Wednesday, May 28, 2008


For some reason, the water in my bathroom isn't running. It started on Tuesday night when I wanted to brush my teeth and the faucet wouldn't cooperate. I used some water I'd boiled earlier in the day.

The next morning, still nothing, which was a problem because, boy, did I need to bathe. I asked Robert, the new Alex, about it and he clambered up to the compound's water tower to turn taps and things to no avail. I heated up a couple of pots of water, hauled them into the bathroom, and sluiced myself off as best I could.

Now, all this was, you know, not perfect but tolerable because of one key thing: the toilet still flushed. Today, this is no longer the case. Something's got to change or it's going to get really nasty around here soon.

But believe me, I have gained a new appreciation for the gift of water. I went with Joseline to visit her mother Joy on Sunday. No running water there either. As we walked from Nakulabye to Kasubi where she lives, I saw children getting water from a dirty stream. I'm hoping and assuming that the water I had at Joseline's mother was from a tap somewhere.

After some cassava chips and tea, Joy showed me around the house. This is actually a house she owns, which is a big deal. It has three rooms, a kitchen in a kind of lean-to to one side, next to a garden with some matooke trees, a jackfruit tree, and some other useful plants. And on the other side, the loo--two outhouse sheds--and "the bathroom," which was an open-air enclosure, a little larger than a shower stall with a wall up to about shoulder height. The cement floor slopes down and has a drain that empties onto the ground outside. That's the bathroom.

Yesterday when I came into the office after visiting the center, Justine and I were comparing guilt, which was helpful in a way to know that Justine, too, feels the kind of pain and sorrow of knowing that her life is more comfortable than those of the people she works with and for. "What do I have to complain about? I sit here all day in a comfortable chair, looking at a computer screen," she said. I talked about my water problems and about heating up water for a shower that morning. "I never take hot showers," she says. "Growing up in a boarding school, there was no one to boil it for us. If I need a hot shower, I know that I'm sick." Yeah, like that. No complaints, really. None at all.

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