By Quenjule Slaven. 29 March 2016, 12:00AM

I didn’t know what to expect the first time I met this little girl.  She was so dirty standing there in the hot sun, with her hand stretched out.  I was instantly drawn by her ragged appearance.  She had this charm about her. 

“Hi! I need to eat and I don’t have any money,” she started in a not so shy way.

“Okay, and?  Well, where are your parents?” I suspiciously asked her.  For all I knew, she could have been a con-artist in the making.

“I’ve waited for them but they haven’t shown. They sell stuff on the streets all day and I usually wait for them here to get some money to buy food.  I really need to get home so that I can open the gate for my younger siblings and give them food.  It’s been a long day and we haven’t eaten since yesterday morning. I’m only asking for money to buy some food,” she said.

I sighed.  I had coins in my pocket, but I was also very hungry and the afternoon sun was killing me.  I wanted to buy a nice cold drink with an ice-cream cone, since I had to walk home in the blistering sun. I didn’t have breakfast that morning or lunch or any water for that matter and the heavy backpack I carried made me very tired.  I could have easily lied and said I have no money and walked away, but there was something about her. 

She reminded me of my younger sister who had the same big ears and freckled nose.  She was so dirty and her dark curly hair was tangled with dried coconut flakes.  She also had a strong pungent smell of elegi from her clothes that attracted a group of notorious flies.    

“Where do you live?” I asked.

“Vaitele,” she said.

I wiped the sweat off my forehead. I was starting to feel dizzy and nauseated from the humid heat and the dryness in my throat. I became aware of people watching us as they walked by. This girl had been there probably for a while and no one had stopped, which made me feel even more sorry for her. But why were they looking at us weirdly? I shook my head and slipped my hand into my pockets, pulling out whatever I had. “There you go, five tala.”  I handed it to her.  “Take it and head home,” I said.  I told myself she needed it way more than me. 

She looked at me surprised, “Thank you so much!  God Bless!”  And then she disappeared right before my eyes.  I looked everywhere.  “Where did she go?”  I exclaimed. A lady came up to me and asked, “Are you OK?” 

“Yes I am. Actually, I’m better than OK!  Why do you ask?” I said smiling.

“Are you sure?  I’ve been watching you from my car talking to yourself for a few minutes now.  It’s a little awkward,” She looked very concerned.

“What? I was talking to the young girl who wanted something to eat!  Did you not see her?”  

“I’m sorry I saw no one but you mouthing away. I think you better get out of the sun and go straight home and get some rest.  You look dehydrated!  Here take this five tala and buy a bottle of water,” the lady declared in disbelief.

Then I realised that people were not stopping because there was no little girl.  I probably hallucinated the whole thing like a lunatic.  This is what happens when I don’t drink enough water, especially on a very hot day.   How embarrassing!    

Embarrassing and frightening indeed!  However, this story never happened, but dehydration is very real and is a lot more than just not drinking enough water.  The side effects of being dehydrated  involve symptoms that can range from mild to life threating, hallucination and foggy memory being some of it just like the story you read above. 

I’m no doctor, but I can tell you this that most of my classmates drink more soda and sugary juice than our good old water.  This does not contribute to our daily eight glasses of water to maintain numerous body system and the balance of body fluids.  So why is it important to drink enough water?

Water is one of the most important nutrient for us on the planet and dehydration is one of the most common preventable medical illness in the world.  You’re already dehydrated when you feel thirsty.   We drink water to help lose weight, our skin’s BFF, fights infection, get rid of body toxins, it is 75% of your brain, prevents joint pains and muscle cramps, protects your heart, prevent constipation, decreases fatigue and reduce risk of cancer.  

A lack of water is a choice for many as they often choose the sweeter alternatives.  Unknowingly, people become dehydrated from coffee, tea and soft-drink replacements which leads to all sorts of disease such as high blood pressure, alzheimer, cancer, asthma, depression, kidney stones, diabetes, and many more other type of diseases. 

Our bodies are made up of 60% water, the more reason not to run on empty especially when you live in a very hot climate like Samoa.  Water is the gasoline of life, not coffee, kava or soft drinks.  

“Pure Water is the world’s first and foremost medicine,” says a Slovakian Proverb.  Imagine spending less money on hospital bills, if we just make that effort to drink more water every day. 

A few changes in our diet can improve our health drastically, both mentally and physically.  The heat has been intolerable the past few days, so remember to drink your eight full glass of plain water daily and stay safe.      

By Quenjule Slaven. 29 March 2016, 12:00AM

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