Every morning a competition is held in the house where I stay in Libala. The battle is between Zambian Mother and Canadian Son and is all over a simple pot of water. Now you may ask: what is there to compete over in a pot of water? Well let me tell you my friend, there is plenty. This is not a material battle, but a battle of principle. Allow me to explain.
Rose or Mommy, my Zambian mother, insists that I take a bath every morning before going off to work. I don't argue, as I do like the "fresh and clean" feeling a morning bath offers when going to work or school. As I've mentioned before, in order to take a bath, water must be warmed on the stove, for the tap water is much to cold, and the mornings quite frigid for a straight shower. So to have a bath at around 0620, the water must begin heating by 0600 at the latest. This is where the competition begins.
For my first week here, I wasn't used to the routine, and Mommy would anticipate my waking up and put on the water accordingly. It was really appreciated. Very quickly I was able to judge what time I needed to wake up at to put water on myself. I felt bad that Mommy would get up early and put water on for me, when I am perfectly capable of putting the water on myself. So for a few days, I would get up about half an hour early and put my own water on. Well, it seems as if Mommy would have nothing of the sort, and was determined to get up before I, and put water on for me. So with no other option, I start to get up a little earlier than her. That is until she started to get up around 0430 to put water on. That is when I had to say something. See up until this point, a single word about this competition had not been uttered in the house. I began to tell her that I had noticed that she had gotten up very early, and that she didn't have to. This was the day a truce was reached, albeit a temporary truce.
We came to a compromise, which allowed her to still feel like she was doing something for me, while I wasn't left feeling guilty about her getting up so early (especially on the really cold mornings). The arrangement that was reached was that Mommy would fill the pot with water and place it on the stove, the night before. In the morning, all that I would have to do was switch it on at an appropriate time.
This arrangement worked, and the truce stood for almost a month, until last week, when the truce was broken. Mommy, has broken the agreement, and begun to wake up early and switch on the stove, after she has put the water in the pot, on the stove the night before. This morning I was scared half to death, when I opened my bedroom door, to look into the kitchen and see Mommy's silhouette in the dark standing at the stove. I had not heard her get up, usually I do. So I am almost back where I started, in an endless struggle to warm bathwater.