Saturday, October 1, 2011

When the Well Runs Dry

The boys helped carry water from a
neighbor's house for me.
Growing up, I always enjoyed playing outside with the water hoses in the summer and often would set up sprinklers in the yard and watch them make their rotations back and forth. Yet I always asked myself what would happen if the well ran dry? Well now I know. However, it isn’t in the backyard I grew up in, it’s in my backyard here in Samoa!

There are two seasons which people know in Samoa: the rainy season and dry season. Right now we are at the tail end of the dry season, and the pressure is being felt by many. I can’t remember a drier stretch of weather in Samoa than what I’ve been living in for the past few weeks. Even during last year’s “dry season,” I thought it still felt like a bit of a washout at times, yet this year it’s living up to its name.

Samoans, and myself for that matter, depend on rain for daily living. Since most villages in Samoa receive their water through a network of PVC pipes that run from rivers and streams, down to a family’s back door, the level of those waters either makes or breaks it when it comes to a family’s water supply. Many households in Samoa do take advantage of the often abundant rains here by building eves on their houses to catch rain water and then having it flow to a water tank. But many of those have long ago dried up and now many are left waiting for the rainy season to kick into gear.

Yet we know that Mother Nature works in her own time, and that even though the rainy season is due to start in October, that doesn’t mean 12 midnight on the first of the month. Therefore, in the meantime, we are left having to be resourceful, patient and helpful. Samoans are so relaxed and laid back that no one is really stressing out about it. Rather, they seem to be use to it, many of them probably having experienced this many times before throughout their lives. Yet for someone who use to have an unlimited amount of water with the turn of a knob, it leaves me more conscious of the way I use to live, and how I am challenged to live now.

There are five main things I use water for at my house: to shower, to do laundry, to flush the toilet, to do dishes, and to drink. Since all of those things are essential, I’ve had to be proactive in order to keep things running smoothly. On Tuesday after school I had four students haul buckets to a neighbor’s house about five minutes away that still has water. They came back with the containers full to the brim. Again on Tuesday I had to have the kids make another water run, and this time with two trips because I needed to do laundry. They have enjoyed helping out and have been asking every day this week if I needed their help.

I feel like I’ve gone back in time to my first two months in my house, when I was without water then, prior to the school committee getting the pipes hooked up. Whatever my use for water, I’ve found ways to ration every last drop. I guess it feels a bit like camping, and for the most part its gone fine. Nonetheless, after finishing my bucket bath the other night, I failed to see the dirt and slimy crud that had settled on the bottom of the bucket during the day, so when I poured the last of the water out, I got covered in a fine layer of dirt.
Perhaps the most challenging circumstances have been faced by our school, which has been without water for much longer than I have. The school is fed off the same pipes as me, but intersects the line at a different point, thus not allowing for as much pressure to build in the pipe. I don’t need to describe to you the vivid details of 85 students using three bathrooms that don’t have running water, nor the health hazards associated with it, especially in a hot, tropical climate such as this. Kids are often thirsty throughout the day, asking to go get a drink, and then remembering that there isn’t a drink to be taken. It’s not like in America where kids can buy bottled water from a vending machine, or take it with them to school. Bottled water isn’t even sold in my village, and if it was, the families wouldn’t be able to afford it.

One of the teachers used to freeze bags of ice that had a punch flavor to them, and then sell them to the students for their interval (recess). But her water has run dry as well, so this once basic drink now seems like a luxury.

I think this type of a situation has really made me more aware of using water wisely, especially once I return home to the States. It has certainly caused me to do so here. But for now, myself and the rest of Samoa will wait until the pounding rains begin, hopefully sometime in the next few weeks!




The dried up river behind my house. Notice the network of pipes, which also are as dry as the river.



The same river behind my house during the heart of the rainy season. Notice any differances?

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