Thursday, February 07, 2008


I don't know about you guys but before I came out here, one of the main images in my mind when I thought of Africa was of a small girl walking 5km to a dirty hole with a bucket on her head to collect water. I'm sure there are people somewhere on this continent that are doing that but it is far from the norm. Water still remains a complicated subject out here though. For you guys, water is water. You can buy it bottled and it falls out of the sky (far too often in Vancouver) but for the most part you don't really think about it. For any task, a turn of the tap or a push of a button gets you what you need and the job done.
Here, well, we have different water and situations depending on what we want the water for. As I mentioned in my last blog, we have been living with bucket showers for most of our time out here, but you eventually get used to that (I'm still waiting.....). Hot water? Forget it unless you are lucky enough to have an electric kettle like us (and some electricity to use it, but that is a different story) or someone builds a fire. Wood fires are the prefered method of cooking here and it's no wonder they are having a deforestation/desertification problem out here. We drink bottled water (actually purified water in little plastic bags because it is cheaper) for the most part, as you would imagine, but we have on many occasions had to drink the local well water. In Guinea, the bottled water tastes terrible and we actually prefered the local stuff. We took a look at the wells first though. They are all pretty much sealed and foot-pump operated, surrounded by a bunch of kids or ladies with buckets. There are always lots of people around wells and they are usually very close to the village or right inside. People still don't use much water though and while I don't remember the exact numbers, African average an incredibly small amount of water per person per day. They use this well water for drinking and cooking (I hope). If they have to do laundry or dishes, off they march to the local stream and scrub away. This is kind of scary though because the water is not always flowing so the dirt just stays there. Then, to scare you even more (and prove how bad an idea this all is, you will see some of the women, or random other people, start urinating in the water not 10 feet from where the dishes are being washed. Damn. Is there no such thing as common sense out here?
In towns and cities there are usually a lot of ditches and open streams flowing beside the road which are full of garbage and smell like open sewers. Oh, right, they are. It's bad, real bad. You can see dish water and waste flowing out of little holes in the walls of people's homes right into the streets. Beaches tend to be garbage sites which is really sad because they are potentially so beautiful. Still, sometimes you have to see it to believe it. Makes you appreciate all the clean water at home.


At 9:11 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ammon,
don't feel bad about the ditches being open sewers, when we first moved to North Van the ditches beside the roads were just that, open sewers. We used to build dams in them then break the dam and watch out little home made boats ( sticks scrap lumber ect) go rushing down the road. When I think of the pathogen loads I had as a kid it is no wonder I don't get sick much, my immune system is pumped up.
But I know what you mean about water and the kid walking miles, it is sort of my impression of Africa too, must be the ads on TV to adopt kids for a dollar a day. I wonder tho' if that is contributing to the "waiting for a rescue" mentality?
I still can't believe your last blog, I still get the willies from it, don't know really why...

I hope you get a chance to go back and read that one again, cause it builds and builds. Anyways, thanks.

Hi again to you all,
Big Bear Hugs
The Bear


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