Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Weaseling my Way into the Water Company

OK, it really wasn't weaseling.

It was more of asking my friend Yana who graciously asked her mom to graciously call her friend who graciously drove us to the water-supply company, sat around, then graciously drove us to the wastewater treatment company, sat around, then graciously drove us back home.

Thanks, new pal!

I wracked my brain to remember everything I could about water supply & sanitation systems... settling chambers, filtration & sterilization units, activated sludge processes, blah, blah, blah... and battled with the language constraints preventing my questions to reach our personal tour guide.

It's amazing how much diagrams & pictures can communicate things, even across language barriers.

I-- with no water supply-related language skill,
Yana-- with just a handy cell phone dictionary but no background in water supply, and
A Water Company Employee-- with no previous experience in answering science-related questions (Now what chemical do you add in this process? What are your standards for turbidity?) from two chatty young girls in their twenties.

And yet, diagrams & pictures helped the ideas make their way across all these extremes. Pipe drawings, schematic systems, percentages... diagrams & pictures not only help explain ideas in mere English, but across so many language and background barriers. They certainly worked today to get the ideas across--across experience, nationality, language, background, age, & gender borders-- sans even words. I am a continued fan. And my notebook, full of informative arrows, boxes, and markings, proves it.

Company does not have a specific target number for supply they have to meet. And, the water that they do source is paid for. So,A couple things come to mind from our visit: the Water Company deals with water from Qingxi Reservoir and Yulong Snow Mountain. (Qingxi Reservoir has its own springs, Yulong's water comes from the melting glacier.) Since people access their water in Lijiang either through wells, through the public springs, through heated rainwater, or through the pipes--the Water when I asked what typical water demand was per capita... I got some confused looks. Likewise, when I asked if they were worried about the Yulong Glacier significantly depleting (global warming)... again some frowns & lowered voices. I didn't really get a straight answer from Yana--language barrier I think--but from the tone of the voice, and the look on the face (facial expressions shows all avoidance)... this seemed to be a touchy subject.

Nonetheless, it was quite a "normal" day at the Water Co hydrological data I would have likedmpany. Still, despite this normalcy, I felt quite proud to have gotten myself there! (Thanks, Yana!) Perhaps I'll never get access to the historical records & (NO WAY would they have allowed that!)... but I got in the door--and for me, that is enough!

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