Wanna’ freak out an Embassy person? Tell them the water they’re drinking is tap water!
I run around with my Peace Corps crowd and find my job to be a wonderfully perfect fit for me. I’ve roughed it around the world here and there. I’ve been to some of the poorest countries in the world and to the richest. I get the difference. I’ve been there poor and been there with a few bucks to my name. I’m not usually bothered by dirt, crowds, petty crime, germs. I feel here I do a pretty good job of navigating the differences...right? Well, I like to think so anyway. At heart I’m more of the Peace Corps type, it’s no surprise to anyone who knows me.
So, it is with great shame that I admit that even after drinking three glasses of delicious, crystal clear, cool water on a hot day, I could not bring myself to finish the fourth after I found out it was tap water. The conversation went something like this:
Peace Corps volunteers and I: chit-chat, chit-chat, chit-chat..etc, etc.
Peace Corps volunteer #1: I remember when we were here for training some people got parasites and the med unit determined it was likely from drinking the botellon (botelled) water.
[picture me with my glass, taking a drink, scrunching up my nose, “What does she mean?”]
Peace Corps Volunteer #2: Ya’ I’ve heard that. The people who drink the botellon up here tend to get sick more easily that those who drink the tap water.
[me, lowering my glass…silence]
Me: What do you mean?
PCV #2: The tap water is safe up here, but the botellon is more likely to be contaminated because maybe it’s not being filled with good water…you know brought in from somewhere else, or something.
[me, still holding my glass, paralized]
PCV #2: This is tap water.
Me: Really? [my words come out in a rasping squeek…worry, worry, worry]
PCV#2: Ya’ it’s safe.
Me: But, you guys are probably used to it. I have only had bottled water since I got here. In the entire year I’ve been here! Only. Botellon. Water.
PCV#2: No, you would know already if you were going to get sick. It’s fine.
I totally thought I was going to have a panic attack. I was imagining how I was going to continue my workday and then get home if I ended up with a parasite. I was trying to determine how exactly I would “know already” if I was going to get sick. I was thirsty, but I could not finish my glass of crystal clear, mountain spring water. I was officially a loser.
I feel like I have crossed a land that no Embassy person would ever dare tread. And, I’m fine. There’s no need to be dramatic I guess. It’s just water. But, it really reminds me that in this life, the FS life, the expat life, the “What in the world are they eating!” life, the “I have more frequent flier miles than I will likely every have money in my bank account” life, we can never really know what we think we know. There’s always gonna’ be someone, or something, to come along and shake things up. As soon as we think we know…we don’t.