So I was retelling my story about my 10 days in a refugee camp in an undisclosed location of Algeria, working & serving with Saharawi refugees in November 2009 and I caught myself saying, “I have never appreciated water more after not bathing for 10 days, getting Montezuma’s revenge in the middle of that dry desert, and not having running water to brush my teeth or even wash my hands.” I “sponged-bathed” with baby wipes that a sweet old lady from church gifted me (500 well used wipes my friends). I bought my own bottled water and one lasted me a whole day. Carefully counting every drop to brush my teeth and stay hydrated. Antibacterial gel was all used up, but it still didn’t keep me from getting a massive gastroenteritis where I lost 5 pounds (that was the only plus).
As I was retelling my story to a coworker, the storage areas of my mind reminded me of something, “Have you forgotten Tuesdays and Fridays in Nicaragua?” and I felt a little snobby about the tap on my shoulder. Oh yeah! I lived in Nicaragua from 1978-1996. How could I forget? Has living in this comfortable good ol’ US of A give me amnesia?
Water. In a communist country. Was liquid gold.
Life in a communist country. Rationing was an everyday staple.
Rationing. Every Tuesday & Friday. Scheduled. No water all day.
The night before. The drill. Mom sternly asking, “Have you filled your bucket yet with water or do you not want to bathe tomorrow?”
Filling the tall bucket up to the rim. Next morning that sitting water had turned. C.O.L.D.
The guilt trips on TV ads by the government, “when you brush your teeth, turn the faucet off, IF YOU WANT YOUR KIDS TO HAVE WATER IN THE FUTURE.”
Oh how could I forget. Snobby me.
Rationing of Food.
I may not take my Rationing Card to the government store every week anymore. There they knew exactly how many people lived in your home, and that’s how they rationed your share accordingly. Your set share of beans, rice, sugar, toilet paper (maybe), milk and soap. Half a bar of soap per person. Yes. They would cut the bar in half if you had an odd number of folk in your house. It was FREE. But they told you how much you could get. The milk? you couldn’t trust. At home we boiled it and if it curdled, it was a sign that it had expired & we had to chunk it, if not, we could drink it (after it cooled down of course). My dad got tired of this boiling & chunking and bought a cow. Seriously. Milk straight from the cow. I wanted. To. DIE. But my dad has never liked anyone telling him what to do or not to do when it comes to basic human rights, right? My dad…oh, he’s another story.
Back to the Water. We couldn’t trust it either. Though it flowed freely from the faucet, my mom would fill up a pot. EVERY. NIGHT. and boil it on the stove to kill all germs & bacteria. Cooled over night. Next morning I had to fill a pitcher and put it in the fridge. Hey! At least we had a fridge to cool our drinking water. The water we drank or used for cooking had to be boiled to be sterilized. If not, here come the purging pills…you know…to purge you of parasites. UGH. How could I forget? 18 years of my brain cannot be forgotten.
So Waste Month is not at all alien for me. I fear that my PTSD will return. I’ve since always turned off the water when I brush my teeth or lather with soap in the shower. I’ve been known at other people’s houses to reach for the kitchen sink faucet to turn it off, if the host leaves it on and walks away. I get a nervous tick in my eye when that happens. They probably think I’m weird. The aquifers are only getting older and emptier people!! There are NO new aquifers growing underground! (Go google “aquifer” if you don’t know what I just said) Some say the next world war will be over Water. So maybe my communist background was right, huh? If I want my grandchildren to have water, I should ration it now so they can see it in the future.
So there you go! A whole month of fasting from Media and not blogging and one little thought triggered some childhood memories I wanted to write down so as not to forget where I’ve come from. My son will never understand how blessed he is to live in this privileged country where water flows freely and he can shower whenever he can. Oh. But he’s half-Nicaraguan, so believe me. He WILL learn with this momma. I have tons of guilt trip one-liners stored in my mind from my mom about why I should eat all the food on my plate, turn off the water, and be grateful for a backpack full of books on my back… like the mom in Big Fat Greek Wedding! Haha.
So many gifts. So much Grace. Just stop and look around.
Live Mindfully. Live Communally. Live Gratefully.