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Life in the Jungle Part 1








here are certain things in this modern age that we take for granted. For the majority of people, these would be things like friendship and family. Though I'm certainly guilty of both of those, there are some things that my eyes were opened to as recently as last November. I never realized certain things were luxury items. Only a little more than a hundred years ago people lived with far worse conditions than what I lived with just before Thanksgiving of last year. Though it seems so trivial in so many aspects, how did people survive without indoor plumbing? It certainly had to be uncomfortable, but it was a way of life back then and something they were used to, not something out of the ordinary as it would be today.


On October 6th f last year, I moved in to a place on the spur of the moment. I needed somewhere to go and a friend of mine was able to help me out. His family had a room I could take, and were more than willing to help me out in any way they could. There were a few minor things that most people would likely have a heart attack over, but for me I saw it as a challenge, and something I could claim as my own. Realistically I moved for my cat. I needed a place where I could keep him with me always, and they were ok with me having a pet. With my extremely limited funds and them not asking for a deposit, it was a match made in heaven.

It was an interesting place, and when I first moved in I saw it as an adventure. I have always had a hard time turning down an adventure. Sure, there was no bath tub, and the bathroom was separate from my room so I had to get dressed to go outside and down the alley to my bathroom, but it was MY bathroom and I loved it. My feet were in the shower if I was sitting on the toilet, and my only door on my bathroom was a dolphin printed shower curtain, but it was all mine and nobody else ever used it that I was aware of. I could put all my shampoo and conditioner and smelly, girly stuff in there without worry that someone else would move it, use it or take it.

My room was tiny and I didn’t have anything when I moved in after I was robbed just last July of my U-haul while I slept. I didn’t have a bed or much of anything else even then, but what I had when I moved in to my new place in South Central Los Angeles, otherwise known as The Jungle, was even less. The people of the main house, my landlords, treated me as they would a family member down on their luck. They loaned me a bed WITH bedding, a TV, cable box, microwave and even a fridge. I couldn’t believe my luck for the peanuts I would have to pay monthly. It was so very much for so little asked of me.

Simple rules like “no parties” only endeared the place to me even more. In my first few days there the weather was nice. I would often sit in the hammock by the pool and read, or shoot a few games on the pool table. Late at night when I had phone calls I would sit on the steps to the Jacuzzi back by the Persimmon and Lime trees just over by the diving board for the pool. I had a swim suit or two. I had plans to put the pool to good use, and just didn’t get around to it before the weather turned cool. The lady of the house loved plants, so the yard was wall-to-wall beautiful green. It was my own tropical oasis on the other side of my little iron fortress. My cat, Oliver would trill at me when he saw me coming. It was always a pleasant homecoming.

When it was nice weather out, showers were an absolute pleasure. I would take the thick, oversized zebra stripe bathrobe I purchased for $2.99 at Goodwill to the outdoor bathroom with me. There I would close my dolphin-printed plastic door, strip down while avoiding the prospect of facing the shower curtain that divided me from the outside world due to the blank spaces in it, and step into the shower. The water would take a moment to warm up, but when it did it stayed fairly warm for a while unless someone was washing dishes or clothes in the main house. There were times when the shift from too hot went to ice within seconds, and I’m sure the neighbors heard me squealing a time or two. By the time I got out my robe was half wet and the floor even behind the toilet was drenched, but I had a little pink towel they let me borrow to dry my hair with. I would hang it by the doorway when I was done and wander back with my arms loaded down, wearing that zebra striped robe and fuzzy slippers. I would walk down the alley by the side of the house, ducking if someone was in the kitchen or one of the two bedroom windows I would pass on the way back to my room.

When the weather was warm, I would often sleep with my door open and the screen closed, since I didn’t have any windows for ventilation. As the weather changed though, that changed too. I couldn’t stand the cold. The only blankets I had were the ones loaned to me, with the ivy printed sheets and matching comforter, rather old and thin. There was no heater and no air conditioner in my room, so when the weather changed I often got the worst of it. Still, I didn’t complain. It was Ollie and me all the way. If I wanted things to change, I would have to do that myself.

In the mornings I was met with a new challenge. I was too broke to buy food, so all the food I had was dry-storage items like Ramen noodles from the dollar store. They fed me for quite a while. Certain people got rather sick of hearing how I ate Ramen all the time and started to chide me for it. I made so many promises to eat better, but until recently I wasn’t able to. I continued with my dry storage items, eating only what I could afford and never straying outside of my budget of $40 a month on food, barely more than a dollar a day. Ramen fit that budget perfectly, since at the dollar store they’re usually 4 for $1.00 or there about. Breakfast tended to be one Dollar Store granola bar in the morning. Brushing my teeth was yet another adventure.

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention how the sink in my bathroom was positioned. There’s a very good reason for that actually. I didn’t have one. That sounds odd, but until you are in the situation of not having a sink, you’ll never understand fully what this was like for me. Washing my face had to be in the shower, so I didn’t do it three times a day anymore. Washing my hands was the same way. I would have to hide behind the shower curtain and reach around it if I wanted to wash my hands without getting drenched. Often I was soaked head to toe afterwards anyway. But how does one fill their mouth to rinse after brushing without a sink? Once done rinsing the mouth, where does the spit go? Down the shower drain? I've had a few interesting stories about toothbrushes, but nothing like I was about to encounter.

I bought a case of water at the Dollar Store. The water where I live is so bad it’s a necessity anyway. I would grab a bottle of water in the mornings and take it with me to the bathroom. There I would grab my tooth brush from it’s place laying on top of my bath towel and hold it out over the toilet. I would pour some water from my bottle onto the tooth brush, letting the excess fall into the commode. Then I would apply the tooth paste and brush the way any normal person would – except I would be on my knees in front of the toilet. One day a friend came over and was chatting with me when I said I had to go brush my teeth. Thinking nothing of it because it had become almost routine to me and rather comical in my mind, I saw nothing wrong with my morning ritual. When I finished brushing and spit into the toilet, rinsed with my bottled water and spit again, it seemed almost natural in a very unnatural way. It wasn’t until I looked up and saw the tears standing in my friends eyes that I realized just how far I had fallen from regular society. Here I was on my knees in front of a toilet in the back yard of a total strangers house brushing my teeth, feeling like this was ok, or even half way normal. What had become of me?

As so many of you know, life hasn’t always been easy for me. I’ve had my fair share of struggles, and I keep on fighting. I was too embarrassed to share this story with anyone for quite a while, but I write in order to share my stories. It's time I share this one. I had hoped to move again before my 30th birthday on December 11th. I wanted an indoor bathroom with a sink. At this point a tub wasn’t even a priority, though in the past it always had been. It would have been nice, but just so long as I had a sink I’d be happy. I just had to somehow save up for a deposit on a place before then. With winter coming quickly, finding a warm place to sleep and a indoor shower was a major priority.

It wasn't forever, but it was my life only 6 months ago. It wasn't the end, but it was far from the beginning. Even now, I continue to grow and learn, being humbled more and more each time I think I’m untouchable.

If you think this can’t happen to you, think again. It can happen to any of us. Good or bad, high or low, young or old, we all hit hard times in our lives. There are some people out there in far worse shape than I was. I at least had a roof over my head and my lovely Oliver. I still had people who loved and cared for me. In that respect, even then I had it all.

Things did get better, but it all started with me.


TO BE CONTINUED....
(Click here for Part 2)

2 comments:

  1. Adaptability is a strengh. Looking forward to the next post.

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  2. This brought back some memories cuz I definitely have similar stories...maybe I should start a blog too! Haha
    If there is anything I've learned through my rough times is to never take anything for granted...life can change in a moments notice when your least prepared but it's how you handle those challenges that makes you stronger not only for you, but also for the people need strength in their life through you! :)

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