Being from Canada, I took water for granted.
All I had to do for constant, fresh water was turn on a tap. I took long, hot showers. Often, I left the water running while brushing my teeth. Water fountains were plentiful in all public places. It wasn’t even something I thought about, or registered, how lucky I was to have this resource at my fingertips.
Moving to the Dominican Republic changed all that.
I didn’t live on a resort, as you may be imagining. Or in the classy ex-pat gated communities. I lived amongst the locals, in what for them is considered “middle class.” This meant a somewhat clean, somewhat safe living space.
Forget hot water. This luxury was something I learned quickly to live without. Even reliable, running water became a thing of the past. Often, water would cut out without explanation. Sometimes for a few hours. Other times, for weeks.
You don’t realize how much water you use until you don’t have it.
Bottled drinking water is a precious commodity in the DR, and not something you could afford to waste on anything other than self-hydration. Luckily, there was a pool nearby our apartment building. We used the chlorinated, somewhat dirty water for everything on these occasions. We lugged bucket after bucket upstairs, using it to wash our clothes and our dishes, and to flush the toilets. We brought shampoo and soap down and took “baths” in the pool, as did other people.
We got sick. Often. Probably from eating off plates that were cleaned with the same water people were washing themselves in. When the water came back on, we were like little kids in our excitement, filling up buckets with the “fresher” water for when it went out again.
I couldn’t complain though. Everyday, I went through the rougher areas. I bought my breakfast from women who lived in tin shacks, baking bread in a tiny woodstove to sell to survive. I knew they had no running water at all. I saw their kids bathing, soapless, in the ocean. They used holes in the ground for toilets. They left buckets outside to catch rain water. It didn’t rain very much. I don’t really know how they got enough water for their clothes or dishes.
I’m back in Canada now. I can’t explain how grateful I am every time I turn the tap on and clean water comes gushing out, or whenever I take a hot shower.
But I’ve learned. I turn off the tap when I’m brushing my teeth. My showers, though hot, are short. I realize the beauty of this resource we have, WATER, and that although it may seem unlimited, it is not.
Recognize what you have. Remember that not everyone is so lucky. Do your part to make a difference.