So I live in a Posh Corps house; electricity, TV with cable, running water, furnished bathroom (complete with urinal even though I live with all women…), microwave and washing machine. It’s a pretty sweet life, and really I make no apologies for it. I’d rather live here, than in a cave in the mountains like some of the other volunteers (NOTE: nobody actually lives in caves). But the funny thing is, while all of this does seem natural to me, some of the luxuries aren’t utilized by my family.
For example, the microwave. Virginia just doesn’t use it. The fifteen year old has a limited concept of how and why to use the microwave (that it’s better to heat up food than cook it through) but still hasn’t quite mastered it and calls me for help. Same thing with the washing machine, which was a recent addition. Virginia still washes her clothes by hand, even though I tell her we can use the machine. The fifteen year old uses it every now and then, but still mostly by hand. I, of course, use the thing to my full advantage. But why don’t they adapt?
Partly because the technology (washing machine and microwave) is just so new and unknown to them, that they don’t know how to take advantage and are slightly intimidated to use it. The other is that since they were getting by alright using the stove and washing by hand, that using the machines aren’t part of day to day life for them whereas it is for me. And especially regards to the washing machine, they’re also just used to washing a little bit here and a little bit there, whereas I’m used to stockpiling laundry until the last possible minute (hence why I’ve worn swim trunks on laundry day back in college).
And maybe I’m overanalyzing, and maybe I just have a little too much free time but I think this does say something. First, just having something doesn’t mean it will be used. The washing machine sits right next to the sink, and they still go for the sink. Second, cultural and social practices will always hold strong. When you grew up cooking with firewood, and then recently used gas, so a microwave is just unheard of (and unnecessary?). Third, maybe these devices weren’t necessary (for them, for me necessary for sure) and the resources could have been better used for something else (new TV, paint for the house). I’m pretty sure that Virginia or the fifteen year old never actually asked for the microwave or the washing machine, the other family members just bought it and brought it over. And while they could definitely help in day-to-day life here, without adaptation they just take up space. Hmmm…this seemingly sounds like behavior change model and ‘white elephant projects’….