by Jesse Thyne, Mamou, Guinea Conakry, Guinea
Water has never been so important to me as it is in my village life. I am a math teacher, and you would think that math teaching has nothing to do with water. In fact, I need to think a lot about water for my job. I have no running water, so when I wake early in the morning to go to school, I need to have water already drawn from the well the previous day. If I don't already have water drawn, I won't have time to prepare myself for school. I need water for morning tea, to wash my face, to brush my teeth, to shave, and to rinse up after I use the bathroom. Every day, I need to plan ahead about where and how I will use water.
When I get to school, I still rely on water. In fact, I can't even start my class without water. The blackboards at my school are just black paint on the walls. For erasers, we use sponges dipped in—you guessed it—water. When I get out of school, it's lunch time and I don't have time to cook, so I eat at a local rice bar. In town, all the rice bar owners know by now that I won't accept water drawn from just any old source and served in just any cup.
When I get home, the first thing I do is check my water supply. I need water to wash dishes, cook dinner, take my bucket bath, keep my filtered drinking water supply full, and of course, have water left over for the next day. In the United States, water is at our fingertips at all times. I never used to worry each night if there would be enough water when I woke up. I never had to make sure that I got home before sundown so I could draw water for cooking and a bucket bath. Often the water I draw is dirty, so I have to plan even further ahead so that when I need water, the dirt will have sunk to the bottom of the bucket.
by Jennifer Akers, Boké, Guinea
This morning was different from most. Usually I take my shower at night, but I didn't do so last night, so I needed to bathe this morning. However, when I went to the shower, I found that there was no running water. Crossing my fingers, I went directly to the kitchen to see if I had any stored in my large water jugs. I didn't have any, so I had to get redressed, grab an empty jug, and walk the small distance to the water tower that serves my house. I spent about 5 to 10 minutes scooping water into a pitcher and pouring it into my jug before I carried it back to my house, stopping every few minutes to take a break. I then transferred the water into a bucket, got a cup, and proceeded to take a cold bucket bath. Knowing I would need more water soon for washing dishes and clothes as well as for drinking, I headed back to the tower a few more times. This afternoon, I boiled a large pot of water so I would have something to drink for the next few days. Luckily, tonight it is raining, so I have set a few buckets outside my house to catch rainwater.
My use of water here is drastically different from in the United States. Since my first day alone at my site, fetching water has been a major concern for me. It is hard to get used to the fact that potable water isn't readily available, as it is in the United States. I have to think ahead (i.e., fetch the water, boil the water, cool the water, filter the water) just to be assured that tomorrow I will have safe water to drink. I hadn't imagined an existence such as this before, and it is still a major cause of stress for me. It is surely a learning experience to face such a struggle each day for water—one of the essentials of life.
by Shad Engkilterra, Banko, Guinea
When I get up, I go to my pit latrine (which needs no water). Returning to my hut I boil water—between one-half and one liter—which I use for coffee, tea, or cocoa, and sometimes oatmeal. I let the rest of the water cool down and save it in a water bottle for later. Next I usually wash dishes from the night before.
At the health center, water is used to wash the rooms, the instruments, and the syringes. The syringes are then sterilized (theoretically). Water is also used in the preparation of ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution). This is used to combat dehydration (one of the main killers of children) caused by diarrhea.
I usually drink about one or two glasses of water with my lunch. This water comes from a pump with no treatment and has been safe to drink thus far.
When I get back home, I shower using between five and ten liters of water. (The Peace Corps recommends twenty liters, but that would be impossible unless I showered every other day or every third day).