It has come to my attention that many people are deterred by working with groups of people on specific humanitarian projects because they think the mood is too somber. It makes sense, because when people come back and present what they’ve done in various areas of the world they are actually wanting to show the hard work they’ve done, and they are less likely to show the random video of their roommate at 2 AM getting assistance in the bathroom because their toilet broke in half.
Volunteering is funny.
It has to be. There is a “work hard, play hard” mentality when you’re doing it right. Those Peace Corps people? My first experience with them in my early 20s made me realize all the social misconceptions of people who had work in what could be described as humanitarian aid. Sadly, I think it has put off a lot of people from taking that first step and working for a cause they feel passionately about.
I’ve decided to show you the outtakes from our trip to Ethiopia. Any inspiration you glean from them is purely unintentional, but they do show the camaraderie that happens when a group of strangers get together for a common mission. When working on really serious projects you have to be able to have down time and not take yourself seriously. It is necessary for our well-being and to be able to get up the next morning and work hard towards the task we are there to complete.
The Story of Our Hotel Room
The president of ACP gave us two hotel options when we were making our arrangements for the trip. The first was a 5-star hotel and the second was a hotel that he described as “like camping.”
Naturally, I decided to go with the “camping” hotel option.
We dropped off the majority of our group at the 5-star hotel. My friend Jill tried to talk me into staying there and I told her I wouldn’t go, but let her know she was free to stay. My friends Jill and Paul weren’t going to let me stay in a hotel room by myself….so off we all went.
We arrived at our less fancy hotel. They were set up as bungalows and it seemed really lovely on the outside. I’ve stayed in some crazy rural places, so I didn’t think anything could phase me.
Then we went inside our bungalow…#9
It was set up with a double bed and a twin bed. Very roomy inside. Everything seemed alright…until…we went into the bathroom. I was surprised the shower had the potential for hot water (although it smelled like sewage when warm), and the electricity was working when we arrived. However, the ceiling had major black mold and to make matters worse- it was collapsing! Paul electrocuted himself within the first few minutes there from a stray live wire. I’m pretty sure we would have been safer camping.
Actually, it got to the point where the bathroom was such an issue I decided to pee outside rather in the toilet. Come to think of it, we tried to spend as little time as possible inside, so most of our time was spent on our porch…in the rain.
I think the nail in the coffin for this place was the last night we ended up staying there. I announced to my roommates I would be showering (the door didn’t close all the way, there were mirrors placed inside and outside the door and no shower curtain, so people needed to stay away from the bathroom when someone was taking a shower for privacy reasons).
I had just gotten into my stinky smelling shower with my non-waterproof shoes on (you couldn’t have paid me to shower in their barefoot) trying my best not to get water droplets in my eyes, nose, ears, and mouth as I attempt to wash my hair. I could feel little droplets get in my mouth and I start to panic and spit. As I’m in my spitting episode all of a sudden I see a whisk of dreadlocks pass the door. “PAUL! I’m showering!!!!” I yell as I hunch over to trying to cover myself. I hear Paul’s voice come from the over the side of the door sounding a little panicked. “Girl, don’t worry, I’m not looking, but there is a spider as big as my hand that is trying to get into the bathroom!” I could hear Jill screaming and laughing at the same time and in the chaos, we lost the monster spider (it really was the biggest one I’ve ever seen). No one slept very soundly that night, and Jill and Paul had seen enough.
I refused to leave. I didn’t want to be the wimp who couldn’t handle the place. So, the morning after the spider incident my roommates woke up early and checked us out of the “camping” hotel and into the “fancy” hotel before I had time to protest. As they snuck out, they left the door cracked because The door had two unsatisfactory options: you could either lock it from the outside, leaving the people inside trapped, or lock it from the inside,but they had no intentions of waking me up. Consequentially, the door had to be left open.
I woke up to scuffling. As I came out of sleep, I realized that Jill and Paul weren’t there, but a monkey was on my bed holding Jill’s weave. As I startled awake, I looked down and there are about seven other monkeys rummaging through the luggage. They grabbed what was in front of them and took off out of the room.
I was abandoned by my friends and robbed by monkeys.
I got up and had breakfast. When Jill and Paul came back I told them there was no way I was leaving. Jill said, “James, before you say that, just come look at our room.” I held out. “No!” I protested. “I will room with Sister Donna tonight, I’m staying here.” (Sister Donna was staying with us in the area to get supplies, but was in a different room). Sister Donna was very gracious and seemed excited to have another roommate. She said we could just move over to my room. When she saw the room, she decided we would move back into her room.
Yes, the woman living in a dung and mud hut with no electricity or plumbing found my room to be uninhabitable! “You mean your room doesn’t look like this?” “No, your room has a really horrible black mold problem! That is dangerous.”
Well, after that, I’d finally had it. The other guys staying at this hotel with us either had no idea the room was like this, or it was some sort of sick initiation to see if I could handle staying there.
I went over to check out Jill and Paul’s room. They said they could hear me from down the hall. “Are you kidding me!?” This place had a HAIRDRYER in the bathroom! And *GASP* a cotton ROBE for the guests?! I knew all the others (like Jay and Lori) staying at the other hotel looked overly fresh. They were staying at Ethiopia’s equivalent of the Ritz Carlton….and I just smelled bad.
Okay, now I knew I needed to move, but I still was worried I’d look like a total weakling if I didn’t suck it up and play out the rest of my stay at the other place.
I realized if I got everyone else from the other hotel to stay at the nice hotel no one could give me a hard time about switching…
I think insanity hit me at that point. I got in the room and immediately put on the robe (THE ROBE!!) and started unpacking…and apparently singing…the Lion King…If the circle of life gets busted out you know I’m happy.