Differences of Expectations

As a warning to anyone who has a fear of roaches, uh, I’d advise you not to read past the pretty picture of Africa I drew.

Africa duh

A few weeks back, when we arrived at our site in the field, after sitting in planes and cars for several hours, I went to use the latrine, which was very nicely constructed (venthole, mesh wiring around roof, windows, latrine slab, etc).

Pretty latrine... with handwashing station!

Inside, I found huge roaches the size of my fist in the latrine.  There were only five or six, and since they were mostly just chillin’ I let them be, and later someone obviously fumigated the place because it was empty that night when I used it again.  After that point, I saw a few smaller roaches here or there, but nothing out of the ordinary.

On our last night at the site however, I went to walk to the latrine.   As I neared the latrine, and lifted the lock from the door, I realized that there was a small roach crawling on me.  I kicked it off, opened the door, and realized it was SWARMING with roaches.  We’re talking dozens, if not hundreds of them racing around as fast as their many legs would carry them.

Um, that's a lot of roaches

I admit that I went American and girly for a moment, and quietly yelped and jumped back.  The site manager, who was on his cell phone nearby, said, “Cockroach?” and then told a nearby staffer to go and step on it for me.

I was like… um… that… won’t work. And I’m not that big of a wimp.  One I can step on. Several I can step on. Dozens and dozens I cannot step on.

Still on his cell, he came over and realized what I was talking about and had the staffer bomb the latrine, then sweep it out (never breaking stride in his cellphone conversation).  Long story short, I opted to utilize the facilities elsewhere.

When I told this story to a friend, she and I laughed about the differences in expectations, and how our bodies and minds adapt.  Working in a refugee setting, she had a similar story about grasshoppers carpeting the latrine floor.  And while it’s a little gross, your expectations are different, and in so, your reactions adapt.

What I’d expect in the US is different than what I’d expect in Juba. And what I expect in Juba is quite different than what I’d expect in the field.  My reactions to each is directly proportionate to my expectations.

In the US, one roach is unacceptable. In the field, five roaches were acceptable.  Dozens and dozens were not.

Although if I’d stayed there longer, I’m sure I would have adapted to that as well.

This incident led to some interesting conversations with colleagues and friends about expectations of various things – food, health care, housing, electricity.  Expectations naturally change depending on where we are, and how it ties back to design and implementation of international development projects is another interesting discussion that’s too long and serious to go into here.

Although interestingly enough, rodents are unacceptable to me everywhere.  I’m more prepared for them out in the bush somewhere, but they’re still unacceptable.

But that’s because rodents are evil.

Seriously rodents are evil


2 responses to “Differences of Expectations

  1. I sometimes see an evil rat, but most times i see a grey croc with a clown nose. And obviously a croc, not a gator, because of the snout. And crocs, not gators, live in the nile. Naturally.

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