Living without electricity, without fresh vegetables, without privacy, without a post office, and on an isolated island can be tough and frustrating at times, but these challenges seem like child’s play when it comes to the water struggle I am currently facing.
As always, we are having serious water issues on the island and in particular at the school. However, this year is even more severe than last year as we have already had 3 barge loads of water transported to the island from Lautoka. This water is the only safe drinking water we have. For all other uses (bathing, washing clothes, and washing dishes) we use our mountain source, which is very dirty and practically dry. There is so little water coming from the mountain source that the school taps are only on for about an hour every afternoon before going dry.
However, this week has been even more of a struggle than usual as our drinking water is almost gone, and our mountain source is unable to supply the school taps water with water each day. For example, yesterday, our school taps were turned on for the first time in three days! It was a mad scramble for all the teachers to fill as many storage containers as possible before the source went dry. I was able to fill my water storage drum half way up with the hot dirty water that flowed out with minimal pressure. This container was previously a fuel storage container, so even though I have washed it multiple times with seawater and soap, the water stored still appears oily on top. Regardless, I was unbelievably relieved by my half full drum of dirty, hot, oily water!! It came right out of the taps, and I didn’t have to haul it from anywhere. Score!
So given our water situation, it will be interesting to see what happens in the next week and a half. We are supposed to end school on the 28th of November. The method here is reactive rather than proactive, so no decisions will be made until we are completely out of water… But, it is looking as though we will end school early, as the Ministry of Education won’t be sending another barge load of water to the island this late in the year. So, for the time being, the students are taking their baths in the sea, teachers are hauling water from the drinking water tanks to use for things besides drinking (washing clothes/other daily activities), all are hauling seawater for flushing toilets, and I have been drinking a lot of coconut water.
I don’t work according to the Ministry of Education schedule, so I will stay on the school compound for the 8-week summer vacation entertaining myself with various projects. This is a bit concerning as the levels of drinking water are getting very very low! Because I am the only one using the mountain source, I will be supplied with water for an hour or so every other day, but it is dirty. I am going to have to put my faith in the Peace Corps supplied water filter and hope it makes the mountain water safe for drinking! As a back up plan, I am hoping to get water from the village, which has a better source, but hauling water is a lot of work!! Regardless, my break will be filled with hauling seawater to clean my toilets, hauling my clothes to the village to do my washing, and searching for drinking water. I never realized how easy we had it at home where you can turn on the taps any time of the day and cold, clean drinking water comes out! What a novelty!
One thing is for sure, in the past year, I have learned how challenging it is to live without clean running water.