Friday, May 27, 2011

Life Without Water

This is the way the water works at my fale. Either I have water in my fale, or there is water out back at the public tap and bathroom. It’s mutually exclusive, so if the tap is dripping even slightly, I have no shower, no sink, and no toilet.

For those of you who may not have heard, I have no water. I have been in this situation for 11 weeks now. The first 4 weeks were fine because only my shower was out, but I still had a toilet and a sink that were working. Actually it was the first 3 weeks. Then I went and found the plumber to see if he could do anything to fix my shower, and he did. He gave the pipes a good shake and it worked like magic…for 6 days. Since then, the water has been off completely – well, mostly. This is what I’ve learned about how to live without water.

  • Everything gets super dirty, even more so than usual
  • The meals I “cook” for myself have deteriorated to things I can eat straight out of the packaging, or only require one utensil. This means that I eat either PBJ on bread or crackers, or tuna and cheese on bread or crackers. For breakfast, I eat a Weetbix (the healthiest cereal you can find – it is like a flaky granola bar and you add milk, but I prefer to take a bite then take a sip of milk so it’s not as soggy) with milk right out of the carton. I’m a little ashamed of my eating habits because I feel like such a hick sitting on my porch and drinking milk straight from the carton.
  • I flush my toilet once a day by bucket
  • Occasional bucket showers (a bucket shower works this way – you have a large bucket of water and a smaller bowl which you use to pour water on yourself. An average bucket shower takes maybe 1/3 to ½ of a bucket), but I prefer to walk a little more than half a mile over the valley and down the road to shower at one of the few fales that still has water (the number of fales with water keeps dwindling…not a good sign).
  • Laundry is not exactly a big deal, but it’s more of a chore than it’s ever been before. I walk about a mile to the waterfall just outside my village to do laundry (and to think, I thought 5 flights of stairs used to be a pain in the butt in my old apartment building!). It gets heavy to carry wet laundry back so far, so I’ve taken to carrying my laundry in bags instead of a laundry basket. I can’t justify doing laundry at one of the fales with water. So many people need to shower and fill buckets that it just seems an awful waste to take up such a precious resource by washing clothes.
  • I have yet to really carry water across the village by myself. Sometimes I borrow a bucket from my host family (they have a car and can drive to fill up their buckets and don’t have to carry them back). Once a couple of my students carried my bucket for me, and once I asked someone to help me. I tried putting my bucket on the end of a stick and carrying it that way, but I need more practice with that because it’s really hard to balance and people were laughing. If I’m lucky, it will rain just enough to fill up a bucket. If I’m really lucky, the water comes back on for a few hours and I can flush my toilet, then fill up my bucket.

This experience has taught me that I can adapt to anything. I don’t quite have a schedule down for getting water, but I’m getting there. The most frustrating aspect of it is the unpredictability of the water. I have asked around, and this is the first time my village has gone without water for so long. Maybe it will go out for a day or two, but the pipes in the past were more reliable. Supposedly, they (“they”) put in new pipes at the beginning of the year that are bigger, so there is not enough water pressure to get water to all the fales. Sometimes I am convinced that someone is controlling the water because when the water does come on for precious little time seems to be arbitrary. You would think it would follow a heavy rainstorm, but sometimes it comes on after three days of no rain. It’s cruel that way. I get used to living one way, then I get just enough luxury (the precious few moments of running water) to warrant a temper tantrum the next time the water doesn’t come on. I can get used to it, but those moments of luxury sure ruin a life of simplicity and long walks.

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