Sunday, June 10, 2007

Water,water everywhere, but not a drop to drink

69 days til Im off to Saba for two weeks. I am looking forward to it besides the fact that it will be eight months since I last saw Fidel.

I like Saba and the Sabans. Sure Ive only been there twice, but I feel at home and comfortable there. When Fidel reads this hell probably think, yeah but she hasnt spent two years here, 24/7.

I got to thinking about water on Saba, today.

This island is a study of contrasts with respect to water. The little 5 square kilometer island is actually a volcano plunk in the Caribbean, and is surrounded by a zillion square kilometers of water that is undrinkable. Saba has a desalination plant now, but up to a few years ago, besides the rain, the only fresh water on the island came from a couple of small stream. No wells on Saba. Desalinated water is really expensive and only bought when desperate.

Though the top of the island, Mount Scenery, is classed as a tropical jungle, not much further down in elevation the island becomes very much drier.

So all water for drinking, flushing toilettes, showers, laundry, and so on, is from the water collected in the cisterns on each property. Fidels landlady has two. The second one was just finished last year and is larger than the first one, which still has three people using it at the moment. They are building a third, I think he said, because they are building another little apartment to rent to med school students. Myself, I think its because they know I am coming back for a visit *lol*. However with the typical pace of building anything on the island, it wont be done until Fidel is ready to retire.

When I am on island, I quickly have to learn or re-learn a totally different approach to water consumption. I have to go from the mentally many of us from the water squandering North America have, to thinking about water usage, a lot. Showers are shorter, the toilette only gets flushed a couple of times a day, the tap is never left to run, no water gets just dumped (i.e. the little bit left in the kettle). Doing dishes is a much more strategic event.

The landlady has a washing machine that I have never seen before. It has two tubs. One is first filled with water from the cistern. The cleanest clothes get washed first. They are then spun dry; the water going into the second tub. The next cleanest clothes get washed in the second tubback and forth it goes...until the water is too dirty to use.

This water issue really hit home on my last visit. We were having lunch at a really good restaurant on the island

(Lots of good food on Saba!!!! That day I had a wonderful Saban tuna steak on a salad yummy. I wont go on about another place that does the best red snapper sandwiches. Dreaming about good food……)

and I ordered water with the meal. It came bottled. I normally dont drink bottled water, just because, and I normally dont have a beverage with my meals. But I was a bit thirsty because I had just spent three hours over a hot torch, in a hot studio, doing glass work. I guess in the back of my head I thought they would just bring a glass like what I am used to here, and after all I just wanted a couple mouthfuls.

Any how, I drank about half of it. I left what was left on the table, thinking, actually not thinking, maybe habit (like we all do at restaurants). I didnt want it. As we were walking out, the young fellow came running after me, Dont forget your water.

The island is dry right now. They are hoping to get rain over a few days that will add up to some significant number of inches. A gentle rain, not the rain that leads to stuff tumbling off the side of the volcano, or causes the delay of the weekly food shipment because of choppy seas (Fidels first month on island, the weather was stormy. Food shipment was delayed three or four weeks it was desperate).

Sounds ECO friendly, yes? I wont get into their waste management systems. Wait until they change status from being a protectorate of Holland to an actual county of the country. Some socks are going to need pulling up.


DeathSweep said...

Wow, sounds like there must be a lot of regimental living that we're not used to except under unusual circumstances. You're right about us North Americans being wasteful because we have so much but I guess that's no excuse. I'll bet you can't wait to get there though!

MedStudentWife said...

Actually - life in the Carribean is far from regimental.. its so free and easy in many other aspects.

Its all what you are used to. This island didnt have regular electricity until the early 1970's, from what I understand.

The island is beautiful. if you like hiking or diving, its a woberful holiday

DeathSweep said...

Sounds great to me...I think I hear the vacation researcher awakening in me!

DeathSweep said...

By the way, that Neo-Earth thing you've got going there seems real cool. Looks like an idea ripe for stealing! I want one!!

MedStudentWife said...

I stole the idea of neo-earth from another blog


I like it. But me thinks its only a free trial... get hooked & then $$. I'll see

I want really kwel widgets on my blog

If you want more info about holidays in the Carribean, I might have some ideas. 15 years ago I sailed from St Lucia, to Grenada, back up to Martinique and then to St Lucia, over 2 weeks. Four of us rented a Beneteau. What a fab way of seeing a lot of stuff in 2 weeks.

Vader's Mom said...

Hi! I'm your gift exchange buddy and I can't find your email address. Of course, I could be staring right at it and not see it the way this week is going!! :) (You can access my email from my blogger profile.)

I can't imagine having to be so care with my water. I guess I should sit back and be more observant of how much I waste on a daily basis and adjust my way of living.