Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Things I'll never again take for granted...

...potable water.

So, what can be worse, than developing the worst respiratory illness you've ever experienced? Developing the worst respiratory illness when the water is shut off.

Granted, I'm no longer living in a place whereby I must haul water, but believe me, I was on my way to haul some this morning!

When we were in training in Marapyane, the college there had a "water problem." The water problem arose from the fact that there often wasn't any. (Water.)

Now if there is no water available, of course bottled water must be brought in for drinking and showers forgone, but what about flushing the toilet?

We only stayed a week at the college in Marapyane, but believe you me, I was so glad to be out of there and in my village with my pit toilet!! I had begun to call my dorm toilet, "the typhoid toilet."

So, I'm very, very ill with very nasty expellations, (actually, according to Dictionary.com, "expellation" is not a word. However, I'm using it, because it is very fitting for my purposes here!!), not able to wash my hands and am trying not to drink too much.

Now everybody knows you're supposed to drink plenty of fluids while ill, but I was running low and didn't feel like walking the 1-hour round trip to the grocer for bottled. (It didn't occur to me, at the time, to walk to the village tap and have water to boil.)

I had noticed that the water seems to cycle off here on a regular basis (much like it did at Marapyane), but it had never been off for more than eight hours. Until yesterday. I think we were without water for a little over 24 hours and my bathroom and kitchen were not boding well.

So, this morning, the water still wasn't on and I rallied a bit (I'll lie down after breakfast, and if the water isn't back on by mid-morning, I'll go haul some.)

Well, God is good, because by 9:45 the water, indeed came back on. So, I flushed the toilet, washed my hands, and boiled water for an hour and a half!

I had planned to stock pile a water supply by reusing beverage containers, but I've only been here a couple of weeks (and bottled beverages are expensive! They are the one luxury everyone seems to spring for), and my bottle reserve hasn't grown quite large enough. But I'm working on it now, and making it a priority! I'll be wealthy in bottled beverages for awhile!

So, I'm thrilled, THRILLED to have water at my place, and am asking, if it is so inconvenient for me, how would I like to live here like every other South African villager has for generations!!

But I am feeling better today. I phoned the Dr. yesterday because I have a bad habit of thinking, "Surely tomorrow I will feel better." (An old beau once had to carry me to the hospital because I had similar thoughts through a nasty bout of strep throat.) So, the Dr. knew something was up with me, I feel better, and THE WATER IS BACK ON. :-)

An interesting aside... I've been asked if I have carried water on my head. Yes, I've carried water on my head. It's not hard at all and I thought, "Everyone should carry things like this--it's much easier," but I must confess I carried a very SMALL amount of water in a very big basin. I'm sure it's a different ball game for larger quantities/weights.

But it's nothing to see a South African woman carrying 25 pounds of maize meal on their heads. They're tanks, I'm telling you!

Other things I'll never take for granted again:

toilet paper... Toilet paper has become a commodity here. I feel guilty buying it (it really is a luxury here) but I have to have it. I'm surprised that I feel so "American" in this way, but I can't help it.

I've used toilet paper for the following reasons: as paper towels, napkins, dishtowels, potholders, and wash cloths. I'm not kidding! And lets not forget it's most important use!

Soap and water to wash hands with... I remember working for a former employer when the water heater went out. We had to wash our hands in cold water and it was PAINFUL to me. In Africa, I've long ago given up hope for warm water but I'm always, always, ALWAYS looking for soap and clean water in the toilet areas. There is rarely, rarely any to be found.

Good coffee... I'm a bit past this now, as I've found a tea that I like. However, in training, I was jonseing for good coffee so bad I couldn't believe it. In hindsight, I was probably in withdrawal. :-)

And you can buy beans, a grinder, and a french press in SA. I've thought of it, but don't want to develop a nasty coffee habit.

fresh vegetables... Here too, am a bit over it now that I have access to them. But you wouldn't believe how good a carrot butt and apple core can taste when you're finding fresh, raw food few and far in between!

grass... I miss grass. I miss it so much. The village where I'm living now must be better off than the village that I stayed in during training, because a few of the families here actually grow grass around their houses.

Back home, I loved to go "alley walking" because I could see how other people lived in their backyards. I'm happy to say, I can do that here too, as a favorite pastime will certainly be walking around peering at every one's yard! But yes, I miss grass.

I think that will do for now, because I'm feeling tired. But there are more things on my list that I'll resume with next time.

Thanks to all for continued encouragement and support--you're carrying me!


Ps. Peace Corps is in no way connected to anything mentioned in this post. All errors, misinterpretations, misinformation, are/is mine!


  1. Morning, Moleboeng! I woke up thinking of you today and I see you are writing upon waking as well. Will you have regular access to the library starting next week or so? It is awful to be sick away from home and it will probably happen again but this has to be a low point since it's the first time. We are all hoping you will get well soon and I hope you will receive some letters that are currently awol. How far do you have to walk for water in the village tap? That can't be fun when you are sick and probably weak. Do you have the charcoal filter? Would you like some sent? I am putting together another packet for you so let me know what might be sent that would help! I'm praying for you that your health returns soon.
    Love you

  2. Please feel better! We can't imagine you being by yourself, sick and no water. Want me to come and take care of you? Your system has been so stressed with the different surroundings, different germs, and different food. Now different or no water. Do you have access to orange juice?

    We are all fine. Doing our usual routine. Mom sounds like you must, but she is on the upswing. She had a terrible cough.

    I check your weather (well as close as I can get is Pretoria), and see it is getting warmer (hot) there. We turned off the a/c Saturday, and right now it is 38, so I am cold, and think we need to turn on the heat. I don't suppose you have heat in your building for the cooler season?

    You say "the village". Does that mean you have a village adjacent to the college?

    Again please take care of yourself, and know we all love and miss you.