The Day My Third World Self Put My First World Self In Its Place

3 years ago

I was washing a few dishes and enjoying the cold water gushing out from our faucet when from out of the blue, I was reminded of those years in the Philippines when we had a water crisis and some form of water rationing was done in most urban areas. I don't know why I had the thought, but I was suddenly reminded of those days when I would turn on the faucet and nothing would come out of it.  

So then I thought to myself, "Oh, I'm using too much water; better turn the faucet down and save some water!

Well, lo and behold.  With the thought still in my head and the internal conversation barely finished, I suddenly noticed the water pressure get weaker and weaker, until the 'flow' turned into 'drips'.  

And then... nothing.  No more water.  WTF?!!

I thought I was imagining it.  Or worse, I thought my psychic powers had grown into X-Files proportions and that my thought was truly manifesting right before my eyes!  Did my thought process cause this??!! 

Big Drip, Image Credit: Valerie Everett via Flickr

Well, rationality kicked in and I thought there had to be a perfectly logical explanation for what was going on.  

My first thought?  "Hmm, let me go on Facebook!"  No, I didn't seek a distraction for this water problem.  I just figured that whatever was going on, my neighbors must already be on to it.  You see, our subdivision has a Facebook page and for better or for worse, there are a lot of overactive, 'omniscient' people on there, if you know what I mean. True enough, there were already close to ten people who posted that they, too, didn't have water in their homes, with the bonus explanation that the water main was hit by a construction that was going on nearby.

What I found so interesting about this whole experience was that it highlighted how dichotomized my identity has truly become.  There was a part of me, that part that has become American — spoiled by the conveniences offered by a First World country — that really panicked and felt lost.  And then there's the genuinely Filipino side that has experienced this multiple times and has learned to cope with other Third World 'inconveniences' or 'inefficiencies'.  As Americans, we take for granted that when we turn our faucets on, water will come out at a decent pressure.  When I was living in the Philippines, we always had some form of back up, whether that meant having a huge overhead water tank in our own backyard that can deliver water through our pipes in case the water company shuts things down; or just having pails filled with water inside the bathrooms.  It's also common for  households have huge water storage barrels or drums and it's not necessarily for apocalyptic scenarios (as what a First World resident would think), but just to be prepared for something that happens much too often, either because of drought or the usual infrastructure issues and inadequacies a Third World resident knows all too well, unfortunately.

To be honest, I was glad that I didn't have to bust out my 'Third World savvy' side because about an hour later, things went back to normal.  Water was flowing once again, and other than the murkiness and sediment-laden initial flow, there really wasn't much to whine about.  Just when I was beginning to think of ways to cope with this 'mini-crisis', figuring out how or where to get water and save what we have in case it lasted long, my husband reminded me that the scenario I was imagining would never happen.  This is the U.S.A after all, and spoiled people can't be inconvenienced, unless service providers want non-stop whining and lawsuits galore.  

However, as odd as this might sound, I was proud and comforted by the fact that I am a child of the Third World and that I know I have a bit more resilience, and possibly, more creative problem-solving skills than a typical First World citizen when it comes to dealing with such 'crises'.  I know I can endure more, and that there are more serious things to be concerned about.  I hope I can instill this resilience, this 'Filipino-ness', in my son, who is obviously growing up with a First World sense of entitlement; getting so accustomed to a life filled with conveniences and trivial First World problems such as having weak or slow internet connection. Or feeling hot inside the house because the thermostat is set to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  Oh puhleeeez!... Give me a break!  You think that's hot??!!

I think it's time to give him a long overdue lecture on how Mommy survived much of her youth without any Internet or even a land line, and was also able to preserve her sanity through HOT days and nights during prolonged power outages.  I hope he realizes how fortunate he is and how much he should be truly grateful for.  This Third World-bred gal simply has no patience for First World whining.

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