Sunday, March 6, 2011

Earthquakes. Living the Ordinary during Extraordinary Times. Flushing Loos and Drinking Water.

On about the fourth morning after the earthquake, I went to my friend's house, she was out. Her daughter, Ric and I started cooking up the meat from my defrosting freezer--the freezer sitting at the Old New House...with no power, actually no plaster, chimney or ceilings either as I think about it.

We'd been running around all morning. I was tired, and needed the loo. My friend's daughter directed me out the back door. There I found the long-drop loo. We'd all been told that the city's infrastruction, damaged by the Sept 4th earthquake, was now in ruins. "Do NOT flush toilets" --this was the order of the day. Even if you had running water with which to flush a loo, which most people didn't have anyway, no one was to flush! "We Kiwis, we're a camping people, you know how to make do, most of you have dug a toilet in your life time.' Our mayor said, with that certain Kiwi pride.

My friend's long drop was second to none. Very deep, bricked up to a nice sitting height , a good seat made of wood and even a carved out seat cover. It was protected on three sides by a wooden structure and tarpoline. Everything you need, including the toilet paper was there. Well everything except the flusher! I was a good earthquake girl...and took care of business outside!

My friend came home and I complimented her on her fine long-drop. "Oh, did you use it?' It turns out, that for the most part, that household, like the home of the friend's we are staying , had taken on the old Kiwi drought saying. They mostly used the indoor loos and "When It's Yellow, let in Mellow....When It's Brown Flush it Down!"

As the week has progressed, that has become the official mantra anyway. If you don't see your sewage back up your toilet or flow into you lawn, then .... well you know the saying. But we have all been schooled, from an early age, the moment you stand up (at least in my case) you PUSH that handle. Mellow Yellow is hard to achieve.

But we know where its going. And it isn't nice to think about. With broken sewage pipes and destroyed pumping stations, our waste is flowing freely into our rivers and oceans. And of course seeping into our ground. This, the once proud city of the purest natural underground water, water that need no chemical treatment at all, is now a place of badly contaminated water. We are under strict advisement to boil all water for 3 minutes before drinking or brushing teeth.

In case you don't live in Christchurch, I would like to inform you that boiling all your water for drinking and teeth brushing is ALOT of work.

But I must not complain. For in the Eastern Suburbs, they have no running water nor electricity to boil what they get from various sources. I visisted one of my neighbors from the Old Old House, they are using a gas stove to boil water. They get the water from a natural spring that has a tap on my front lawn. Do you remember the story in I fought the insurance and won...and they put a tap on the natural spring that had sprung a leakat my house. Just as well I fought that battle isn't it!

Maddee had a bath yesterday. She kept dipping her face in it. No darling, don't put your face in the bath. Don't let it get into your mouth. No honey, don't flush the toilet. I wonder what kind of adult she is going to be? Do you think she will lack the toilet flushing complusion of her mother?

But Richard! He should know better! He came home from work yesterday and told me he drank water from the tap. " I just was thirsty and before I knew it, I had run water in a glass and gulped down two big mouthfuls." Just as his work colleague said, 'Did you just..." Richard remembered. Turns out his friend had done the same alittle earlier. That didn't stop me from scolding, because I'm not looking after someone who gets disentery because he isn't smart enough to remember to drink boiled water!

I went upstairs to get ready for bed still shaking my head and hoping the silly man wouldn't get sick. I used the milk container full of boiled water to wet my toothbrush and gave my teeth a good cleaning. I turned on the tap, rinsed my toothbrush, rinsed my mouth and took a sip. Oh no, pains hit my stomach immediately. But I'm pretty sure it was remembering the long drops and Flushing Brown Downs...and not really IMMEDIATE ONSET DISENTERY! (Could some tell me if that exists, because if it does....)

Written by Barbara on March 2.

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