Recently my family and I took a trip to Peru, South America to visit my wife’s family for the holidays. I had been there before but this was the first time we were going with our one-year-old son. I figured he would have a really tough time with the whole thing. The trip just to get there took us from Des Moines to Atlanta to Lima to Arequipa, before finally arriving in Cusco.
Once there, we had a wonderful time eating the local food, including one of Peru’s most famous dishes, guinea pig. We also had a great time visiting some of the ancient sites that are found all over the countryside near Cusco. One site that was particularly interesting was Tipon.
The Tipon complex is thought to have been used as a laboratory of agricultural products, with enclosures, terraces, and a canal that still functions perfectly hundreds of years later. The ingenuity of this site landed it on the list of International Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks. It’s amazing to see early conservation practices built that long ago still functioning.
I could go on and on about the different sites visited and the different food I tried, but my main observation wasn’t those things at all. It was much more basic. Water.
Even in a touristy city of over 300,000 people, one thing became obvious. You could not drink the tap water, you could not use it to brush your teeth, and you could not cook with it unless you boiled it first. The other issue with the water was that it may not even come out of your tap at all. Some days you had water until 5:00 pm, sometimes 7:00 pm, some days not at all. You never knew when the district would shut it off. This was a problem for me because I had food poisoning (not from the guinea pig) and altitude sickness (Cusco is over 11,000 ft). Needless to say, a functioning toilet was a top priority, so what I had to do was fill up buckets of water when it was available so that I could manually recharge the toilet if needed.
I don’t write about this to complain or to judge other places. I write this to remind myself not to take our water for granted back home. Here in Ames, the water that comes out of the tap is drinkable and available whenever I need it. It really is a luxury. Recent events in Flint, Michigan remind us that it may not always be that way, even for Americans.
So for 2016, my #1NewThingForWater is to not resort back to consuming water like it is an infinite resource, and to truly appreciate how I use it. Appreciation spurs action and hopefully that renewed appreciation changes some of my bad habits this year.
In summary, my son handled the trip better than I did. He didn’t mind having only two baths in two weeks. Next time he’ll be old enough to try guinea pig. I can’t wait for that!