Certain inconveniences of life in Bolivia have actually endeared themselves to us through the years. I write this tongue-in-cheek, but it’s true. The cobblestone streets, the rattle-trap busses, the heavy blankets that make going to bed seem more like being buried—the list goes on and on. These are life-style quirks that make us smile.
I put electric shower-heads on this list. We are currently staying at a hostel in the upper section of La Paz, near the New Jerusalem Friends Church. Like most hostels (and homes) this one does not have hot running water. Here is where the electric shower-head comes in. This device houses electric coils that heat up, allowing the water that flows through them to become somewhat hot. “Somewhat” is a key word here. When the water pressure is sufficient, the coils automatically switch on. When the pressure lowers, they switch off. This all happens quickly. In a hostel, water pressure varies depending on how and when other people in the building are turning water off or on.
I suppose one could consider it a rich sensual experience. In rapid succession, the water goes from tepid to cool, back to tepid and up to somewhat (that word again) warm. If the pressure gets too low, the coils switch off and you have to quickly turn the pressure up before the water becomes icy. This is tricky and you will most likely have to fiddle with the faucet before you reach a temperature that approaches lukewarm. And once you get there, someone in the next room turns on his faucet.
We’ve named our present shower Maud. Personalizing the thing helps us focus on the humor rather than the inconvenience. “Shower” in Spanish—“la ducha”—is a feminine noun, which helped us name her. But something else convinced us of her femininity. Maud is clearly going through menopause. While normally providing us with water ranging from cool to tepid, she occasionally has these glorious hot flashes. For a few seconds, I can actually imagine that I’m home in my own comfortable, convenient, and consistently hot shower in Newberg, Oregon. It never lasts long, but I’ll take what I can get. Way to go, Maud!