In Puerto Rico growing up my family would joke, especially on the weekend, about how that particular day would be their turn for a bath. I could imagine it in the days before electricity reached the high, isolated parts of Las Marias and Añasco, but I never thought I would have to live it.
Many of the houses here in Albania work a little differently than those in the states. My own situation isn’t even that bad. First I flip the switch on the fuse box, which gets the water heater going and after about 30 minutes, it is ready. In this house there is the one bathroom, which also houses the washing machine and one toilet and bidet (which for those of you who didn’t grow up with one, is for keeping your bits clean, especially in-between showers. Here it is sadly non-functioning). The shower is a hand held and despite the best corner huddling still splashes water everywhere.
It sounds pretty simple, but it is quite an ordeal, so showers are limited to about 2 a week. Anything in-between is with freezing cold water. If the family showers more often, I couldn’t tell you. They are a whiz about keeping many of their movements and habits secret – either that or I’m completely oblivious (which is much more likely).
I’m one of the lucky ones. Others rely on solar panels to heat the water, and during a rainy cloudy month like April, the opportunities are few and far between. Others are a bit more old school and have to heat their water on the stove and wash in a bucket. I’ve done it before and it’s not so bad except it’s winter-time and the windows are open. But some houses have the latest in scrubby-dubby including a shower door or curtain and in one friends place even a bathtub.
Speaking with Kyle, whose apartment I may inherit when I move to Elbasan in a few weeks, he’s fortunate enough to have the option of showering everyday. Some other volunteers have embraced the challenges fully, even refusing to have their water heaters fixed. But as Paula, our lead Medical Officer said, if you can make life a little easier, why wouldn’t you?
Here are some other pics from last Friday when they made the site announcement.