When the water don’t flow the day feels incomplete. I walk around my single room flat with the incense I burn before I sleep and it and the flames of the candles show me imbalance – we have fire but we have no water. Running water that is. Of course I have reserve water. No fool am I and this is not my first water cut. I am the proud owner not only of 100L of reserve tap water hiding about the flat and the balcony in 10 x 10L water jugs, but I am also the proud owner of a sure-made choice. And the choice is this: if I have to choose between a power cut or a water cut I’ll take power cut every time. Obviously having neither is ideal and having both at once is incredibly inconvenient. But the truth is that I kind of like power cuts, as long as my iPhone has a bit of extra juice and my playlists are accessible. I enjoy sitting around candlelight. I loved that one time during a black out that we sat with my friend and her two boys in her kitchen and spent an hour making hand puppet shadows on the wall against the candlelight. I love it when Dakar is allowed in this way to finally settle back into village mode. It’s as if all of the electronic machines and lamps and wifi and computers were all switched on to please the Gods of Advancement and the Deities of Development but once switched off, through no power or choice of our own, we are all finally allowed to be our restful selves and settle comfortably into our soft darkness. We can focus on just being and there is no use of pretending we’re keen on moving because without the electricity there isn’t much doing anyways. Occasional power cuts are a relief and a joy as long as you have some candles on hand and the aforementioned smartphone battery juice. And they serve as a great reminder of our dependence on all of these modern comforts and gadgets. What’s more, if you’re like me and you don’t even have a fridge or a freezer then you’re doubly unconcerned about your frozen dinners defrosting too soon and icky food water beginning its slow dripping from your appliances. Nope, during a short power-cut, you’re right as rain.
Now a water cut is nothing like a power cut because water is essential to life and you never even realize how often you reach for the tap and sink during the same day until you realize there’s nothing coming out of the nozzle.
When everything stops flowing I think of the ocean just a 5 min. walk away and I’m glad that no one, not the SDE (Senegalaise des Eaux), not the president, the UN, not anybody, can turn the waves off. And I’m somewhat encouraged by the thought that if my 100L runs out too quickly, I would at least be able to shower in the sea. And I’d fill up my empty 10L containers with salt water and traipse back into the well-lit electrified apartment. It would be a new experience washing my dishes with salt water, but I would think it funny and interesting. At least for a time.
The SDE has announced that it’s a city wide, perhaps even country wide water cut but that it shouldn’t last more than 24 hours. I’m sure they have to say that regardless of how long they actually think that it will take to solve their problem. I use my reserve water hesitatingly because I don’t fully trust that the water will be back on tomorrow. I feel my self switch into a deeper patience mode. This cut becomes another layer of waiting, the layer that’s lathered on top of the current Ramadan waiting game. Now the Muslims among us must wait not only to eat and to drink but to bathe with running water also. God knows that’s asking a lot especially considering the recommendations in the Koran for ablutions to be performed with flowing and moving water. There are specific instructions to steer clear, if possible, of stagnant water. Maybe one Muslim can run alongside another one with some stagnant water while the dude washes and they can call it running water and they will laugh about it and it will be OK. Maybe God will crack a smile and show his sense of humour too.
All I know is that when the water don’t flow it’s as though my own blood is flowing more slowly and my own life is on hold. I feel like sitting down for a very long meditation and practicing my patience. I sure as hell don’t feel like doing anything creative or original. I think twice before breaking a sweat knowing a bucket shower would follow. Aint enough flow in my bones to come up with any half-decent, half-cooked or half-baked idea at this point anyways. I go to sleep with fingers crossed that the water will flow again in the morning, and when I wake up, move to the bathroom and turn on the tap, it splutters and gurgles out, and a warm sense of contentment and reassurance trickles over me.
We’re back in the flow.