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Water Water Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Spare

A couple posts ago I re-mentioned a bunch of questions I’d leveled at myself prior to flying over here. Actually, I had those questions prior to fully thinking through what I’d need to pack. One of those questions had to do with water. At the time of questioning, I was coming off of nearly 5 weeks at camp, where I guide canoe trips, down rivers. Water is not only an essential part of what I ensure my kids intake, it is the road upon which we travel, and a daily part of how I enjoyed beauty. My college, Luther College, has dedicated itself to sustainability and to that end my first two years featured a cross-campus dorm challenge to see which dorm can reduce both electricity and water usage in one month a year. Both years my dorm didn’t win, and last year my dorm (Miller) was nearly last – only because we were reducing prior to that month! The third reason I was conscious of my water use was my week in Jordan in January, where I saw signs at hotels reminding visitors that Jordan is a desert country.

 Alexandria on a recent rainy day.

Egypt is a desert country as well; one thing I read estimated that up to 97% of the nation is desert. I’m not sure about that accuracy…whatever. Anyway, me being me, I was slightly surprised when, during orientation, the woman IFSA brought in to show us how to make koshary corrected my method of washing dishes. She wanted me to leave the water running the entire time! On the note of washing dishes, I grew up with no dishwasher, and I don’t trust the dishwashers in the dorms in which I’ve lived. Also being a guide, I wash dishes. I am surprised at the effort involved when I cook supper and the guys wash our dishes for me; they also leave the water running. Leaving the water running, whether for brushing teeth, washing hands or dishes, or even the parts of showers when you’re lathering up, uses unnecessary amounts of water, and I’m surprised mainly at the strength of my negative reaction!

Strange as it seems, my shower doesn’t have a tub faucet, and the depression is just about as wide as I am.

The other thing – I didn’t realize this would irk me either, but I remember thinking that using hot water in September, October, and even most of November was really wasting the energy necessary to heat the water. For the first months, all I wanted in water was something to cool me off. I’d hear showers run, and later hear reports of someone getting burned on the exposed hot water pipes, which suggests to me that the hot water was running. I honestly don’t feel comfortable leaving water running the whole time while taking showers – it’s better for me if I shut off water between rinses.

My glorious and well-used hotpot.

I found my answer as to how conservation-minded are the Egyptians I live with and if I could shuck American use of water. I use less excess water than the Egyptians around me, and have in comparison less of an American use of water. As for recreation and personal space around water…I’ve found that more or less impossible except at Ain Sokhna and Siwa. Our morning taxi ride, requested to go via the Corniche every morning, only sometimes takes us by the sea. While I thrill to living by the sea, beyond weather and those taxi rides, the Mediterranean is not a part of my life. Except for the couple times the guys have gone swimming with me (laps are kind of frowned upon in a public beach, which probably is closed now), I’ve not entered that water (see pollution post on why). At one point I found a neat spot destined for me to read alone by the sea, although with background noise of the Corniche, but the second time I visited, some guy tried charging me 6 LE. I wouldn’t have it, and ended up winning my first argument in Arabic when he insisted on following me a quarter mile down the Corniche. Truly, I’m looking forward to returning to my river on campus (it’ll be too cold to swim until May at least) and camp come summer.

My last full box of water.

As for intaking water, I really dislike having to drink bottled water. As weather turned cool enough for me to retain pants inside the apartment, I turned to boiling water for tea, drinking up to 6 cups of tea a day (that’s two tea bags). I estimated to a friend on Skype at that point that I’d drunk 76 cups of tea in about three weeks…I know that number has increased significantly since starting research on my papers. Thanks to being a guide, I know that the instant your water boils, it’s sterilized. I really dislike the amount of plastic I currently go through, both in plastic bags and in plastic bottles.


Photo of table, and attendent water and homework, taken a day before Jeanette left.

Update: I forgot to mention this in the evening entertainment post, but often, and only after dark, somewhere in the city the night will light up with fireworks. We were surprised at the number of fireworks that would go off in one night, let alone the fact that these pyrotechnic events are inside a rather crowded cityscape. Moutaz told us that each set of fireworks (usually 4-8 at once) is a wedding. Well, the first month we were here, up to 4 nights a week would feature up to 3 weddings. While that’s petered off since, I’ve noticed kind of a resurgence of wedding-inspired fireworks. It seems that now about two nights a week have one or two weddings. But still, that’s a lot of weddings!

Brannon, slacklining like normal, began doing a new trick. Attempting this new trick – he gets to tell people about it – accidently catapulted him into a very spiky bush with some velocity in both x and y directions. When he emerged, he had spikes, thorns with a small, almost barblike end, poking out of hands, wrists, and legs. Again, thanks to being a guide, I had the first aid materials with me to save him a trip to a local pharmacy like our Egyptian friends directed him. I chopped vegetables for supper with Ben and Brannon (based off of food from Siwa) while he sat in my kitchen, clipping away bits of flesh until he could grab the end of a 2 mm spike that had broken off at least 0.5 mm inside the base of his thumb. Thankfully, he is sore in many places, but he is not infected and is healing.

Also, the title comes from an ad I remember for PBS Kids (I watched Arthur, Wishbone, Recess, and Redwall) from early elementary school. The ad was a sing-song voice reciting a poem accompanied by drawings that may have been with crayon.

“Water water everywhere/and not a drop to spare./Water in the ground/water in the air./Though it may evaporate/it never goes away:/Snows on to your mountaintops/flows into my bays!/Animals need water/people need it too./Keep it clean for me,/and I’ll keep it clean for you.”


One Response to “Water Water Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Spare”

  1. Dan Osmundson Says:

    Dan Osmundson liked this on Facebook.

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