Dear God: This morning I brushed my teeth with coffee

Dear God,

This morning I brushed my teeth with coffee because I couldn’t find any clean water.

Dear God,

This morning I brushed my teeth with coffee because I couldn’t find any clean water.  It got me thinking how nice it would be if You would help everybody have clean water.  Don’t get me wrong–I do love coffee, and brushing your teeth with it actually works pretty well!  But, there are a lot of kids around here, and I’ll bet that it would be really nice for them to have clean water every day.

To give You some context: Guatemala does not have national-level regulation of anything related to water–availability, safety, or anything else that I’ve been able to find.  Having a water connection into your home is nowhere near universal in cities, and in rural areas, it’s less common than using a well or other naturally-occurring water source: 52% of the rural population lives in residences that are not connected to a water supply, as does 13% of the urban population (see this paper).  The groundwater here can be contaminated with arsenic, as can clay water filters.  Bacterial and viral contaminants abound–coliform bacteria, norovirus, cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid–You name it, we’ve got it.  Your children here do try to take care of themselves in this respect, but it’s technically difficult–one study here of homes that boil their drinking water found that 29% of boiled water still has unsafe levels of fecal bacteria.  (If You really wanna get freaked out, note that the clay filters that some households (and the vast majority of visitors such as myself) rely on here lose their “disinfection efficacy” over time, and there is exactly no way whatsoever to evaluate this by looking at them.)  The number of ways that Your children’s water supply can get contaminated is far larger than I would have guessed, including–ironically, I think–heavy rainfall, which can wash nasty stuff into wells.

Original photo caption: “Wells without headwalls such as this one can easily fill with foul water. They also present a fall risk for young children, as has been reported by residents.” Source: Eisenhauer et al. 2016,

I know that You are busy, but if You have a bit of free time on your hands, this would be a cool thing to pay attention to.  As I mentioned, brushing your teeth with coffee actually works pretty well.  But, Your children here are really trying–if You could help a bit with this and the many other medical problems that plague this country, it would be super-cool.


Beauregard Zipf

English notes

you name it: an expression means something like anything whatsoever, anything that you can think of.  Some examples:

How I used it in the post: Bacterial and viral contaminants abound–coliform bacteria, norovirus, cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid–You name it, we’ve got it.  

Once a year I spend a week as an English/Spanish interpreter in Guatemala with Surgicorps, a group that providers free surgical services to people for whom even the almost-free national health care system is still too expensive.  If you enjoy my posts from “Guate,” please consider supporting our work here.  Our volunteers pay all of the costs of their own involvement–we buy our own plane tickets, pay for our food and lodging, etc., and donate all of our services.  Your donation goes straight to supporting surgeries, pre- and post-op care for our patients, and lodging for the family members that accompany them here.  You don’t have to give much to help a lot–$250 US pays all of the costs of surgery for one patient, and $10 US pays for all of the pain medications that we will send patients home with the entire week.  Follow this link to donate–a small donation is a great way to make your day better!

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