18 January 2009

Water Owns my Life

Today we were left to our own devices, and it was a busy day to say the least.  After we learned to fetch water yesterday from the well, we began to filter the water overnight.  When I awoke, I began to boil our first batch of water.  In order to have clean water we must do the following: 

  1. Walk to the back of the priest's house with jugs to transport water.
  2. Pull rope with 10L plastic jug attached up 50ft deep well.
  3. When the jug is at the top, pour water into your jug using a funnel to assure that nothing is spilled.
  4. Lower jug on rope with some water remaining so that it will sink more quickly and fill up (this step requires a little bit of maneuvering with the rope to help the jug fill up in a more quick manner.)
  5. Repeat Until jugs are full.
  6. Carry home.

From there you are left with two options. You can either pour the water in the filter for the drinking water, or in one of the mini trash can buckets for shower/hand wash/clothes wash/dish wash water.  If you choose choice one, you must await for the water to go through the super slow filter, pour it into a pot, and boil for 10 min.  Once the water is cool, bottle it and store it in the fridge or shelf.  If you choose the second option the true fun begins.  In order to wash your clothes you must (after gathering water of course) find three containers.  The first must be larger, to hold your clothes as they soak and you shake them around in soapy water.  The second, is mid-sized and is where you wash out all the dirt and soap from the first.  Last is a small one for a second clean wash to make sure that you really got the soap out and that your clothes are actually clean.  After the clothes soak for about an hour in the first bucket the process begins.  In total washing, what would be considered a small load, took about three hours.  The left over dirt water we saved as our flushing water for the toilets. 

I should mention, in passing, that we do not have a standard toilet in the house.  We have two bathrooms with non-working sinks and showers along with a hole in the ground that we are told is a toilet.  We made one bathroom the shower room and the other the toilet room.  Fortunately, Sister Judi fashioned a makeshift wooden toilet to place over the hole in the ground.  So far, it is a sturdy contraption.  It is in need of a solid coat of paint to add an extra seal, but it has served us well for the past few days.  When you are done, you flush by pouring water down the hole.  A few pours and one for good measure and you are set.

Back to the water!  The remaining non-filtered water is saved for our shower and washing hands and dishes.  Our shower is a solar shower.  It is a black bag that you fill with water that has a hose and a spout that disperses the water in a shower-like form.  We had trouble keeping the shower hot.  The water would be scalding by mid-day, but back to room temperature at night.  However, today we finally had success.  In fact, I am writing to you after having just taken my first warm shower in Malava.  I cannot really say that it was hot, but it was certainly very warm and refreshing.  Again, thanks to Judi's innovativeness, we had a hand made contraption to keep our bag warm.  Judi made a hot water insulator out of two cardboard boxes, tin foil, and newspaper.  It kept the water hot when we stored it earlier today and proves that Judi should probably have a show instead of Bob Villa (or at least be on HGN or one of those networks).

In between washing clothes and gathering water, we peeled potatoes.  The entire process of treating water, peeling potatoes, and washing clothes kept us busy for roughly six hours.  I only tell you how long it took because for at least three hours we had an audience.  A group of neighborhood boys taking in a relaxing Sunday found their entertainment at our front gate.  The stood and watched us as we washed our clothes and peeled potatoes.  They would chat a bit to each other, but did not say much.  On occasion they would laugh about something we would say or do, but Michael and I just continued on doing our thing.  We thought they had left when they turned up at the gate on the opposite side of our courtyard.  After a few minutes, they returned to their position leaning against the front gate trying to see what we were doing.  It is awkward to have an audience watching intently as you peel a bunch of potatoes, but I just had to deal with it.  They were not bothering us at all, so we just let it be. 

We finished up, cleaned up, and made our way out to the SND house which is a 30 min walk away for our last dinner prepared for us (tomorrow we are on our own!).  Along the way we were met with the standard, "How are you?" that every child seems to know.  One group even shouted across a field of at least 100 yards to ask, "how are you?"  At this point it is funny when all the kids give us this attention.  They want to try out their English, and those who are bold enough will come over to shake our hands.  Kenya is extremely formal, and you shake EVERYBODY'S hand (I will illustrate this better in a bit).  Everyone has been kind to us, especially when we are walking about in town.  To get an idea, just think about when you pass a person on the road in the middle of your town.  If you do not know them, they will almost always continue on to wherever they are heading.  Sometimes, you have that awkward moment where your eyes meet and out of courtesy you smile or maybe even give a whisper hi.  The next time you go out and pass a person, imagine that every one greets you.  Maybe does not shake your hand, but says hello.  Children stare at you as if some sort of mutant has grown on the side of your face, and most will call to you from any distance.  If they cannot get a clear view of you they will run, and I mean run, to catch up just for a glimpse of your face.  That is every time we leave the house.  It is both the best and worst thing to happen.  I hate to be the center of attention, but I do appreciate the generosity of the people of Malava.

That brings me to what I saved for last even though it happened at the start of the day.  Since I again live next to a church, we went to mass this morning.  It was in Swahili, so I did not understand much (although I got the gist of what was going on because a Catholic mass is still a Catholic mass in any country).  Despite this issue, the mass was rather enjoyable.  It began with the pitch perfect singing of the choir and school girls.  They moved from note to note with an effortless swoop like that of a hawk as it dives and returns from water with its meal.  The music was alive and stirred within me in a way where I could swear that I felt my very soul move.  This all takes place as a procession of what I can only call flower girls parade in dancing and singing along to the music in two lines of 7 or so girls each.  The Father and co. followed and took their place on the alter as the song continued and the girls lined the sides of the alter continuing to dance.  The mass part was biblical, but again the music came and the girls continued their dance.  Even some of the parishioners got in the act and danced in their pews.  Each song was like this (some without the dancing girls) for the remainder of the mass.  The songs were longer and always welcomed as a break from not understanding what was being said.  During the mass, one young boy had his two eyes fixed squarely on Michael and I.  He would not turn his head for any reason.  When the songs were taking place and everyone was clapping, he would clap along with his head still turned at us.  When it was time to offer a sign of peace we told him to come over so we could meet him, but that soon lead to a procession of handshakes.  Initially, we shook each others hands as well as the people around us, but then the a few of the elder Malavans came by to greet us.  This led to a full on assault by the school girls.  Eventually, it resorted to them walking in a line down the pew in front of us to shake all of our hands.  After learning what it was like to be a politician, mass resumed.  To finish the mass, Father Johosaphat (sp?) called the four of us forward to introduce ourselves to the parish.  We introduced ourselves with the help of a translator to everyone.

Tomorrow is the first day of work.  I have to be there at 8:30 and I have no idea what they will have me do.  Good day (night for me) to all.

Thanks for the emails of support and to those who read.  I am still adjusting to conveying my life to the internet, but I will get better at this.  I promise.