Wednesday, August 25, 2004

root beer water

I was 15. We were canoeing through lake Bayano, ready to head upriver to bring good news to a tribal (Kuna) village. Who's we? you ask. "We" were 25 teenagers chaperoned by a few really brave adults and guided by a little man who spoke both Spanish and Kuna. But that's another story. It's the water I'm thinking about today. We cruised across the enormous lake and then headed up a tributary in the blazing equatorial sun. For 8 hours straight. Thirsty? You'd better believe it. Each of us had filled our canteen with water from one of two huge drums that rode into the jungle atop our team bus. In their former lives, the huge plastic containers had been storage for root beer & orange soda syrup (respectively). We were reminded of that fact every time we took a sip from our canteens. It's already been 12 years but I will never forget the taste of warm water laced with root beer. We were 8 hours by bus and 8 hours by boat away from civilization. Clearly, this water was our only option. So we drank it. But it was not exactly what you would call thirst-quenching. To this day I have a special appreciation for clean, cold water that doesn't taste like anything.

Have you ever noticed how the things we crave usually don't satisfy our thirst? Just a few days out of the city to rest ... a good book ... an irish cream latte at Starbucks ... a quick computer game. Instead of feeling refreshed I often feel even more restless ... cloudy-headed ... dissatisfied. Am I substituting root beer water for the real thing, and then wondering why I'm still thirsty? Hmm ...