Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jokes on Me, I Guess

After my little self-obsessed rant about the dust and lack of rain what should happen but we run out of water in the house!  This time last year, the rain had been coming down for well over a month which was quite a welcome relief since the prior year (2008) had been a major drought for the country.  The harvest was ample last year!  And so we never ran into problems with water at the house.  But this year, with the delay in rains, the city is rationing the water and yesterday it caught up with us.

When I lived in Honduras (and Roger in Togo - which he'd claim was WAY more hard core than Honduras*) rationing water was the norm in the towns we lived in.  Water was limited so, in the case of my town, we had water in the taps usually every day for four hours.  The house I lived in had two pilas (concrete open-air tanks) that held about 500 gallons each approximately.  One for bathing and the other for household uses.  From time to time, the frequency of the water fluctuated and we'd (I lived with a family of 6) go maybe 4 days without any water coming into the tap.  We'd get through what we had in the pilas and when that was gone, we headed to the river about 200ft away.  Quite frankly, it wasn't all that bad (saying this 10 years later).  Inconvenient yes, but adaptable.

During those times of shortages, the locals woulds ask "is it like this in America?  do you have water shortages there?" And I would have to think about it especially since I didn't directly rely on rainfall for my livelihood.  I think I usually answered "not really" because I didn't want to explain to them that when we were rationing water in America it meant I couldn't water my green lush grass 7x/week, but rather only 4x/week.  Or that I could only wash my car (which probably wasn't covered in dust) 1x/week, instead of daily.  Or that it still entitled me to fill my swimming pool and take long showers.

Being in Tanzania, I often remarked (silently, in my head) that it was amazing how we really didn't suffer from water shortages.  I wondered if Arusha was unique because it sits at the base of a nearly 15,000 foot mountain that frequently has cloud cover and, as of late, is snow-capped?  Or that maybe because of all the foreigners living here and the expectation of a resilient system that somehow we didn't suffer?  I guess my fool-proof plan of keeping those thoughts silent didn't really dupe the Arusha Municipal Water Supply.

To be sure, with little to no water in the taps at the moment we're not suffering.  Yeah, the dishes are building up in the sink, the plants haven't been watered and the possibility of no shower today is just the off-the-hook I needed to set aside that workout DVD, but we have about seventy liters of bottled water in the house and numerous friends that have put out the welcome bath mat for us.  Rather, I share this just as a public way of acknowledging our great fortune.  I mean, seriously seventy liters of bottled water, some of which I will use to wash my daughters grubby hands and last night's dishes! 

Since my last post about dust and as I typed this, I got the idea that I shouldn't just portray the little annoyances and inconveniences here.  That would be doing a disservice to my privilege and this platform.  I should also being sharing with you what's remarkable and admirable about where we live.  I only have to have our security guard open our large metal gate to be reminded of this!  Afterall, Kili Time isn't just dust, bad driving and uncomfortable notions of personal space.  It's also kanga, wild animals, Massai, al fresco dining, amazing Indian food and so much more!  So, stay tuned!

*When Roger & I met, at a dimly lit bar in Georgetown, and he told me he was in Togo, you know, AFRICA, for Peace Corps, I willingly volunteered that it was probably way more hard core than cushy Honduras, what with our Caribbean coastline and 2 hr flight to Miami.  He reminds me of this every time he buttons up his Banana Republic suit and heads off to work while I recline on the day bed ;).

 Image courtesy of


  1. Will enjoy seeing more of the kanga and all the other remarkable things where you live! Great post! gg

  2. I imagine that continuous dust AND a water shortage is a little hard to bear--thank goodness you have friends with a welcome bath mat!

  3. So do you have a guard on duty 24 hours/day because of the increased violent and armed crime in Arusha?

  4. Guards at homes is pretty much the norm here - all houses (of middle income+ families) have them, plus my husbands employer requires it. There is no immediate danger and never once has our home been "targeted." The guards are not armed except with a panic button that calls the security company truck. The guards basically serves as a deterrent and, to put it plainly, someone to open the gate when we're leaving!