My biggest culture shock happens in the
As I head back from months in Kenya, I inevitably have moments
of surprise and wonder as I re-enter a different world as
epitomized within the women's restroom. The toilets have seats!
There is toilet paper in every stall! And the toilet paper is so
ridiculously soft and plush!
And it gets even better. There is the amazing luxury of a
well-functioning tap from which water runs. Not only can I easily
wash my hands, but this water even gets hot and cold! And - wait a
minute - I could drink this! The shock of amazingly clean,
perfectly drinkable water flowing from every tap still bowls me
over for a moment.
I could drink this water straight from the tap of every sink in
the Amsterdam bathroom. I don't need to boil it and filter it and
put it in my own bottle. I don't even need to buy it. Amazing!
(I am well aware of the number of exclamation points in this
entry, but toilet seats, toilet paper, and CLEAN WATER EVERYWHERE
are absolutely punctuation-worthy!)
In many parts of the world, a tap with running water is a
luxury. And clean water everywhere -- water that won't make you
sick, water that won't kill your babies - this is the stuff of
Most women in Africa walk for their water. The 40 billion hours
a year that Africans spend walking to get water is mostly the work
of women and girl children. Walking to the river, walking to the
stream, walking to the borehole where the nearest water flows.
Sometimes, walking for miles.
And still, this precious water too often contains diseases that
will make them sick, diseases that will kill their babies. 800,000
children dying every year from diarrhea. Only 60% of my neighbors
in Kenya have access to "improved water sources" - and that's still
water that should be boiled and filtered.
AMPATH operates a safe water project that works to give more of
my neighbors in Kenya access to clean water by opening stores that
sell ceramic water filters, spear-heading well drilling and
refurbishment projects, and training communities about safe
At safe water (Maji Safi) shops, families can get high-quality
ceramic water filters that can put an end to their constant
boiling. The filters are a big investment for a family, but the
safe water department believes this helps them value the filters
and treat them with care.
On a bigger scale, they work on projects like wells for
communities and functional taps for our rural health centers and
I am thankful that I can go into virtually any bathroom in this
country - not to mention all of the kitchens - and get a glass of
clean water. Drinking clean, beautiful water in