Have just escaped to my room after The Most Trying Night Yet.
Tonight went something like this:
I arrived home at sundown to find Niallil (15) alone with Pel (3) and Are (1). Niallil was looking despondent and groaning because her older sister (Are’s mother) had left her alone with the kids and gone to Gabs for the weekend. I sympathized with her and silently cursed Indil for throwing all the domestic responsibilities on Niallil, yet again. I assured her that we would have a good weekend together with the kids. She mustered a smile and we began to prepare dinner.
The Peace Corps gives our host families a food basket every 2 weeks. Because we have 7 kids in the house and two absent parents (mum at the fields for the last two weeks, dad at the mine for the month) our food is usually gone within the first five days. Today is day number 13 (basket tomorrow, thank the Lord) and we are down to a box of pasta, a bag of rice, half a tomato and some flour. We reluctantly agree on the pasta and Niallil begins to heat water as I tackle the rubber bucket, overflowing with a week of dirty dishes (a feast for our Ever-Growing Cockroach Companions).
Niallil and I are thirty minutes into preparations, singing songs in the kitchen when the electricity goes out. Sigh.
The pasta continues boiling away but we cant find a candle and the babies have started to scream for food. We open the kitchen door to let in moonlight and I fumble into my room to find my cell phone light. After 20 minutes we finally resign ourselves to The Absence of Candles only to find the pasta has clumped into a mass of starch at the bottom of the pan. Niallil holds Are in one arm and the shines the cell phone light with the other while I use our Only Fork to chip apart the spaghetti mass.
With the pasta salvaged and continuing to cook, I finally succumb to baby-screams. In a frantic scramble I find a stale ¼ cup of cornflakes, dump them in a bowl, and put them on the floor between the babies. Niallil oversees the Cereal Scramble while I prepare pasta plates.
At last the pasta reaches an acceptable el-dente-ish-state and I begin to fill the bowls under close scrutiny of six hungry eyes. Our condiments selection includes crystallized salt, 1 tablespoon of ketchup, some soupy margarine (unavoidable without a fridge) and a scandalous jar of mayonnaise residue. Niallil flashes the cell light at me with a face that says “If-you-waste-those-precious-flavors-on-babies-there-will-be-hell-to-pay.” For a minute I’m scared of her.
I scrape out the mayonnaise, ketchup and salt and throw three bowls of pasta onto the floor where my little angels wait ravenously. In a moment of pure amusement I step back to watch the girls hover crazily around the cell phone light devouring their heaps of pasta. When my own stomach grumbles me to attention I grab my bowl and collapse onto a plastic chair beside the girls. I manage half a sigh before shooting into the air as a puddle of dirty dishwater seeps through my bluejeans, soaks my underwear and freezes my skin.
The girls laugh hysterically.
The electricity turns on.
We all cheer.
Thirty minutes later the babies have been fully nourished, my ass has started to dry, the dishes have been reasonably cleaned and I am sitting down to a quiet game of Scrabble with Niallil. For the second time in the past hour I release a premature sigh which, for some reason elicits a scream from Niallil. I snap up to follow her glance and see that Are has peed all over Ondam’s bed. An inevitable peril of this diaper-less-society.
Odnam is the oldest sister at 25. She works twelve hour days at a local clothing shop and comes home at 9:00 every night in a sour mood. It’s 8:15.
Niallil and I abandon Scrabble to dry Are and fetch my hairdryer. We spend thirty minutes hair-drying Odnam’s comforter. Pel screams hysterically when the hot air accidently hits her skin. She will only be consoled with focused affection.
In the final minutes of This Chaos I’ve got Pel on my hip, comforter in my left hand, hairdryer in my right and Niallil looking fretful at my side. When the pee has nearly dried Niallil drops her head onto my shoulder and lets out an exhausted laugh. I press her forehead with mine and congratulate us for incredible perseverance. She nods. We relax.
I feel more love for these little ladies in four weeks than I thought possible in a lifetime.
Niallil beats me in Scrabble.
Are falls asleep on the floor.
Pel cultivates an obsession with the hairdryer.
I take my soggy ass to bed and thank the Lord for a quiet bucket bath finale.