Life Without Running Water

After I wrote the blog entry about our water at Kamiti Courts, I found this article that I had written for the paper in Houghton Lake.  I keep finding more articles I wrote as I sift through my files of papers.  Some are unfinished, but I'm grateful to find them because they are an accurate record of the topics.  So at the risk of being redundant, here goes...

Luxury.  Fine Living.  Extravagance.

What pictures do these words bring to mind?  A vacation in the Bahamas?  A bottle of expensive perfume?  A house on the shore of Lake Michigan?  Celebrities?  A mink coat?  A glass of the finest wine?

How about running water?

No, I'm not talking about Niagra Falls.  I am talking about running water coming from a quick turn of the bathroom faucet.  Or the rushing sound of water filling the bathtub.  Today, after three weeks of not having running water in my apartment, this would be the greatest luxury in the world.  A month ago I would have thought of everything I wrote in the beginning paragraphs.  Now all I long for is a nice, hot, relaxing bubble bath.  Ahhh!  THAT would be the height of luxury for me right now.

You see, it is the hot, dry season in Nairobi at the moment.  And from what I have heard, this has been a hotter and longer dry season than previous years.  It definitely has been hotter than it was at this time last year.

For several weeks before we ran out of water, the papers had been publishing articles about water shortages and problems residents outside Nairobi were having.  At first I callously read the news, not considering the practical problems of not having enough water.  After a few days my heart softened a bit and I could at least sympathize with the complaints people were aiming at the city commissioner. Now it is my turn to suffer.  I not only sympathize; I have echoed every complaint anyone has ever made!

This isn't the first time we have gone without water.  When we first moved into this complex last September we would periodically wake up to no water coming from the taps for the first six weeks.  At the time we were unruffled, understanding that new complexes often have problems to work out in the plumbing and electricity.  Since it was only periodic we could adjust quite easily for a day or two.

When the water began disappearing this time, our first response was similar to what it had been in September.  Mild disappointment and frustration, but nothing major.  Today we feel just a bit different.

Luckily, there is a tap outside in the middle of the complex that has had water every day but two of the past three weeks.  And we have several pails used for various chores around the house.  Tom is getting a great set of biceps, let me tell you.  He must bring up about 5 pails of water every day.  Sometimes more.

I never realized how much water we go through.  I mean, who thinks twice about how much water is used to flush the toilet.  Or to take a bath.  Or to brush your teeth.  Or to wash the dishes.  Have you every considered how much water you use just to clean vegetables or to cook?  Or how many times you wash your hands while cooking?

There are other considerations as well.  Take drinking water.  The water from outside is fine for bathing, washing, flushing the toilet, etc.  But even when it gets boiled, there is silt that settles to the bottom of the pan.  Tom tried once to filter it through a coffee filter and it clogged the filter!  Bottled water gets expensive.  Our solution?  Go to friend's homes and get water from their taps!

So off we go about three times a week with ten big bottles to collect water.  Can you imagine lugging around ten bottles of water?  We don't have a car.  Tom really is getting his workouts regularly now!  I'm not much help since I'm quite pregnant at the moment.  I guess there are benefits even to the bleakest situations!

Tom asked our landlady last week when we could expect water again.  She told him the same thing she had been informed by the city commission.  "You'll have water when it starts to rain again."  Oh, no.  That could be weeks.  Tom began that very day scouring the newspaper for the weather reports and predictions!

Somehow, despite (or perhaps because of) its high elevation, Nairobi will be one of the last places in the country to be hit with the rains according to local weathermen.  I would think that since we are closer to the sky than most places, we would be the first place to get hit.  But then, I am no scientist.

My only consolation at the moment is that the baby has not been born yet.  Can you imagine having a baby in the house with no water?  Honestly, many, many live that way every day here.  To them, running water is always a luxury.  Several of my friends do not have a tap in their homes.  They collect water every day.  In some places in the city, people have to purchase water.  They bring a jeri-can (like an old gas can) and buy the amount of water they need for the day.  When I think about that, I feel very spoiled.  And grateful that I am able to live where I can have running water most of the time.  So while I may go on dreaming about a bubble bath, I will stop complaining...and hope that the weathermen are accurate in their predictions.

Lori ZieglerComment