My precioussss


I remember at VSO training one day in Birmingham we had been discussing the probable lack of water we would face in our placements. One of my fellow trainees, Lisa, volunteered that she had watched a very useful clip on youtube on the topic of “How to wash yourself with one cup of water”. I nodded my head and tried to appear not ungrateful for receiving this advice but inside…I was smirking. Oh, Lisa! I smirked. To wash oneself with merely one cup of water! Tee hee! Who would ever desire the knowledge to perform such an operation?!

Oh. How I smirked.

Well, for the past month or so there has been no running water in my house for six consecutive days, every week.

And now I can’t find that youtube clip :/

When I say no water six days a week that is to say that for six days in a row, every week, I leave the tap on all day and all night, heedless of whether I’m actually in the house or not. But don’t worry. Because not one paltry, pathetic, wretched dribble escapes from the open tap for those six days. Once in the week, at an unspecified time, the water comes on for around two hours. Then off again. For six more days.

It’s at times like these, I hate living here.

You get up in the morning after a sweltering night’s “sleep” and want to have a shower before you go to work?

Boom! There’s no water.

You come home from work in the evening and want to make yourself something to eat? No water to boil spuds, rice or pasta.

You really (ahem) need to flush the toilet? You can’t.

Your work clothes are all spattered with mud ‘cause it’s been raining and there are no asphalt roads? Well you’ll just have to wait til it dries off and crusts over. Then you can rub it off and wear those same clothes again tomorrow.

But of course, nobody could live this way for long so you adapt.You hoard water, for later use.

Any time day or night you hear a gurgling in a distant pipe somewhere you spring into action forgetting that you are perhaps only half dressed and the neighbours might get more than an eyeful as you scurry and scuttle around the house to collect as much of this magic liquid as you possibly can before the supply is turned off again or runs out, who knows.

But you can never hoard enough.

Every time you flush that obnoxious toilet so much of this precious hoarded resource simply goes down the drain. Huge amounts of water wasted in an attempt to pacify this hideous beast; tens of litres of delicious water consumed by one toilet and its insatiable lust for liquid.

…and you begin to resent that toilet and its unreasonableness and its intolerable greed until you begin to realise that you truly hate that toilet more than any other object in the world and you rue the day it came into existence.

Yes. Fair to say that the lack of water makes me a little bit emotional, a little bit tetchy, at times panicky and occasionally angry, delirious somehow and perhaps unhinged? To be frank, it drives me crazy.

Below is what I look like with water.


And here is what I look like without water.


My precioussssss.

At times like these, all that I take for granted at home in Ireland is obscenely obvious. And I know that if I could just nip away “up home” for a night in with a cup of tea and a few treats, a dressing gown, a hot water bottle and whatever the telly had to offer, I’d be as right as reign in the morning, ready to take on Ethiopia fighting again.

But here there is no such chance to recuperate, there is no let up, it is relentless. It goes on day after day. And if you are having an off day when the water is actually on and you don’t take the opportunity to wash all your clothes, yourself, your food and clean your house well then the joke is on you my friend because one thing you can guarantee is that the water will never be on when it’s convenient.

But pity about me! In my compound I am the only one with running water inside the house. The others collect water in jerry cans from a standpipe in the courtyard and they don’t complain. They can probably even count themselves lucky as many rural women must walk for miles hunched over with the full weight of these jerrycans tied onto their backs with nothing but crudely cut swathes of material.

Ethiopia is the water table of Africa they say but whether it’s down to bad management, faulty infrastructure or the booming urban population- I never have enough water here.

This week the water came back on (Huzzah!) so I feel safe enough to relate this story to you. And tonight is one of the first rains of the season in Woldia.

When it rains heavily, the electricity usually goes off. So I am sitting here happily typing in the dark, listening to the muffled sound of fabulous rain falling. I don’t know whether there is much of a correlation between the rain outside and the water in the tap but I like to imagine there is.

It has a calming effect 🙂



4 responses »

  1. Great post Ais! The picture of your life springs off the page at me and makes me realise how lucky I am to have the facilities we have here in Bakau. The power is off (again), yes, that’s quite regular, but at least most of the time we have water in the pipes and I’m not sure how I would cope in your circumstances. Keep smiling!

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