My favorite element …

“I see you drink Coolly Fresh,” oberved Bethany a week ago. It was an arch comment on the brand of bottled water we bought in Thailand, a large bottle of which was then clutched in my fist. There are a lot of things I miss here: burgers, my cats, cheese (Oh my word: for a slice of Manchego on a water crackers… ). Most of all, however, I miss water.

Oh, we have water. If you turn on the taps, water comes running out, just like back home. And bottled water of many varieties (I’m currently drinking Angkor Fresh) is readily had for a dollar. (Only one dollah!) But we were warned severely when we came here not to drink the water and not to swallow the water while showering. We even have to avoid puddles. (On a previous  Cambodia interim, one of David’s students stepped in some groundwater, and a worm burrowed up into her foot. One month and a bunch of medication later, she was fine.)

I was a very serious scholar of this water wisdom, so much so, that at first I was even afraid of the puddles that accumulated in the bathroom. (There is no slope in the bathroom floor, just a drain, so the water pools up.) I was terrified lest I accidentally rinse my toothbrush from the tap instead of the bottle. Water became to me almost radioactive. And I’m a person who loves to bathe; every week I work out several times in the Calvin pool. When washing dishes, I overfill the sink and splash it around. I love water.

It’s not as though the water here is bad. It’s just that the bacteria in it aren’t “my” bacteria– just as the food here isn’t my food, the smells here are not my smells, the music isn’t my music and 90 percent of the people here practice a religion with which I am not  familiar. The other day I saw a Cambodian man, fully dressed, wading chest-deep in one of the muddy brown pools that the monsoon season left behind. He looked quite at home.

Nowadays, the Cambodian water isn’t such a terror for  me.  I can rinse off quite blithely with my hand-held shower, and though I’m still careful about puddles and toothbrushes, I can splash the water of the country on my face. But I never feel quite coolly fresh.

I long for a long, hot bath. It is my second biggest fantasy, right up there next to the one about falling into a deep, clear pool. I long for the water that understands me.


1 comment so far

  1. Ann DeRooy on

    I am NOT a water fan but I do remember once when it was in scarce supply commenting that I thought I could kill a person for a glass of ice water. I know the feeling of your deep, clear pool fantasy!

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