The things we take for granted…

First, a warning. This column contains potty talk. If you’re particularly squeamish or easily offended, stop reading right now and wait for the next blog entry, which may or may not contain references to bodily functions.

It’s income tax week back home, the time when some folks like to gripe about all the services they’re paying for but don’t believe they’re personally benefitting from. Like the public school system when they don’t have kids at home, or the bike lanes when they don’t even ride a bike.

After three weeks in Guatemala, I have a slightly different view of the infrastructure our tax dollars pay for. Not that they’re always perfectly or efficiently spent, but we’ve built ourselves communities that provide relative security for our basic needs.

Like clean drinking water from the tap. Here, you have to assume the tap water is always under a boil alert. You can’t drink it, wash produce in it, or use it to brush your teeth. And if you have to fetch your water from the nearest creek, your daughters may be spending their time carrying water instead of continuing in school.

Or like electricity. Thankfully, this device has a battery so I can write my blog entry in the middle of the day, before the nightly 4 hours of electricity comes on in this remote corner of the country. And don’t even get me started on the availability of hot showers!

Now for the potty talk. This is my first trip to Central America, so I was new to the toilet paper routine. Back home, I’d always assumed that used TP went down the sewer along with all the stuff you went into the bathroom to take care of. Not here. Apparently, the sewer systems are so fragile they can’t handle TP, so everywhere you go to…go.., there’s a little waste basket next to the potty.

That is, if you’re fortunate enough to find TP. Luckily, Gerson, being a seasoned traveller, insisted we each carry our partial rolls in little baggies. Whew!

Clean water, consistent electricity, working sewer systems. These are all conveniences we take for granted every day at home, yet my sense is that many Guatemalans, and I’m sure folks in many other countries, can’t imagine having access to all three of these basics.

So we pay our taxes, sometimes for programs and services we don’t necessarily need or want. Still, let’s not forget that the infrastructure we’ve come to rely on, that allows us to be such a productive society, takes contributions from all of us.

And a full roll of TP doesn’t hurt either!

(Note: we tried to insert a photo here, but with the internet bandwidth we have, it looks like it would take maybe a half hour or more to upload it, which may exceed the remaining battery on this computer, and we won’t have power to recharge it until after 6 pm).