Every day this week I have begun my day by getting dressed and walking 1.2km to my friend’s house, filling my five 2-litre bottles from her outside tap and walking home again. At the beginning of the week it was quite pleasant to spend 45 minutes in the fresh air first thing in the morning, especially if I managed to do the trip in the calm before the rush hour traffic. My mum even came to join me for the journey one morning, as in her experience in Kenya, collecting water was often a sociable experience when the women got chance to be with their friends and catch up on the gossip.
As the week has progressed, however, the novelty has definitely been wearing off. It has become harder and more wearisome to wake up in the morning knowing that I can’t do anything else until I’ve collected my water.
Tomorrow I am going to London for the day and as I am being picked up at 7am I decided to fetch my water this evening so that I wouldn’t have to get up any earlier than absolutely necessary. Whilst I am very much looking forward to not having to walk for 45 minutes before I can have my wash tomorrow, doing the journey twice in one day really made me think. Maybe because it was the end of the day, maybe because it was dark and raining, but the trip this evening seemed to take much longer than it had done this morning. I can’t imagine how long it would feel if I was doing it several times a day. And the reality for many people is a much, much longer journey.
Besides the early mornings, the walking has taken other tolls on my body. Due to socks with holes in I ended up with blisters on my heels on the first day, which made walking painful for several days after.
The weight of water in my rucksack – 10 kilos if my calculations are correct (1 litre = 1 kilo) – pulls at my shoulders and makes them ache. I do not have the skill of carrying water on my head but 11-year old Rosena from Zambia used to so on a daily basis, until a borehole was drilled in her village with support from CAFOD:
“Fetching water from the river was tiring,” says Rosena. “The walk home was worse because we were carrying heavy containers on our heads. I gave thanks to God when the borehole was drilled because it has made life so much easier. My neck used to ache a lot, sometimes it stopped me sleeping. But now we don’t have to walk as far, the pain has gone away.”
I only have another day to go, but there are so many for whom there is no end in sight.