Water

The intermittent water or no water continued throughout my first week. Normally I keep a couple of buckets full of water ready for such emergencies and have water stored in a water filter and in the fridge. This time I was not prepared. My water filter came out in my luggage and needed cleaning and a certain amount of water to go through it before I could start using it properly. It was also very hot.

The whole experience really brought home to me in a new way just how valuable water is, how much we take it for granted and how many things we do with it ... wash ourselves, clean the house, drink, cook, wash fruit and vegetables, flush the toilet and the list goes on. On the Tuesday, I felt really grubby, my head was itchy and I was starting to feel stressed about it. I had enough to have a wash, which made me feel better, but then later that day I didn’t even have any for a drink. I was really grateful for the number of people who had agreed to have me round for meals during that first week and were willing to fill my water containers. I turned up for one meal with a 25 litre gerry can that I’d just bought on the market. An essential acquisition even if it needed a good clean ... it had had cooking oil in it.

During the week I found myself thinking about how I could reuse or recycle water. For example, by standing in a large washing up bowl I could collect the water I used to wash myself with and use it for something else. It also made me aware of just how much water we use. One day I decided to fill the toilet cistern. Using a jug so that I wouldn’t spill any, I carefully transferred it from my bucket and was horrified when I almost emptied the bucket. How am I going to replenish that?! Suddenly the pictures I’d seen on the TV of people in famine areas walking for miles to find water had new meaning. I was experiencing nothing compared to them or the millions that walk miles each day to collect their water. How do they cope? I have no idea.

On the Friday they managed to link the college compound up to another water system, that is a bit more reliable and fix a standing tap so that we can at least get some water when our usual source dries up. Now I watch in awe as I see women lift huge containers full of water on to their heads and walk off with them. I struggle to lift my 25 litre gerry can more than a few inches off the ground!