When you can't drink the water
Thursday, July 04, 2013
This is a continuation of my posts on my trip to Madagascar.
Okay, SparkPeople has this huge thing about drinking lots of water. Eight cups of water. sun-tea jugs of water. can't leave my home without a bottle filled with water, or two. Well, when you get to a part of the world, like Madagascar, where you cannot count on the water to be clean, you may find out that, though nice, all that water is not absolutely necessary. And, since the bathroom facilities are rather primitive when you can find them, that aspect of drinking lots of liquids is also not, um, pleasant.
I haven't mentioned the pre-trip visit to the dr's office -- you have to go, though there aren't that many drugs/shots for Madagascar. And you get a talking-to at the office about the water. You must get SEALED bottles of water, or boil water for a minute, or purify it in some other way, to drink it. (Or drink Coca-Cola, which would be my son's choice, and there is no diet soda there.) We also came away with drugs to help us if we did come down with Traveler's diarrhea anyway. Ten horse-sized pills of Ciprofloxacin HCL, which have the directions of "1 tab twice daily at onset of moderate traveler's diarrhea for 1-5 days or until resolve." And the Nurse Practicioner said that this, in combination with an over the counter anti-diarrheal, would often knock it down pretty quick.
We did not encounter problems. I have twenty unused pills of Ciprofloxacin (how do you even pronounce that?) and a bunch of over-the-counter left over now, that I need to hand off to another traveler perhaps.
We did not drink much water.
We often went the whole day on the road without using the "bathroom," such as it wasn't.
For that matter, the plane flights there and back were over 10 hours, to France, then on to Madagascar, and back, and I think I only used their poor excuse for a lavatory once in all the four flights as well. My son was about the same. We were not unusual in that--I'd say the majority of people did not avail themselves of the plane facilities. They use those tiny cups for drinks on the plane for a reason.
I have to say, that it is rather humid in Madagascar, and we probably weren't losing quite as much water from respiration as in my drier climate at home here.
But clean water is much more valuable in Madagascar. It was hardly cheaper than the Coca-Cola--the large bottle of clean water was the same price as the large bottle of Coca-Cola: 3000-5500 Arairy, only the water bottle was slightly larger. For comparason, a lunch cost on average 13,000 Arairy, where a large bottle of water was 5500 Arairy.
Along the sides of the road, you saw the waterbottles being reused and filled with chilli-pickled fruit for sale. Coca-Cola is sold in the refilled glass bottles I remember from my childhood.
The other thing the nurse warned us was to "Keep your mouth shut in the shower." She was a rather direct person. In the lodges we visited, that wasn't much of a problem. The hot water was non-existant, and water pressure was so low (hotel or lodge), that showers never lasted very long. It also took for-ever for toilets to refill, even though they were European low water style. On the flip side, all rooms and bathrooms were very clean and polished in lodges and hotels, with the occasional wall gecko, who ate the insects so was part of the cleaning crew.
But back to the water. We drank when really thirsty (like after a tiring hike) and with meals. That was it. I'd order or make hot tea in the morning and kind of drink up for the day during the only time I could get boiled water. The first hotel had a hotpot, but it was the only one--probably because electricity was also in short supply.
Now I'm back here. drinking water from the faucet without fear of diarrhea and taking hot showers. What have I learned though from my experience where clean water was so much more dear? Well, that my kidneys, bladder and all, still seem to be working fine--"needing" to go to the bathroom could be more of an opportunity thing than a necessity. That I am a very lucky lady to live in the middle class in California, And maybe a confirmation of something that we already know--that clean water does not need to be dressed up as a tub of cola, a grande of chai latte, or a crystal glass of pinot noir, to be very very special.