Benin Clean Water Boukombe Benin West Africa Sunday, October 1, 2006
It is strange to suddenly become such a student of travel, I was getting lackadaisical in my travel, and I can see it now. Interestingly enough, I would say that Africa is easy to travel, I am thinking, then why am I learning so much. I suppose the daily French Lesson give me an ever-acute sense of learning. Then I am in nature or closer to nature in my travels, I am not in the sterile, cities of Asia, I am not walking on asphalt, tiles, or bricks, I am walking on gravel and clay.
Today, I am learning again about water, I am very comfortable with drinking the water here, it appears and feels excellent. I guess the thoughts come down to how to carry water to my room, or why, or when, or where to collect water. There are three big blue maybe 55-gallon plastic drums that hold water in the main area and monitored by the many women of this hotel. I think the place is called the Chez Yatsin or something; it cost 2000 CFA and is the cheapest hotel I have used.
The girl Eloise gave me this exceptionally clean bucket, a small plastic dip bowl, and we filled my bucket. They use this half of a very large gourd to dip the water and I am walking back to my room with a heavy bucket of water.
Ok, I take dip showers many places on the planet, this is normal, what is different is there is not an unlimited supply of water in my room. I have a bucket full of water, and do not want to go retrieve another bucket, so I try to conserve water.
The bucket contains my. 1. Coffee water 2. Water to cook Rice. 3. Dip shower water. 4. Brush my teeth water. 5. Drinking water. 6. Wash my hands after eating mango water. 7. Wash my hands water. 8. After toilet water.
Ok, for instance, to brush my teeth, I want to rinse my toothbrush, and clean a little before I brush. I must take the small bowl that is my dipper already in the water, and pour water over my toothbrush. I then brush my teeth, I then spit the toothpaste where… normally I use the toilet, however the toilet is another story. I have a stall area that drains outside, to the outside, I spit is next to the drain hole. I want to swish some water around my mouth. Wait a minute, if I drink from the dipper, there will be toothpaste on the dipper. I therefore pour water from the dipper into one of my two glasses. I needed to rinse the coffee out of the glass before I did this. Ok, used a dipper, rinse the coffee, put the dirty coffee water in the same location as the toothpaste. Now I have a clean cup, I use the dipper to pour water into the clean up. I take some water and proceed to swish the toothpaste and do some type of not normal tooth brushing.
I now have a cup that needs cleaned of any possibility of toothpaste, so I need to pour water over the cup. I only have 2.5 gallons, I need to last all night, or somehow run around in the middle of the night, in the dark looking for water. The only need is a drink; I cannot use my last glass of drinking water.
Taking a dip shower will one day graduate to a full-blown tip, I am become the expert at dip showers. I have even learned how to use less water in Africa, maybe one gallon. It is about efficiency of rinsing, the problem is rinsing, not cleaning. I will save this for tip.
Ok, so conservation of water is my goal, and prioritizing how to use it, then the impossible task of keeping the water free of debris, contaminates, of particles.
Around I go and where I go I do not know. Ok, back to the beginning, if you are on the Amazon, I have been on the Amazon, and they will take a canoe out to the center and fill up jugs. This water has the least amount of turbidity in it.
Turbidity is the fancy word meaning the water looks muddy or full of particles. Ok this is fortunately not the big problem in West Africa, I have many sources of water and it is clear looking, that does not mean it is not full of something that will give me dysentery.
I am drinking about 90 percent public water sources, or paid to use the water sources. Today, I am drinking in Boukoumbe Benin water collected from probably a round deep well that goes down to the water table, I know of two, one is about 30 meters and the other is 40 meters, a long distance to pull up a bucket.
Then it goes in the big plastic 55-gallon blue barrel, sits, settles and hopefully remains clean. I am not paranoid, I will drink after about anyone, but I still like the perception of clean.
Ok, you fill it with water; some loose junk settles to bottom, the top is cleaner; however, surface water is not as clean as under the surface. I sort of skim the top, dump it, and then go for the deeper pull of water. I fill up my own 4-gallon tub and there is sits. I know the tub is clean, because it is my tub; however, I am thinking, do I need to cover it to keep the water pure? I do not want lint particle, there is not many things in a backpack that is super clean, I guess some t-shirt would be best, but I only have five, not wanting to sacrifice. I leave it uncovered, then realize later, many thing fall from the sky, or from the ceiling, the fan is blowing, the air is moving, I need to stop this, I also cannot walk over or near, and what about the dippers, do I leave it in the water, the only clean place in the room is the water. I cannot sit the dipper down; it must be in the water. I have two cups, one is the dipper, the other is the drinking cup, I am going to go to three soon, they take up a lot of space if not stackable. The handle stop them from stacking, I will have to cut off a handle to go to three.
The bottom line of all this is you need one large container, then three cups, and a smaller but big container, that holds 2 gallons, then you can talk all the small things, and put in the big 4 gallon and boil it until all is sterilized enough for any normal camper. The 2 gallon container than is the super clean water reservoir, the big one it the cooker, and the water carrying system. The three cups are managed with care, and how do I clean a pot? I have a Dutch oven type cookers, cleaning is not simple.
I can say this with complete honesty, everyone drinks the water, it is not possible avoid drinking the water when you travel. All you can do is minimize the chances of somebody doing an outrageously dirty operation; to avoid normal water from the tap is about impossible.
The problem is cleaning the cups, the cooking utensils and keeping them clean before you eat or use.
I will dwell on this, I do not know if anyone can be clean enough in a camping condition to stay clean. I could by not moving, keep clean and unlimited amounts of tap water keep very clean.
I watched Sara the Peace Corps girl turn greenish and make a run for the toilet in here home. I wonder if she was packing, I am always, always packing toilet paper in my pocket. Only place I stop, is in the USA, I do not trust Europe, Asia and South America is a disaster, actually Africa is good inside the hotels, outside, same as anywhere, you need to be packing.
Sara and me ate some egg omelets, nothing in the eggs for me, I think there were tomatoes in hers.
I know my eggs were cooked hard and done, I am not sure the tomato in here was cooked. How long the tomato was sitting before being used is the question.
I really believe the bigger danger for travelers is the food, not the water; the water is minimally a problem. Food preparation is an incredibly dirty operation. I more or less eat packaged or one piece of food cooked well and never in any mixture, and nothing they would dip out of a container and pour on my rice of spaghetti.
If not hot, then it gets a pass, I must feel the cooked process, I do not buy cooked food waiting to be eaten, and the shelf life makes me weak. I know they keep them chickens until the next day; they do not throw them away…
I could dwell, talk, write about how to eat and stay healthy traveling, people love to eat, and I do not believe they can stop eating these goulashes, salad, conglomerations of foods. They also will have a delusory idea their good friend; the owner of the restaurant is clean.
Note the handle to the dipper is a problem, to share it; you need a handle that hangs out of the water. To shower, I need to be able to have soap on my hand, however not get soap into the water. There are dipper problems.