water comes out of the tap here, but it’s a fat lie. i can’t gulp it down. it’s kind of like the pacific ocean. i want to jump in but i know it’s a cold tease. i can’t reuse my water bottles because i can’t refill them. i keep buying new ones and tossing old ones in the trash like disney magic is gonna transport them to the bay area. there is a word for recycling in spanish, but it won’t do you any good. i ask around for a better solution. “oh, yah sure, you just buy a giant plastic bag of water and fill up your giant plastic bottle. it’s way cheaper.” a plastic bag of water, you say? si claro. cheaper. this was my biggest concern. i would hate to spend $1 a day on a giant bottle of water when i can spend $1 every three days on a giant plastic bag of water. the money i save from this i will use to buy a ticket to the arctic where i will set fire to the glaciers myself, and beat baby seals. the plastic bag strategy was presented to me by a denverite living in santa marta and volunteering (she married a colombian man and i don’t have the heart to tell her he is a homosexual). igual, one of the projects she is working on is helping a community on the outskirts of town where the folks suffer from skin diseases due to their proximity to the dump. *cough*
i’m rationing my water now. a sip here. a sip there. it’s 2pm and i had a sip this morning. everyone else is doing the best they can too, right? *cough* i know backpackers “do it on the cheap,” and maybe they think somehow this leads to tiny eco-footprints. iffin they even care. sometimes i confuse the dirty, hippie, veg, granola look for actual environmental consciousness. i am also led astray by their dedication to voluntourism. granted, i should know better. someone who thinks that speed volunteerism in a place they know nothing about is a grand act of selflessness hasn’t really thought about this shit much. unfortunately, i tend to think about it overly much; to the point of paralysis.
given this, as i emerge into a little pueblito among a gaggle of white kids bearing badges of altruism ready to save the brown kids for a couple of hours, i can’t help but cringe into a ball of self-aware despair. what am i doing here? some of these volunteers stay for a few months, but most leave in a couple of weeks. they can’t speak a lick of spanish either. slavoj would tell me it may be better to do something than nothing (and so on and so on) but what if that something creates a whole shit load more of something else? like daily piles of one sided connect-the-dot and math worksheets, or grocery raffle prizes handed out in plastic bags. or those tricky abstract things that are harder to see and reverse. what if, instead, we all spent our energies cleaning up the beach or giving away water purifiers? or what if we just rationed our white asses out of here. *cough*