Water – just a simple pleasure or life giver?


Many of you use hot water to shower in the modern homes. Water in households here in Brisbane for example is wasted everyday.

When I was growing up in my village Wagang outside Lae, Papua New Guinea, there was no such thing as a hot water system. Water in general was precious although we had rivers of it. The sky opened up almost everyday to pour it down in thunderstorm rains.

Our village had several rivers running through it at many points. It was no wonder my ancestors decided to settle here in this precious coastline. We washed in the rivers and creeks. Communities gathered in the morning and mostly in the evenings to bath, wash children, dirty clothes and cooking pots and pans. Men would wash upper river and women and children down river. I never got the meaning of who was dirtier than who in this instance. I also did not understand why the men would wash upstream and cups and plates and pots and pans were washed downstream. My mother always boiled water to rinse everything down. I was bounded by my cultural laws so I never questioned these arrangements of washing upstream and downstream.

Everything went into that river, from clothes, pots and pans and new born Christians at baptism would be thrown roughly in to be cleansed of their old self.

We had a separate creek or stream we would fetch for drinking and cooking with. We also fish and collected shells and other edible creatures and plants to eat and cook with from that same river. So general bathing was all cold water.

When I fell ill, my mother would boil a large saucepan of hot water with a plant we called ‘ma-le’ for cure. Ma le is a type of lily with a distinct smell and medicinal function. Sometimes we used basil. This special hot water felt good and smelt great and I remember always feeling better as soon as I emerged from it. Mother also said that the smell took away bad smell that attracted spirits and other things.

The luxury of hot water system only came when I went to friends’ house in towns after having gone to high school.

To me if water was such a treasured part of living and it gave life to so much more, we were always careful not to waste it. This means that hot water was gold. It is used for sickness and relaxation. It cleans sough dirt and so on. I always felt guilty if I stayed in a hot shower for too long and this guilt stayed with me for a long while.

It was just the same as the guilt for walking miles up the road to the drinking place at Wambasing Creek with plastic bottle containers to fill and then spilling them or breaking the bottles on the way back home to the village.

I have always respected the value of water and the life it brings to us. I ask this question many times. Imagine this – what if we run out or do not have water? I let you ponder that one while I want to share with you a story about hot water. For those of us that have been spoilt by the luxury of having hot showers, we can often forget how long we are standing in that shower. It feels so good right?

I hope you enjoy “In Hot Water”.

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