While on Peru SST, students were asked to write several themed journals to reflect on their experiences in a foreign country. In this journal entry, Trevor James Emery, junior exercise science major, discusses his experiences with water in Peru, both its difference in perception from water in the U.S. and problems that surface and potential solutions:
In Peru, the water comes cascading down from the mountains through the murky rivers or people collect it individually from the rain. This is the water used for day to day living. The water is not treated before it comes into the homes, like it is in the United States. There are no regulations or water quality testing performed on the water of Peru. In order for Peruvians to be able to use the water for cooking, it has to be boiled. Every day my family boils the water that is used for drinking and cooking. The water here is very acidic. I am accustomed to taking a shower twice a day at home in the U.S., but here I can only take a shower every other day, mainly because here, water is a precious commodity. My family here does not use it frivolously like we would back at home. They do not fill pools, water lawns, have car washes, sprinklers, etc. Secondly, the water is so acidic that it is very hard on my skin. It makes my skin peel.
Simple things we take for granted in the United States, like brushing our teeth, became a challenge. I was sick for the first couple of weeks that I was here, until I figured out that brushing my teeth with the water was making me ill. At night, I have to boil water so that I can brush my teeth. When it is hot in the United States, we go to the beach, jump in a pool, run through a sprinkler, or have a cold glass of water, or iced tea, etc. Here, when it’s hot, the water supply literally dries up. You turn on the water faucet and only a trickle comes pouring down. I am here during the spring; I would hate to see what it is like when it is hot for days on end in the summer heat. No drinking water, no cooking water, no water for laundry or bathing. I truly believe that most Americans would have a difficult time getting by.
Sometimes I wonder how my family sees me. If they see me as this spoiled, needy, fragile American who can’t handle real life. I feel that way even more looking at myself. We as Americans freak out if our water isn’t 100 percent pure. In this area, and probably most of Peru, they would be happy with water even 1/4 as good as what we drink at home. I wish that everyone in the United States could experience what water is like in the rest of the world. They would realize that the water we have is a national treasure, more precious than coal or oil. You can live without either of those, but you cannot live without water. It is physically impossible. My outlook on life has changed so much since being here, I will never look at a glass of water the same my entire life. I think I would like to return to Peru again to see if I could help with water and economic problems.