March 17th has always been one of my favorite holidays despite my complete lack of Irish heritage. Green beer, kegs and eggs, Irish car bombs, green mullets… After Peace Corps, I knew the Luck of the Irish was officially with me.
My Peace Corps experience was filled with many challenges, adventures, and surprises. Most days, I felt like I could muster through anything to last my two years. That was, until March 17, 2006.
You ask, “What could make someone who had been in country for almost two years want to quit?”
The answer: Waking up to your neighbor’s shit on your bathroom floor. Literally – shit.
I woke up to find my bathroom’s pipes had corroded to the point that when an upstairs neighbor flushed their toilet, their toilet’s contents emptied onto my bathroom floor. If this had happened in America, I doubt I would know what to do, let alone in a foreign country. There was a hole in the pipe – I didn’t think shutting off the water would solve the problem.
I tried calling my landlady several times. No answer. Then, I ran over to the school where my Ukrainian counterpart worked. He told me because it was Friday, I needed to wait until the following Tuesday until someone could come look at the problem. Clearly, he was not understanding that shit was free fallin’ on my bathroom floor. He told me to go home and have a rest. I sobbed.
I tried calling my landlady several more times to no avail. I was beside myself – I didn’t have anyone else I could call that could help me, and I felt alone and desperate. It was that moment when I realized it was St. Patty’s Day and all of my friends were out celebrating. Here I was, in a village half way across the world where I couldn’t communicate my problems and there was shit spewing on my bathroom floor. I had enough. I wanted to go home.
I had literally started dialing the Peace Corps number when there was a knock on my door. No, it wasn’t a Leprechaun – my landlady had showed up. She had seen my calls and came directly to the apartment. When I showed her the problem, she seemed unfazed because this has happened before. She then showed me her impressive cement supply in the closet for such an occasion. Using old sweaters, we cleaned up the floor, and she mixed cement to place on the pipe. In the process, one of the sweaters was cemented to the pipe.
I bleached the hell out of the bathroom floor and when I thought I had bleached enough, I bleached again. I (bucket) bathed twice to get the “ick” off of me.
And I sat and thought. I was really shaken – I have had many, many bad days – but never to the point when I wanted out. I was maybe two minutes away from telling Peace Corps to send me home, thus severing my service. Thinking back on that day, there was some Irish divine force with me that gave me the stregnth to carry on. Now, one of the worst days in my life has become one of my self-motivating techniques. When I think I am having a bad day, I just recall the time I lived alone abroad, couldn’t communicate my problems, and had to clean shit off my bathroom floor. Yup, nothing since has compared, it is it now one of my favorite Peace Corps stories in my arsenal of bizarre events.
What was your most memorable St. Patrick’s Day?