**This blog post was written in September, shortly after I came to Guyana. Clearly I was a little feisty while writing it, and some of this has changed since moving to our new house (we now have a rain drum on our roof that comes through our faucets, so water doesn’t turn off in the nighttime and is usually “clean”). Water is still one of the things that I recognize myself as having taken most for granted back home, so the frustration I wrote in this post is still accurate. Read on, people.
A five-gallon jug of drinkable water here costs $240GD, or $1.20US. The store is down the street and around the corner, so the walk home with the full forty-pound jug is less than five minutes (*new house: the walk is about ten minutes). But it’s a heavy jug (forty pounds, to be exact, and usually slippery)!
The water that comes from the tap of the kitchen sink as well as from the shower is usually brown, and you can imagine how good it feels to know you’re using pre-dirtied water to rid yourself of dirt. I have to fill my water bottle before brushing my teeth, because (even if the faucet in our bathroom sink worked) you can’t use tap water even for small tasks.
There is not drinking water available at the hospital, unless I buy a bottle of it at the canteen. There aren’t water fountains anywhere. Drinkable water costs money that many people here just don’t have.
So now I think back to my pre-Guyana life. I shower in water that I can drink, but I don’t because its hot (ya know, because even when its 90 degrees outside the air conditioning makes it cold enough inside that I need hot water to bathe in…). I wash my car with drinkable water. I fill cups with water that I don’t drink and then pour down the drain. I use drinkable water to clean mud off my shoes. And none of it requires holding a forty-pound drum of water to my stomach as I waddle down the street, hoping it doesn’t slip before I reach the gate.
I know it’s a luxury and privilege that the first world is granted, and I’m not saying I want to relinquish that luxury. But I can’t ignore the absurdity of a 20-minute shower in potable water when I see people drinking disgusting, infested water from the canals here because there is no way they could pay for a cup of drinkable water. And seriously, if you STILL keep the water on while brushing teeth…did you miss the Barney episode on that? It is WASTING GOOD DRINKING WATER THAT OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD DO NOT HAVE ACCESS TO LIKE AMERICA DOES. Our bodies depend on water and people just don’t have it; there is no fairness in that.
I don’t expect anyone to start carrying big buckets of water around or to start searching for muddy water to use to shower in instead of clean water. But I do expect people to use water consciously. I can’t believe it took me this long to realize how absurd the water use in the first world is, but now I know and I can’t imagine regressing into ignorance again.