I've lost sleep over work before, and over wedding plans and, when I was small, over the suspicion that arrow-wielding Utes were waiting outside the bedroom window for the moment I let down my guard. Sometimes I can't quite explain why sleep keeps its distance, like last night, when I was still open-eyed and watching the patio grow lighter with the morning and the sun. I managed to wrangle down some sleep in the late morning, losing it again at the midday sound of a chisel against María's patio floor.
Our neighborhood wasn't named Los Manantiales (the springs) at random; water is slowly rising up and seeping into the rooms at the back of María's lovely house. It's been a mucky situation, both for her walls and her relations with neighbor, whose un-impermeabilized wall marks the damp boundary between the two homes. María's got plenty of digging to do before the problem can be eventually be solved, and she's lost a lot more sleep over the mess than the ringing of the chisel can account for.
As I was laying around in those last, lazy liminal minutes before throwing in the towel to the relentless bangs, that typical and sleepy stream-of-consciousness led me to thinking that "at least María doesn't have to deal with that." "That" being a problem which has generated a habit that most everyone in the country holds, the habit of throwing one's toilet paper in the trash. Weak water pressure and ancient neighborhoods still make it a must in many homes. Lucky for us, in our more recently (late 60's perhaps) developed neighborhood, we're free of that which can cause a family to lose more than just sleep, the septic tanks with filters that will clog up over time. Our bathrooms are connected to a public sewer system, a rare enough perk in this country.
In my first months here, I certainly didn't lose any sleep over the custom of flushing without paper included. In fact, I often didn't think about it at all, and I would forget--and I would wonder why it was so sinful in the first place. I admit to loving the luxury of sending everything down the tubes when I'm back in the United States to visit, but soon after returning from my last trip north, fellow expats in Mérida finally brought the big answer to light. Writing in depth about the concept of fosas sépticas, they became the first folks ever to capture my interest in plumbing. I wager they'll win you over, too. Take a look at the post, and be welcomed into some helpful demystification.
It's not a subject one hears spoken of much--like strange dreams we have during fitful, insomniac nights--which is precisely why I imagine it's such a popular topic, once someone opens it up and airs it out, so to speak. Just don't go losing any sleep over it. We've all got those Utes to worry about.