Just before I could write this entry, I fell sick! And this unfortunate turn of events changes the tone I was going to use on this blog entry, for I would have started it like this, “God is punishing us! Nature is taking revenge!”
The thing is, we only drink imported water here, because well, they don’t have local water-bottling companies in South Sudan and everything here is trucked from Kenya and Uganda, anyway. And though I’ve been drinking liters and liters of this bottled water every day, it kind of gets me thinking. Imagine, there are three of us expats here in Bor, and each of us drink and brush our teeth with at least eight 300-ml bottles per day. And each bottle costs around 3 Sudanese pounds (1.14 USD). I’m not good with calculations but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that it’s an obscene expenditure. Makes me wonder whether it really is worth it. I mean, there are millions of people in South Sudan who drink the water from boreholes and they don’t fall sick. And here we are importing water for cooking and drinking all the way from Uganda!
Being expatriates, we get treated differently, for they assume our stomachs are not like that of South Sudanese. And it’s not. And I know at any time I can catch a tummy bug from the water and dehydrate to death. But there are expatriates from many African nations, whose water situations back home is similar to that in South Sudan, and I ask myself, when they are back home, do they drink imported water? Do they drink only bottled water? Why then should their lives be different when they come into Sudan on the expatriate ticket?
I guess it has something to do with the big salary they earn, the big budgets their employers have, and maybe the paranoid higher-ups who develop policies from the comfort of their European and American living rooms.
Although it might be a big risk to take, maybe, just maybe we should stop importing water, and to instead look for solutions from within Sudan. And while we may not be in the safe-water supply business, if we can find an affordable solution to the water problem, then maybe we can pass this solution on to the people we are working with, and that might help improve their lives. Certainly, advising them to drink imported water will not in any way contribute to fighting poverty. But if we, say, start very cheap water-treatment practices, or get water filters, or something that can be easily, cheaply, and quickly replicated in a rural and godforsaken place like Bor, then we would be inadvertently contributing to the safe-water solution.
Anyway, while I was wrestling with all these questions in my mind, I fell sick—of typhoid. And to think I got typhoid shots before I came here. Which brings me to another question, “Are vaccines really effective?” But let’s save that for another blog entry.
What actually happened is this. For a few days, there was a very foul smell around the bathroom, something stunk so bad, like rotting flesh. We all thought it was either of us who was responsible for it. Or maybe there was a dead animal somewhere or maybe the people in the other compound ate fish and threw the remains in our compound. But because we couldn’t find the source of the smell, we didn’t know whom to attack over it, so we just kept our opinions to ourselves. It turns out—tada!—there was a dead bird in the water tank! Yes, you heard me—a decomposing son of a hawk!
|And the tank.|
To make matters worse—which makes me think it was a punishment from God and Mother Nature—this big bird dove into the tank at a time when our supplies of imported, bottled water was running out. So we had to use water from the tank to cook, bathe, brush our teeth with, and boil rice. So some things that we thought were grains of rice were actually boiled maggots? Ewwwwwwwwwwww! Anyway, someone had commented that my cooking skills had greatly improved, and yet it’s this bird that was adding flavor to our food. Bwahahaha!
The poor late Mr. Hawk. We had this really heavy wind the other day, almost like a tornado. It lifted the cover off the tank, and Mr. Hawk came in for a swim, or a drink, or it decided to commit suicide by drowning because it’s partner ran away with a hen. Whatever its reasons, it really did a good job of getting into our “nerves”—and he sure did get into your stomachs as well!
Within a few days of us making this macabre discovery, I fell sick. Some said it was stress, others exhaustion, the doctor said it was typhoid. I at once thought the juices of the dead bird were responsible for making me sick.
But I remembered Mary Mallon, otherwise called Typhoid Mary, who was responsible for making many people sick of typhoid. It reminded me that even if you are very hygienic, and drink only the purest of water, you can still get infected. You only had to eat food prepared by someone infected with typhoid. By extension, even a handshake with such a person can make you sick.
Which brings me back to the issue of imported water. For we eat in local restaurants, where they don’t cook with imported water, and I can give many other examples of places we could get the disease from, not just dead birds in our water tanks.
Well, at least now I’m fine, and back to work, and longing for my R&R, which is due in 15 days’ time!