Saturday, October 13, 2012

Water (Emanti) and Bathing (Kugeza)

As part of our three month observation and integration phase, we are asked to complete a task each week –- such as observing classes, learning about the South African education system and curriculum, and interviewing teachers -- and write a portfolio entry for each. Last week, over the Spring school break, our task was to observe and reflect on the society we are now living in. Perry and I spent the weekend before the break at a bed & breakfast in Malelane (to celebrate his birthday), and I found myself focusing on water in my portfolio entry. Here is what I wrote:
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to comment on the society we're now living in is to contrast it with the society we've come from. One marked contrast is the availability of water. I come from a place where water is always on, generally safe, and completely taken for granted as a basic or essential commodity. As we drained the last dregs of the water from our JoJo last week, I couldn't help but worry about what we'd do if the induna* didn't turn on the taps soon. Thank goodness, the very next day the taps began flowing, but what if they hadn't? 
Last week, it also became clear that there is a marked dichotomy between the haves and the have-nots with regard to access to water. My husband and I spent his birthday weekend in Malelane at a small B&B located in a leafy residential neighborhood near the Crocodile River. As we walked there, sprinklers watered emerald green lawns (and wastefully, the roads, too), ignorant of the nearly empty storage tank at our host family's home not 40 kilometers away. Taps flowed freely, toilets flushed, and pools were sparkling and clear. No water shortage here! 
Since I've spent some time thinking about water justice issues recently, I thought I'd cap this post with a description of how we bathe at our site. I know that before we arrived in South Africa, I had trouble visualizing what it meant to take a “bucket bath,” so perhaps this post will satisfy some of our readers' curiosity about how it's done. :) 

1) Fill up your bathroom water storage bucket. 

2) Fill up your 10 liter kettle (ligedlela in siSwati).

3) Put the 10 liter kettle on to boil (kubilisa).

3) Set up your bathing area.

4) Pour boiling water into the tub.

5) Add cold water from your storage bucket to desired temperature.

6) Reserve a small tub of clear hot water.

Next – and I don't have a photo of this, so you'll have to just imagine -- kneel on a fluffy towel or a blanket in front of the tub. Lean in and wet and shampoo your hair. Before rinsing your hair, wash your face and splash water over it until the soap is rinsed off. Then grab the reserved tub of hot water and pour it over your hair, taking care to rinse out all the shampoo. Dry your face and hair a bit with your bath towel and get into the tub. Scrub up, rinse off, dry yourself and you're done!

If you want to bathe in a smaller bucket (say, to use less water when it's scarce), after you've washed your face and hair, remain kneeling on your towel and lather up a wash cloth. Scrub your torso with the cloth, rinse it out, and use it to wipe the soap off your body. Then step into and stand or squat in the bucket. Lather up the cloth again and wash and rinse your lower half. Dry yourself off. Hang your kneeling towel or blanket out to dry. That's it!

If you're wondering why we don't use the giant bathtub seen in the picture to take a bath, it's because it takes about 20 liters of boiling water to produce a hot bath a couple of inches deep. The  tap rarely flows, so you also need schlep large quantities of cold water from the JoJo to make your bath. It wastes water and is a LOT of extra work.

“And now,” as Paul Harvey would say, “you know... the rest of the story.”


- Elizabeth