Recently, my wife and I moved in with one of her coworkers in an effort to save money over the summer during the period of time we won’t have an income. It’s a great help and we’re very thankful to her and her family for their sacrifice.

OMG! Brrrr! (Notice the Scorch Marks)
OMG! Brrrr! (Notice the Scorch Marks)

That being said, they have to do something about their hot water heater. The flame randomly goes out all the time, especially when someone has a face and hair full of soap and shampoo in the middle of their shower. The water turns ice cold to the point of being very painful and the difficulties we’re now having with our bathing have reminded me of some of our past issues while living overseas.

One would think bathing is a fundamental human activity. After all, everyone has to do it. So even the most under-developed nations should have a system in place of helping people to bathe and shower easily and conveniently. Not so.

What's Missing from this Picture? The Shower! It's just a Bathroom!
What’s Missing from this Picture? The Shower! It’s just a Bathroom!

Bathrooms are vastly different from continent to continent. Some people in Africa and the Middle East don’t have running water and indoor plumbing. The Far East doesn’t use shower stalls and bathtubs, preferring instead to just open up the entire bathroom to wetness while showering (you get the toilet and sink drenched every time). Most countries, other than the US and Canada don’t implement clothing dryers when doing your laundry (this isn’t exactly bathing, but still). One has to hang their laundry on lines or racks; Asians even used these circular hangers with clips for their naughty bits to dangle from while drying.

In Turkiye, before we bought legitimate towels, Jen and I had an experience of drying ourselves off with paper towels from the kitchen after our shower. But perhaps of all these weird and wild experiences trying to keep clean abroad, the craziest happened to us in China.

Last year we lived in a dormitory for teachers and students in a rural boarding school. The building didn’t offer free hot water to its residents. Instead, we had to charge money onto a special card that went into a reader that was bolted to the wall in the bathroom when we wanted the hot water to come on. Unfortunately, hot water was only available certain times of the day, typically between 6-8am and 8-10pm. If we wanted to wash dishes or shower in the middle of the day we were either freezing our tushies off or just plain out of luck (you would think they would either limit the time or charge us money, not both).

Our Chinese Apartment with the Kettle taking Center Stage!
Our Chinese Apartment with the Kettle taking Center Stage!

One time, when we absolutely needed to shower, but the hot water wasn’t turned on, I had to boil water in our electric kettle and then dilute it with cold water until it was a decently warm temperature so that the mixture could then be poured over top of Jen’s head while she scrubbed herself down. You can imagine this picture: Jen covered in soap, shivering… me fully clothed and pouring buckets of water over top of her while she’s in the bathroom, getting me and everything else wet.

The moral of these stories: don’t take your nice, hot showers for granted. Ever.

Hasta La Proxima…

-Justin

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One thought on “Overseas Series: Bathing Abroad

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