Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Archive for Water

Water

Water. From a tap. In my bathroom. At a speed more than a trickle. Because Memory got the plumber to clean my pipes.

Isn’t she wonderful. For the last year I have lived with rusty and irony water in my bathroom (which I personally believe it the real reason behind my current dirty blond/mouse brown hair) that trickled out of the tap. Sometimes just drop by drop. And for the last few months even that dried up and I’ve been filling my bathroom bucket with water from my kitchen every morning and evening. Filling saucepans of water and traipsing through to my bathroom to decant.

And all along, ALL YEAR, there was nothing wrong my water supply. It’s just that the pipes were dirty. Now they are clean and I can fill my bathroom bucket in mere minutes. Not hours.

This has revolutionised my life. Ok maybe not my life, but certainly my morning routine. It’s amazing what one gets used to because you think there isn’t any other option. And it actually hasn’t been a major inconvenience either. I was in fact perfectly happy with my water arrangement.

Or… it’s amazing what I’ve come to accept without questioning. And this I’m not sure is a good thing. That said, I could not have survived Bangladesh if I went kicking and screaming through every day, fighting against everything I thought was wrong. Or broken. Or impractical. Or silly. Or stupid. Or dangerous. Or a waste of time. Or a waste of money. Or a social injustice. Or cruel. No one can survive here if you try to fight against it all. But surely I could have at least made an effort to sort my water out. No? If for nothing else, then at least for my hair. I’m not sure my hair will ever forgive me Bangladesh.

Four jugs

Is now the amount of water I can cut my shower down to, if required. I counted during last night’s shower . We’re in the throws of  a ‘water crisis’ here in Moanoghar at the moment.

A ‘water crisis’ here can mean anything. A blocked pipe, a broken pump or just a plain and simple lack of water. We’re now well into the dry season (it hasn’t rained since about November and it won’t start raining again for a few months still) so water levels are low. I had a pretty unpleasant time of this last year too. It does however make me (again) realise how much water we need on a daily basis to have just a basic standard of living. Counting in shower water (my 4 jugs on non-hair washing days, hair washing days during times of water crisis do become pretty far and few between…), toilet water, cooking water, dish washing water, clothes washing water, general cleaning water (again, these cleaning days are few and far between at the moment…) us human beings need a LOT of water to having a fairly decent life.

And I moan like there’s no tomorrow and feel exceptionally sorry for myself during these days of water crises, because we had to walk about 200 meters to collect water this morning. My plan for this afternoon is to send students on a big water run for me. I hate not having enough water, it really does affect everything. Everything. And I have it lucky. In the big-world-out-there scheme of things, I have easy access to water, I just have to walk a bit. And I also have easy access to clean, safe drinking water too. Again, I just have to walk a little bit. I read somewhere that in many countries women and children, who bear the burden disproportionately, spend up to six hours a day collecting water for their families and communities.

So ja, I can’t reaaaally moan can I.

PS But yes, I will still moan.

Lost

I’m not lost. But I have developed a mild addition to it.

Last weekend I went to Chittagong for the day. First stop Pizza Hut. I don’t even really like Pizza Hut and haven’t been inside one in like forever (15 years maybe?). But its that little bit of ‘home’ so a must in any major city here.

Second stop, Aarong. Which is the FabIndia of Bangladesh. Wonderful shop for house-y things, clothes, shoes etc. And it’s all fair trade and run by the worlds biggest NGO, Brac. Guilt free shopping. What more could a girl ask for.

Third stop, DVD shop. Was looking for season 4 of the Sopranos, but alas no dice. Damn. So picked up season 1 and 2 of Lost. The great thing about not having been a major TV watcher for the last 10 years is that I have a massive back catalogue of good TV series I haven’t seen ANY episodes of. So I can start at the very beginning, and watch to my hearts content.

But Lost has proved a bit addictive. I have finished season 1 and am half way through season 2. In a week and a half. Oops.

And why, if people KNOW there are bad people and monsters in the jungle, do you STILL wonder around on their own? Why? WHY? I guess there wouldn’t be much of a story if they didn’t.

Before I went to Chittagong, it rained, alot. There was a serious amount of water around. Photo below taking from moving bus, so excuse quality.

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This is not a lake or river. Just excess water.

 

Be careful what you wish for

Today the rain returned. Sjoe. I was beginning to seriously wonder where the fuck it was. Last few weeks have been HOT again, with Saturday night one of the hottest I’ve had here. Sweating in the dark under a mosquito net is not one of my favourite ways to spend an evening. 

So after much wishing and praying, rain arrived this morning. And hasn’t stopped since. 

I was out of drinking water last night, and just could not be arsed to go and fetch more (my levels of lazyness can get quite extreme out here in the heat). I’ll get some in the morning I thought. This morning it was raining. I’ll get some at lunch time I thought. At lunch time it was raining. Yes, I know I won’t melt in the rain, but I was hoping for a bit of a break in rain to do the water run. So, not prepared to get wet to get water… I sat in my flat, dreaming of having a cup of tea. Arse, no water for tea. FYI – I do not recommend normal tap water here, even if is has been boiled, it has so much iron in it it comes out of the tap dark brown. No jokes. I once decided to try boil and then filter the tap water, and my little water filter almost didn’t recover the onslaught of iron-y water. 

Anyway, back to the tea. And a clear expression of my lazyness, I ended up taking ice cubes out of the freezer, and melted/boiled them for my tea. Genius. I thought.

So after work I eventually went to fetch water. In the rain. Now, local women (never men) make this look really easy. As Memory demonstrates here:

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Making it look easy

Casually slung over one hip, with an arm nonchalantly draped around it. That jug holds about 20 litres of water. That’s 20kg that teeny, tiny Memory makes look so elegantly easy.

This does not work when I try it. At all. I’m more of a holding it with both arms wrapped around it, balancing it on my belly kind of  water carrier. Now try this in the rain, trying to hold an umbrella (this is not the pitter patter of London drizzle we’re talking about here), while doing a bit of a slip every 5th step. Amounts to hours of entertainment for all spectators. 

But at least I can manage it. In fact, I’m getting less and less pathetic as time goes on. But when the water supply here runs dry (happens every now and then for reason I’ve never really worked out and/or understood) we have to go to stand pipe across the road and down a muddy embankment that I can only describe as a recent landslide (seriously, how do they do it?!). Now that, I can’t manage. For that, Memory is required. And I go along and provide the moral support. And entertainment.

P.S. The previous photo of me (in Chakma gear) with water jug, was of me on the way to get water. I.e. me and an empty water jug. No way I could look so cool and composed carrying a full water jug.

It’s not as bad as it looks

Ok, here it is. My bathroom… ta dah.

Yes, this is my bathroom

Yes, this is my bathroom

Isn’t she pretty.

Big bucket and jug combine to be my ‘shower’ here. The water pressure isn’t strong enough to make it up the pipe behind and out of the shower head (out of picture). Bucket is also required as sometimes we don’t have water coming out of our taps. And the flow of water coming out of the tap in the photo is from the the tap turned on full blast. Takes a wee while to fill the bucket. And obviously the shower only has one temperature setting: cold. Not sure how winter is going to work out for me.

Small bucket is my clothes washing bucket. Since sourcing of local laundry services, it’s not used as much as previously. But still required for ‘smalls’ (see this for why) and I like to do my whites by hand to ensure they stay kinda white. I adopt the grape crushing technique of yester-year and stomp on my clothes to wash them.

Squat toilet is what it says. Marks down the wall are from rain coming through the small little grate-type ‘window’ above. I get a bit rained on when using the loo in a storm.

The bathroom is actually clean, even though I know you wouldn’t guess so from this photo. It’s just the way it looks. Photo taken post shower, hence the water pretty much everywhere (still loving not having to be water-wise, so splash around like a baby elephant). Just noticed empty loo roll on floor. The light is currently playing up, and I can’t get it to stay on (Bangladeshi electricity is not to be messed with, and the wiring in this house is interesting to say the least). Mostly I shower by torch light, so the camera’s flash has just alerted me to offending loo roll.

Not quite the Radox experience is it. But, all said and done, it does the job. And when you strip everything away, it’s really quite amazing how little you need.

It’s back ON

The water, that is. I am most pleased. My life all of a sudden seems so… easy. I turn on the tap, and water comes out. What a joy.

Absence certainly does make the heart grow fonder.

So.

Here I am at 34. It’s not so bad. A lot like 33, except with no water.

The main water pump here at Moanoghar is broken. Sob. So I have to collect both my drinking water (which I have to do anyway, pump or no pump) and my cleaning/washing/bathroom/shower water from various taps around the campus. Sob x 1000. I arrived back to this after a revoltingly hot 24 hours (my last night in Dhaka and 9 hour non AC bus trip) on Thursday. I’m just about holding it together, but I’m not sure how much longer I can last. It’s fucking hot, and until you don’t have water coming out of your taps you don’t really realise how IMPORTANT it is to almost everything you do. My respect and admiration for the local women I see carrying metal jugs of water around has exponentially increased. It is hard, hard work. But what can I do, complain to the other people here that also don’t have water coming out of their taps? Like everything, it comes down to cash. Cold hard cash. Which is something this organisation doesn’t have a lot of.

And I know I really shouldn’t complain. There are people out there for whom this would be a life of positive luxury. So I vacillate between feeling sorry for myself and feeling even worse for people who have less. A lot less. Walk a mile in another man’s shoes and all that.

Anyway, so yesterday was a good day, looong but good. We had the Bangladeshi feminist author Selina Hossain here at Moanoghar, along with some other authors (whose names I can’t remember now, must deal with my ‘remembering of people’s names’ issue soon). There were discussions with the children here at Moanoghar, lunch, a boat trip on the Kapai Lake, a visit to a local indigenous politician, visit to a cultural society and dinner with rice wine. All with NO shower in between. Shew. I wasn’t a pretty sight by the time I got home last night.

Schoolgirls in Chakma dress ready to welcome the guests

Schoolgirls in Chakma dress ready to welcome the guests

Group photo with guests (they're in there somewhere)

Group photo with guests(they’re in there somewhere)

P.S. I expect the water (or lack there of) situation to not last toooo much longer.