I have another piece of travel writing for you, pals! That weird flesh-eating virus I got on my elbow in Nicaragua came back in a big way, and it made me think of this little essay. There’s a cartoon at the end.
When I was 16, I learned that it was not with an apple that Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, but a glass of water.
I was leaving the country for the first time. The good folks of Foothills Community Church and I were going to spend two weeks in Thailand building a school, and as far I was concerned, that meant I was heading straight for the Heart of Darkness.
In the Fellowship Hall,dim so we could see the projector screen, gone was the usual talk of new REI backpacks and Camel Back bladders. No one chatted about how their visas were coming along or what trinkets they bought at Sam’s Club to give to the Thai children.
None of us said anything. This was the safety briefing.
The team leader was going to tell us how to survive out there. He would teach us to walk the leprosy-scourged streets of the Third World and live to blog about it. He was the grizzled sergeant that would point with a three-fingered hand and say, “Remember your training, and you will come back alive!”
But after the team leader had finished with money belts, shower shoes, and typhoid vaccinations, when he had warned against every variety of pickpocket, swindler, kidnapper and cutthroat, his PowerPoint went black and his voice dropped to a growl.
It was time to talk about water.
Don’t drink it – that went without saying. But had we thought about ice? Water changes its shape. Fresh fruit? Water comes in a Trojan horse. Dishes? They’ve been washed, and can’t be trusted. And lettuce? Don’t get him started about lettuce.
Water was everywhere. It lurked in every bathroom and restaurant, every cup of tea and bottle of Coke, waiting for my first careless moment to strike with dysentery, E. coli, hepatitis A, and, as far as I was concerned, AIDS, Ebola, and the plague. But the specific affliction didn’t matter. No, by the time you let water get inside of you, it would already be…