The Day Everything was Broken

By Robin

December 30, 2010


Category: By Amy


I have commented before how we find many people State-side want to help us fix things that are uncomfortable. We tell stories about our life in Rwanda and it seems, to them, that just a little bit of money could make it easier. We could buy more teaching supplies, eat out more often, put rugs on the hard floor, replace our foam mattresses, purchase a generator etc. While it is true that more money would allow us to do those things, it wouldn’t really “fix” our life. It would simply open our eyes to more things that are uncomfortable or different or broken. The cycle would never end. Instead, we’ve learned to accept the broken-ness as a fact of life and see past it.

Well, sometimes…

Last Wednesday my family got to experience the enormity of what our life is like when *everything* is broken.

The week before my family arrived our houseworker, Theo, had an accident on his way home from work and needed to take the week off to recuperate. To put it into American terms that is like losing your vacuum cleaner, dishwasher and washing machine all at once (since our mechanical washing machine as also broken). He was able to return to work for a few days during their visit, but still had an open wound on his hand that kept him from doing laundry or dishes. Our dirty clothes started to pile up as we used friends’ washing machines for diapers and necessities.

The men working on improving the road above our house are apparently unaware what a water line looks like. Also a power line. Both items were cut on Tuesday. We have reserve water, but still asked everybody to be conservative with showers and flushing toilets just to be on the safe side. The power didn’t seem like such a big deal at first because we expected that everything would be resolved quickly. We sent everybody to bed with candles and hoped for the best.

So Wednesday rolled around.

Without power…or water…or Theo…

We took everybody out to Bourbon Coffee for brunch when the power wasn’t back by mid-morning and we couldn’t think of another restaurant that would be open. We had to use both of our cars for their visit because we couldn’t exactly fit six adults in the Mercedes with a carseat. The Samurai didn’t want to start because the morning was cool, so Dad and Jeffrey stayed behind to tinker with it and came to Bourbon after us.

That afternoon we attended our a holiday party. I arranged with a friend to combine our taco fixings with her planned taco meal and just eat dinner at her house. As I drove the Samurai home to pick up the stuff for dinner I felt both the clutch and gas pedals hit the floor. Smoke began wafting out of the vents. We still aren’t exactly sure what happened (the mechanic is *finally* coming today), but Jeffrey and I discovered 1. that the battery had jumped onto the engine and 2. the smoking, charred end of the accelerator cable stuck in the gas pedal. We pushed the Samurai into a friend’s compound and caught a ride home.

So at that point on Wednesday our life looked like this:
-No “washing machine” and lots of dirty clothes
-No “dishwasher”
-No water
-No electricity
-No cell phones because they couldn’t be charged
-One car for 7 people

It was pretty overwhelming.

My family was great, though, and put up with everything. They traveled in two trips to a strange house to eat dinner with almost-strangers and didn’t even ask when we thought the power would come back.

It came back while we were gone and, somehow, every other problem seemed much less significant in the light.

And I decided that sometimes it’s ok to wish that things wouldn’t be so difficult all at once.


6 Responses to “The Day Everything was Broken”

  1. That’s one (crazy) long day!
    I hope Theo is recovering well.
    Perhaps the thing that stands out the most from this entry is: ‘We pushed the Samurai into a friend’s compound and caught a ride home’. COMPOUND?! Here you could leave your car on the side of almost any road, maybe in front of a friend’s house, MAYBE even in their driveway (but why? Then they couldn’t get into their garage). Security must have a whole new meaning in a third-world country. The broken bottles on top of your wall make me grateful to live in America. You and your husband are special people to make a life in Rwanda.

    • Ah, yes, the world of compounds is so different from the world of front yards and driveways. Sometimes the world of compounds seems oppressive and secretive, but sometimes the world of front yards seems almost…well…exhibitionist. You get used to both I guess 🙂

  2. It’s amazing how liberating light is. We are nearing week four of no power and while the growing laundry pile is encroaching on my peace of mind, our blessed solar lights make everything feel more manageable. So sorry about your “broken” day. Love you guys!

    • You guys have solar too? It seems like all of the missionaries down here have it (I guess you probably know that/encouraged them in that direction) and I am more jealous of their solar panels than I am of anybody’s generator.
      I kind of like being dependent on light…it’s like a constant object lesson.

  3. Wow! Sounds like a rough day. Does road work mean that they are repairing the Sonatubes rode or the Nibuye road? I am glad you got electricity back. Have water and Theo come back yet?

    • Actually Ems, Niboye is paved and now they are working on paving the road by Brian’s house! Lots of big equipment and parts of the road being closed. We have had water back and Theo is mostly back. His hand is healing and we’re looking into getting his chipped tooth (it happened in the accident) capped.

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