Ethiopian snapshots: Water and electricity


I have lived in the Land of 10,000 Lakes since 1964. There have been times when the lakes and streams have receded below normal levels, but the water has never been a shut off. Water shut-offs in Addis Ababa happens on a weekly basis. In some unfortunate barrios water can be off for a whole week. People will travel by foot to a public faucet with large recycled plastic jugs to gather water for cooking and washing. Bottled water is sold just about everywhere. It looks to me that many people don’t drink water directly from the faucets…not tourists, not residents.

I do not bathe as much as I do at home. I don’t really need to. I wash efficiently and I am ready to go. If I don’t get clothes soiled, I hang them out and wear them once again before having them washed. My sense of what I “need” is being drastically revised day by day. Back “home-home” I participate in a lot of waste and self-indulgence. There is no need to be embarrassed or ashamed. I just need to change my behavior and model something different for the sake of the health and wellness of the planet and all beings.

Addis Ababa’s population has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 15 years. It’s quite dramatic according to long time residents. The lights go out in Addis Ababa 3 or 4 times a week at irregular times, sun up or sun down. My Ethiopian family keeps a supply of candles on hand all the time. I found the daily erratic-ness of the Internet signal VERY frustrating at first, but I am learning to accept that as a normal part of “the way things are” as much as sunrise and sunset. I remember back in the early 70s when I spent a summer in Cuernavaca, Mexico the power went off frequently. I think over most of the world, especially in urban settings, power outages are a normal part of life. Most modern metropolises were created with the assumption that there would always be cheap plentiful oil. Anybody paying attention knows that assumption flies in the face of reality. It’s time to rethink so much about how we live now. Rather than cursing the darkness, it’s time for us to embrace this as an opportunity in irritating disguise. We must seize the day and use our creativity in a generous and life sustaining way. Future generations are depending upon us.