It’s the little things

Canada is extremely comfortable. Most families live in a nice home and drive 2 cars. We’re rated 6th in the world for our Human Development Index, a measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, standard of living, and quality of life offered by the United Nations. As Canadians, we can anticipate nearly every part of our day. We are creatures of habit and routine.

It’s not until you venture into a less fortunate part of the world that you realize it’s really the little things that keep us so comfortable.

Here in La Paz, many people have no hot water tanks in their homes. In an effort to enjoy hot, or more accurately, warm, showers, they attach small electric heating units to all of their faucets. One of my friends never bothered to ground the unit on their kitchen tap, so every time you wash your hands, you’re constantly being electrocuted. I simply thought the water was acidic, but I stand corrected after the following conversation.

“Can I ask you a question? Why do my hands burn whenever I wash them under your tap? Is that water really acidic or something?”

“No, no. The heating unit doesn’t have a ground wire. So there’s electricity running through the water.”

“Oh, I see. So it just hurts every time you use the tap then?”

“I find it helps if you wear rubber-soled shoes.”

It doesn’t matter how tired you are, you will definitely be wide awake after washing the dishes at her place.

Another potentially uncomfortable experience revolves around public restrooms, in that many of them don’t have soap when you walk in. Or toilet paper. Or a toilet seat. I think those may all be features of the bathroom, though, because they still charge you to use them.

I’m used to planning ahead and booking things like bus tickets and doctor’s appointments. Such is not the case here. If you want to take a bus across the country, you simply show up the morning you wish to travel and hope a bus is leaving in your intended direction that day. If it is, that’s half the battle—you’ve got the day nailed down. The bus won’t leave until it’s full, however, so the time is another story altogether. I find it’s best to start journeys 2—3 days ahead of time.

None of these things really matter. But I’ve become so accustomed to being comfortable over the past 26 years of my life that I need to consciously be patient and accepting of these minor inconveniences.

I guess I’ve learned a very simple lesson. Being comfortable isn’t everything.