Debbie and I have a PNG host family here, sort of like a host family for exchange students. The first time we went to their hut, Debbie asked wasmama, the young mother of the household, whether she helped with the “garden” where they grow their food that day. Margaret said no, she carried water.
The family’s hut has no running water. When they need more water, Margaret goes down the mountain with a collection of plastic Coke bottles, fills them up, and brings them back. She probably carries back more than fifty pounds of water in a string bag called a bilum. She puts the handle around her forehead and carries the water on her back, walking up a steep mountain path. This is common here; we have already seen old women carrying heavy loads in bilum during our training hikes.
Waspapa, the young father, said in the trade language we’re learning, “PNG women must go down the mountain to get water.
Waitskin have a tank.” (Waitskin is the generic term for non-PNG people like us.) He’s right. The compound where we have our training has a number of large tanks that collect rain water. He was well aware that we can turn the faucet and get clean drinking water any time we want.
People here consider us quite wealthy, in part because we have the luxury of drinking water from a tap. We don’t have to carry our water up the mountain.