Lent 2016: My water challenge

My washing machine
A washing machine and my favourite jumper

I sat on my kitchen floor last Friday morning looking into the washing machine. I don’t know why, but I tapped the door, it seemed to make sense at the time. A shirt, my favourite jumper, a pair of trousers and about a week’s worth of socks were stuck in there. The water they were soaking in moved slightly. They had been there since Wednesday.

I had water problems – serious ones. The sink wasn’t draining, so the washing machine wasn’t either. I couldn’t open the washing machine door, so I couldn’t do any washing. And because I couldn’t run the water in the sink, I couldn’t do the washing up.

Serious problems.

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When the plumber arrived, I was wearing my second-favourite jumper. I felt a little embarrassed – it had some kind of food matter near the collar. I almost offered him a tea, but to be honest, I just wanted the job done.

While we chatted – mainly about my serious water problems – I remembered Proscovia in Uganda. How when she had to collect water, she couldn’t go to school. She would be late because her family desperately needed water.

I would be lying if I said I pulled myself together there and then and said, ‘Perspective please, perspective.’ I wanted the plumber to fix the sink so that I could wash my favourite jumper and make a tea.

ProscoviaProscovia’s experience of drought

But afterwards, I did think about Proscovia and her family…

If there is a drought, I walk for two hours, wait an hour and walk two hours back with my jerry can. I make this journey twice a day.

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I get back home at midday, take a drink, maybe clean the home, give my animals a drink, then I set off again to find water.

I have no time to earn money to buy food. No time to farm – my crop dies, or is eaten by pests. No time to fetch wood for a fire to cook or stay warm. No time to get money to pay for my children’s education. No time to get money for medicines I might need.

My life is focused on water – focused on staying alive.

Serious problems.

The challenge

mark-gives-up-hot-water-for-lent-2016
That’s me. Look how happy I am to enjoy a week of cold showers. (Credit: Ben White)

So starting at 00:01 on Friday 11 March and lasting a week, my Lenten challenge will be a #coldwaterweek. The name comes from the principle part of the challenge – cold water, but it also signifies no energy, or low energy usage.

Here are the rules for this seven-day challenge:

  1. Only cold water. I’ll only shower with cold water. I’ll wash my cups and plates cold water. I’ll wash my hands in cold water. Clothes washed in cold water. I’m sorry about this work colleagues and anyone who sits next to me, there will be moments when my pain is your pain.
  2. Only cold floors, cold walls and cold rooms. Heating relies on hot water in my home. That’s going off. No room will have heating and I will spend as little time as possible (apart from work) in heated rooms. This reminded me of Razir and her family in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and how because the family needed food and water, they didn’t have time to collect firewood. Her home was freezing.
  3. Only raw food. I think here it reminds me more of the Ta Loke Kone village in Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis. They couldn’t find fuel to cook with and had to eat rice soaked in stagnant water. I’ve tried soaking rice in water to make it edible. You can eat it, but it’s revolting. All my food will be raw. No bread. No cheese. No vinegar. No salt. No food from kind friends. Have no fear, I have a wonderful recipe for oat ‘milk’ or ‘bland-oaty-white-drink’ as I like to call it, that I’m willing to share with anyone.
  4. Only natural light when not in work. In many of the villages I travelled to in Uganda, the people lacked fuel. Some might have batteries, but not very many. Likewise in Myanmar, there was little power – the community had to pay for fuel to run a generator.
  5. Walking – no transport. Again, if a family has to collect water, they have very little time to earn money, so they wouldn’t be able to hire a motorcycle taxi to take them to hospital if they were ill. I will walk everywhere.
  6. I can use a computer at work and the telephone, but have to minimise its usage. I can’t really get round this one, however, I will turn off my computer at lunch and will leave the building. I can also use a camera to record my progress.
  7. Use public phone boxes. While mobile technology is available to many people in even the poorest countries in the world, there is still the matter of paying for it. So, I’m going to turn my mobile off. A confession: I can’t say I’m that sad about this part of the challenge.
  8. Send letters to people and use public phone boxes. If I need to make an arrangement to meet anyone, I will send a letter, or prearrange the meeting.

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What am I looking forward to?

Turning my mobile phone off.

I want to learn things. I know that women and girls have to spend a lot of their lives collecting water. I know that this has a huge impact on their lives. I know that I take things for granted. But I want to learn more about life for women and girls and the things they miss out on.

But I also want to learn something about my own life. When the lights are out at night and I can’t read because it’s dark, I want to use this time like my very own urban retreat. Whether I’m walking on the street, or sitting in my home, I want to use it almost like a retreat.

What am I not looking forward to?

The cold. Raw food.

Luck and progress

Do wish me luck…I’m going to need it.

Follow my progress on our blog – I’ll write when I have access to a computer.

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10 thoughts on “Lent 2016: My water challenge”

  1. Ha! The oaty drink is one I make myself by soaking oats in water for about 12 hours, then straining them. I’ve been putting dates in the drink as well to give it some sweetness and also to provide energy. Thank you for the tips on grinding the oats, I’ll try that tomorrow morning as it sounds quite nutritious.

    I’ve found that once I’m home from work, it’s dark and I can’t really do that much around my home, so I have to wait until the morning to perform chores.

    My body has sort of synched with the daylight hours and so I wake just before six and spend perhaps an hour or so after the sun sets staying awake, watching the sky and then sleep at perhaps 8.30. It’s pretty blissful actually.

    It’s a very difficult challenge, but it’s really incredible. I’m enjoying how simple life is (well, as simple as living in the city and holding down a 9-5ish job can be!) For however cold it is, or however much I miss music and long bouts of reading, I’m really enjoying the time to think and pay attention to the world around me.

    By the way: I have been using soap to wash with, but I will bear in mind the oatmeal and mud mix. If I’m daring enough, I’ll try it on the final day (if there is one!)

    Many thanks once again

  2. Ha! The oaty drink is one I make myself by soaking oats in water for about 12 hours, then straining them. I’ve been putting dates in the drink as well to give it some sweetness and also to provide energy. Thank you for the tips on grinding the oats, I’ll try that tomorrow morning as it sounds quite nutritious.

    I’ve found that once I’m home from work, it’s dark and I can’t really do that much around my home, so I have to wait until the morning to perform chores.

    My body has sort of synched with the daylight hours and so I wake just before six and spend perhaps an hour or so after the sun sets staying awake, watching the sky and then sleep at perhaps 8.30. It’s pretty blissful actually.

    It’s a very difficult challenge, but it’s really incredible. I’m enjoying how simple life is (well, as simple as living in the city and holding down a 9-5ish job can be!) For however cold it is, or however much I miss music and long bouts of reading, I’m really enjoying the time to think and pay attention to the world around me.

    By the way: I have been using soap to wash with, but I will bear in mind the oatmeal and mud mix. If I’m daring enough, I’ll try it on the final day (if there is one!)

    Many thanks once again

  3. I am so sorry, Mark. I was so busy trying to save you from hypothermia that I overlooked the food situation.
    When you speak of oaty drink, are you referring to Oat Drink as comes from the supermarket? There is, of course, some goodness in that and you could survive on it for a week. If you make it up yourself with porridge oats and water, it would help to grind the oats with a pestle and mortar as finely as possible and shake it really well when adding the water. By the way, I am assuming that you will be using some soap, but , if not, both oatmeal and mud (good clean clay) are both very cleansing for the body – not in the laundry! I think you are very brave, and I’m sure God will reward your efforts,

    Love and prayer,

    Celia

  4. I am so sorry, Mark. I was so busy trying to save you from hypothermia that I overlooked the food situation.
    When you speak of oaty drink, are you referring to Oat Drink as comes from the supermarket? There is, of course, some goodness in that and you could survive on it for a week. If you make it up yourself with porridge oats and water, it would help to grind the oats with a pestle and mortar as finely as possible and shake it really well when adding the water. By the way, I am assuming that you will be using some soap, but , if not, both oatmeal and mud (good clean clay) are both very cleansing for the body – not in the laundry! I think you are very brave, and I’m sure God will reward your efforts,

    Love and prayer,

    Celia

  5. Good for you, Mark. I think you’ll find that cold showers are not nearly as bad as you anticipate and you will find yourself glowing and wide awake. Also, a good detergent will make a thoroughly good job of the laundry, even in cold water. Lack of heating might be more of a challenge, so wrap up well. Thermal underwear is a good investment and so is an inexpensive fleece blanket or two.
    I hope Mr Osborne is doubling my regular contribution!!

    Kind regards and good luck,

    Celia

    1. Celia

      You were so right, cold showers are incredible! They have the power of four espressos and seem to put me in an excellent mood afterwards. The great thing is, however much fun they are, I don’t want to stay under them for too long as it’s pretty cold – so I use less water.

      I’ve done a wash with cold water and I’ll see how it goes – I’m making use of the good weather here in London. I have a feeling my shirts are currently turning into textile lollies though.

      The cold itself is a challenge, but I’m adapting. As you say, wrapping up well is pretty much the order of the day. I’m also walking wherever sunlight is – the sun is a great friend! At night, temperatures drop, so I have to make sure I’m warm enough then – blankets and hats are the order of the day.

      Thank you for your comment by the way – it’s very useful and I really appreciate you taking the time to write. Perhaps I’ll write a letter to the Chancellor (I’ve been communicating with letters outside of work) asking him to ensure your donation is doubled!

      Many thanks once again.

      Mark

  6. Good for you, Mark. I think you’ll find that cold showers are not nearly as bad as you anticipate and you will find yourself glowing and wide awake. Also, a good detergent will make a thoroughly good job of the laundry, even in cold water. Lack of heating might be more of a challenge, so wrap up well. Thermal underwear is a good investment and so is an inexpensive fleece blanket or two.
    I hope Mr Osborne is doubling my regular contribution!!

    Kind regards and good luck,

    Celia

    1. Celia

      You were so right, cold showers are incredible! They have the power of four espressos and seem to put me in an excellent mood afterwards. The great thing is, however much fun they are, I don’t want to stay under them for too long as it’s pretty cold – so I use less water.

      I’ve done a wash with cold water and I’ll see how it goes – I’m making use of the good weather here in London. I have a feeling my shirts are currently turning into textile lollies though.

      The cold itself is a challenge, but I’m adapting. As you say, wrapping up well is pretty much the order of the day. I’m also walking wherever sunlight is – the sun is a great friend! At night, temperatures drop, so I have to make sure I’m warm enough then – blankets and hats are the order of the day.

      Thank you for your comment by the way – it’s very useful and I really appreciate you taking the time to write. Perhaps I’ll write a letter to the Chancellor (I’ve been communicating with letters outside of work) asking him to ensure your donation is doubled!

      Many thanks once again.

      Mark

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