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  • I grew up surrounded by water. Finland has tens of thousands of lakes, and when I was young, we lived 200 meters from the biggest one, Lake Saimaa.

    During winter the lake would freeze, and we could ski or skate on the ice. On Sundays whole families would go to the ice with some oranges in the bag and a thermos of hot chocolate. The dads would clean a big square of ice from the snow, and that became the skating rink. Everyone, young and small skating together at first, and later the big boys and some men would set up goals and play ice hockey. Some went ice fishing a bit further away, often not caring whether they caught anything, just content to sit in the blinding sun of the very short winter day.

    When the ice thawed, we started playing by and in the freezing water. We made boats from the wood bark and just generally ensured we got at least a little bit wet. At least by end of May we were swimming, even though the water still felt freezing and one could only stay in for a minute before we would climb out with blue lips. The first swim of the year is called "removing the winter furs".

    Thinking back to my summer holidays from school, it seems that I was either cycling to the popular swim spot, swimming, and cycling back for dinner. Brown kids with sun-bleached Nordic hair taking full advantage of the long summer days when it never really got dark.

    My university was by the sea, and after graduation I stayed in Helsinki, by the sea, until some years ago moved back to inland, this time again to an lake town. My daughter grew up with similar memories of summer, by the water.

    I've never really thought about water until I moved to Africa.

    Now I live in a place where most people do not have access to any kind of running water. Even in the capital, even in the wealthy areas most houses have a water tank on the roof, and a water truck brings you water to fill it up. Our house is connected to the water network, but the water is often cut. If there is tap water, it is definitely not drinkable without boiling it first or purifying it some other way. Most people carry their water home from a well, public tap or even river. Waterborn diseases are common.

    The ocean looks beautiful, but here by the city it smells like sewage.

    In Finland we flush our toilets with some of the best water in the world.
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