August 17, 2010

Rainwater & sweet nothings

Island living. Its not for everyone. But really, everyone should try it out for a few weeks.  Why?  Well because on a tropical island, surrounded by water, one's  mental and material attachments become less tenacious.  Tropical islands have long been regarded as the 'paradises' of this earth; but this is only an imagined place.  Real island living is basically learning to conserve and share resources.  We found this out earlier this year when our water line from the village supply one day, suddenly dried up.  No one really knew why; it was simply not working.  When would it be back on?  Well, no one really knew that either - and, as we've learned, its best not to fret about time here in the islands, for time in the metro sense - as a linear sequence - doesn't exist here.  

So releasing attachments to any preconceived notion of municipal services, I accepted our situation: it was dry season, the village water was down, and our rainwater tank was low since there was an ever-so small crack near the bottom that prevented storing the water - it just kept leaking out and we hadn't fixed it because that would require draining the water we did have and plastering it. So we were in a water Catch-22; and a drought since June seemed to be the driest month ever.  So what did we do?  We conserved water...I learned how to wear clothes smartly so they didn't need as much washing - I learned how to tolerate dirt, shedding some of my Puritanical aversion to the stuff...I learned how to take 2-gallon showers; how to skip days  of showering by taking 'birdbaths', used yesterday's dish rinsewater to soak the next day's dirty dishes; cook in one pot instead of two or three.  When it did rain we'd rush outside to put buckets out under the parts of the rain gutter which had dripping leaks.  Let me tell you something: if you've never tasted fresh rainwater, you've never lived. Seriously, it tastes like sweet nothings.  I went back to New Zealand in May, took a drink from the tap and noticed immediately the chemicals - chlorine; nasty stuff...In June was in Suva, and cracked open a bottle of "Fiji Water" - still chemicals washed over my taste buds.  When my sister 'Ofa came to 'Uiha in May, her and her husband Mark brought chlorine pills to kill all the parasites or whatever lurks in water; my husband Salesi said it tasted like swimming pool water.  So far, I've drank the rainwater of 'Uiha and I've yet to have any ill effects.  Mind you, we fill our drinking water bottles up at our cousins house where the government of Australia has recently installed brand new avocado green Rotomould water tanks in 2008, so the water is new, fresh and clean, and tastes like sweet nothings.

So the point of this is: island living is conservative, bare-bones and full of challenges to a city-dweller like myself.  And by the way, the village water miraculously turned on last week. We've attached a hose and run that to our shower house in back.  Pure heaven not having to bail water from the tank; which by the way, we've also fixed the leak (well, not me, but you get the idea...). 

Finally, before the power cuts out (its almost midnight) I'll leave you readers with a quote that my mom, Mayone, wrote with a magic marker on our wall here at Uncle Kali's house: "On the platform of the canoe, surrounded by waters, you need to conserve resources and work in harmony. The same is true on an island on our Planet at a large." -Chad Kalepa  (Navigator)


  1. After our visit to 'Uiha and our return to Utah I had a new and deep respect for water... and a sick feeling in my stomach to watch it come out of the tap and run down the drain. Easy, too easy, water, waste, waste, water, waste, precious water, waste, water, waste, waste. Living water. Water is essential. So essential, to live and not waste.

  2. Yes, true that sistah! Which is also why we use a compost toilet, the Joe Jenkins Humanure method. Not flushing our crap with drinking water is very liberating too. Salesi and I went to Suva and stayed in a hotel for a week - and realized how wasteful hotels are, each room its own hot water shower and flush toilet...ohh, the standards of the developed world...anyways, we missed the tepid showers but let me tell you, I took not one but FIVE showers a day, not only because Suva is humid as hell, but because the water was there - at the turn of a dial, and voila! It was pure indulgence, and I enjoyed every minute.