Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Don’t Tell Anyone This, But….

When I decided to go to Botswana one of the first things I was happy about was that it was safe to drink the water.  This may sound like a minor detail, but in many countries, particularly countries in Africa, that is far from possible.  In Sierra Leone the parasites in the water were so dangerous that I wore swimming goggles when I took a shower.  I doused my face with bottled water when I woke up in the morning to wash away the morning grogginess.  And I had to have all my clothes (underwear and socks as well) ironed because despite being washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer, it was still possible to end up with parasites which would crawl underneath your skin and have to be cut out by a doctor if it happened.  Hence, the rejoicing over being able to drink the water in Botswana.

Of course, being able to drink the water is nice, but if the water doesn’t come out of the tap that’s another story.  I’ve mentioned before water restrictions and how we only have water in our homes about three to four days a week.  We haven’t gotten as much rain as they would hope for this year, so the dam is only at about 10% capacity.

About a week ago I woke up on a Sunday morning, headed out the door to the gym and halfway there doubled over in pain and had to return home.  I spent the entire day on the couch.  I didn’t actually get sick, but I had such severe stomach cramps I had no desire to eat, move or do anything.  The discomfort continued for several days, but each day the pain lessened.  By Thursday the stomach trouble was over.

On Friday I went out with a friend.  She is an environmental lawyer with the Ministry of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources.  I told her about my past week of stomach pain and she became quiet.  She leaned over and quietly (I have NEVER seen her say anything quietly by the way) said, “Ok, don’t tell anyone this, but you shouldn’t drink the water.”  WHAT?!?!

Has anyone been following #sochiproblems?  Google it and you will be entertained for hours.  One journalist was tweeting comments and pictures from Sochi about the fact her hotel had no water.  She mentioned that she was told when the water finally came back on she shouldn’t wash her face with it because it was dangerous.  Not long after she posted a picture of two glasses of bright orange water with the caption: Now I know what dangerous face water looks like.

As I sat there listening to Tshepo tell me not to drink the water all I could think about was #sochiproblems.  I asked her to explain and she told me that about 200 kids had been hospitalized over the weekend from dangerous contaminants in the water.  But!  Here’s the important part of the story, “The government doesn’t want to cause a panic, so they aren’t putting out an official statement telling people to avoid the water.  They don’t want this made public.”  I couldn’t believe it.  I thought Botswana was a little more advanced than soviet-style censorship and putting citizens’ health in danger for PR purposes.

Good news is that I’m going to have some amazing guns by the time I get back to the U.S. because I have to walk about a mile each way to the store to buy bottled water.   And I figure I don’t want to waste the trip, so I always buy 2- 5 liter bottles.  I don’t want to be uneven or anything.

Here is the Gaborone Dam, which is really more like a puddle right about now.  All the grass you see in the foreground is typically covered in water when the dam is at the appropriate level:


  1. Company is coming. Better stock up on that water

    1. HAHA! "Company" doesn't need to worry. I am looking forward to "company" so much I have already purchased the necessities and planned the entire trip. Reservations and everything have already been made.