“Do it,” I command myself. My hands wobbling, I take the shallow pink plastic bucket, brimming with water and baptize myself with water while standing on my bathroom floor. I squeal.
I’ve been living in Thailand for about two and a half months now as a Fulbright English Teacher for MCL School. A few weeks ago, I spent a long weekend in Bangkok celebrating Thanksgiving with other Fulbright grantees. Well the first night was a celebration, the rest of my time I spent sick, struggling with dehydration. On Sunday afternoon, I tiredly returned to my new hometown of Si Satchanali.
Is that okay to call it that?
Can a hometown be new, or is the word reserved for places we’ve left behind?
These are question I cannot answer succinctly.
I didn’t go back to my house of one month though. Instead, I’ve moved into a sky blue house that sits a few meters away from the MCL School track and dangerously close to my favorite coffee shop, Baan Café. Runs and green tea everyday—I am happy!
I found one peculiarity about my new home though as I sat on the toilet in my new bathroom.
“P’Nutt!” I stand in her doorway.
“Yes, Alin?” She looks up from the television, her arm loosely leaning on her boyfriend, P’Jay.
“Where is the shower?”
“No show-er,” she sing songs.
“But how will we be clean?”
She mimes tossing water on herself.
“Really?” I don’t know if she is joking with me or not.
My roommate, P’Nutt, is like the big sister guide through life that I never had growing up in America. Only this life is Thai life. Also I’m 23 years old, so maybe I should have my shit together. But I don’t.
That evening, P’Jay, P’Nutt, and I go to the Sunday night market. We buy food and things for the house, including a bucket. It’s a pink plastic dish about four inches deep and eight inches wide.
Around 10 pm, I strip down, grab the pink towel that Kia left behind in the old house, and pitter-patter down stairs. I slip into the new shower sandals P’Nutt picked up from the market and enter the bathroom. There’s a pool of water with a faucet dripping in the corner. I dip the bucket inside.
My emotions come rushing into my hands. The moving to another country, the moving to a new house, the not knowing what is going on. My hands shake, they feel tired, weak, unstable. And I feel scared. I want to be a good English teacher that inspires students. I want to be a good human that inspires people. I want to be a strong person that inspires strength in others. I want to spend the year washing myself with a bucket. And, right now, I want my hands to stop shaking.
Then I feel exhausted. I’m tired of holding the bucket in front of me, so before I can stop myself, my arms are lifting and water is splashing against my scalp. I jump and shake. Once started, I cannot stop. I’m dipping the bucket again and again. At first the water feels cold as it pounds against my skin, but my body adjusts as I throw more and more water at myself.
Memories of childhood summers on Cape Cod, swimming in the frigid Atlantic Ocean rush through my head as liquid rushes over my body. I laugh to myself, thinking about how my dad would get in the water by wading in slowly up to about his waist and then putting water on his hands and pat his body down with water before fully plunging into the sea. Childhood me always just ran in without much plan. I have continued that lack of strategy with most things in life.
After throw number seven, when I take a bucket of water straight to the eyes, I start throwing blindly. At this point, only about fifty percent of the buckets are actually hitting my body. The others are going heaven knows where.
This might be really funny to watch—a naked girl throwing buckets of water aimlessly all over the bathroom while jumping and screeching.
I cease the water onslaught in order to pick up a blue bottle of shampoo, squirt a bit into my palm, and lather the goo into my strands of yellow hair. Recommence splashing.
Over the next weeks I grow to love Thai showers—the feeling of control and lack thereof when throwing a bucket of water at oneself is addicting.
On Thursday I go out for a run. Sixty minutes later, I bounce up to the house. There’s a man on the porch.
“Sawatdeekaaaah,” I wai.
“Sawatdeekrap,” he returns.
Who is he? I don’t know. But when I walk inside there are electrical wires coming from the bathroom, so I have a pretty good guess.
“Why is a man downstairs?”
A shower with an electrical heater is installed. When I take my next shower, I feel a little nostalgic for the bucket, but that doesn’t stop me from turning the knob on the electric shower.
It feels sooooooo gooooood. I want to shower forever. I forgot what this feels like. Warm water steadily streams against my body. It feels SOOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOOD.
I’m a little ashamed that the electrical heated shower makes me feel this good.
FYI, if it wasn’t an option, I could totally live with a bucket shower for the rest of my life.