Pistis is an oasis for those who live in its surrounding neighborhood as dozens of girls, boys, and women come daily to fill five and ten gallon jugs with water, carrying them home on the backs of bicycles, balanced upon their heads, or placed squarely between their shoulder blades and small of their back, a strap held in place by forehead or hands drawn to shoulders.
Once very small boy who could not have weighed more than thirty pounds, was no more than six inches taller than the empty ten gallon jug he carried in through the gate. I watched him fill his container to the very rim, water spilled from the spigot onto the rock and his sandals. He then reached in front of his chest and attempted to move what must have weight nearly 3x his body weight. I offered to help him, but he was determined to do this himself.
I carefully removed his tiny fingers from the handle, three times as he did not want to give up, and asked him to show me where to go. With some encouragement, we exited the Pistis compound and walked down the alley to a red gate, entering through the door-in-a-door which is common to the local compounds. I had to switch hands several times as I walked with a distinct limp for the mass seemed to increase with time. I followed him past one court yard and to another where his mother came to greet me, a young woman seemingly in her early to mid twenties, wearing a colorful dress and matching head scarf.
By this time all compound residents were curious to meet this stranger who carried the water. I was offered lunch, but took a rain-check as I needed to get back to my project.
The next evening a Nairobi news channel advertised a documentary piece on the women of rural Kenya who carried water increasing distances as global warming and overuse of local resources took their toll. The featured woman walked five hours to transport what appeared to be a twenty gallon drum of water, on her back and shoulders, each and every day.
I have no idea how the boy was expected to carry that water, or if perhaps he was not to have filled the contained so full. Either way, I was able to participate, even if just briefly, in a daily activity central to countless hundreds of thousands of Kenyans where water is simply not as readily available as a pipe and spigot.