Hot Water Blues

hot water

One thing I’ve been seeing a lot on social networks and blogs recently is people saying what they’re grateful for. Being grateful for what they have in their lives right now.  And it’s important, because although right now we are in lock down, and the world’s in a mess, most of us still have a lot of things to be grateful for.

Being grateful

Some of the things I’ve seen people mention are:

  • Good health
  • Family
  • A place to live
  • Healthy food
  • Having a job
  • Money
  • Coffee
  • Wine
  • The internet
  • Clean water
born in a car coffee
Some people are grateful for coffee

I’m sure there are a lot of things we can add to the list of things to be grateful for.

But first I want to tell you some stories about hot water.

In the old days on the farm

When I was about 11 years old, my family moved from suburbia to the Australian bush.  It was a block of land, not in a town, or village, but a 25 minute drive to the nearest shop.  There was Australian bush all around us.  There were some neighbours in the area, but they were a couple of kilometres away.

My parents bought an old house from the city and had it transported on the back of 2 trucks (they cut the house in half to do it) to the ‘farm’.  Farm in inverted commas because most of the time we lived there we didn’t farm anything.  We had someone’s cows for a while. And we had chickens.  And we had a pet goat and a couple of horses. 

So it wasn’t a ‘farm’ in the true sense of the word.  Some people might call it a hobby farm.

So, we lived in this old house. There was no electricity or town water supply.  We had a bore (a big well) with an electric pump to pump the water to our house, and we also had a tank which collected rain water. 

The water heater

To be able to take a bath/shower, we had to heat the water.  We heated the water in a system that required a fire to be lit, which then heated the water as it passed through the tubes of the system.  It was a kind of instantaneous system, you had hot water only while the fire was burning, there was no storage tank.

It was called a rocket water heater.

We were a family of 2 adults and 3 children – most of the time.  On some weekends, our step-brother and step-sister came to stay, so then there were 5 children.  Sometime later my mother had another child, so then sometimes there were 6 children, but we’d changed our hot water system by then.

born in a car baby in a bath hot water
We had a lot of kids taking baths

Back to the rocket. 

It was my sister’s and my job to light the fire every evening for the daily bath.  We had to keep it alight until everyone had taken their bath (the kids) or shower (the adults).  Then we could let the fire die out until the following evening’s bath schedule.

We didn’t have a choice about when to take a bath. And, apart from the hour or so while the fire was lit, we didn’t have any hot water at all in the house.

After some time with this system, in the same house, we changed to a storage system for hot water.  But it was still powered by a fire.

So, my sister and I still had the job of lighting the fire every day.  However, with this system, it would heat the stored water, which would stay hot, or at least warm, and last well into the next day (unless we used it all).  We didn’t all have to rush for a bath or shower while the fire was lit, like we did with the rocket.

As a kid, it didn’t make much difference to me, but my mother probably appreciated it.

After leaving this farm, and going back to live in the city, I don’t remember having many other hot water problems over the years.  Most Australian houses and flats have good hot water systems, and unless it’s an old one that’s broken down and needs replacing, there aren’t often hot water problems there.

Hot water in Moscow

Let’s look at when I moved to Moscow.  As you may remember, if you’ve read this post, I moved to Moscow at the beginning of 2007 to teach English.  And, like all (or most) Moscovites, I lived in a flat.  And the flat was connected to the town’s hot water supply.

Yes, that’s right.  In Russia, the town supplies the hot water.  You don’t have a hot water system/boiler in your home.  The hot water comes to you from outside, already hot.  Just like the heating I wrote about in this post.

Which is wonderful, because it doesn’t run out.  You can have a really long, hot shower whenever you want (yes, I know we shouldn’t waste water).  In Moscow you can be the last one in your family to have a shower in the morning and there’s no possibility of the hot water having run out caused by your husband or teenage kid having a long hot shower before you had time to get to the bathroom.  There’s no hot water storage tank in Moscow flats.  The hot water just comes from outside, and comes, and comes.

It’s a brilliant system, and much appreciated in the winter.

No hot water in Moscow

Summer, however, is a different story.  In Moscow, every summer, the hot water is cut off for maintenance of the pipes.  It’s not the whole city cut off at the same time, but they rotate, different areas of the city in different weeks.

During the first years I was there it was off every summer for 3 weeks!  Yes, that’s right, we had no hot water for 3 weeks!  So, how did we cope?

My flatmate sometimes used to take cold showers.  I heard her singing from the bathroom while in the shower, and one day I asked her why she sang in the shower. She told me it was to take her mind off the cold water. 

I’m not one for cold showers.  Even in a hot Australian summer I can’t take a cold shower.

So, I made a hot ‘bath’ in the plastic washing tub.  I boiled pots of water in the kitchen, and tipped the hot water into the washing tub, which was placed in the bath.  Then I mixed some cold water in to make it the right temperature, and washed myself.  At the end, I tipped the tub of water over my head.

I even managed to wash my hair this way.

I don’t know why we find it so difficult, our grandparents (and probably our parents, depending on our age) used to do this. They didn’t have the luxury of hot running water in their homes.

Gradually over the years, in Moscow, the city authorities reduced the hot water ‘off’ period from 3 weeks in 2007, currently down to 7-10 days.

Some flats in Moscow have an individual hot water system.  We had one in our last flat, which we lived in for 6 years.  Ours was gas, and worked perfectly.  We didn’t have to worry every summer about when the hot water in our local area was going to be turned off.  

born in a car hot water system
Our hot water system on the left

We felt very privileged having this system in our flat, and we kind of took it for granted, knowing that at different times over the summer our friends and colleagues were having cold showers and we weren’t.

Hot water in Bucharest – the studio in the Old Town

Now we’ve been in Bucharest for almost 2 months and already we have some hot water stories.

In our first apartment, the little studio in the old town, the shower was awful.  Not only did the water leak all over the floor, but it was impossible to regulate the shower and get steady hot water from it.

We got cold water, no problem.  Then when we slowly turned the regulator/tap to make it warmer, it sometimes suddenly got too hot to bear.  So then we had to turn it down again back to cold, and try again to find the right temperature.

born in a car bucharest hot water studio
The shower in the studio in the Old Town

The temperature was right for about a minute before it went cold again.  Most times I spent 5 minutes in the shower just trying to get the right temperature to be able to stand under it.

It was impossible to have a proper shower there.  In fact, for the 2 weeks we stayed there, I didn’t ever have a really good shower.  And forget about washing my hair, I couldn’t find the hot water sweet spot long enough to get my hair wet.

Hot water in Bucharest – the new apartment

And then, as you may know, we moved.  We moved into this amazing Airbnb place.  With a bath and a shower. 

born in a car hot water shower in new flat
The bathroom of the new apartment

And when I had the first shower here, I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven. 

It was that good.

So, for a few days we felt very privileged to have this amazing hot water.  But then, something strange happened.

Most evenings, the hot water became very un-hot.  Tepid.  Even cold sometimes.  But only in the evenings. 

I made enquiries online, wondering if this was a peculiarity of the building, or of the local hot water supply, or something else. They told me that, no, it wasn’t normal.  I found out that they have the same system here as in Russia, that the hot water is supplied to all the buildings.  It’s not necessary to have an individual hot water system/boiler in every apartment.  And, after a little investigation, I found out that sometimes whole areas of Bucharest are without hot water due to non-payment to the water companies by the local governments.  Or, pipes are old and break, leaving thousands of people without hot water.

If you’re interested, here’s an article from last November about this very situation in Bucharest. 

So, for a short while, we weren’t sure if we’d have hot water at night or not.  We tried to make sure to wash the dinner dishes before it got too late in the evening, otherwise we’d have to wash them in tepid or cold water. 

Come morning, the hot water was usually back to normal.

And, having lived in Russia for more than 10 years, we understand that sometimes hot water problems are to be expected.

For a while after that, we had a great hot water supply every day, as you would expect – no problems.

A new hot water problem

Then, last weekend, on Sunday to be precise, I said to Olivier, “We’ve had such a great hot water supply for the past couple of weeks, the problem seems to have gone away.  It’s so great not to have to worry about having hot water.”

“Yes,” he said.  “It’s great.”

Guess what happened the very next morning.

No hot water.

Just a little dribble of cold water from the hot water position. 

Nothing.

As I’m trying to have a positive outlook in these difficult times, I decided not to stress, knowing that it was probably just some maintenance or something.  It would come back on soon.

At lunchtime I contacted the owner of the apartment.  He said that yes, there was some work being done, and the hot water would come back on the next day.

Not a problem.

The ‘next day’ was yesterday.  As I write this, we still don’t have any hot water.

So, the past couple of days I’ve had a small, shallow bath, 10cm deep, just like in Moscow during the summer hot water ‘off’ period.  Pots of boiling water carried to the bathroom to make at least a little pool of water to wash off the day’s sweat. A lovely nostalgic experience.

And, the days are hot right now in Bucharest.  It’s been around 30 degrees these past few days, with more hot days coming for the rest of the week.  I’ve been sweating.  I need a shower.

But, there’s nothing to do but wait until the hot water comes back on again.  I’ll ask the owner again tomorrow if he has any news, but, if here is anything like Russia, nobody will know, things happen when they happen.  No need to panic or get upset about it.

But, it’s allowed me to reflect a little on how grateful I am for everything I have right now.  Including hot water.

When I have it.

How’s your hot water situation at the moment?  What other things are you grateful for right now, that you may have taken for granted in the past?  Let me know in the comments.

Author: Cheryl

I'm an Australian woman who is now living in a village in rural Bulgaria. I lived for 12 years in Moscow, Russian Federation, working as an English language teacher. My current loves are my husband and my vegetable garden.

15 thoughts on “Hot Water Blues”

  1. Hi Cheryl, It was so good to come back from working on the apartment and read your post! You’ve had such an interesting life. I like how positive you are about the challenges you faced growing up. Maybe they’ve made you stronger and given you plenty of coping skills. Since traveling in Eastern Europe, I’ve had to learn to be a lot more flexible. It really goes against my grain when things don’t function the way that I think they should. I think in that way the travel has been really good for me. I’m learning to relax about things that I cannot change as well. When we were in Oradea and the hot water was out, we started going to the thermal bathes. Those were really great! Thanks for sharing another interesting post. Though I won’t be able to share the link, I will share to FB.

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    1. Hi Christina, I also love seeing your comments here when I open my WordPress dashboard. 🙂 I could say I’ve had a pretty hard life, a lot of it my own making to be honest, but I don’t know any other life so it’s kind of normal to have hardships and difficult times. I wasn’t always positive about challenges, but as I’ve gotten older, and with the influence of my very positive husband, I’m changing. I agree about Eastern Europe, flexibility is needed. It was a huge shock for me when I first arrived and lived in Russia, they don’t get upset about much at all! Now nothing really bothers me if it’s not the way I want it. I must say, life’s much nicer not trying to go against the flow! Hot water’s back now, so all’s well (until next time!). Thanks for sharing my post. 🙂 xx

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  2. A truly interesting read. I remember the days back home when I was young! those were days where we had limited resources and we had to take bath in lesser water. I used to be the last one to take bath because I used to get mare hot water. Thanks for joining us in Bloggers Pit Stop – Pit Stop Crew

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    1. Hi Menaka, thanks for reading my blog, I’m glad you found it interesting! It’s amazing how easy life is for most of us now, compared to when we were young. I actually like the old style of living, it’s more in touch with nature and the earth. It’s hard work, that’s for sure, but having done it as a kid, I can really appreciate the modern conveniences that we have today. Thanks again for dropping by, hope to see you here again. Have a lovely week. 🙂

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  3. I found this incredibly interesting and appreciate that you took the time to share. Who would have thought that a story about hot water could be so compelling. Thank you!

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  4. Your life is fascinating Cheryl – even your childhood was interesting. We lived on a bush block for 20+ years and raised our kids there. We had water and electricity but the water came from a deep bore and had a faint “beige” tinge to it. We also had a storage gas water heater that worked well – except when the gas cylinder ran out and needed to be changed over. It’s very nice using scheme water now and a hot water system that comes from an ongoing suppy. It’s so easy to take for granted (until something goes wrong!)
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM ?

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    1. Hi Leanne, I agree with you 100% that my childhood was interesting! Our bore water wasn’t drinkable, and it did sometimes have that tinge to it! We used the rain water for drinking. We also had gas cylinders (they came a bit later), but for a while we had a wood fire in the kitchen, and a gas fridge (I don’t understand how that worked!). And individual gas lamps for lights (like for camping – I remember doing my homework at the kitchen table with the gas lamp in front of me) before we got the generator and could use the light switches! That was in about 1978, when everyone in the towns and cities had electricity, town water and everything else necessary in the modern world – I don’t know how my mum managed with everything, plus all the kids! It’s fun to remember it all, and actually, it’s given me good knowledge and experience and allows me not to take everything we have these days for granted. So nice to see you here again. 🙂

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  5. I admire your resilience! I don’t think I would cope very well without hot water at all. Something we take for granted for most of the time, when so many people don’t actually have it at all or even access to clean cold water. What interesting places you’ve been living.

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    1. Hi Christine, I’m not sure if it’s resilience or just acceptance that I couldn’t fix the problem. Either way, a few days of no hot water is good for practicing patience! Yes, you’re right, there are plenty of people in the world who don’t ever have hot water, or clean water. So, I consider myself lucky, even if I don’t have hot water for 3 days! I agree, I have been living in interesting places, and I’m very grateful that I have the chance to do so! Thank you so much for visiting and commenting on my post. Hope to see you again. 🙂

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  6. It’s so interesting to learn how things work in other areas. My father grew up in a house that didn’t have indoor plumbing. So they took one bath each week in a copper tub in the kitchen. The tub would be filled 1/4 to 1/2 of the way with cold water and then they would boil huge kettles of water on the stove to fill in the rest. I got to experience the “no hot water” situation one summer. During the 70’s oil crisis in the US, my father decided not to buy oil for the summer. Since it was only for heat and hot water, he didn’t think it was necessary at the price it was. We boiled water to wash dishes and when we wanted a bath, we boiled water for that as well. At least I didn’t have to light a fire to do it. I just had to fill the kettle and turn on the stove.

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    1. Hi Jennifer, such an interesting story about your dad’s bathing routine! We really take for granted our modern world, that’s for sure! One thing’s for sure, whatever difficulties we’re faced with, like you faced in the ’70s, we’ll get through them in the end, and will probably be a little stronger for it. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and commenting, so nice to see you here. 🙂

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  7. We used to have those old fashioned water heaters in India – usually made of copper or brass that would have a wood fire under. Later we got electric geysers. Have never heard of hot water being supplied by the town! Your post was most interesting, Cheryl.
    Visiting from #MLSTL

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    1. Hi Corinne, so nice to see you here at Born in a Car! It’s interesting for me to learn about how others get their hot water, especially back in the ‘old days’! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Have a lovely week! 🙂

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