|Our Lifeline for the past few weeks|
I hadn't realised how much I'd taken water for granted till spending this Christmas without it - and surviving. It's been well over 20 years ago, when we were living in Burigi in Northwest Tanzania in the heart of the bush between Lake Victoria and Rwanda, with the two oldest and the third on the way, and we had no running water at all. We lived on rainwater (in the rainy season of course) collected in drums and a specially built tank, and river water did for the dry season and our clothes washing. Nappies were always a darker shade of grey and everything was tinged with a sludge-coloured hue. We only realised this when we were back in Ireland and saw how technicolour everyone else was compared to our au naturel shade of safari gear.
|The boys on driftwood at Bahari Beach Dar-es-Salaam - looking out to Zanzibar-1994|
I have some terrific pics of the boys at bathtime outside our house, as all ablutions took place in a makeshift shower hut, with bucket showers. They are sitting in a yellow plastic tub in the sunshine, and as happy as sandboys. I don't think they were overly traumatised by the lack of mod cons, as they knew no different, having been born and reared in the bush. But we often longed for a decent shower and a highlight of our time there was trips to the Dutch doctors in Rubya Hospital in Muleba where we could chill out and shower at length safe in the knowledge they had plenty of water and a hydroelectric plant in the making from the abundant waterfalls in that elevated region.
We had friends in Bukoba town and visiting there meant a surfeit of water, and an illicit swim in Lake Victoria which was out of bounds as far as the tropical docs in Ireland were concerned. This was due to the risks of contracting Bilharzia or Schistosomiasis, which was transmitted via the snails that lived in the water and were vectors of the disease. We occasionally took a chance, hoping that our years in the bush had given us an acquired immunity from all kinds of parasites, as the missionaries and other expats took a laid-back approach to it all.
I guess everything is relative and compared to the refugees we were living amongst and working with, our lives were very comfortable and we had that option they never had - a sanctuary back in Europe if the going got tough and security inadequate. So perspective certainly kept us going as a coping strategy - no matter how rough we thought things were, they were never as rough as the lives and experiences of the Rwandan Tutsi refugees - who are now back in their own country after a lifetime of exile in Uganda and then Tanzania. But that's a story for another day.
We were always used to boiling water abroad, as the only place we ever drank tap water was in Zanzibar, where the aquifers are deep enough to be clean. In Bangladesh water is potentially lethal as the tubewell water is naturally tainted with arsenic, This was not known in our day there 30 years ago, but has since come to light. It's particularly ironic in a country that has such a love-hate relationship with water that this should happen - after all, the Cholera hospital in Dhaka invented the Oral Rehydration solution that we're so familiar with in the West now.
We are looking down the barrel of water metering in Ireland with inevitable charges - hubby is amazed that we have free water here when every other European country seems to be charging for it - but our attitude seems to be why should we have to pay when we have an over-abundance of rain in this damp climate. I guess it's all down to the cost of treatment, which is a luxury we do take for granted, especially when the boil notices appear and ghastly things like Cryptosporidium turn up in Galway and are traced back to the water source. I hope that our mega-leaking ancient pipes here will be given priority for repairs as there seems to be as many litres leaking away per hour as we owe the IMF in Euro in the coming few years.