It's hard to explain to those who have not lived cross-culturally how even the little differences can be a source of constant stress. Sometimes, it's just a sea of little discrepancies from the life I lived in North America that add up to a weight of stress that it's hard to quantify. I find myself being jittery and hyper-reactive, even when things seem to be going really well in most areas of my life. And I wonder what's wrong with me, where the stress is coming from. And then one of the stressors is lifted. And I recognize it as a stressor that I hadn't even known I had.
Like water. Since moving into the apartment we're in now, we have not been able to drink the water from the tap. We were thankful for the fact that the taps were producing water, to be sure (yay for showers and flushing toilets!). But we were advised by the landlord to come up with an alternate water source for our health. Because sometimes the water was potable, sometimes it wasn't. You can't tell which phase it's in just by looking. It's not that the water isn't being treated at a municipal water treatment facility; it is. It's just that it seems like it's not being treated either well or consistently. I learned the reality of this the hard way. Once while Rob was out of town, I was running water to wash dishes and thought, "Gee, that water looks really clean. And it smells fine. Maybe…" So, I drank some. Within just a few hours, I was laid out on my bed with cold sweats, fever, and abdominal cramping. My bad.
So, Rob and I have been buying water from a reverse osmosis facility downtown since 2011, when we moved into this apartment. I don't mind "fetching" water like this. OK, maybe some days I did mind. It's just one more thing to add to the to-do list. But then someone offered a water filter rig for sale on a local second-handers group on Facebook. And it wasn't like any I had ever seen. Usually, they're fancy rigs that run on electricity and have lots of fiddly bits. I had visions of paying a jillion dollars for one, plus filters, then having it crap out in a year with no one in the area being able to fix it. But this one on the second-handers group was something different. It was a stainless steel gravity water filter. I had never even heard of such a thing! It uses silver-impregnated ceramic filters with activated carbon cores. The filters last 6 months. I thought, "Now there's a system I can handle."
So, I bought it. The water that comes out of it is clean. I just fill it with tap water and it comes out clean. Our tap water lately has been either full of algae (no really… algae!) or reeking of chemicals with a hint of algae (smells like "locker room at a YMCA that has a pool"). But it doesn't matter anymore. Because I just dump whatever sludge comes out of the tap into my filter system. And clean water comes out. Tada!
Then I noticed a change in myself. Everytime I fill the filter container, everytime I open the spigot and get beautiful clean water out, everytime I drink this filtered water, I feel like I've won some kind of battle. And I feel like a weight has been lifted. Like, I now control my own water. No matter what happens to the water supply in this town (or this country) I know that I can just grab any water (within reason, I suppose) and filter it. And I'll have water to drink. I guess I was stressed about water. And I didn't. Even. Realize it.
Which makes me wonder: what else am I currently stressed about that I won't even realize until the weight is lifted?