Eldet has three ways to get water.

Drip-drip-drop of the drip-drops from a waterfall that barely falls along the side of the rock burning under the sun. A line of pails-cups-bowls-jugs wait for their turn to satiate the thirst that is worsened by standing in the dusty-dry dirt kicked up by restless feet on the outside of town. As he approaches, teenage Eldet sees five people in line, young-old, all poor, they have to wait as dry dust flies in their eyes. They already look tired, shifting from foot to foot with their empty jugs and cups. This will take many hours. If he stays, he will be late for school, and he doesn’t want to miss yet another lesson. He turns on his heel and marches back home, with his back to the drop-drip-drip of life-saving water.

A spring of water–the oasis in the countryside–surrounded by milling people, waiting for their turn to gather water for the day. Eldet scoops up the water with his cup and into his bucket, and he waits again for the water to rise up from the mud. The spring below relinquishes just enough to fill the shallow hole in the ground. They have tried digging to get to the wellspring below, but no matter how deep, the water only creates a puddle to scoop from. The dirt is sometimes caught with the puddle water, but Eldet’s swift and sure hands allows him to catch clean water. With this water they will boil rice and vegetables so they can eat today.

The long trek on weekends meant for play is used to store water for the upcoming week. The four siblings hike with empty buckets on their heads and under their arms as they march up the mountain like ants on an anthill. Following the easiest path, the parade of children laugh as they make the journey. Six hours of walking-hiking-sweating and pounding feet on rocks and sticks.

At noon they arrive at the pool of water, and sit to relish in their accomplishment before filling their plastic jugs with the nectar of life. It will keep them clean and quenched and fed for the week. After they are filled and rested and their jugs heavy with responsibility, the children gather their extra weight and walk back down the mountain.


Photo by author