Did you ever go bobbing for apples? I always thought it was a rather silly concept - one is expected to unlock their jaws as much as possible to wrap his or her teeth around not a delicious piece of candy or chocolate, but rather around a spherical medium sized piece of fruit, without the use of one's hands, and on top of all this, you are supposed to be blindfolded during the process.
I'll take things that are a waste of time and hurt my jaw and frustrate me to no end and leave me hungry for 200, Alex.
Now, imagine that same small bobbing for apples bucket, fill it up only half as much as you would to bob for apples, and bathe your entire body in it. Serious. This is the method of bathing used in rural South Africa, as well as in not so rural South Africa. But before I go on to what a pain it is for us shower-addicted foreigners to get used to, I will say that the bucket bath is rather effective in it's own endearing and frustrating little way.
When I first arrived at my homestay, I was actually very surprised to see that my host family had in their bathroom a medium sized bath that I was to use for my own bodily cleansing. At first I breathed a sigh of relief, but the relief didn't last too long. My host father showed me outside where I was to fill a large metal bucket with water, and start a fire to heat up the water. The process to bring such a large quantity of water (probably about 8 gallons or so) to a boil takes considerably long - about an hour to an hour and a half, during which time you can't just leave to do other things, but have to tend to the fire and keep the flames high and the coals hot. There was a lack of dry wood in the yard, and so many times I had to burn old and dried out cowpies, which do not have a pleasant smell when burned, especially not in large quantities. The metal bucket is ashy black, and if you touch any part of it with your hands or clothes, they turn instantly black. So in actuality, no matter how dirty you are before you bathe, you get twice as dirty just preparing the water for your bath.
This boiled water is poured into the tub (don't forget to stop up the drain as I had to be reminded, or you lose all your hot water - that was dumb of me), and then you get another large bucket of cold water from the tap to give your self a warm bath. The problem with having a medium sized tub to bathe in is that even with 2 large buckets of water, in the end, you only have about 2 inches of water to actually bathe in.
It was still winter time during my first bathing experience, and because the houses are made of mostly cement here, there is no heat and no insulation, so it's COLD in the house in the mornings, evenings and nite. I shivered as I climbed into the tub and soon realized I'm about 10 inches to big to lay down in the tub flat. That's ok. I crunched up a bit and started rolling around on my back and stomach as best I could to wet my body.
I was instantly frozen.
My hands were shaking as I reached for the shampoo - everyone suggets to wash your hair first - this was something I should have done before I soaked myself from head to toe. Rinsing my hair out was ripe with difficulties - I was so glad I didn't have my long hair anymore. Many girls got sick of their long hair too, and about 4 or 5 of them have since shaved their heads.
I soaped up as best I could, and repeated the rolling process, which is extremely uncomfortable in such a small space, and is a very humiliating process, even when by yourself - having body parts flopping around, getting caught behind your back or under your body, knocking your head against the side of the tub, having your ass up in the air, and all the while shivering and freezing in the cold winter air.
I used this medium sized tub method for about 3 or 4 weeks, and then got sick of the process. I gave up bathing for about a 10 day stretch, and then found my family had a small bucket I could use to have my first official "bucket bath". I also gave up the medium sized bath after what I thought was an obvious sign: one evening I poured the water into the tub and left for 10 seconds to get undressed and I came back to find a rather large cockroach had dropped from the ceiling into my bath water, and drowned instantly. I removed the cockroach, bathed, and told myself, "I think I'll stop here."
For my first official bucket bath, there was no outside fire involved. I boiled water in the kettle, and filled the bucket about halfway with cold water fro the tap, so I now had warm water again, but now it was about 5 or 6 inches deep instead of 2. I then had to think back to our first week here when current volunteers described different methods used for the bucket bath. Some buckets are big enough to kind of sit in. Mine is not. Therefore, the following methods seem to be the most commonly used.
There is the lean method, where you kneel on the floor next to your bucket and splash your body with water, soap up, and splash to rinse off as best you could. There is the stand-up method, where you use a wash cloth to wet yourself, soap up, and then use a cup or some such device to pour the water over your body to rinse off, trying your best not to spill too much water outside the tiny bucket. Then there's the dip and dangle method which is just as much fun as it sounds. You put your feet in the bucket, squat down, dip and dangle, and wash as best you can.
I have found that a combination of the lean method and the dip and dangle method works best for me. Although with these methods, I am only able to wash the main problem spots - hair, face, feet, crotch, and armpits. After those areas, the water is pretty much filthy beyond filthy, especially if you haven't bathed in 2 or 3 days, as is often the case with myself.
As I've mentioned before, as frustrating and annoying as this whole process is, it is effective enough to get clean.
But I have already made up my mind to build a shower in my next home.
4 months ago