Nicaragua Diary, Day 2
The first day without water, everyone groans. It’s an inconvenience. Often it happens late in the day, so we might come home from school or sports practice to discover it. We still have drinking water and, almost always, our back-up tank has plenty, we just have to fill buckets. Flushing toilets means hauling those buckets back and forth. Washing dishes becomes more complicated.
But today we don’t have water again, and this starts to become a challenge. Buckets get hauled to the showers. Sinks get water containers for hand washing. But the real issue is laundry. We’re in the rainy season. We don’t have a dryer, so once clothes are washed we need them to dry in the sun. Plus, having them sit around dirty isn’t always a pleasant prospect, because did I mention it’s humid here? When we do have water again (tomorrow, Lord hear our prayer), it’s not so easy to do multiple loads because that requires multiple loads to dry–did I mention it’s rainy here?
A dear friend and mentor of mine, Rowena, who died many years ago now, once described a conversation she had with God about being with people who are suffering. She told God, “You know I can’t do that, because I love them too much; my heart is too soft and I can’t bear to see them going through that.” And God told her, “That isn’t love. See the person you think is cold-hearted? The one who is actually with them?”
“Oh,” Rowena said.*
We don’t live in poverty, we live near poverty. We live next to people who live in poverty. The difference is monumental, perhaps incalculable. Living in Nicaragua, we face some inconveniences, like going without running water. We lack some gadgets that make life more comfortable. Air conditioner, dishwasher, dryer come to mind. These do not qualify as real suffering and are well worth getting to live where we live and trying to be the neighbors we hope to be.
I got to buy five tortillas this morning from our neighbor across the street. She doesn’t have running water, either, but got some from somewhere to make her tortillas. We compared notes on being without water, pondered if the huge bog in the middle of our under-construction street explains where our water is going, and speculated when they might finish the road work.
I have, in moments of desperation, washed my hair with drinking water: I discover too late that we have no water, our back-up tank is empty, I need to be somewhere looking halfway presentable, and there I am. It feels ludicrously extravagant–like buying nice stationery to use as napkins–and drives home that I live in a developing nation, and in a barrio that is definitely still developing. It also proves the point that this is not poverty for us.
For our inconveniences, maybe even more for the sake of our neighbors, I’m praying for water to start running through our pipes again.
Post-Script: Long after I wrote this, just before we left for our back-to-school open house, I heard that glorious sound of a faucet left on! The water is back!
*She was one of my favorite storytellers. I miss my friend.