Collecting Water in Sanari Village

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By Oscar Miao, Yale University ’17

Oscar was a student on our Summer 2016 Global Health Issues in South Africa  program. This program includes a homestay in a Venda community in HaMakuya. Oscar describes a day in the life during this part of the program below.

We wake up to the sounds of chatter and laughter outside our rondavel, a traditional African-style hut. I slowly get out of my sleeping bag, releasing a low moan of pain from sleeping on impenetrable cement. I fill up my bottle from a tank, and head outside of our rondavel to brush my teeth with the prepared water. Brush, gulp, and spit – a routine for brushing without a tap. Our homestay mother recognizes that we are up, and serves a straw basket full of fruit, bread, and tea.

Refreshed from the milk tea, we join the dozens of children outside. The children carelessly run to and from the opposite ends of the fences that enclose the property, playing soccer and dodgeball. The brisk breeze propels a subtle wave of dust that skims my face. I ignore it, and continue to occupy myself in joviality – the children force me to be the goalkeeper, as my larger frame intrigues them. After an hour, our homestay mother dresses us up in traditional clothing. The girls wear dresses, while I wear a blanket that has beautiful block patterns of all colors over my shoulder. She then asks us to assist in choirs. I offer to help, but she refuses to hand me the broom. Our translator tells me that men are not supposed to do choirs. The girls begin to sweep, while I watch helplessly.

It is now time to get water. The translator tells me this is something men are supposed to do. I eagerly grab hold of three large water tanks and place them into the wheelbarrow. The girls in my group grab three other tanks and place them on top of their heads. About a dozen children join us in our journey, and we start to walk along the dirt road. One boy asks me if I know who Justin Bieber is; I tell him, ‘of course’, and he jumps in excitement. ‘Do you know who John Cena is?’ I respond, ‘Yes! I do’, and all the boys are so happy for this shared familiarity.

We walk for twenty minutes and get to the water tap that has been in Sanari Village for only five years. The kids grab the water tanks and begin to fill them up. Some begin to drink the water straight from the tap – I hesitate to try because the translator tells us the water is very salty. Once the six tanks are filled, we begin to trek back to our home.

We get back to our home, and unload all the tanks. Our homestay mother stores them in her kitchen, and begins to boil some in a pot. I recognize how lucky I am to have easy access to water where I am from. I am truly humbled. She says to my group in Tshivenda, “Thank you. We will head to the river later to see how other people in this village get their water.” We all nod and smile, and re-join the children in their daily activities.

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