I’ve lived in a third world country for over a year now. I wash my clothes using a three basin system: soap, rinse, rinse. I wash dishes with two basins. I “shower” out of a bucket, dumping a smaller cup of water on my head to bathe. I cook using coals. Not having conveniences of the modern world has become routine for me, normal. It’s my day to day life. But I know it’s only for two years time.
I have these moments every now and then when I take a step back and think to myself in bewilderment that this is my neighbors’ lives every day, for their entire lives. The idea of washing machines, dish washers, vacuums, and running water are far away concepts that they may have seen in movies or heard of in that dream place called America, but they don’t give them a second thought. This is how they have always lived, and, sadly, will continue to live for a long time. I recently found out that Murrupula first received electricity only about 4 years ago! They don’t look at it as a lot of work though, it’s just life.
Today I had one of those moments when I went to get water. My neighbor usually gets water for me from a nearby house that has a well, essentially just a reinforced hole in the ground. However, my neighbor, irritably, has sort of just disappeared this past week. Fortunately, it has been raining and I have been able to keep my water buckets filled by collecting rain water, but today my water level was getting low.
The usual visiting children came over this afternoon and offered to go get me water. We first went to the well, but the owner was not around and the bucket lowered in to the well to reach the water was not there. The children suggested another location a little further down the hill.
It was essentially a dried lake bed where someone had dug out a hole, placed a ceramic basin in the bottom where ground water could trickle in, and then rimmed the hole with a huge semi-truck tire. About 5 women were already there, their buckets scattered around the area, waiting for the basin to fill up. Then they would kneel beside the hole on the tire, lean in so that almost their entire bodies were inside the hole, and use another bucket or bowl to scoop water out, filling their own buckets. When the water level would get too low, they would sit back and wait again for it to fill up, then repeat the process.
For about 10 minutes, I just sat there watching these women and thinking how much of pain in the butt this would be to have to do every single day! But they showed no angst or irritation. They sat around patiently waiting for the water, talking in Macua (probably about the white girl) and filled up their buckets.
After about 30 minutes, I saw this was going to take a long time and opted to come back another day or find another water source tomorrow. So me and my six children assistants headed back up the hill towards my house.
Along the way, we passed a group of women sitting around sorting some peanuts. I greeted them, explained how I was getting water but would come back another time, and they said no, we will take you now.
So one woman, who I later learned was named Gilda, grabbed my buckets and proceeded down the hill to fill them up for me. She was so sweet, not letting me help her as she nearly climbed inside the whole to reach the water.
With two buckets now filled, a little over an hour later, we made our way back to the house: two 8 year old girls carrying the buckets on their heads, one 5 year old boy, one American girl carrying a 3 year old on her hip and holding the hand of another 4 year old girl, and one 7 year old carrying a bowl filled with water just for bonus. I couldn’t help but smile at the sight.
As a reward, as because I feel a little guilty taking advantage of this kind of child labor, I gave all the kids Tootsie Rolls as payment for helping me. Can’t wait for them to visit tomorrow asking for more chocolates!