Monday, October 19, 2009


In my last post, I talked a little about contentment. I wondered what deprivations I would be able to experience while still being content. Today, I realized yet another thing that I take for granted and not all others have. Indoor plumbing.

Yes, that's right. Indoor plumbing. It's a great privilege to have it. Many people around the world get all of their water from canals, wells, rivers, or other such sources. They have to go fetch their water, and what they get is what they get--microbes, pollution, and all. Although my water ultimately is obtained from similar sources, I have the great convenience of having it delivered right into my home, in exactly the quantity, temperature, and location of my needs and desires. Furthermore, because of where I live, my water is filtered inside my housing compound. Egypt apparently has a good water filtration system for Cairo, but the clean water then goes through dirty pipes, so the water that actually comes out of the tap is not safe for expats to drink. Not so in my home--the tap water is clean enough to drink without worries.

How often do we think about the clean water that is delivered to us on demand? Speaking for myself, not too often. I've thought about it a bit more than usual lately because there have been a few times when this luxury has not been available to me. I'm not sure what's been going on. The water was out a couple of times last summer, but on those occasions, it was for some type of work that was being done, so we were given advance notice. The three or four most recent occasions--all within the last month--occurred without warning.

The most recent occasion happened just this morning. In fact, the water is out now, unless it's come back in the last 45 minutes or so. It went out at a particularly inconvenient time for me today. I delayed my shower this morning until mid-morning. As I was soaping up, I noticed a marked decrease in the water pressure. Because of the recent outages, I realized immediately what was happening and started rinsing. No sooner had I gotten all the soap off of me than the water went out entirely. My washcloth is hanging in my shower, still full of soap. There was no time to rinse it. I didn't get to wash my face in the shower like I usually do. I didn't get to condition my hair, although I had washed it.

I was a bit annoyed.

Then I started thinking. Even though our tap water is potable, Jeff and I have chosen to drink bottled water, as most expats here do. So we have plenty of bottled water on hand. I was able to wash my face in the sink using bottled water. I was already mostly clean when the water went out, and one day of not soaping up my legs won't hurt anyone. I had washed my hair. So I ended up with a clean face, clean hair, and a half-clean body. It's enough for today. It's more than many people throughout the world, and throughout history, have had.

Most days, I am able to shower, brush my teeth, wash the dishes, and do any number of other tasks with minimal inconvenience. I don't have to haul water from the well, river, or canal in order to fill a bucket to wash my clothes. The easy availability of water on demand means that I don't even have to scrub my laundry myself--because we have indoor plumbing and electricity, I can have a machine for that, and another for cleaning my dishes. In the grand scheme of things, I'm spoiled rotten. Even now, with the water out, I can be confident that it will be back, probably within a couple of hours if not even sooner, and definitely by the end of the day. It may even be back already.

Why should I complain because my indoor plumbing stopped working for a short time, even if it was at a particularly inconvenient time today?


  1. It is amazing what things change in your perspective when you live outside your home country for a time. We are fortunate to have home-delivery of bottled water, besides good working indoor plumbing. And yet there are people in our city who don't have either. WE truly are a very fortunate people.

  2. We also have home delivery of our bottled water--the outage today reminded me that it was time for more, so I called the shop and they delivered it a little while ago. I forgot to mention that even with the city water out, I don't have to actually go anywhere to get water. I take so many things for granted! I'm glad I have them, but I also am grateful that my eyes are being opened to them in a new way.

  3. Understood.. on two levels.

    Our apartment (here in the states) turns off the water at the drop of a hat with no warning for whatever reason they choose.. and its never at a convenient time.

    And having spent quite a bit of time in TZ, I remember the missionaries we worked with boiling their water to make it safe for all of us. We bought bottles too, more often than not (and the last year they were gone so only bottles to drink and brush teeth) That and dealing with lukewarm showers at best (well a few randomly nice hot ones just to make us feel special lol) really make you appreciate what you have normally. What's funny is I got so used to those showers, sometimes downright cold ones.. but have it happen here & I freak out. LOL

  4. it is all too easy to take our clean water for granted. i remember "roughing it" camping once. i was sooooo grateful to be able to take a nice warm shower and brush my teeth with clean water once i got home...


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