Sometimes the living conditions in Karakol can be a bit … frustrating. (Incidentally, I love using that word, because Russian has no equivalent!) The problems here are usually just little things, but it is amazing how little things can stack up and seem huge. Recently, we went through an eight or nine day period in which each day we suffered through outages of either power, water, or internet access. Talk about frustrating!
First, power being out is a bit of a problem, because our house is heated with an electric heater. We can start a fire with wood or coal if we need to, but our reserves are a bit lower than I’d like, so I always start getting nervous when the lights suddenly wink out and the battery back-up system under the desk starts beeping. We scramble to shut down the computer quickly enough (the battery back-up doesn’t really work as advertized, so we literally have “moments” to get this done), and then we begin to wonder: do I put on an extra layer right now and start conserving heat?
Lacking internet access isn’t really a “hardship,” per se, but it is particularly annoying. We don’t need it to survive, but … when it isn’t working, it’s not like you’d realize that. The casual observer from another planet might guess from the example in our household that “this internet thing” was essential to life.
Water, however, has been the interesting one for me. Because we have very dirty water (think glacial silt, farming run-off, cattle, horses, goats, humans, etc.), we drink water from the Kyrgyzstan equivalent of the Culligan man. You can’t imagine our joy when we found out there was a supplier of bottled (18 liters at a time!), purified water! When our water goes out, we aren’t worried about drinking water (which would be quite a bit more stressful), but just have to live without showers, clean clothes, hand-washing, and flushing the toilet. As it turns out, I realized during our most recent outage (a two-day affair) that I miss indoor plumbing the most for showering (probably because I don’t do the laundry around here, as I do highly prefer clean clothing too!), and the least for the toilet.
We have an outhouse (a poorly-ventilated shack on the far side of our yard), and I’m perfectly comfortable throwing on some boots, a thick coat, and a hat and hiking over there. That which seemed incredibly odd to me when I first came to Kyrgyzstan (“What am I supposed to do with that hole in the ground?”) now seems perfectly normal, and in some ways even preferable. Now I can say, oddly enough, that wifi is more important than an indoor toilet!