The first thing I do after waking up each morning is I brush my teeth, still half asleep. It’s the 6th day so far, and there is nothing that wakes me up more than turning the faucet handle..and having no water come out. Not even a drop.
In these 2 seconds, a million thoughts go through my head. It wakes me up like a million cups of coffee. I’m reminded that I’m in Bolivia, not at home in Charlotte, NC. I feel shock, because there’s always water at home. Then I feel frustration, later anger, then guilt and selfishness. Those feelings, along with many others too quick to make sense of, have made up the first 2 seconds every morning in the past week.
It’s not reported on, but Bolivia is currently in the middle of a drought. The nearby lake, Lago Poopó, no longer has water. Water is being rationed by neighborhoods. Here, in Calacoto, we get water every 3 days. That means that every 3 days, I take a quick, uncomfortable shower since it will go cold and will lose pressure. Every 3 days, I am thankful for every
drop that falls on my head in the quick 2 minutes. Every day, my friend’s mom rushes to wash the clothes, water the plants, and all the other chores that require water. I have talked with various people about the water crisis, and everyone has a different opinion about how the government is handling the situation. The water sources, which used to be run by a private company, were recently were turned over to EPSAS, the governmental department for water. Many people blame EPSAS because even though the drought was expected, EPSAS did not look for other sources of water in case of an emergency like this. EPSAS is technically breaking the law since they have robbed the people of a basic right: water. There are other conspiracy theories that have risen from the issue. For example, many people believe that the government is responsible for exacerbating the situation due to selfish reasons. Although Bolivia has many mountains with melting glaciers, the water is somehow not reaching the city. People have criticized the government for redirecting pipes to mines in the mountains. It’s a dilemma because Bolivians have accused their government of selling the mines to Chinese companies who are profiting from their resources and don’t have respect for their land. This is a fear of mine: I hope people don’t see me and think that I’m Chinese and involved with these corruption theories.
The worst part is that I shouldn’t be complaining, as much as this situation makes me uncomfortable. We’re lucky to have bought a tank to fill up on days that water is given. So we have water, but it is uncomfortable when it comes from a tub instead of out of the faucet. Other citizens in La Paz don’t have this luxury. The news always show a long line of people waiting for water. They leave extremely grateful, having fill just two buckets of water.
The people here have gotten so used to the issue that humor has become their best coping mechanism. I see many restaurants with signs that say “No pierdas agua, toma cerveza” which translates to “don’t waste water, drink beer.” Whenever I’m on the bus going home, I see a few of these signs that remind me how privileged I am, and make me feel grateful for each drop that comes out of the water faucet.
So far, it’s been a difficult experience, but I believe that it’s making me into a more humble person. I don’t complain about it to my friends or coworkers, because there’s not much we can do. It’s a struggle every faces. It stresses me out, and is making my experience a bit less dreamy than I imagined it to be, but I feel like I am learning about myself, this country and its politics in a very personal manner.