, I have a propane tank for cooking plus a small one-temperature oven. That gas burner gets a workout as I use it to heat water in a tea kettle, saute onions/tomatoes/peppers in a skillet, then simmer soup in a saucepan. It is a juggling act to cook a meal, boil water for drinking and heat water for washing dishes on a single gas burner.

Most time consuming is walking. No jumping into my car for a quick trip for groceries or go to work. Instead I walk to small neighborhood shops for eggs, milk, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, etc., walk to the nearby trash pit to throw away garbage, and walk to and from school each day. While each trip may take only 10 - 20 minutes, there are multiple trips each day.

For larger purchases, about once a week I walk to the nearby road and wait 5 - 20 minutes for a marsrutka to come along and take me to the old bazar. That's where I can buy frozen chicken, rice, and a greater variety of fruits and vegetables. And no convenience foods unless you count Kellogg's Special K or Nestle's Fitness cereals. Everything I cook is from scratch, so that means planning ahead to soak beans overnight and allowing several hours to cook them.

Besides basic homemaking, I take time each day to review upcoming lessons and think about ways to teach English using minimal if any materials. So when I feel like I haven't made much progress I realize  I spend a lot of time - just like most Azeri women do - just maintaining.