“By the way,” I ask brightly, “how’s the water pressure at your place?”
I *wish* I had this much pressure!
Nine out of ten people smile wryly, arch an eyebrow, or heave a small sigh. Granted, I haven’t taken a scientific survey, but here are some explanations I’ve been offered:
“Welcome to the third world.”
“Well, you see, in the non-industrialized nations the water systems are built on the principle of gravity. Most people have their water tank on their roof …” [Not being a water systems engineer, this doesn’t seem helpful because it makes me think the water should come down harder.]”
“There are so many minerals in San Miguel’s water, maybe the pipe is clogged.” [Hidden costs alert – your landlord will not investigate or clean your pipe.]
And from my Mexican neighbors across the street, wry smile, arched eyebrow and small sigh combined. “Our shower is… o.k., but we only get a trickle out of our sinks.”
It’s the little things that getcha.
Like not having a decent shower for six months, or the mineral content in San Miguel’s water.
The get-around for the water scale on your glasses, dishes, and silverware is to dry everything pronto, but not like you’ve dried anywhere else. You’ve got to polish this stuff or you’ve got scale. If you miss, you’re into the vinegar soak – which is something you have to do with your shower head at least once a month. And don’t forget, you’re washing yourself with this water. I hear about people searching for water softeners and ‘magic’ shower filters all the time. None of them seem to work. There’s a Big Business in skin creams and hair conditioners here.
You, or your laundromat are washing your clothes with this water. Be prepared for the fade-out of color in quick order. In answer to what clothing people should bring down, one woman wrote: “Just bring grey. That’s what everything will look like once you’ve been here for a few months anyway.”
Oh, I know that’s harsh! But, there’s a grain of truth in every exaggeration.
Of course, you can’t actually drink this water. [Old hands say they do, have never suffered ill effects, and think the rest of us are wusses. But, I have enough health issues.] Nor can you wash your produce in it. Instead you buy bottled water to drink and wash your produce in a colloidal silver solution.
Sold in most tiendas and all super mercados, a few drops will wash a head of lettuce. If you dare.
You must also choose whether to rinse your toothbrush in a glass of purchased water or a glass of tap water dosed with Microdyn. [I’ve been advised to avoid getting shower water in my mouth, but with my shower pressure that’s just not an issue.] I solve the toothbrush thing by buying lots of toothbrushes because I never feel like swishing them around in a glass gets them clean.
Of course, the well-to-do among us solve the water woes by building or renovating their homes with spanky-new whole-house water systems. They use ozone-kill-it-all thingys, super-duper gravity pumps, and reverse-osmosis stuff. But if you’re coming to Mexico on a pauper’s budget like me, be prepared to develop an entirely new relationship with water.
Did I know all of this before I made the move? Well, except for the part where so-very-few Mexican rentals have water pressure, yes I did. Did I resolve to make the trade-off between having more locally grown food and being fearful of the bacteria I’d have to scrub off before I ate it? Yes, I did.
Did I understand how privileged I was to have abundant, clean water back home?
No. I didn’t.
But, I do now.
P.S. These are the trade-offs that people make to live in a relatively peaceful place with a temperate climate. Over time I’m sure the water trade-offs become second nature. It’s good to remember, and remind myself, that I’m writing at a six month evaluation point where indeed, it’s the little things that will getcha.