Friday, September 14, 2007

Floors

Before living in the jungle, I had never put much thought into the making or care of dirt floors. I assumed they would be care free! Not so.

The first few years in the village, we only had dirt floors. This is because the cost of flying cement out to the village by plane was very expensive. And then, the fact that all the sand and gravel had to be dug out of the river bed during dry season when the river is at its most shallow, carried up to the village and hand mixed with water which you also hand carry, bucket by bucket, slows down the process greatly.

So, dirt floors it was! When making a dirt floor, the first step is to dig down and level the floor as much as possible. Then, using water and a heavy tamp, you begin to pound away!!! You must use enough water to dampen the floor, without actually making mud. This process goes on for several days in each room.

After the floor is deemed "finished", you may then begin to use the room. Dirt floors do need to be swept daily. Lint, thread, and other debris does accumulate just as on any floor. Each day the floor is swept with a handmade broom. Once all debris is removed, you sweep the floor yet again, this time adding water to the floor as you sweep.

This is to settle the dust which comes from walking on and sweeping of the floor. If you do not keep the floor dampened, it will turn to dust and everything in the room, including small children, will be dusty. The dirt is of a high clay content and leaves an orange stain on everything. I had orange feet for years!!

Dirt floors do not show dirt, but it is amazing how trash, such as paper and such, will show up! The other problem with dirt floors is when you have accidents, such as spills. How to clean it up? There are many vermin and insects and if you leave anything organic, you will be overcome!

I learned this when we first arrived and our children were all still small. We all came down with malaria and had several bouts of vomiting. How do you clean that up??? With a shovel!!! Then you bring in fresh dirt to fill in the holes.

I did learn that by occasionally adding kerosene to the water I used on the floors, I was able to keep many insects at bay.

We finally laid a cement floor in the main room after about a year and a half . It took us several days to carry up all the water we needed for the cement. We had been collecting the sand and gravel from the river for a few weeks and we were excited to finally lay the floor, by hand. What a job!

Once it was dry, we prepared a concoction for sealing the floor. I heated kerosene on the stove and melted candles into it. We then applied this while still hot to the floor. It worked great! I kept the floor polished by adding 1/4 cup kerosene to each mop bucket. Again, to fight the bugs as well as add shine.

We slowly added floors to the house and eventually added up our costs to be nearly $15,000 US!!! For rough, hand laid cement floors. The floors helped our children's health by cutting down on parasites and also the ever present "nigua".

A "nigua" is a small burrowing tick which lives in the jungle dirt. They especially like to burrow into the toes and even under the toe nails. They are barely visible to the naked eye, but once under the skin, the nigua lays an egg sack which grows and grows and grows... until the eggs hatch and all the new baby niguas begin to reproduce!!! Not fun. Neither is it fun to dig them out of the tender nail bed.

I once had to remove an entire nail of my toe to get to an egg sack under the nail. OUCH!!! And, of course, any opening in the skin is likely to become infected.So the floors, though expensive, were needed and greatly appreciated.We would eventually come to the point of feeling the small niguas before they even burrowed!!

A new problem occurred when we laid the first floor. The Sanema chew tobacco. They keep a large plug of it under their lower lip at all times. This produces a green ,slimy spittle. The Sanema generally spit alot! They spit out the nasty spittle. On my floors.On my walls. It was a constant source of irritation to me.

I finally had to come to accept it. I did keep a spray bottle of bleach and paper towels handy and taught them to clean it themselves. The bleach was also needed to clean up after the many diaperless babies that came to visit each and every day.

Needless to say, our only furniture was wood or plastic so that it could be cleaned and disinfected daily. I felt it was better to have things I did not mind them using, than to have nice things, but perhaps worry that it would be damaged. I did not want "things" to come between me and the people I was there to serve.

On the other hand, I did feel it was wise to teach them what behavior would be expected of them by the Venezuelans in town. After gaining their confidence, I was able to teach them that spitting would not be acceptable in town. Nor would babies without diapers! Nor looking inside through windows...nor using yards as an out house... nor walking in unannounced ... nor burping loudly at the table...and many other activities deemed perfectly acceptable in their own culture.

36 comments:

redneck preacher said...

Great post. I have never thought of the problems of dirt floors. As a kid we had a straight drop and I thought we were primitive but wow.

Your priorities: "I did not want 'things' to come between me and the people I was there to serve." is exactly right. Thank you for the lesson.

Now that you have a degree in dirtfloorology have you considered passing those blessings to newbees going on deputation?

HTOITA

Pam said...

OK - the "niguas" grossed me out back years ago when you first told me o fthem being in your dear children's feet, and they equally grossed me out just now reading about them!!

I do remember you all coming to the states for furlough once and all had orange feet!

Mishel said...

What a fascinating post! With our remodel going on we don't have regular flooring right now--but after reading this, I'm grateful for it anyway! : )

Deedra said...

Great post! I never thought about the problems you could have with dirt floors. Actually, mine are wood but lately, they could be classified as mostly dirt!:)

CONNIE'S THOUGHTS FROM THE HEART said...

Oh, Rita, my respect and admiration grows for you with almost each post that you make.

I remember once when I was in my 20s, I was out on outreach and I came across a house in the city of Houston that had dirt floors. It was such a schock to me. As poor as my family was growing up, we had real floors. I had not realized before that day that even it our little God had so blessed us.

Your life has certainly been one of sacrifice of many things that I daily take for granted.Thank you so much for making me see more clearly.

It has also made me see how to pray for missionaries in a better way. Thank you and I pray God brings blessing into the lives of you and your family that you can't even imagine. connie from Texas

Caraqueña said...

Hey Rita, saw some GREAT pics of you and Pam on Jewel's mi espacio...lol You might want to check it out!

Jackie said...

I was actually thinking of doing a very similar post to this...housework jungle style...but you beat me to it!

Mizz E said...

Great recollection. My gratitude for the loose bricks over dirt in half of my 60 year old garage just went way up.

momrn2 said...

I always wondered when I saw people in movies or heard of people sweeping dirt floors.

How amazing to have experienced and lived all of this! WOW!

Elízabeth said...

Rita, I am venezuelan and I didn't know what a nigua was!!!
We talk about somebody being a pain in the neck, and we call them a nigua... now I understand WHY!

Hey, I complain about my ceramic tile and granito floors, silly me! Vacuum, machine polishing and some "coleto" (venezuelan mop for your readers) and that's about it!

By the way, I use kerosene for my kitchen floors... is that a venezuelan thing? it eliminates the grease and keeps out the unwanted -but ever present in the tropic- roaches.

Very educational post, thanks!

Liz

Jungle Mom said...

liz, hmm. I don't even remember where I got the idea for kerosene. It works!Yes, the niguas are a pain!!!

Dawn said...

Thanks for this really informative post, and a look into your lives in Venezuela. Are you enjoying your US stay? What is next for you?

Jungle Mom said...

dawn, Yes, we are enjoying seeing so many people we have not seen for years. We are anxious to get to Paraguay where we can truly "settle".

FeathersMcGraw said...

"I once had to remove an entire nail of my toe to get to an egg sack under the nail. OUCH!!!"

Wow Rita, I would have died before performing that "surgery" to myself. You are one brave woman my dear.

I don't think I ever knew about those Niguas, thank God.

I would have come with OCD from the jungle trying to clean my feet 24/7. I even cannot think about it yuuuccckk!

Liz, I guess the kerosene must be a Veneuelan thingy, it might be because of the critters. Nobody knows the prehistoric size of the roaches we can see down there, ugggghh!

Cheers,

RitaE said...

Hi Rita, Another very interesting post. It's hard for most of us to even imagine learning to adapt to a culture so far removed from our own, and to be willing to make the necessary sacrifices to serve. You give us a closer look into the lives of missionaries all over the world. Thank you for that. May God abundantly bless you and all of those who serve.

One question...Did the kerosene leave a lingering smell? :)

Webutante said...

Thanks for reminding us some of the things there at the end that we take for granted in polite society.

I remember years ago being in China in the mid-80s and watching Chinese soldiers round a big table with a white table cloth eat unshelled shrimp....and then see them spitting and blowing the shucks out all over the table with wild abandon. I and my companions were mesmerized and speechless...

and you should have seen the table when they all got up and left.....

can you imagine a flu epidemic in the midst of all that....on second thought I think I've said quite enough....

Brenda said...

I think dirt floors look very neat when well cared for, but I am thankful that I have never had to live with one.

I have used kerosene for MANY things through the years. It really works well for keeping bugs at bay. In the jungles of Peru they use it for everything, even to treat childrens coughs.

I still keep a huge bottle of kerosene handy and we use it to treat termites in our furniture here in Paraguay.

~ Amy ~ said...

WOW! I can honestly say I am completely speechless and at the same time full of questions. Great post!!!

Elízabeth said...

AHA!! kerosene works for termites!!

Rita, what about beds and pillows?Did you guys sleep in the main level? or did you use hamocks during those days?

Oh dear... I cannot imagine having a baby in those conditions. Very brave people you are.. for sure!

Liz

Jungle Mom said...

Liz, we slept in hammocks for several years. Once we had floors in the bedrooms we slept in a water bed. The only way to get a double mattress out there that would fit in the plane. We made beds for the children but they all went back to hammocks eventually.
Maybe I'll post a bit about all this in a few days.

Rancher said...

OMG this is as horrible a pitch for an occupation, (missionary), since the Army's "We do more by 5 AM than most people do all day!" campaign. Your family’s dedication and faith are an inspiration; I couldn’t subject myself to that kind of horror unless drafted.

Off Topic-

JM and any other Christians out there, could you vote for a Presidential candidate that admits he doesn’t go to church? Fred Thompson has said this but is still very anti-abortion. If no one wants to get political here you are certainly welcome to leave your opinions on my blog.

Jungle Mom said...

Rancher,
Why don't I post your question for tomorrow and see what comes up?

Jane-Jane said...

Oh Rita... I heard and saw Michelle and Zack in this post! Michelle was one of our guest speakers at a ladies weekend three years next month.... she dressed in typical dress, hair, teeth, swatting at bugs, spitting, the tobacco... if I had not heard Michelle, I would think you were exaggerating just a bit... but no, the stories were VERY similar..just don't remember her having concrete flooring.

It was that weekend that we heard Lisa Terchurst of Proverbs 31 talk about ABRO... that weekend changed so many lives, all around the world!

Yekwana Man said...

let's not even talk about having a level floor or one that has a smooth uncracked finish OK?!

Harry said...

And my wife complains because our kitchen is too small. You've gathered (lived) some great stories.

OT
I relinked to your post that linked to my post.

Goat said...

Jungle Mom, you earned another fan, see my comments at Donald's site. I once dreamed of doing what you are when I was a child, absolutely fascinating. You will be added to my blogroll.

Jungle Mom said...

jane-jane, I wonder if you know where Zach and Michele are now?

Jungle Mom said...

harry, I think I'll link back to your link back...

Jungle Mom said...

goat,
Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by!!!

Krista said...

Thanks for this post. I am now about to Thank Jesus for giving me the things I have under my feet! This is a great lesson in remembering to be grateful for the things you have. I am in awe of people like yourself, who will give whatever it takes to spread God's word. Thank you.

Mountain Mama said...

I cannot begin to comprehend living with these conditions. The dirt floor, ticks under my toenails, and people spitting in my house....You are a saint.
I can only say how much I appreciate that there are people like you.
May God Bless you richly for your sacrifice.

Jungle Mom said...

rita e,
yes, it smells for a short time, but the houses are so open it does not linger.

FeathersMcGraw said...

Liz, talking about Niguas, there's a Venezuelan expression that I always heard at home: "comes mas que una nigua" (you are eating more than a nigua) or "they are eating everyting, or taking everything with them, parecen niguas". Have you ever heard these expressions before?

Of course, thanks to Rita, NOW is that I am coming to realize what a nigua is.

Sarah Joy said...

Oh bless your heart! I just got more thankful for my linolium! Did you have problems with fungus? I've often wondered what needed to be done to take care of a dirt floor.

Farmer John said...

I join the rest of the crowd... outstanding post!

Elízabeth said...

Feathers,

SI!!!

Liz