Last week I was in Southern California to do some training session for a hundred or so college students who will be going to China for the summer to work in "English Camps" — providing an intensive English environment for Chinese high school students.   Instead of the usual t-shirt with the progam’s logo emblazoned on the back, this year all of the participants received one of those nifty will-not-break-even-if dropped-out-of-an-aircraft-at-30,000feet water bottles (logo on it of course).  Since it was hot in SoCal last week–really, really hot, they came in handy.  I’m not sure they needed any reminding, but it seemed that every few minutes the program staff was telling the participants to "hydrate."  I guess that’s modern-speak for "drink." 

I can’t help being a bit puzzled at this carry-a-water-bottle-at-all-times craze that has taken root in our culture.  Everywhere you look, people are carrying huge bottles of water with them.  I noticed it when I taught at a college here in the US a few years back as well and was puzzled then.  I know it’s imp0rtant to drink lots of water, but is it really necessary for us to carry it around with us at all times?   I mentioned my bafflement to some of the students at the training, and said that when I was in college ("the old days") there was no such thing as bottled water or titanium water bottles, and the look on their faces in response was clearly along the lines of "how in the world did you survive?"  Well, if we needed a drink, we went to the water fountain in the hallway.  Or went to the dining hall.  Anyway, we must have found sufficient ways to hydrate, because I don’t remember anyone of my classmates dropping dead from dehydration. 

When I first went to China, "hydrating" was a bit of a challenge.  At that time, the only drinking water available was in the "has just been boiled" category.  Room temperature water, or, heaven-forbid, COLD water was not available.  People in China simply did NOT drink cold water.  It was thought to be bad for the stomach.  But I and my teammates found nothing thirst-quenching about drinking hot water on a hot day, so we resorted to pouring the boiled water into a plastic jug and letting it cool down to room temperature.  Lukewarm was something we could eventually adjust to.

Bottled water first showed up in China in 1992.  I remember it clearly.  A friend and I were travelling in Xinjiang Province, and since it was July, the temperatures were between 110 and 120 in the deserts we were tromping around.  At one tourist site we spotted our first bottle of water (WaHaHa brand, of course) and nearly fell on the ground in worship!  It wasn’t cold, but neither was it hot!  We hydrated big-time! 

I’m in Minnesota now, and we’re having a bit of a drought.  We haven’t had any serious rain in a long time.  The ponds are drying up and the farmers are starting to worry.  Yesterday afternoon, as I and some friends came out of a restaurant after lunch, we suddenly noticed that there were big black clouds in the sky.  Serious ones, the kind that might actually hydrate the earth!  We were so excited that we all sort of did a jig in the parking lot.  And sure enough, within an hour it was pouring buckets of rain. 

The earth hydrated.  Too bad it doesn’t have one of those nifty bottles!!