Wells and Other Life Philosophies

I’ve developed an almost obsessive fear of wells these days.  In the States, I never thought twice about them, other than the occasional fleeting thought when I’d go to a friend’s house who had well water versus city water. 

Just outside our compound gates (which seem to be always open), however, there is a frequently used well that is basically a hole in the ground – a very DEEP hole in the ground – right off of an even more frequented walking path. 

The well outside our gates

 It absolutely terrifies – and infuriates – me.  We walk this path often, and I find myself gripping Judah tightly whenever we pass it and saying to him, “No, no, no, never, never, never!!”  Judah now points when we pass it and says, “No, no, no!” – but even when he does that, his little arm sometimes feels too close to the well.  (See, obsessively fearful.)

I had a dream earlier this week that Judah fell into a well.  I barely grabbed him by the legs and practically flung him out, then ran over to him, petrified as I spanked him.  Eight times, actually.  I could barely sleep after that. 

The next day I found out that just a couple days before a two year old fell into an open well just down the road from my friend’s house and drowned.  A couple was arguing and the mother went out to tell them to calm down.  She briefly walked away from her toddler to help this couple, and when she did, her precious child fell in the well.

I really don’t understand the difficulty in covering wells.  I’ve talked to some Nigerians who think they should be covered, but they say that the owner of the well near our house is very stubborn and refuses to cover it – never mind that it’s right by the path and that anybody who is not paying attention could literally walk right into it.  People often walk the path at night, and without electricity, the uncovered well becomes even more dangerous.  I’ve thought about demanding or begging for the owner to cover the well, or even threatening a fine if it isn’t covered, but let’s be real: There is no government agency to report such things, no one to enforce such non-existent codes.  My other thought has been to befriend a military guy with a big gun…. They seem to get things done around here. 

The picture's a little dark (Uh, since I had to casually stroll out at dawn to snap it, as some Nigerians don't look too fondly on a white girl snapping photos in the middle of a crowd.)


I realize that there is a different philosophy regarding things that Westerners would consider dangerous.  One aspect of that is that these things are part of the daily life of a Nigerian, and they teach their children how to use the wells, much like many Westerners would, say, teach their children to swim if they lived near water or buckle them into car seats before driving anywhere.  Based on the high incidents of children falling into wells and drowning, though, I can’t help but think that maybe there needs to be other precautions taken – like covering wells.

This is the well on the office side of our compound. This one at least has stones, maybe about 5 inches high, surrounding it, and it even has a cover - though I'm not sure why. Because the well is used so often, the cover is never on. Just this morning a 7-or-so year old boy was drawing water from it by standing on the stone edge and lowering the water holder into the well.

Another differing philosophy that seems to rear itself in different ways in the culture is an attitude of, “If Allah wills it….”  As someone commented the other day, “Well, if it’s Allah’s will that someone fall into a well….”

I don’t think we Westerners have our views on God quite right (Well, who does?  His ways are higher than ours….) in that sometimes I think we tend to believe that we are in control of everything.  It seems that many Nigerians, though, are at the opposite end of the spectrum and think that Allah completely controls everything – so as a motorcycle taxi driver, I can foolishly pull out in front of a car and not think about the consequences because if Allah wills it, I will be saved….. And if not, well…. It seems to me that this allows escape from personal responsibility.

And from covering wells.

Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle of these views.  In the meantime, I’m all for covering the wells and looking both ways before pulling out into traffic.

Trying not to live in fear,


3 thoughts on “Wells and Other Life Philosophies

  1. AARGh .. we deal with similar situations, although not wells. When the city was improving the roads (which is nice) and putting in infrasructure (hard to complain about that) and sidewalks (yeah … no more cattle on the street … only on the sidewalks), well, in the process, they had huge (metre by metre) holes in the sidewalks and again not lighting, so it was easy to fall in and disappear. Not as horrifying as a well which is small, deep, and filled with water, but an abrupt fall into a 5-6′ deep hole is nonetheless annoying. Eye-zhosh (hang in there).

    On another matter … are you still without milk? If I send you a couple bags of milk that does not need refrigeration, will you ever get it? or will it get drunk by someone else?

  2. Thanks, Diana! Really sweet offer on the milk. 🙂 Thanks! We just arrived in the US, so we’re not without milk for now, anyway! 😉

    …And I dig the hole thing. I still fail to really understand these things….

  3. Guess we need to pray for enlightenment. Doesn’t seem as if anything else works.
    So glad you are back in the States. Can hardly wait to see you! Happy Thanksgiving!

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