Friday, December 18, 2009

What does a pilgrim need?

During my previous two long winter walks, I thought I knew exactly what a pilgrim needs - a hot shower, a chance to wash a few clothes, maybe a hot meal, and a dry place to sleep.

My paradigm's been shifted this go-round. In the conditions here, it's the hot shower that's been redefined from a 'need' to a 'want'. Most of these village houses and some of the block apartments in the provincial cities, lack the plumbing to accommodate the hot shower.

After a day's 30 km, I still desire to wash, of course, but the manor in which it's accomplished has broadened. Most often, two buckets of well water (generally the color of weak tea) are drawn. One is heated on the wood-fired stove. A third bucket is scrounged for waste water and a wash basin or forth bucket for the actual washing to take place. Surrounded by buckets in front of the warm fire becomes an ideal situation. It works and I'm happy for it.

Occasionally in these village houses, there's a bathroom - specifically a room with a bathtub. Rarely is there also a sink, so everything dealing with water is performed in the tub. Well water is pumped directly into the tub and then buckets heated on the stove are added to balance the temperature. Good enough. I wouldn't have thought to configure a room like that.

On one fortunate occasion, I had the luck to have an English teacher as a happy hostess. Nearly forty years teaching English and I was the first native English speaker she'd ever met. She understood my desire for a shower yet had nothing to offer. Instead, she ran over to the neighbor's. A half hour later, she reappeared, gleefully announcing in the style of Hyacinth Bucket, 'Your bath has been drawn and shall be rrrready in two rrrrrrapid hours.' A wood-burning steam sauna in the backyard - fired up weekly for family bath night. The day was advanced so that I might have the first timeslot. A heavenly, if slightly unsanitary, way to wash.

A pilgrim needs somewhere to wash the day's underclothes and a dry place to sleep, and wants something hot to eat, and some type of washing facility. Nice.

1 comment:

Ukiefriend said...

Hello, Anna, it sounds like you are getting the royal experience. We do take things for granted here....You are making great progress I see.

How are your boots holding up? Maybe they don't wear off as easily in the soft snow. It's about 40 F here after the Siberian week we had.