(second set in the Water Searchers series)
“Please play with us,” Takat pleaded. I was busily writing up notes from the questionnaires I had conducted the previous day. She did not have to beg much… there was little I’d rather do than play with her and the other girls from camp. She took me by the hand and walked me to her donkey. She pointed to the goat hide water container… the Touareg traditional refrigerator… “let’s go get some water with the other girls”. Oh, so this was her idea of fun?! And it was! I so enjoyed walking from our camp to the marsh with Takat, and her friends Soutout, Mouheini, Raichatou, and Aminata. The girls played nonstop, random games with their metal bowls that they would use to fill the goat hide with water. I even almost forgot the stinging caused by the prickly burs attached to my cotton wrap as we walked the couple of kilometers to the marsh.
It was the rainy season, and this chore was simple compared to how the girls usually obtained water. There was no carrying weighty jerry cans, no interminable digging, no waiting hours or days at a deep well for just a few drops, no long hours walking under unforgiving sun and 45 degree Celsius heat. Nope, just a short walk, and a few scoops to fill their goat hide container, and the fetching was done. They might have to repeat this errand three or four times before evening came, but so what, as long as they did it with friends. They were even able to get a bath out of it, and wash off their grime and work at removing hair lice, a welcomed luxury after over nine months of drought. Before we left, the girls washed their legs and feet. Raichatou asked me, “Alzhara, won’t you take a bath before we leave?”