I have a confession to make: I have not had a shower in over six weeks.
Shocking as this may seem, my confession is no commentary on the state of sanitation in South Africa, nor do I lack basic personal hygiene skills. My house has no shower, and I've instead been taking baths every day. When looking for accommodation in Johannesburg, it did not dawn on me to inquire if the house had a shower. In the United States, what home doesn't have a shower? Upon moving in, however, I was somewhat surprised to learn that we have only a bathtub.
Baths really aren't that bad. I hadn't had one since I was in elementary school, and I have to admit that returning to the tub took some getting used to. Still, they can be quite relaxing when the water is steaming hot. They're not the most efficient, however, especially considering that we have four people living in the house. I’ve taken to bathing at night to avoid waiting in line in the morning.
My house is not unique in its lack of a shower. South African friends have told me that they too have lived in bath-only houses. When I spent a weekend out in the countryside of the Free State, the guesthouse where I stayed had only baths. Even Howard’s house, while boasting several showers, seems designed initially for only baths – the showers appear to be later additions.
Several shops in my neighborhood specialize in bathroom furnishings. Most baths look almost Victorian, complete with claws for feet and shiny brass fittings. What they may lack in efficiency, they make up for in style.
The other domestic difference I’ve had to come to terms with is the lack of heat. Johannesburg has very mild winters by Mid-Atlantic standards. Most nights get down to the 40s, though a cold snap will bring the temperature down to freezing on occasion. Nonetheless, the days are quite warm, and often reach a lovely 68 degrees or so. Because it’s not that cold, none of the houses bothered to install heating. Consequently, when it does get cold outside, it’s cold inside as well. A few weeks ago I could see my breath as I sat at my desk drafting a blog entry. My roommates Lizzy and Matt wrap themselves in blankets when they watch TV during such frigid nights. I finally broke down and bought a space heater.
As soothing as night next to the space heater and as stylish as the bathtubs are here in Joburg, I’m very much looking forward to returning to the hot showers and central air of the United States.