Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Power in Knowing How Things Work

I've been thinking about my vacuum cleaner. That doesn't mean I've been thinking about taking it out of the pantry and using it to cleaning up the cat fur. God no, not that. I've just been thinking about it. I've been thinking how easy it is to understand this vacuum cleaner. It is basically a bucket with a reusable filter that sits on top. The other part is the vacuum that pulls the dirt in. When I want to empty it, I unhook the bucket. Everything I vacuumed up is in there. There is no magical disappearance. I empty the bucket, wash the filter off ,and put it all back together. It's easy to understand and that's comforting for me.

This is not like the vacuum cleaners of my youth. They were scary, mysterious machines. They were metal and noisy and very sucky ( as in having a lot of sucking power). They had bags you put in and once something got sucked into that machine and eventually into that bag- it was gone forever. Forever. And it could seriously suck things. I would panic when it accidentally sucked up the drapes envisioning the whole house slowly being sucked into the metal stomach of the thing never to be seen again. You couldn't just open it and find what you were looking for like my current vacuum cleaner. Sucked things were gone. Those vacuums were not easy to understand.

One thing I liked a lot when I moved to Botswana was the way everything was closer to me and, because of that, much easier to understand. If you wanted meat, a goat or cow was killed, you cut off a piece of meat and cooked it. Easy, understandable. In America meat was a scary complex thing- how it got to the shop was mysterious. Special people had to go to school to cut the meat. You couldn't just kill a goat in your backyard and cut it up. It would go all wrong. You needed a specialist.

The same for building houses. In America you need to be a BUILDER. ( yes with capital letters). You couldn't just be a person who decided to build a house. In America, building a house was not easily understood. There was a lot of wood and various layers and certain stuff had to be stuck between the two layers and that sticking stuff was dangerous just by itself. Another whole group of specially trained people had to show up just for the roof. It was all kept very mysterious, the secrets held by the chosen few.

When I arrived in Botswana I was shocked to see people not only building their own houses but even making the bricks themselves. It was all very simple suddenly. You mixed sand and cement and some water and you got to it. I felt relieved somehow being let in on all of these things I grew up to know were very complicated and unable for the layman to understand. I think now, if push came to shove, I could actually build my own house. It would not be pretty, but it would fulfill the definition of "house". That's a pretty powerful thought.

Even things like gas became understandable. Gas wasn't some dangerous chemical moving through pipes underground originating from places unknown. Gas came in a bottle that you went and bought and threw in the car and then attached it by a hose to your stove.

There are many reasons why I decided Botswana might be a good place to make a home and the simplification of these complex things was not a small part of that decision. I like knowing how things work so that I can make a plan if I get in a bind. If you're left out of the information and everything is for experts, you lose power, you're dependent on the people who understand. It's nice knowing how things work. At the very least, if you suck up a kitten you can always find it again in the bucket.


Swatibatra85 said...

Hey hi Miss, I am swati Batra from India working in Delhi for the magazine called The Times of Africa.I am journalist here write about African countries. Today I am writing about Botswana and I want to know good things about the place and what is happening there. Looking for a early reply

swatibatra said...

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Miss Footloose said...

I understand how your feel about things being simple and understandable! With the new technology arriving ever faster, I'm struggling to keep up. And so much of it is completely mysterious to me. Still, much of it is necessary these days, like my computer etc.

I've been on a simplify-simplify-simplify tour at home to try and make things less involved and complicated at least in my home environment. Not so easy! Even just choosing cleaning equipment and products from the supermarket shelves ... So what's wrong with a broom for wooden floors and scouring powder (VIM) for the toilets? . . . ;)

Lauri said...

For cleaning I buy Handy Andy and Vim-that's it. That whole aisle in the shop gives me a headache. You'd need to be a millionaire to buy what they tell you you should.

Elspeth Futcher said...

My goodness, I remember those old vacuum machines! My current one is bagless, but it has the suction of a small elephant (which is good when my black cat and orange cat decide to shed). I do remember vacuuming with the old model and hearing that sickening 'clink' and knowing something valuable just got sucked up never to be seen again.

Cleaning products? The fewer, the better. Oh, and a full-time maid or housekeeper would be even better!


bonita said...

Lauri: Back here we now have 'microfiber' cleaning cloths. They clean without using soap or detergents. (I know, I know...but they cleaned all the dog smutz off the door frames and walls and didn't leave spots or clean swirls) I have only the very very vaguest of ideas how they work, but heck they're so simple I don't feel the urge to understand! The cleaning aisle may be overstimulating...but it's the cereal aisle I can't stand. How many sugared things can we make?

Lauri said...

Bonita I need that cloth- does it have a name brand? I must look for it next week in Gaborone.

The worst aisle of all is the one for 'feminine products'- my god! There are so many variations but never exactly what you want. I'm always getting a surprise when I open the package.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Bonita makes a good point -- I LOVE those microfiber cloths. And my Magic Eraser sponge by Mr. Clean. These sponges are miracles! You don't need chemicals when you have a Mr. Clean sponge.

(My dad used to sell Kirby vacuum cleaners in his appliance store, big, heavy, indestructible monsters), and one time a lady brought hers in, demanding her money back. He took the vacuum apart, she had vacuumed her garage, the machine was clogged with rocks and dirt and all manor of outdoor debris. Needless to say, he didn't give her a refund. He asked her if she was trying to mow her lawn with the thing! She had managed to destroy a Kirby--no easy feat. I agree, the new vacs are a dream. Mine needs no belts. I love that.

Helen Ginger said...

Simplicity and do-it-yourself sounds nice. Especially when things around us seem to be getting more complicated by the minute.

Straight From Hel

Anonymous said...

I think this is actually quite a significant post. In many ways the over-complication of modern life has made us unable to fend for ourselves.

Why shouldn't we be able to build our own houses and so on? I remember my grandad in Ireland thatching the roof when I was a kid. He was horrified at the trend then to get a 'builder' in to do it. He'd be even more horrified now.

The simple life is best. I'm beginning to believe that more and more!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I think we are healthier when we live a less complicated life.

What I find amazing, is that we have never had an easier life then now because of gadgets (cell phones, fast cars, microwaves) and yet we are busier than ever before.

daoine said...

Please tell me you did not suck up a kitten!


I know a writer who built his own house out of mud. It's actually a very nice house - well insulated because it is built into the side of a hill.

I'm another keen microfibre user. It's so simple and saves so much time because there is no rincing because you didn't get soap or chemicals all over in the first place. Otherwise I just use good old fashioned vinegar and bicarb, and sometimes tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil for disenfecting.

And I never need to go down the ladies' products aisle. I use a Mooncup.

Lauri said...

Elsa I just checked out the site for mooncups. How wonderful! I'm going to blog about it next week so more people know and I'm trying to see how I can get two one for me and one for my daughter. What a wonderful thing- why on earth didn't they think of this long ago? Here is the website for people whoa re interested- This will make such a big difference here where most people have septic tanks. Tampons are terrible. I really would love this to get out.

karen said...

Yes, I get into a panic when I look at the supermarket aisles when travelling further south! We find Clean Green has many, many uses. Great stuff, and easy to find in Botswana!

PS - Chobe ousted Mlazie. Not sure who removed Nkate, actually!!

Lauri said...

I'll look for Clean Green Karen.

I spoke too soon yesterday, in retrospect Nkate might have been better. Pelonomi Venson Moitoi as the Minister of Education? The one who wants me in jail for writing this blog? Wonderful. Shame the poor children....

Maxine said...

I want that cleaner Lauri. Could you ship one to me? And maybe some of that simplification of everyday life as well :(