Water and Culture
by Nathan McFall, Soumdina Haut, Togo
It is traditional to offer water in a gourd when a visitor enters someone's home. There is also the traditional washing of the hands before eating. In West Africa the right hand is considered clean and is used for eating, giving, receiving, and any other activity requiring cleanliness. The left hand is considered unclean and is used to wipe unclean parts of the body. Before eating, therefore, one must dip one's right hand into a small bowl of water, thereby washing it. Normally, if two people are eating, they both wash in the same bowl with the same water. If there are four people, all four use this bowl. It is often more of a sharing of germs than a true washing. Soap is sometimes, but rarely, used at this occasion. After all have dipped their hands in the bowl, it's bon appetit!