i’ve been drinking water as my main daily beverage for a very long time. i am very conscious of how much water i drink every day. i’ve been known to carry a 32 oz water bottle with me everywhere, every day. it’s not a habit i started to prepare for this season in Africa. in college i did a lot of personal study on health and nutrition, and water was always main focus point for me. we’ve heard many times before that the human body is made up of 70% water and that we should be drinking at least eight 8-oz glasses of water per day to keep our bodies properly hydrated and functioning. i take that very seriously. in fact, it is a rare occasion that i drink anything other than coffee or water, and my preference is to have 12 oz of coffee and 128 oz of water daily.
nothing quenches my thirst like water. when i am hot, parched, have been working hard or just been running, i seriously enjoy a cold glass of water. i love the taste, which surprises many people who think water tastes like nothing.
but water does have taste. a lot of that taste depends on where you get your water. when i lived on the mountain, my water was pumped into my house from an underground, spring-fed well. mountain spring water tastes good. i used to work with a woman who would come to the mountain with empty gallon jugs and fill them with spring water. it was that good.
in the city, we filter our tap water. city water is treated in a plant somewhere that kills naturally occurring bacteria found in a lot of water sources. sometimes you can taste the chemicals used to treat city water. i like to swim in chlorinated pools, but don’t like to actively taste chlorine when i’m drinking a cold glass of water.
. . .
here in Niger, i’ve experienced a few different kinds of water. various villages and burroughs in the city. i’ve drank filtered well-water here at the mission compound, i’ve washed my hands in a sink of my friend’s across town. i’ve showered with the cool, sporadic trickle of the shower in dosso. i’ve drank tap water in restaurants and from a plastic bag of “pure water.” i’ve driven across the river and watched as people bathed or washed their crops at the river’s edge.
here, access to water is quite relative to status, wealth, and geography. we at the compound have the privilege of having had a well dug that operates much like that of the one i had on the mountain. the well is treated and pumps water into our buildings here, and it rarely fails. on the occasions that it does, we still have access to the city’s supply of water. we have enough water for cooking, bathing, watering the grass and plants, mixing cement, and washing dishes and clothes on a daily basis. i still fill up my 32-oz bottle 4-5 times a day from my filtered faucet. i have water whenever i need it.
across town, my friends rely on the city supply. which can sometimes be shut off without warning or reason. they keep large backup jugs of water just for those occasions. when the water works, it comes out of the faucet the color of weak English tea, but it surely doesn’t smell like it. most households with this kind of water also have filtration devices that are vital for those of us who are not acclimated to the bacterias found in the water here.
still, in other parts of the city that don’t have water lines run to them, you can find hand or foot pump wells that have been dug or built by NGO’s from around the world. households share these wells and because of the ease of use, even children can access them safely.
further out in the bush, things become quite different. entire villages might have 2-3 wells that serve 300-500 people. it’s at these wells where i have met some very strong women. they have the upper body and core strength of competitive athletes simply from spending their mornings hauling buckets of water 80 ft. from the bottom of the well. after they have collected all the water they need for their daily activities, the women help each other place their jugs, tubs, pots or buckets on top of their heads. they then proceed to walk upwards of 300 ft to their homes, babies strapped on their back and water atop their head.
. . .
at home, i take it for granted. here, my eyes see too much that my heart can’t un-see.
i’ve decided i want to tell you about water here. i want to show you what it looks like daily for these women. i want you to be able to share in a tiny bit of their experience. this is your introduction. over the next few days, i’ll be sharing pictures and stories of my time so far with the women at the well. i’ll share about what melanie has been discovering as she tests the water sources here for Ecoli and fecal coliform bacteria. i’ll be drawing comparisons of life here to Biblical stories taking place at the well. we’re just going to spend some time discovering what the LORD gave us when He gave us water and what it means in our lives.