Thursday, January 3, 2013

Housekeeping in Haiti: The Kitchen

Learning to live in Haiti has taken some pretty major adjustments, as you can imagine.  Just living in Haiti seems to be a full time job in itself.  I know that before I moved here, I wondered how we would do the simple things we did in the States.  This will be the first in a series of blog posts where I want to document how we do the basic house stuff in Haiti and share with those who are curious how we do things around here.  As a disclaimer, we're living a pretty Americanized version of Haitian living.  The majority of Haitians living here do not live the way we do, a fact that I am equally blessed by and ashamed of.

Our kitchen is very similar to one you would find in any home across America.  A basic Haitian kitchen is usually set apart from the house with just a sink and a place to burn charcoal to cook over.

We have a propane stove.  At first, I was pretty terrified to use it, especially lighting the pilot light on the oven.  I had images of my hair and face set ablaze by a fireball of propane.  Actually, it isn't that bad.  An advantage of using propane is that I can cook meals for my family even when we don't have electricity.  A disadvantage is that the oven doesn't have an exact temperature setting to bake with, so a lot of my baking is trial and error, and usually never exactly the same results from time to time.

Our dish washing is all done by hand, first with basic detergent washing, then a rinse in water with a cap full of bleach.  All our sink water comes from the well, so to help prevent most (not all) stomach bugs, we kill germs on clean dishes.  It is sometimes hard to get dishes really clean because we don't have a hot water heater, so if we have a really greasy pot, I'll boil water to wash it with.

All of our drinking water, or water we cook with that isn't boiled, is from these jugs.  We go through about five in an average week.  We use this water to brush our teeth with as well.
See that light on?  That means we have city power... yay!

We bought a very basic refrigerator and microwave.  We leave the microwave unplugged unless it is in use to save on electricity.  I have become like the electricity patrol, I am always on the lookout for non essential things plugged in sucking our battery power!

Our inverter is also in our kitchen.  When city power, called "EDH", is on (which is usually about 16-18 hours a day, sometimes more, sometimes less), the inverter uses the electricity and charges these batteries.  When city power turns off, the inverter converts the battery power into electricity for our house.  They can last for about eight hours, after that we are without electricity completely.

The lightbulb hanging over our fridge is our "EDH indicator".  It is connected to a plug that is only hooked up to EDH power.  When it is on, we know we are on EDH, when it is off... I run around the house unplugging things!  My kids get very very excited when it comes on, because it means they can play video games.

Cooking takes more time here, because most everything I make, I make from scratch.  This is NOT because I'm trying to be Mom of the Year, but because things we want to eat are not available here, or are completely ridiculously expensive.  Case in point, below are some kitchen staples that most people have in their homes and are fairly inexpensive in the U.S.
The prices on these items are in gourdes (Haitian currency).  
1 liter of milk, approx. $2.00
Corn/Vegetable oil, approx. $8.00
Flour (although I have since switched to local flour which is MUCH cheaper than imported),  $12.00
1 Dozen Eggs,  approx. $3.80

I am slowly getting the hang of cooking here.  The first few weeks were pretty rough, we ate ramen noodles. A lot.  A lot a lot.  Yesterday I made my first loaf of homemade bread, and the kids are SO EXCITED to eat PB&Js today for lunch.  

Next week I'll write about the highs and lows of laundry in Haiti.  Spoiler alert:  there are a lot of lows.


Emily said...

Wow! Thanks for taking the time to do these posts, it really made me stop and appreciate the things I have.

I hope you are doing well...Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh Michaela!! I knew things would be different, and maybe a little hard, but I had no idea! The high security makes me extremely nervous for you all. I really appreciate you blogging about your life. love ya, renee

Rachel said...

Oh my! What a difference!

Really emphasizes how easy is is to take things for granted here in the US. (Though I've been known to the be electricity nazi sometimes too, ha!)

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