Saturday, November 13, 2004

Simple Gifts

Often we take the simplest things for granted, things that have a disproportionately large affect on our happiness and well-being. Take personal cleanliness, for example.

When living in and around dirt, sand, and dust, there is no finer feeling than having a hot shower and a clean set of clothes to put on. It puts a new light on the day, and brightens your outlook immediately.

Out here there is no wallowing in the luxury of a "Hollywood shower," to which most people are accustomed, where the water runs and runs and runs until you’re finished. When water is scarce, however, we take "Navy showers." A Navy shower consists of getting wet, turning off the water, soaping up, then rinsing off as quickly as possible. It uses probably 20% of the water that a Hollywood shower does. Actually, it’s not so bad, and when there’s no hot water, there is less of an incentive to leave the water running. It’s still not the same, though.

Sometimes there’s not even the luxury of a Navy shower. All of our non-drinking water comes from a ROWPU (Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit) system, which purifies water taken from a local source (I’m not sure what that is – perhaps the Euphrates?). This removes most of the "bad" stuff from the water, and although it is not potable, it is useable for washing.
Unfortunately the ROWPUs have a finite capacity that doesn’t always keep up with demand, so occasionally when you turn on the taps, nothing comes out.

The first time I encountered this I was hot and sweaty from working out, and the empty tap was a big disappointment. I returned to my tent and had a "baby-wipe" bath, which was adequate but unfulfilling. Even clean clothes don’t make up for not being able to bathe. That whole night I was a bit grumpy and out of sorts, and I think it had a lot to do with not being clean.

The next morning there still was no water, so I tried the other alternative: the "water-bottle shower." Ironically, although there is a shortage of ROWPU water, bottled water is abundant. I had been told that 4 1.5 liter bottles were needed for a "shower." For my first attempt at a water-bottle shower I tried to be frugal, using two bottles. Not quite enough – I ended up wiping soap off with my towel. That wasn’t very comfortable either. The next day, still no water; I use three bottles this time – getting better, but still not quite there. I guess "they" were right – four bottles it is.

One very inconvenient aspect of a water-bottle shower is carrying all that water, plus flak and helmet, towel and toiletries, to the shower. This evening I was really prepared – I got out my pack, loaded it with four bottles of water, my towel, clean clothes, and toiletries, and off I went. Of course...running water! Yay! It made my day to be able to shave and shower normally. Maybe tomorrow there will actually be HOT water!

Like a hot shower, it is easy to take relationships for granted. Every day we wallow in the "Hollywood shower" of our relationship with parents, wife, husband, partner, children, friends, etc. For some, a busy life can be like a "Navy shower," short little bursts of loving relationship in between the phone calls, e-mails, commuting, and meetings. Sometimes the water is shut off – permanently by death or divorce, or temporarily by moving or deployment. When that water’s gone, you realize how precious it was and wonder, "how could I have taken that for granted?"
This deployment has been an eye-opener for me about how much my wife, children, and UU community mean to me. I hold them in my heart and head, indulging in the water bottle shower of the connection by phone and e-mail. I’m looking forward to not just a shower, but a long, hot bath when I get home.

You never know when the water will go out, so cherish those hot showers while you have them.


Post a Comment

<< Home