Saturday, 1 February 2014

A Word About Water

After just over a month in Chenapou, I am starting to see water in a very different way.

I had always imagined that in the rainforest it would rain every single day. I was very wrong- when they talk about the 'dry' season they really mean it. Although when it does rain it rains heavily, these downpours are now few and far between. Most  days we watch the clouds drift by overhead, taking their moisture away over the hills, whilst our water tank gradually drains away its supplies.

Never before have I really considered the value of fresh water, in a country like Scotland where the precious liquid simply appears like magic from the taps. Never before have I had to filter the water I drink, or manually flush the toilet by filling up a bucket, or consider how I can use the same water twice. I certainly haven't ever needed to go down to the river to fetch water, feel the weight of it on my shoulder as I walk back up the steep banks.

Although the rain hasn't been falling, Chenapou is still blessed with water from the river. The level has indeed dropped dramatically, exposing muddy banks, rocks and old fallen trees, but there is still a plentiful supply of fresh, cooling water coming straight from the Pakaraima Mountains. As I have settled into Chenapou life, this river has become more and more a part of it.

On arrival, the Potaro seemed only to be a place to go for leisure- to swim and refresh yourself when feeling hot, or to float on your back, admiring the sky and contemplating. The river is like the vein of the forest, and I found going there was the best way to truly understand that I was in the middle of a jungle, when it all still didn't feel quite real. It soon also became a highway- at the weekends Ben and I would explore the village by swimming down the river with dry bags until we came across new landings to explore.

The river became a bath too. Rather than awkwardly washing in a little bathroom with a bucket, it is much easier and nicer to take your soap down to the landing and take a bath. After a while we realised it also made sense to take down our washing with us when we went to bathe, saving us a lot of water and making it much easier to rinse them out.

A river may sound incredibly basic compared to the fancy sinks and showers we are used to in the UK, but I have come to realise that in Chenapou it is perfect. The river is free, a gift for every person in Chenapou to use whenever they want. It is their tap, their bath, their main road, their fishing grounds, their washing machine, their life.

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