I’ve heard it said and seen it written. They say (and write) that when you go to Ethiopia or any other country to serve in the Peace Corps, you don’t really change that much, or at least you don’t change in the ways you might expect or want. You’re still going to be you. Someone who doesn’t like to cook is still not really going to like to cook even though one is forced to cook more often. Someone who hates bugs is still going to hate bugs. You might learn to deal with them, but you won’t like it. Exercise — well, boredom might just trick you into it, but it might not be a habit you bring back to the states.
This talk of change leads me to my latest bout with the rocky darkness.
I’m not a handy person. I don’t relish taking on home projects. I’m not crafty, at least not in the scrap-booking-decorating-knitting-creative sense. But, hey, I’m in Ethiopia. I can change. I’ve got nothing but time and am nothing if not ripe with potential.
Inspired by my site mate’s incredible ambition and talent in the home decorating arena, I purchased four inexpensive unfinished tables from a local carpenter, purchased materials for sanding, staining, and varnishing said tables, and bajajed back to my home in the ‘burbs with a mission. I was going to stain these puppies, make ‘em look great, you know, just like Peter’s.
Over the weekend, aided by the good doctor, Jean, and motivated by a fabulous playlist, I sanded the four tables – three large tables, each with two shelves below, and a small table for my porch – mixed the stain to the desired color, and set out to make them immaculate. It started out well enough. And perhaps from this fact I drew the confidence that led to my later blunder. After the tables had been set out in the sun for the stain to dry and Jean had long since departed, I decided to varnish.
The dialogue running through my brain as I began went something like this:
Me: “Maybe you should change out of these jeans. They’re your favorite pair. You don’t want to get varnish on them.”
Me: “Leah, it’s just a small can of varnish. It goes on easy. You’re amazing with the brush. You can do this.”
Me: “I know I am, but what if? I only have two pairs of jeans. Don’t want to ruin one of them.”
Me: “Yes, Leah, but you’d have to stop what you’re doing and go inside and change. You’re too lazy for that. Just be careful.”
Me: “You’re right. I am amazing. I’ll be careful. It’ll be fine.”
With the small table finished, I grew even more confident. Then it happened. I was kneeling to coat the middle shelf of the first large table when the mostly-full can slipped from my grasp and crashed onto my white tile porch. The varnish splashed onto my shirt and, of course, my jeans. I froze as Jean’s (almost) last words to me before she left popped into my head: “You probably don’t want to varnish these on your white tile porch.”
What to do first? Running into my house (after ditching my varnish-coated sandals), I took off my clothes and threw them in the tub. As I was about to turn on the water, I remembered that the water is dirty, muddy. So I ran back to the porch to get clean water from a bucket to pour on my clothes. I added soap. I’m not sure how familiar this blog audience is with varnish, but it’s a sticky mess. (I think that’s the technical term.) I tried to wipe it off of my body where it had soaked through the clothes. I hastily threw on some shorts and a tank top and raced to the porch to clean. It was a battle, an ugly battle, one that I think I won, but not without acquiring some wounds. I then tried to tackle my clothes. Now, I’m probably one of the few (the only?) PCVs who hasn’t washed clothes by hand. I don’t know how. But time was of the essence, so I transferred my soiled clothes to a big bucket, threw some more water in, and attempted to do what I’ve only seen others do. I sloshed my clothes around, rubbed them together frantically (the friction works, I think?), added more soap, and feebly, ineptly, tried to salvage my jeans from ruin.
Has this little fiasco discouraged me from attempting further home improvement projects? You bet. But I really wasn’t going to change anyway, right?