The beloved borehole pump.  Sweetest water anywhere--just ask the pig.

The beloved borehole pump. Sweetest water anywhere–just ask the pig.

My room-mates have an ongoing bet. Mike has wagered one rand that the borehole will run dry before the South African summer rains return.

KwaZulu-Natal is having a drought.  On the coast, there are bull sharks in St. Lucia that have been trapped in the estuary for eight years because low rains have left the mouth closed to the Indian Ocean.  In our inland area, the maize was half-grown at best, and the livestock are eating the trees because there isn’t enough grass.

The desolation of Cassia:  before and after the munchfest.

The desolation of Cassia: before and after the drought-induced munchfest.

In addition to the drought, there’s a historically huge number of students living at the school, and they do a lot of laundry.  All the time.  Our fences are constantly covered in yellow button-up shirts, and the borehole is having its mettle tested.

Our house does have plumbing.  When it was connected to the water tank on the tower, we could even get water from the faucet, not to mention in the flushing toilet.  But the tank burst, so we’re schlepping water from the borehole 100 m away like everybody else.  We’re also using gray water from laundry to flush the toilet and save hauling a bucket or two.

For folks who are too far from the school borehole, there are springs coming off the mountain.  Some even have pipes attached.  Jojo tanks seemingly in the middle of nowhere must be getting filled somehow.  Small earthen dams are scattered around the circumference of the mountain to water livestock.

Extracting water from the mountain:  developing a spring and an earthen dam.

Extracting water from the mountain: developing a spring and an earthen dam.

Frankly, the borehole life is pretty sweet.  We don’t have to haul water far, and it’s high quality.  During my previous service in Kenya, people would ask me if I had running water–only if you hit the donkey hard enough.  Miu River had low flow and salty water, but many women made their living with donkeys hauling jerry cans of water scooped from a hole in the sand.

People swear this salty water is what made their goat meat taste so delicious.  Miu River, Kenya, around 2000.

People swear this salty water is what made their goat meat taste so delicious. Miu River, Kenya, around 2000.

A fellow volunteer recently asked me whether it was necessary for Peace Corps volunteers to live in “hardship” positions.  Many of us are, and some of us aren’t.  For me, roughing it is all part of the gig.  First, it encourages me to live a simpler life than what I might live in the United States.  Second, it ensures that I live at the same level as the people I am serving and can empathize with them.  Third, I don’t waste water that I have to carry myself.  Water is precious, and I hope I carry some of these conservation practices with me back to America.

Everybody carries water, even the itty-bitties.

Everybody carries water, even the itty-bitties.

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