The other day, my parents (who live in Vancouver) received a letter from the government that was an ideal example of the differences between living in Peru and Canada. Here’s how the letter went:
Dear: Homeowner or Occupant,
Your neighbour’s water service has been turned off due to problems with their water service. A temporary water supply has been set up to your neighbour through a jumper hose running from your house.
The jumper hose is connected to your outside tap. Note that if you remove the jumper hose or turn off the tap supplying it, this will cut off the water supply to your neighbour.
We apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your co-operation in supplying your neighbour with water.
Waterworks Operations Branch
City of Vancouver
It had me thinking about Eisenstein’s gift economy: the idea that exchanging gifts or favors creates bonds. As waterless days are common in Peru, I couldn’t help but reflect on how differently this situation would have panned out.
The neighbors in Vancouver didn’t have a need to approach my parents and this may partly explain why we don’t know our neighbors very well in Canada. On the contrary, a problem such as water shortage forces the community together in Peru. We’re motivated to help each other because we know that we’ll probably need our neighbor’s help in the future. The common struggle further unites us in that it’s a shared experience that we can all relate to and look back on.