Do you know what a twin tub washing machine is? Well, I didn’t, until we tried to buy a washing machine earlier in the year. The only (and very few) automatic washing machines we could find in Tonga were huge and very expensive. Everywhere we looked had twin tubs though. Granted, there isn’t much option here. We ended up finding a great budget option (fully automatic, not twin tub) in Nelspruit, which is about 100km away.
For those who don’t know what a twin tub washing machine is it’s basically an upgrade from hand washing. You put your washing and soap in the one side and then have to pour your water in. After you let it run for a while you have to move the washing into the second tub and then it spins it down. Although it seems to have a few advantages it is much more time consuming, you have to be there most of the time and they take up a lot of space. The ones we saw were actually also quite expensive.
Anyway, since then we’ve told a few people about this and keep saying how we just don’t get it. Then it dawned on me. After almost 4 months of thinking how strange it was, I realized many of the people around here don’t have running water. No running water means no automatic washing machine. Most of the pretty fancy houses around here also still have outside toilets, for the same reason. We take so much for granted. Here I am working with people all day long, some of whom themselves don’t have running water at home, yet I failed to think about other ways that it may impact on life.
What this has taught me though is that no matter how long we are living rural, we will never understand what it’s really like. Although we’re living rurally we still have water that comes out of a tap (most of the time). It can even come out of the tap hot if we want it to be (most of they time). We have internet, aircon, a car, computers, education, money to buy food and petrol to get us 100km away to where there is even a Woolworths food store.
Yes sure, you might say: “Well then don’t live with all that stuff. Live like the locals and see what it’s really like.” But we still would not understand. When you have grown up with much, in a big city and seen what there is to offer, you will never be able to understand what it is like to live in a rural place your whole life, maybe never even making the 100km trip to Nelspruit, the nearest city, eating pap and morogo (similar to spinach) for most meals, never having heard of sushi, Thai green curry or chicken chow mein.
Don’t get me wrong, some people here have super fancy cars and will have travelled far, seen the big cities and know what the world has to offer, but some don’t.
My next lesson from this is that maybe that’s ok. Maybe they are happy. Just because they haven’t seen more, doesn’t mean they aren’t content. I am no better than anyone else just because I know more about what is out there. I am just different.