Water is always on my mind. The necessity of fetching water. The temperature of water. The cleanliness of the water: are their worms in this one? Did I add bleach yet? Drinking water. Bathing water. Water to wash my clothes with. Water to wash my hands. Drinking water comes from the pump at the edge of town. Washing water from the well.
Water is weighing me down, and we have five months to go until rain. When I got back to my village last week, something was different. I didn’t wake up to the sound of women and boys pulling water at the well outside of my compound walls. There were no women pounding millet and washing clothes all gathered around the neighborhood watering hole. I asked Banta what had changed: the well had dried up. There’s still a bit of water so deep down that you have to add an extra rope to your well bag but the water that comes up is dirty. Dirty and the smell is something awful.
Now we walk a little farther for our water. This well is in someone’s compound, and the hole is much smaller, its border is a tire. All of a sudden the 15 or so women who used to pull water at the big well outside my compound meander in and out of this compound, a bucket of water on their head, another outstretched in their right arm, the left arm out for balance. And then there’s me. Taking a break every five feet because my bucket’s so heavy and the extra distance that I’m now walking with my full bucket is really wearing me out. How embarrassing that the 8 year old girl goes back and forth to fetch her family’s water 10 times, and I’m exhausted by one trip.
I can’t help but wonder how long this well will last. All of us pulling water day in and day out and five more months to go. How far will we go for water come May?
I think about water when I wake up. It’s the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do before the sun sets: Walk to the well to pull my water. And if Banta hasn’t already beaten me to it, I get her water too. On the days when she walks around the village selling the cookies she makes, she doesn’t even resist or tell me I don’t know how to pull water, that the bucket is never full. On those days, she hands me the bucket and moans over her tired feet.
Friday, February 13, 2009
A young girl. Before you're married, you can wear shorter sleeves and go out without covering your head or wearing a scarf around your shoulders.