Sunday, June 04, 2006

Thoughts on water (aka a list of good things to have when out and about in Amman)

Yesterday was not an ideal time to run out of water. We're not actually sure why we ran out of water this week since we used way more water last week, but that's okay. Since there isn't enough water pressure in the city to keep all places with water at all times, there are tanks on the roof that get filled once a week with water. This should, theoretically, give you enough water to last a week (this includes doing laundry, showering, flushing toilets, etc). Once a week the city turns on the water for your neighbourhood and your tanks get replenished (our day is Tuesday!) and then you have whatever water you got to last you for the rest of the week. It's like forced water conservation. Luckily, they also generally have tanks in the basement of the apartment buildings in case, like us, you use too much water one week. Hopefully we'll do better next week!

You buy your drinking water separately because the water that comes through the pumps is not very sanitary. So, a 20 litre container usually lasts about a week as well. We still have plenty of drinking water but we didn't want to waste that cleaning and so forth because drinking is somehow higher on our list of priorities than showering.

In light of our recent waterlessness, I have been thinking about what I am glad I brought to Amman (things helpful in water crises and otherwise):

1. Baby wipes. These have served in numerous capacities and are really good for a sponge bath if needed. (They also sell them here)
2. Hand Sanitizer. We actually didn't bring any of this (they do sell it here) but it is good to have on hand for those times when you run out of water and can't wash your hands, or when you're just on the street and decide to eat and then look at your hands and think back on all the things you may have brushed up against.
3. A little bottle of water. I always carry a 0.33 Liter bottle with me because it fits nicely in my purse. I can use it when I get desperate. I just keep refilling the same bottle.
4. Kleenex or a little "on the go" toilet paper roll. Public bathrooms generally do not have toilet paper. Kleenex serves its purpose and you can buy it anywhere (children will often sell it on the street), but it would be nice to have a travel toilet paper package (I believe Charmin sells toilet paper in resealable plastic containers). If you happen to not have either of these items, look for a McDonald's or other "American" building (like Mecca Mall); the restrooms in these places are generally well-stocked with TP, soap, and paper towels.
5. Change. If you take a taxi, they rarely have change, so it is best to hand them correct change. If you hand a taxi driver anything more than a 5 JD bill he will get rather flustered (we've tried paying for cabs with a doesn't work very well). Sometimes they cannot even find change for a five, so if all you have are big bills, I suggest going to a busy restaurant and buying a bottle of water or something so that they can break your bill, otherwise your taxi ride could be more expensive than you bargined for.
6. Cell phone. This is such a great amenity to have here. If you bring one from America, make sure that it is a tri-band phone and that it is already unlocked. We brought a tri-band phone that was supposedly unlocked but it wasn't and so we bought new phones here. A lot of places sell used phones for around 30-40 JD. SIM cards are about 12 JD and genreally come with minutes already on the phone. If you run out of minutes, you just buy another card and put more minutes on your phone (the minutes are "good" for a year). A 5 JD card usually lasts more than a month. Text messaging is cheaper than calling. It's helpful in case you get lost and need someone to give directions to your taxi driver...just phone a Jordanian friend and hand the phone to the driver. Perfect!
7. A guidebook. We have the Lonley Planet Middle East book and the Slades have the Lonely Planet Jordan book. Both are very helpful in planning trips and finding cool things to do in the city.
8. A purse...or "man" purse. It's nice to have a small bag to put all the above-said items in while you are out in Amman. Crystal and I have it easy because we carry purses. Andrew uses his scripture bag from his mission and Jason bought a "man" purse yesterday (because he was jealous of Andrew's "man" purse). A "man" purse is a small, black, retangular bag with a shoulder strap.

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