Monday, March 21, 2011

La Bomba


Attempting to repair the old pump
As mentioned earlier, I was considering purchasing a new pump to ease the process of gathering water for the Casa Misionera. I considered who might come to stay here after me, and that they might not have the physical stamina for all of the lifting and pouring involved in collecting water in half-gallon increments and transferring them to larger buckets to carry across the room to pour into the storage barrel. I also thought of the sleep I would save if I could fill a week's worth of water in one night, and how I (or whoever is living here) wouldn't have to listen for water every night anymore. I also had in mind that I would be able to share my newly bountiful resource. 

So we went and bought a reconditioned used pump at Mercado Oriental for about $30.

The first night after I installed the pump we were very low on water and – what a blessing! – it came that night. I was able to refill the barrel and all of the gallon jugs we use in the kitchen in less than an hour. It seemed incredible! I decided I could then sleep the next couple of nights, as when the water came, I got plenty of it.

After two nights' sleep, I heard the water coming, and got up to set up the hose and plug in the pump. Before I got into the hallway, I heard the sounds of my neighbor Gladys running her pump. The day before, my Spanish teacher had complained to me about her neighbor's pump overpowering and stopping the flow in her pump – I didn't want to subject either of our pumps to such a battle, so I went back to sleep.

The next night I awoke to the sound of water again in the middle of the night – this time it was my neighbor on the other side. Their faucet is just enough higher than mine that they don't get water as often as I do, so they end up buying water from big tanker trucks that come around from time to time (Maybe people call for them? I don't know) – for about twenty-five cents per container of any size. It didn't take long to decide I was not going to turn on my pump and effectively suck the water right out of their pipes.

By the time I was able to put the pump to use again, my water cache was low, but again I was able to refill it before the water cut off, and in time to get a couple of more hours of sleep. This became a repeating pattern – I would start to think about getting up to get water, would get up a few nights in a row to find either no water or a neighbor filling their barrels, and then, just before starting to worry in earnest about having enough water, I would get up and be able to fill all the containers.
Neighbors sharing banana bread

Another pattern that developed was being regularly asked for water by a couple of my neighbors. It is clear that we all have different access to water here, based on geography, house design, money to invest in a pump, and who-knows-what other factors, obscured by the walls and doors that surround our lives. I am just glad I have enough to share.

I have been thinking lately about what it means to be a steward of resources – not the “owner,” but rather the community member who currently has the responsibility for decisions around that resource's use. We live in a system set up to organize the use of our limited resources – water, food, fossil fuel, fresh air, money – but I'm not sure how far that constrains my relationship to these resources. 

How does the idea of stewardship affect my actions to gather, store, and expend resources? Can I include the rest of the world in my budget decisions? What does it mean to open myself to the possibility of someone else having a voice in how I use my home, my time, or the money in my pocket?

Is the reason I have more water than my neighbors "I deserve it"? What does it mean if it isn't?

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