Friday, July 25, 2014

They Do Things Differently Here #2: Hot Water

As I mentioned in my post about air conditioning, things that are normal and expected at home in the US, aren't the same in other countries.  Another example is hot water.  We have lived without hot water during four Let's Start Talking missions in Thailand, taking cold showers every day for six weeks each time.  While, admittedly, cold water there is not as cold as tap water in the US, it was still chilly enough to make me dread getting out of bed each day.  And it certainly encouraged me to shower quickly (and gave me an excuse not to shave my legs as often since I'd get goosebumps before I ever finished a single leg!).

In countries like Malaysia and Brazil, though we are able to take warm showers, we don't have what Americans would call hot running water. The sinks only have one knob, so we wash our hands, clothes, and dishes in cold water.  And I know what you're thinking. How can you get your dishes clean in cold water?  What's going to kill the germs?

The answer is I don't know.  But entire countries exist this way, so we can handle it for six weeks at a time, I guess.
The sink in our kitchen in Natal, Brazil, has only cold running water.

Our bathroom sink also only has cold water.

Even some developed countries have ideas about hot water that are different from my own.  In 1997, we were working with a church in Mito, Japan.  Mito is a modern city near Tokyo, and the church did have hot running water in the kitchen.  One Sunday, after a church potluck, one of our team members decided to help out by doing all the dishes.  Of course, she washed them in hot water.  The Japanese church ladies stood back, watching wide-eyed and chattering in Japanese as the our teammate, Sherry, worked her way through the prodigious pile of plates, pots, and pans.  After she finished and started to walk away, the ladies started rewashing each and every dish.  In cold water.  

We later found out that they found washing dishes in hot water unhygienic.  And this was Japan!  A modern country with seemingly modern health practices!  So we've decided washing dishes in cold can't be too bad after all.

Warm showers, while available in other countries, can be equally confusing.  
The water heater in the shower we used in Malaysia looked similar to this model.

Here in Brazil, we are blessed to have electric shower heads that heat the water as it flows through.  The water coming through the pipe is still cold, but the shower head itself heats the water so that warm water comes out.    Seeing electrical outlets, switches, and plugs in the shower takes a bit of getting used to, but I'm grateful enough for the warmth that I choose not to think about it too hard.
The shower in our Brazilian apartment, with the water-heating shower head, plug, and switch on the wall.

Close up of the shower head and plug

Once again, differences like this make me both grateful for my big ole American hot water heater and mindful of the energy it consumes.  

But not mindful enough to do my dishes at home in cold water.  That's for sure.

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