I remember it as clear as if it were yesterday. That fateful moment when I turned the tap on, stuck out my hand to feel cold, fresh water and got nothin’. It soon became apparent that there would be no cold, fresh water coming from any taps in my house in Maracas Valley – not that day, not the next, and not two weeks later.
Having gone through the five phases of no-water-grief, from denial to anger and finally acceptance, there are a few valuable lessons I’ve learned on this dry and dusty journey that I think are worth sharing.
It’s only when you’re deprived of something that you realise just how much you use it. Whilst bucket baths were a feature of most Trini childhoods, having your dad fill up a bucket of nice warm water for you to bathe in is very different than being an adult who needs to cook, clean and fill up her own water buckets five times a day. So I’d have to say that the very first positive to come out of being water-deprived was a renewed appreciation for just how lucky we are to have constant easy access to a fresh, clean water supply.
There are so many people around the world and right here in T&T who have to deal with lugging buckets from springs and rivers every single day just to do their basic daily activities. I also couldn’t help but think of the suffering of so many who have no access to clean water or any water at all for that matter. From my own superficial, mildly discomfiting experience without running water, I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to have to wonder where your water will come from every day.
Appreciate what you have; the things we take for granted the most like a shining light bulb or a solid roof are the things we should be most grateful for. We are so privileged and blessed, and we should wake up every day full of gratitude for everything we’re given, including clean running water and indoor plumbing.
As I became accustomed to washing dishes and taking baths from my trusty Blue Waters bottles and water jugs, I soon learned just how much water it really takes to cover each of my daily routines:
1 bath (no hair washing) = 4 litres cold + 0.5 litre hot
1 bath (hair washing) = 7 litres cold + 1 litre hot
1 toilet flush = 1 million litres (rough estimate)
1 set of dishes = 9 litres
I can promise you that when using your regular running water supply, you probably easily use about 10 times that amount for each of the above activities (except for the toilet flushing which is standard). Now, every time I go to my Dad’s house I’m amazed at how much water is wasted and just left to pour down the drain; that five minutes you wait for the shower to heat up probably uses all the water I need for my bucket baths.
So be aware of all that unnecessary waste, try to make a conscious effort to examine your household’s water usage and then find small ways of minimising the amount of water used. Just putting a big rock in your toilet tank to lessen the amount of water needed to flush, or switching the tap off while brushing your teeth are baby steps we can all take towards adopting a more environmentally sustainable and conscious lifestyle.
It’s no secret that Westerners – even us islanders – are all about the fast life. Everything needs to be done immediately, right this second. No one has patience. But when you know that taking a shower means fetching your water from a well, heating a kettle-full of water and then slowly and methodically washing yourself from a jug, you will soon have to develop patience or risk losing your mind out of frustration.
As I grew more accustomed to getting my water supply from a valve in an outdoor well, I’ve seen myself become not only more patient, but more laid-back. If it takes 10 minutes extra to wash some dishes, so be it. A simple shower is a half-hour-long process from start to finish, but so what? If you slow down the pace of your life, it doesn’t mean that things are going to fall apart; life goes on, things still get done and you just do it all without being stressed and rushing around like a headless chicken. So we can all apply this to our wider lives – just take things step by step, enjoy the process and the journey, even if it’s just the journey to flushing a toilet.
Above all, I’ve learned to hope. Even though every few days I’m informed that it’ll just be a few days longer or that some other seemingly unfixable issue has arisen, I can’t let the ongoing disappointment get to me. I have to stay hopeful that one day, the pump will get fixed and I will be able to mop my house again.
This is probably the most relevant lesson of all: life will continue to disappoint you; people or things will sometimes not live up to your expectations, but that’s OK. That’s just life, and the only way to get through it is to stay positive and upbeat, and just let the bad times roll past while you wait for the good.
So take your metaphorical bucket bath with a smile and remember that every challenging moment is really just an opportunity for growth – soon that fresh water will be flowing again and you’ll come out of those trying moments wiser, stronger and with a greater capacity to get through the tough times.