Peace Corps Part deux: Moroccan Nights

Mandatory Disclaimer: The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or people, the Mauritanian government or people, or the Peace Corps.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thirsty?

The other day I was sitting in the Tagant Governor’s office (they call Governor’s Wali’s like that robot guy in that movie) when I got thirsty, this tends to happen frequently when the temperature is above 110 degrees. One of the security guards asked me if in America we drink water out of huge plastic containers wrapped in goatskin. I finished my drink and told him that in America every house has at least five or six faucets with running water 24 hours a day and realized that the way Americans and Mauritanians consume our beverages is about as different as any other cultural difference.

A bidon is a plastic container that holds about 10 liters of water and was formerly used somewhere in the developed world to hold vegetable oil or something similar. In Mauritania there are all bright yellow colored. Almost all of them are wrapped in either cloth or goat skin to keep them cold. Some people even store their water in an actual goat skin. They hang up what appears to be an empty goat in a shady area and use it to store water. It does a better job then the bidon of keeping the water cold. Most families have many bidons to store the majority of their water although there are methods including concrete reservoirs.

Many people keep bidon’s of water in public places for public consumption. Many houses leave a bidon in the street in front of their house for any thirsty passerby’s to drink. They usually have a cup tied to the bidon for anyone to use to drink from. This is probably not the most hygienic method but nobody really seems to mind. Most public places including the aforementioned governor’s office have bidon’s lying around for anyone to drink from and even outside of town I will sometimes find a yellow bidon in the shade of a tree waiting for any thirsty wanderers. It is also worth noting that a thirsty person can knock on anyone’s door and that person is obligated to give the thirsty passerby a drink of water “no questions asked.”

In Tdjikja, most people have one water faucet in there yard. My house is pretty typical in that I have 1 water faucet sticking up a foot out of the ground in the middle of the yard. I then have running water for a varying amount of hours every day. When I have water I fill up my concrete water reservoir as well as several other water containers. For people that don’t have faucets a man with donkey cart will come around selling bidons full of water every few days.

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