I fly back home to California in two days and one unexpected luxury I look forward to, is going to my kitchen or bathroom sinks and drinking water from the tap.
I learned my first day in Lebanon that my hostess Sadika and her family and friends only drink water from plastic bottles. She said when I brush my teeth from the sink- don’t swallow.
While I drink water from plastic bottles in the US and when I’ve travelled, I never really thought about what I was doing. It always seemed like a convenience, or a healthy option compared to the soda I am usually craving. I thought of my neighbor (and occasional pet-sitter) Suzy, as an environmental zealot for her promotion of always a carrying a reusable bottle to refill tap water.
I sometimes see Suzy at Starbucks, where she always has her refillable cup. I bring a reusable cup for my frequent Starbucks runs, when I remember.
I also keep a reusable bottle at my desk at work to refill from the giant bottled water that is delivered to our office regularly. The nearest restroom is about fifty yards away and refilling my bottle about ten yards away is a convenience and apparently another luxury I didn’t recognize until this trip.
I bought three of those reusable bottles on a trip to Turkey two years ago and kept misplacing them, until I had to buy a plastic bottle to refill. I also fell violently ill when I drank tap water when I visited Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan in the past. Between Sadika’s advice and those experiences- it seemed like a no-brainer to not drink Lebanese tap water.
The downside is after seventeen days, I feel like I am overly contributing to the global environmental disaster that is plastic bottle use.
Yesterday one of the unexpected highlights of this trip was when my hostesses’ cousin George took us to a natural spring for me to drink straight from the pipe in Douma, a cute scorpion tail shaped mountain- side village a couple hours away from Beirut and Tripoli.
He asked if we had an empty plastic bottle to refill. Of course I didn’t, mentally beating myself up again. He told me to cup my hands and drink.
I drank and drank and drank. It was cool and refreshing- the best water on this trip.
I told Sadika and George, I wish I could swim in this. I wish I could bathe in this water.
My hostess told me most of Lebanese plastic bottled water comes from these types of springs. Also the American University of Beirut is working on an initiative to recycle and reuse those bottled and cans. Both are positives but I still feel discomfitted.
Lebanon has a lot of national problems, crazy arse traffic, the Syrian and Palestinian refugee crises, horrible air quality in the major cities. A regional solution to the plastic water bottle issue, with the civil war in Syria to the north, and tense relations with Israel in the south, is not feasible right now.
Maybe it is my unicorn thinking, but some day I look forward to returning to Lebanon or anywhere in the Middle East and being able to drink from the taps. I would love to not worry about getting sick she having without getting sick and having to rely on plastic bottles.
My apologies to Suzy. You are not an environmental zealot, I am the one with my head that I am slowly pulling out of the sand.
When I get home, I need to lessen my own use of those plastic bottles and follow Suzy’s example.
Thank you Sadika and your cousin George for giving me a taste of clean fresh Lebanese drinking water. I hope someday all of your countrymen and women are able to have the same luxury as I have at home.