Water is not a simple convenience here for most. People from the village will sometimes bring a container to one of the school’s rain water tanks and “steal” water. I put steal in parenthesis because logically having water is a human right, but obviously the world is not fair (and is often cruel) and not everyone has access to clean water, or any water for that matter. So, none of us really care that they are getting water from the school’s tanks. In-fact many of us think of it more as a public service. People have to walk from afar to get to the lake, which, for many, is their only source of drinking and bathing water for the day. (Also, the lake unfortunately probably contains the parasite schistosomiasis.) After filling up at the lake, they either carry their water in a jerry can in their arms or wheel several jugs back home on a bike.
When I see people from the village bending down to the tap filling up a small jerry can of cool, refreshing water from the school’s tank, a completely opposing image comes to mind: Waterworld in Colorado. I loved going to that water park growing up but even then I was aware of the amount of water going to waste. And now… phew. I really think about it. The other day an elderly woman bent over to the tap, cupped her hands and drank in some cool water and the image of the slide at WaterWorld called The Toilet Bowl popped in my mind: The image of people plummeting through water down a plastic tube and into a giant pool of water where waves then splash over the edge onto the cement where all the water is then evaporated. Water being flushed away; water literally going down the toilet bowl. I am suddenly brought back into my body of being eight or ten looking at that scene of water splashing onto the cement and thinking, gees, that’s a lot of water going to waste but then trudging up the slippery steps back in line for another ride on the Toilet Bowl. And then I am transported back into my current time walking along the dusty road in Gashora and I make eye contact with the elderly woman who seems to think, are you going to ask me not to drink from your school’s well? and I continue walking, feeling my American helplessness sink into my bones. “Good afternoon” I say to her in Kinyarwanda with a smile. “Good afternoon” she says.