Flushed with the success of my well digging exercise, I had flowed it for several days, drunk the water myself without any ill effect, allowed some of the neighbors to collect water there, so yesterday I thought it was about time I restarted the water runs I used to run from the river that had stopped as a result of the land wars which started when those venal fucking bastard Co-coordinators suddenly denied me access to the river.
I loaded my 1000 litre water container onto the back of the truck, drove to the house/shop site and filled my tank. I had Jamie with me. He runs a shop in the Comuna. The Comuna is a village about five or so kms away on top of the escarpment overlooking the Barro de Kwanza. He is a nice bloke and we help each other out as need arises. Yesterday, I needed diesel for my truck. Angola may be a country floating on oil but it can’t keep its gas stations supplied so I was out of diesel. Jamie brought me ten litres. He needed wood (I have loads of that recovered from the cottages smashed by the floods earlier this year) and water of which I now have plenty. In fact it is the only supply of pure water for miles.
Jamie and I are men. This means, to the frustration of our women, we are generally a bit dizzy and often bloody disorganized. I had run out of whisky, serious for me, I understand there could be medical implications resulting in me hiding under the bed burbling about green beasties intent on eating me. I also needed petrol for the generators. The pumps on the main road may not have had diesel, but they had petrol so the plan, now that I had Jamie’s diesel, was to load the truck with wood, stop off at the well and fill Jamie’s containers and my big container, continue to the pumps to get petrol, run up to the comuna, drop off the wood and Jamie’s water, buy whisky and return.
We got to Jamie’s place and naturally had to have a few beers. My pump at the well is not strong enough to pump up from out of the well, all the way up to the road, and then into the top of a container sat high upon the back of a truck. So what we had to do was fill Jamie’s 20 litre containers at road level, then lift the containers up onto the truck and then lift them again so we could tip them into my container. We did this 50 times and then another six times to leave his containers full. Having between us just hoiked over a tonne to head height twice, once from ground level to the truck and then from truck bed to the top of my container meaning a tonne each, we felt we deserved a few beers after such a jolly good work out under a hot African sun. And please don’t forget we started the day loading the truck full of wood and had just unloaded it all into his yard.
As we left the Comuna and hit the main road two guys flagged us down. Their car had broken down and they needed a lift to the Gas station. ‘Hop on’, I said. I dropped them off. ‘Aren’t you going back?’ they asked. ‘Nope’, I replied.
I had just turned off the tarmac onto the potholed piece of shit called the road to my place when Jamie said, ‘I forgot to take the water off’. I looked at him. ‘Forget it’, he said, ‘I’ll find a way to collect it in the morning. ‘Bollocks to that, Jamie, let’s turn round’.
We picked up the guys we had just dropped off on the way and headed back to the Comuna, dropped the water off and set out for home again. By now I was dreaming about a tumbler full of amber nectar. Whisky! I forgot the bloody whisky!
See? If a woman had been in charge of what, let’s face it, was a simple operation in logistics, she may have been a tadge authoritarian, definitely cynical, but she would not have burned up ten litres of precious diesel on three laps of a cross country circuit.
As we were driving back for the third time, Jamie was waxing lyrical about my water. Water supply, that is, not MY water; we are mates but not THAT close. I always wanted to give clean water to the citizens of my village. I had finally found a source but unless I bought a more powerful pump, there were still delivery problems. I explained this to Jamie.
Genius is not necessarily coming up with some world beating vacuum cleaner or hyper efficient fuel. Sometimes it is merely being able to see the bleeding obvious. Jamie had just filled his 20 litre containers at road level. The same type of containers all the population used to transport water. So why did I need a special pump? Like I said, bleeding obvious.
Well that saved me a thousand bucks so I was feeling pretty bloody chuffed, magnanimous even. We decided that on the way back, we would stop at the main population centres and tell them to get their water containers out on the road side ready for collection. I would drop Jamie off at my place so that he could collect his car and then I would do the water run. An excellent plan.
The village is actually two villages separated by about a kilometer. One is called the Voz do Barro de Kwanza, the Mouth of the River Kwanza (where I live somewhere near the tonsils), and the other is called Mundo Verde, Green World. The only things that are green there are the empty cans of Heineken littering the roadside. And a few trees, I suppose.
I made the first stop, no water cans in sight. I bipped the horn. A woman came out and walked slowly to the truck.
‘Didn’t I just pass by asking you to dump your water containers by the road so I could fill them for you?’ I asked her.
Jamie speaks better Portuguese than I but I understood what he was saying when we made our stops. Clearly no one had believed in such a thing as free water, delivered as well. I am sure a lot of locals think that White Men, especially oil company executives, have lost the use of their legs as they are only seen being chauffeured around in air-conditioned Landcruisers. Here was a white man covered in road dust driving a truck offering free water. There must be a catch, surely? No, there’s no catch. Does he want our virgin daughters? Only if they are over eighteen and Marcia never finds out. Is he trying to poison us? Only the two Coordinators if God gives me the chance.
‘Just give me your cans,’ I said, ‘I will bip my horn on the way back’.
Then came something I didn’t understand but, I think, reflects the mentality of people who are so poor, even the cost of a water container cannot be taken lightly. All the water containers used here are empty 20 Litre cooking oil containers made of yellow plastic. They are all identical in every respect. I thought I would sweep up the road collecting water containers at each designated stop, note how many containers I picked up at each stop and then once filled, drop the requisite number off on the way back. Simple? Not a hope in hell. At every stop, they wanted an assurance they would get THEIR containers back. How the heck could I guarantee that? For Pity’s sake, a container is a container, isn’t it? You give me five empty containers, I give you five full ones. Who CARES if it isn’t the exact same container you gave me? Well, obviously THEY cared.
What should have been a ten minute dash down the road hoiking containers onto the truck as I went, turned into an hour long stop, wait and start again as every single person giving me a container had to mark it as theirs by tying something around the handle. When I reached Mundo Verde I had to tell them that they could not use palm fronds as the Catholic Church had used the same method to ID their containers (quite appropriately I thought). Funnily enough, I appeared to be picking up almost as many kids as I was containers. For them, this was an ADVENTURE!!!
What they didn’t understand (and why should they?) was that this was less altruism than sheer bloody mindedness on my part. Those bastard Coordinators had tried to stop me giving free water by closing me off from the river. They are running scared. During their long and lucrative tenure, they have done nothing for the population the interests of whom they supposedly represent. Now along comes a bloke who, out of his not terribly deep pockets, starts doing their job for them. Of course they fucking hate me. They also hate the fact that I tell anyone and everyone I meet that the only impediments to the development of this village are these two venal bastards. Look, THEY started it, they threw the first punch. When I boxed I took plenty of standing counts but was never knocked to the canvas and I never lost a fight. I may be boxing out of my class now but if I go down, I’ll make ‘em bleed first.
Now you look at the following pictures and tell me it isn’t worth the aggro.
|Afternoon Physical Training. Physical Torture more like. I had to lift every single one of these up onto the truck and, guess what? I was too dim (being a man) to drop the side of the truck. Doh!|
|Yeah, yeah. Laugh at stupid old bloke trying to hoik full water containers over side of truck he forgot to lower thereby making work much harder.|
|Please, please stupid old bloke! Take my picture! But this is MY container and I'll sit on it if I want to. Note unlowered side of truck behind her.|
|Right you stinky little swabs! Get yer filthy bodies under the shower! |
Will there EVER be a photo taken of me without a fag jammed into my ugly face?
|Zebedee says, 'Time for bed!'|
'Bugger Zebedee you little bandits! This truck isn't going to move an INCH unless you are all inside it, I want none of you little urchins surfing off the back!'
Bloody 'ell, kids are a full time job.
Water. They say that one day wars will be fought over it. Oh, I am already fighting a war over it. Perhaps Santa will send me a water pistol for Christmas. I have plenty of ammunition now.