Dear Diary – The importance of water

Dear Diary,

Things that have become a simple everyday task here would be considered such a chore back home. Hand washing all our clothes every evening, scrubbing them until our hands our red raw, boiling the kettle about ten times to get enough water to fill the buckets,and also washing ourselves with a simple bucket and soap. Spending the evenings sitting on the porch for hours on end, watching the moon rise higher into the night sky. Walking 3km to school and 3km back everyday in the 40’c heat and under the scorching sun no loner seems a big deal.

Living without running water and at times, without electricity, is simply a way of life at this stage. In a land where water is precious and reigns all, its magnitude of importance is hard to comprehend. The town can ‘run out of internet’ and not bat an eyelid, everyone goes on as if nothing has happened, nothing of value has been lost. However, you take away water and life ceases to exist. The river has totally dried up, and all fish and plant life have disappeared.

One can see children as young as 4 or 5 carrying over sized canisters filled with water for miles on end, carrying the precious resource back to their village. Conservation of water is essential and their skill at maximizing utility couldn’t be better. We too are learning fast. Wash your body but not always your hair. Recycle that water by using to flush the toilet at the end of the day. Same goes when washing clothes – this powdery water can always be used again.

At home it is a simple commodity one takes for granted most of our lives. We throw it away, flush it, take hour long baths or showers, fill up swimming pools or hot tubs, use it to water our gardens. But have we, have YOU, ever thought about life without water? Would we survive? Probably not, considering 2 billion people all over the world are suffering from a variety of illnesses, many life threatening, due to lack of access to water on a daily basis.

 Here, water is sacred.

  • Terry Stawar
    December 29, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Great post. Makes you think and not take things for granted.

  • intrepidtraveller
    December 29, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Thanks for commenting. It really does make you stop and think about how life would be without some of the many things we in the Western world take for granted every day.

  • Richard Heider
    December 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Good post. Great photo.

    • intrepidtraveller
      December 30, 2011 at 3:58 am

      Thanks for commenting Richard, nice to know people enjoy the read! :)

  • folkhavenkaren
    December 29, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    About 8 years ago when I was teaching ESL I had a kindergarten student who was from a Bantu refugee camp. Her family, recently resettled in suburban Chicago, had such a shock at all of the differences between what they had always known and their new life. One difference was the use of water. In the refugee camp water was so scarce that it would never be used to wash clothing. When clothes were of no possible further use they were simply buried. Water was strictly for life-sustaining activities. This small child was so used to suffering and privation that she had a bad ear infection yet never complained… we only knew when he ear drum burst from the pressure and blood and pus were flowing from the ear. I will always remember her, and the lesson of how much I realized I take for granted that I learned from her.

    • intrepidtraveller
      December 29, 2011 at 10:11 pm

      Wow, I can imagine how difficult it would be for these repatriated refugees. We have been learning a lot about repatriation in my Masters course and how challenging it can be for refugees. I can remember feeling reverse culture shock when I returned to Ireland after my first trip of water, shocked as my Dad would pour an unused jug of water down the sick. It was all so over whelming.

  • Josh Sterrett
    December 29, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    This story really drew me in and was captivating. Are you back in Africa now with your masters program? It’s crazy how much we take for granted in our day to day lives and complain so much about when anything is ‘out of order’ or not working the way we think it should be working. I really liked you mention of how “when the internet goes out, no one bats an eye lid.”

    Strange as it may seem..I would like to be there experiencing what you are now. Even though I’m really enjoying life here.

    • intrepidtraveller
      December 29, 2011 at 10:12 pm

      Hey Josh….No this is an old series of Diary entries from my first trip to Kenya. I am typing them up word for word from my diary…one post for every diary entry! It really was an amazing experience and one I will never forge.

      • Josh Sterrett
        January 1, 2012 at 11:05 pm

        I sure wish I had kept a better diary these last couple of years! The one I did have I accidently left in a truck while hitch hiking! These stories are amazing

      • intrepidtraveller
        January 1, 2012 at 11:13 pm

        I know what you mean…I lost a years worth of Diaries,photos and letters from my amazing year in South Africa when I forgot one of my bags in a hostel the day I flew home! :( Still devastated about that.

  • Andreas Moser
    December 29, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Are you trying to test if we read carefully? The other readers obviously haven’t, or they would have noticed that “considering 2 billion people all over the world are dying due to lack of it every day.” can’t be right. We would be extinct by Monday then.

    • intrepidtraveller
      December 29, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      haha I guess it wasn’t worded in the best way. 2 Billion people are dying worldwide due to not having access to water on a daily basis.(every day) :)

    • Richard Heider
      December 30, 2011 at 5:05 am

      Even 2 billion per year seem to much. 1 billion
      (WHO/UNICEF 2008) have no access to clean drinking water – that would mean the problem would ‘solve’ itself in half a year by ‘elimination’, which is obviously not the case.

      It seems the relevant number is people dying from water- and
      sanitation-related diseases, because people do not usually die of thirst, but drink contaminated water first and then die of the consequential disease.

      The number then would be 3.5 million/year. Still 3,5 million too many.

      • intrepidtraveller
        December 30, 2011 at 5:18 am

        You’re right. I didn’t mean 2 billion die, but 2 billion people have been affected by lack of access or availability of clean drinking water, resulting in 2 billion cases of diarrhea and many other health problems/diseases each year, many of which lead to death. From WHO stats “Diarrhoeal disease kills 1.5 million children every year.” That is 1.5 million too many deaths in my opinion. :(

      • intrepidtraveller
        December 30, 2011 at 5:30 am

        P.s. I should have remembered my lectures who have been telling us time and time again, it’s ALL about WASH, which is ‘Water And Sanitation Hygiene’….from Afghanistan to Ethiopia and anywhere in between problems with WASH are some of the biggest heath risks in the developing world.

  • Andreas Moser
    December 29, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    The amount of water on our planet is actually always the same (unless we shoot some of it into space).

    • intrepidtraveller
      December 29, 2011 at 10:15 pm

      Really? I didn’t know that. Even so, it is not evenly distributed so many people in areas such as drought prone Africa have to survive on much less water than we do in the developed western world. The problem isn’t, at times anyway, availability of water but ACCESS to said water.

    • Richard Heider
      December 30, 2011 at 4:30 am

      Andreas, I do not agree because we talk ‘drinking water’ not H2O.
      (Even with H2O, you can split it up, but granted, taken the size of the oceans it does not matter.)

      If you flush you toilette you just transformed 10 liters of drinking water into non drinking water. You poison a lake a lot of liters are gone. I guess you get the point.

  • Sylver Blaque
    December 30, 2011 at 1:56 am

    I love that you post things like this for us to think about. Something so simple, so taken for granted by some can be supremely complicated, if not impossible, for those in another part of the world. I witnessed the same issue in Haiti just after the quake, but their issue was getting clean water for drinking. There was never enough. Not ever. No matter how much was provided by the relief orgs, there was never enough to go around. But that was because of the quake. In Africa, it’s every day of life for whole lifetimes. Really puts the haves, have-somes, and have-nots into perspective. Really great post.

    • intrepidtraveller
      December 30, 2011 at 2:30 am

      Wow I imagine Haiti must have been an amazing experience. we have learnt a lot about it in our classes, as many of our lecturers went out there to do initial assessments after the earthquake. 7 litres a day is supposed to be the absolute minimum per person but that is often impossoble to achieve. Water quality is also so important in preventing the spread of disease, while there may be water there is no guarantt that it is clean. :(

      • Sylver Blaque
        December 30, 2011 at 6:47 am

        It was quite bad in Haiti. I actually had to return home for awhile to be treated for full-body skin boils I developed from the bacterial-infested water I was bathing in while living in the tent camps. Sanitation was virtually non-extistant in the weeks after the quake. The relief org workers lived outside the camps; very few foreigners were willing to reside in tents within the camps. It was a dangerous & horrid situation, but one in which valuable life lessons were learned…lessons I will never forget. I emerged stronger, wiser and with a depth of understanding & compassion I would never have developed had I lived on the fringes instead of within. Sounds as if you experienced this same feeling in Africa…?

      • intrepidtraveller
        December 30, 2011 at 1:14 pm

        Wow sounds seriously tough. Our public health lecturer is always emphasising the importance of water and sanitation…while I never experience much illness due to bad sanitation in Kenya, I certainly witnessed the problem of not having enough water to drink. Ever. Im sure in the refugee camps, the problem is the same the world over. Once I graduate, hopefully I will get out there and see these WASH problems first hand and do whatever possible to help. :)

  • Capn Dyke
    December 30, 2011 at 6:17 am

    Do ye then wish ye could be granted th’wish t’make th’Plenty o’ th’World available t’all – regardless o’socioeconomic standin’? Aye, me too.

    • intrepidtraveller
      December 30, 2011 at 1:11 pm

      Hey Pirate! Yeah I know it’s wishful thinking but I think it’s good to even open our minds and at least think about these things, even if solving these problems is a monstrous task!

      • Capn Dyke
        December 31, 2011 at 3:52 am

        LMFLPQAO! I don’t believe I’ve ever had anyone address me so…openly as yerself, Me Fine Traveller. Well-held an’ all that follows!

        Methinks th’problem in gettin’ th’average human t’be thinkin’ about these things is that a great majority o’them have n’er experienced lack o’clean water or not enough food or proper medical care.

        Hard lessons be th’best learned. Now…how t’get their easily-distracted attention? Well, beyond firin’ a cannon o’er their easy chairs, that be.

  • wellsforzoe
    December 30, 2011 at 11:25 am

    What a blog.
    Clean safe drinking is our passion at Wells for Zoe, in Northern Malawi and just a start in Zambia. After 6 years spending half our time there we know what is is to be without water for days on end, even though we live in the city and have water on tap (a bit better recently). We make simple plastic pumps in our factory and enable villagers to install them. They dig the wells, up to 19 metres deep, by hand, build the bricks, make the cover. We come up with the cement and the pump, of course.
    I’m not great on numbers, but clean water to about 125,000 rural villagers and plans for that many more in the next three years. We are also in to conservation farming and preschools in remote areas.
    You are very welcome to come to Mzuzu anytime. We even have a place for you to stay, with water, and even 4 working showers.
    Be careful and have a ball

    • intrepidtraveller
      December 30, 2011 at 1:20 pm

      Wow your projects sounds amazing…what a great job you are doing, fair play! Clean water for about 125,000 villagers is a HUGE ACHIEVEMENT! I look forward to exploring your blog a but more and maybe even getting the chance to come visit Malawi some day. Janet

  • lrntn
    March 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Good reminder … I know someone in Los Angeles here who founded this wonderful organization that raises money for wells in countries like Burkina Faso. Hope you don’t mind me putting her link here, just in case anyone wants to find out more.

    • intrepidtraveller
      April 11, 2012 at 4:48 pm

      Sems like a great cause/organization. Thanks for sharing the link! x

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