Oddly enough, I listed some of the food that I eat here in Ghana but not the water that I drink. Someone asked a question as to whether I was drinking the water right out of the spigot or the local well yet. In short, no.
For the duration of the stay here I will be drinking water that has gone through a filtration system that the Peace Corps provided to all of their volunteers. It has the look of a slightly tapered cylinder that is wider at the bottom than at the top. It comes in two parts that sit one on top of the other and the water poured into the top goes through two filters and the bottom unit acts as a reservoir for your fresh, ready-to-drink purified water. What is water in Ewe you ask? Tsi (pronounced CHEE), and may I compliment you on your inquisitive nature.
If I were to drink the water from the tap or the well two things would happen: I would feel like my thirst had been quenched and then I would regret every minute of that decision for the next 24 to 36 hours as my body flushes the works (in a manner of speaking) to rid the gut of foreign critters. Filtered water is the only way to go. I perceive my last gastrointestinal bout came from an apple that had lots of untreated water beading on the skin that I neglected to wipe off.
There are times that you don't have the water filter handy however, and though my Nalgene bottle is always there to carry extra, at times even that runs dry. Fortunately there are water sachets. Pronounce that as you wish since no one here has a definitive answer on how we are supposed to say it, just trust that you can use it and not get sick 99% of the time. My best description of this is to give you an example you can try at home:
- Take a resealable plastic bag from the kitchen drawer
- Fill it with water from the kitchen faucet
- Seal the bag so no water escapes
Now there you have in your hands something that looks like our bagged water here. Ours are not resealable but hermetically sealed during the filling process. Care for a drink? Pinch a corner on your bag so that most of the water is pushed away from the corner. I tend to add a bit of a twist to the corner so that I can keep the bag closed after the next step. Take that same said corner and give it a good toothy bite and tear off the plastic. Spit the piece of plastic out into the trash. Release the corner a bit and then just suck out the water that you need by pretending the bag is a pliable sippy cup the toddlers use.
You are drinking water like a professional and a true Ghanaian. Since these bags are made of plastic and there really isn't an infrastructure set up to collect garbage you can imagine that these bags are discarded everywhere. Try to throw yours out in the right spot when you are finished.
It took us a few weeks to figure out that water sachets make some very fine water balloons and I have witnessed some spot-on shots while avoiding being drenched myself. It won't be long until that changes I am sure, but I have the benefit of chucking my full water bottle at the assailant so they had better be careful. A liter of water in a hard plastic bottle leaves a decent welt.
The cost of each sachet right now is five pesawas or about three American pennies. Not a bad price. If a man, woman, or child is selling a basket-full of them from on top of their head they may call out, “Pure wah-Tah”. Most of us have now adopted the Ghanaian accent and fully pronounce the 't' like they do even among ourselves.
This is more information than you needed probably, but sometimes the simple things have very interesting stories behind them. I apologize after-the-fact if this wasn't one of them. I hope you enjoyed your sachet of water.