Nary a drop to drink

I stand in front of my bathroom sink, toothbrush in hand, confused.

Yes, I’m whacked out on jet lag. I slept for the first ten and a half hours of the sixteen hour flight from Delhi to San Francisco. The flight attendants were actually worried and I only woke up when I got leg cramps from not drinking enough. Hard to take in water while you are sleeping.

Although it’s time for bed in San Francisco, I’m both exhausted and awake at the same time.

Just being in an international airport is exciting for me, hearing different languages, seeing different cultures on display. Somehow all the possibilities of life are open when you are headed on an international trip. I love to leave. And I love to come home.

I’ve spent three weeks in India, and not in luxury hotels. While I have been an honored guest at every turn, sitting at the head of the table, in the front seat of the car, never allowed to get close to a restaurant bill, the realities of daily life in India are different than here.  I drink bottled water there. Every time. Every drop. If the woman-of-the-house is going to make chutney she uses bottled water so I can eat it.

“Is is true that everyone in America his a pipe into their house with water?” a cousin asks me.

An Indian in-home water purification system. Families like to transfer water for drinking to the ceramic jug as it will stay cooler. Refrigerated water is deemed too cold.

I always invite questions, and learn more from the questions I’m asked than from those I ask.

“How many hours a day does that water come?” is his follow-up question.

“And you can drink this water?”

I told him that if you can’t drink the water it will be in the newspaper. “And we get hot water from the pipe also.”

In the village of Kanai one morning we ran out of water. The family house is one of the most modern in the village. It has two bathrooms with western-style toilets, swamp coolers, and a reverse osmosis water purifier. But that only helps if you have water. The tank was empty. The well water was too bad. I went on the search for water. The first home didn’t have any to spare. We got two jugs from a house-under-construction down the street. I’ve supported Charity Water, which brings clean water to third world villages, for 15 years now and been lucky to see their work in the field in both Ethiopia–where we dig wells–and in India where we build taankas, a modern version of ancient rainwater collection tanks.

I stare at my toothbrush again, put toothpaste on it and run it under the faucet.

About Karen Ray

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2 Responses to Nary a drop to drink

  1. Joan M Haan says:

    Fond memories! Welcome home!

  2. nancyalinn says:

    Impressive and insightful!

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