Thursday, January 7, 2010
I tend to take access to water for granted, don’t all Americans? You turn on the faucet and BAM there it is. Right when you want it, the right temperature, the right amount, starting and stopping exactly when you command it. I have tried to become more aware of this privilege in the past year or so, even engaging in Mars Hill’s “Walk for Water;” a fund-raiser that also serves to increase West Michigan’s awareness about the complexity of access to water around the world. I have a friend who simulated not having immediate access to water for lent last year, committing herself to six weeks of walking back and forth to a local lake to retrieve all her water. At the end of the day though, if she really needed it, she could always turn on the faucet. Similarly, the Walk for Water serves an important purpose, but how many of the participants had already forgotten about that walk by the following Saturday? I am not saying that it is impossible to empathize with others because they are across an ocean, or that Christians should stop trying to do so, only that I have been blessed with a number of recent experiences which have finally brought the “Walk for Water” closer to home.
My flat has consistent access to water (normally), but it is often the pressure and temperature that vary greatly. This is most evident in the dreaded shower. When I first arrived, I was pleased to find that while I had to squat in the shower (a great thigh workout!) I could depend on a relatively warm and enjoyable shower. Not so in December. Maybe it was the last bit of the dry season finally making its way to our pipes, but the water just could not be bothered to be warm or even there. About 75% of the time I would literally have to pump myself up to get into the bath, reminding myself that yes, three days is too long to go without, and yes, someone will eventually notice that stench. The double whammy of NOT going home for Christmas and the sub-zero showers were almost too much for my mind to handle. At times I was pleasantly surprised by warm water, but inevitably, those were the days that the pressure got me. Two minutes into the shower, lathered up in shampoo and body wash, the water would just stop. Most times it turned back on almost immediately, but sometimes it would take over a minute. These were the days I ended up almost sprinting to the kitchen and splashing water over my body; those several minutes of standing naked and lathered in the shower seemed to go on for a lifetime.
My favourite experience with water thus far has got to be the first weekend of December; the water turned off early Friday morning and didn’t return until late Monday afternoon, with some intermittent problems persisting even after its return. For our flat, this meant our only “shower” of the weekend was taken in a pool on Saturday afternoon plus we got to lug ever litre of water up three flights of stairs in order to have something to drink or flush the toilet. We discontinued washing our dishes for the weekend, and given our small supply of actual cutlery, this meant we were very creative with how we ate various dishes. Can that wine glass be used for pasta? Sure! How about those tiny tea spoons for cutting red meat? Perfect! To top it all off, after the water returned, the dirty, thirsty residents of the Rectory Court Flats received a letter berating us for complaining about the lack of water (how dare we) and stating with surprise that no one had even called and thanked the agency for turning the water back on! What a scandal! Should we be calling this agency everyday to thank them for graciously providing the services we pay them for? Perhaps a lovely fruit basket because our water has not been randomly turned off every weekend in November? I know customer service is not a universally accepted norm, but we are certainly not in Kansas anymore.
Nothing has really changed in the past month, the shower still tries to freeze me out and the faucets test me daily. I guess that sometimes it has more to do with your attitude. A weekend without any water can make those cold showers bearable and gives you a bit more patience when the water explodes out of the faucet for the thirtieth time. I am just thankful that I have exploding cold water instead of having to walk to retrieve it every day. Sure I miss my consistent, reliable North American water, but I suppose it is all about your perspective.