Saturday, June 28, 2008

Life in Mexico - Muddy Waters

By Cindi Bower

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Enjoy Guanajuato!Enjoy Guanajuato! When he was a child, legendary blues artist McKinley Morganfield's grandmother nicknamed him "Muddy Waters" because he loved to play in the muddy creek near their home. During rainy season in Guanajuato, he would have felt right at home. He wouldn't even have had to go to the creek at the bottom of our street to get his dose of muddy water. Just taking a shower would have provided plenty of dirty water for his playing pleasure.

During rainy season in Guanajuato, the rains can be quite heavy. A massive amount of water flows down from the mountains, bringing large amounts of debris it picks up along the way. As a result, the normally placid rivers and creeks become roaring torrents of chocolate-colored water.

The residents and farmers are happy to see plenty of water in this normally dry region, but it causes some problems. The water treatment plant cannot adequately deal with the extra influx of water or with the sediment it carries.

I don't know how the water is in the rest of Mexico, but Guanajuato's water is not always clean, even during the dry season. Not only is it unsafe to drink (or even to use for rinsing your toothbrush!), it also can be dirty. Sometimes, the water only has a slight yellow tinge. Other times, it is rusty brown. Once in a while, muddy-colored water, complete with sediment, comes out of the faucet.

What does one do about bathing, washing dishes, and doing laundry when the "potable" water is dirty? Here are some tips I have gleaned from the locals.

When showering, even when the water is clear, keep your eyes and mouth shut to keep from ingesting water. When the water is dirty, shower as quickly as possible. You will probably notice that your hair feels stiff and your skin feels gritty. If this bothers you, you can heat some bottled water on the stove to give yourself a final rinse.

For washing dishes, I turn the water heater to its highest setting, use antibacterial soap, and use as little tap water as possible for washing and rinsing. Then, I boil some bottled water on the stove, add a little bleach, and use the hot bleach water to rinse everything.

Dealing with laundry is a bit more troublesome.

In one apartment, we were fortunate to have a washing machine. Though using it increased our water and electric bills, the extra expense was worth not having to lug our dirty clothes to the nearest laundromat (more than a mile away) or having to lug the clean clothes back up the mountain.

Everything was going along swimmingly until rainy season hit. No one told me about the problems with the water.

One day, after several days of rain, the morning dawned clear and bright. I decided it was a good time to get in a load of wash since dirty clothes were piling up. The sun was shining, so the weather would be warm enough for the clothes to dry on the clothesline (we didn't have a dryer).

I put the clothes in, started the wash cycle, and went about my business. A while later, I heard the washer complete the final spin cycle. I went out to the patio, opened the washer's lid, and saw a horrifying sight.

All my whites were brown!! Everything was ruined!!

At first, I thought something was wrong with the washing machine. It was several years old and was housed on an open patio, so I assumed the washer malfunctioned. I resigned myself to rinsing each item out in the sink.

I brought a couple of small items inside, plugged the sink, and turned on the water. The water was a nice muddy brown!! The washing machine was not at fault after all.

Now what?

I called a friend to complain about my plight. She suggested two options she had learned from experience. The first one was to only wear dark clothes during rainy season. The second was more practical. Instead of putting the clothes in the washer first and then allowing it to fill with water, allow the washer to fill before putting the clothes in. When the wash cycle is finished, take the clothes out, let the washer fill with rinse water, then put the clothes back in. Though her instructions were time-consuming, I followed them. My clothes came out clean (more or less) the second time.

After living in Guanajuato for three years, I'm not surprised when the water comes out of the faucet discolored or dirty during rainy season. When I see dirty water, I hear a gravelly blues voice singing in my ear,

"Oh yeah, they call me Muddy Water..."


Sustainable Expatriatism - Description:

This book is publicly offered contingent on the reader’s prior understanding that the reader should always independently confirm with other qualified sources the information presented in this text. The author(s) and publisher(s) accept no responsibility of any kind for conclusions or perceptions reached by readers of this book. The perceptions you have and the conclusions you draw from the unique opinions of these authors, are your own and you accept total responsibility for them. Though written in the context of the authors' life in Mexico, this book is absolutely applicable to any potential expat who will be moving to a country where their native tongue is not the dominate language. This book reflects the unique philosophy of expatriation held by the authors.

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