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Just another day in the Peace Corps: no water, no problem!

I don’t have running water at my site, but I do have a water tap in close proximity to my hut. I fetch water once or twice a week from the yard tap and carry the buckets to store in my hut. Back in the day, when my principal was younger, people from my village used to buy water at the local shop bucket-by-the-bucket.

Every so often, my village experiences a water shortage; the water taps in our yards run dry. In the village, there are a few other communal water pumps — boreholes — in the area that everyone uses when the yard taps are out. To be honest, these past few months I’ve gotten really lazy and will only fill up one bucket of water when needed. Usually, families store buckets of water in case of such a shortage. My laziness nipped me in the butt because now I need that storage water. My water has been out for seven days and counting (in the past, it has been out for a month or so at a time. It’ll be fun to keep tallying and see how far we go).

Communal tap

Communal tap

My guide to living with little water:

  1. Eat lots of eggs, bread, peanut butter and ramen – all of which take very little or no water at all to cook. I try not to cook canned food because then that creates a non-reusable dirty dish.
  2.  Use a wet soapy cloth to bathe and only one small pitcher of water to wet your hair, wash and rinse it.
  3. Reuse dishes (gross, I know, but it’s what PCVs do. Seriously, we hate dishes).
  4. Don’t do laundry – or do as little as possible to get you through the week. When laundry is needed, as it was in my case, wash with only one bucket of soapy water and avoid washing whites because the dirt from the water and other clothes will stain them. The clothes may be secretly dirty, but at least they will smell better than sweat!
  5. Attempt to catch rain water in your buckets if it’s raining really hard. Hey, I’ve caught enough to make a cup a coffee and that’s something!
  6. Learn / attempt to twala water.
  7. And most importantly, make sure you have enough water to fill up at least two cups of coffee worth each morning (drinking water, by my very wise decision, is optional; coffee is mandatory).

It seriously amazes me how much little water one can live off of (disclaimer: I don’t drink a lot of drinking water. I know it’s bad, but my eating/drinking habits are quite strange). I’ve lived on a small bucket for the past week and been completely okay with it. Granted, I could have a lot more water if I was able to carry the bucket from the communal tap so I wouldn’t have to resort to my “living with little water” practices. There’s one little problem: I struggle to carry the water bucket from the communal tap. I don’t have “amandla” (power/strength in Zulu). Give me a break here; I’m a 5’1 itty bitty girl who has never tried it before until now!

When I’m in desperate need of more water, I’ll stroll on down to the communal pump and pump some delicious murky, brown water. All community members twala the water from the communal pump, which means they carry the bucket of water on top of their heads back to their homes. My attempt at twalaing a medium-sized bucket full of water was an epic fail, as I was drenched in water and could only rest the bucket on my shoulder at the most. Everyone who walked by me said, “Mpho! You must put it on your head!” My response to all the witnesses: “Ngiyazama! (I am trying)” and a bunch of laughter. One thing a PCV must be able to do is laugh at him or herself because more than often PCVs are stuck ridiculous and embarrassing situations and have to think, in a comical way of course, “Yup, this is seriously my life.”

It’s quite impressive how Zulu women lift the water — and just about everything else — and balance it on their heads and walk for long distances, especially old gogos and young kids. I know balance/strength comes from much practice over time, so maybe eventually I’ll be able to do so myself. Some of my PCV friends can and practice on the regular! As for now, every time anyone sees Mpho trying to twala water, I can promise it’ll be a good laugh.

Mama carrying a bulk bag of potatoes up our hill

A mama carrying a bulk bag of potatoes up our hill

Yours in embarrassment and good spirit,
Small heartMpho

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