Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A different world.........makes me smile

If you look very closely, you will see the oxen between the
first and second pole near the top

I have a secret mission and it took me on an unforgettable journey. I'm basically a suburban city girl so there are many things I have never seen in rural life. When I was a child I was privileged enough to be able to spend weeks at my grandparents dairy farm but even then, in the 50s, they had a tractor.

Working her thread through the fields.

I have had two amazing
trips into the mountaintops
of Paute.  I have seen men 
plowing their fields with 
oxen. There were children 
herding a flock of sheep and 
freshly shorn wool hanging 
to dry. There was a woman 
walking through the fields 
working her wool into thread. 
 I saw wild grouse.

Unfortunately, I missed seeing one of the very small bears that lives near the mountaintops as it was on the other side of the truck. Ironically, they are endangered because of the very rural nature of the land since the farmers' livelyhood depends on the well being of their livestock and crops. When there is a choice of earning a living or saving a small bear that may eat their pig or their carrot crop, the bear will lose every time.
Look at the cuties I found around the corner!

This horse carried a fair burden
bringing rock up from the mines.

There is a rock mine in the top of the mountains where beautiful slate type stones are hoisted by horseback and sold for use as walkways and for gorgeous house sidings. I managed to get one piece big enough to take to a carpenter to make a table. The natural coloring tells stories of many milleniums of rising and receding waters.

Two black sheep getting to know one another.

I met a soulmate of sorts in a black sheep on one lady's farm.   That was one Ecuadorian with which I had no problem communicating.  All black sheep have a lot in common.

Ruins of a 400 year old house.

I was amazed that people live in houses with
baked mud thatched walls. Not far from that
house were 400 year old ruins of another mud
thatched house from the forefathers of the very
people living nearby.

A mud thatched house where someone lives today.  
Notice the pig in the front yard.  Future meal.

If you are in the Cuenca area, make a day trip to Paute on a Sunday.   See the chaotic Market in the morning and hire Rodrigo in the afternoon to take you up to a world few Westerners have seen.  That will be the day you see the true Ecuador.

Wild Grouse.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tea and sympathy.......makes me smile

I'm making tea today. You can drink it at your own risk and get my sympathy. But the real target of this tea are the tiny little creatures that are eating the garden.

Around 20 years ago, I had a very good-looking cowboy type boyfriend. He lived on some small acreage and invited me and my daughter, who was around 12 at the time, to come out for the day. He let her shoot his gun and gave her a rabbit with a cage when we were leaving. A few mornings later, the rabbit was dead. I asked my daughter what happened and she said she didn't know. All she knew was she had gone to the backyard to gather some grass for Thumper the night before and he was dead in the morning. I remembered the chemicals I had sprayed on the grass and plants the afternoon before for bugs and suddenly I realized the murderous agent. If there was anything funny about that episode, it was when I called the boyfriend and simply told him the rabbit died. After an uncomfortable silence, he blurted out "Oh my God! I've been told that three times in my life! I wasn't counting on hearing it again!". I assured him I was NOT with child and that it was, indeed, the bunny facing a ceremonious burial in my backyard.

When I was asked to housesit Jani's house, I was excited about the prospect of gardening in her backyard as she was encouraging it. As anyone who has at least a passing thought of me knows, I have two beloved 8 pound pooches named Bear and Amber. There would be no poison here as was done to the poor unsuspecting rabbit from long ago. If anything was going to discourage the critters who seem to like the very same vegetables as I do, it would have to be something that was unharmful to the dogs. Something organic.

A young European man I met in a garden store on the Calle Largo, a street in Cuenca, advised me to use red hot peppers, red onions and garlic in a tea to spray if I found any bugs. A few weeks ago, I hosted a couple who verified the tea method and verified I had small mites and bugs as well. It was teatime.

I have no idea of the effectiveness of this tea. My guests informed me that the broccoli was in dire need since it was about to flower. Bubble, bubble toil and trouble!!

There is not a real recipe. It is a tea with all the liquid drained from the actual vegetables after it has been allowed to steep and cool. There is no need to clean and peel although I did slice everything to allow the hot seeds in the pepper, the aroma of the red onions, and the natural smell of the garlic to do their job while boiling.

A composting pail in the farthest part of your yard (flies) is very good for your garden as long as no meat or animal products are included. Animal products won't kill your garden but the rodents it attracts will. An exception would be eggshells as long as the egg has been cleaned out and dried from the inside. An afternoon in the very direct Andean sun does a very good job.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Venga! Venga! Venga!........makes me smile!

Learning about languages makes me smile! In Spanish, "Venga Venga! Venga!" is much more lyrical than "Come! Come! Come! Of course, that certainly depends upon to whom it is directed.

The first time I heard someone say this was last week when I was at the vet's office leaving the little monsters before my quick trip to Loja and Vilcabamba. Bear had slipped out of her hands, trying to follow me. Venga! Venga! Venga! I had to figure out how to spell that! I just didn't know how to ask. It did remind me of the famous scene in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar when the title character exclaimed "Veni! Vidi! Vici!", which is Italian for " I came! I saw! I conquered".

On my trip back to Paute, the bus stopped for a group of people and the bus driver said "Venga! Venga! Venga! This has become my new catch phrase.

In the Spanish language, all vowels are pronounced and they only have one sound each. The "a" is as in the sound the doctor tells you to make when he tells you to open wide. "Ahhhhh". The "e" sounds like the "a" in cake. The "i" actually sounds like an "e" as in the english word keep. The "o" has the long and definite sound as in oh. Finally, the "u" sounds like the double o sound in stoop. I have a dog named Bear. When my Spanish speaking friends call his name, it sounds just like a southerner in the U.S. ordering their favorite alcoholic beverage at the local bar.

When I first moved to Ecuador, I was intrigued by the word zanahoria. First of all, I could never remember it. It is the Spanish word for carrot. Second of all, it didn't seem Spanish. It didn't flow well to me. When I asked my Ecuadorian friend in Vilcabamba, Lucia, she gently told her gringa friend it was not a Spanish word at all. When the Muslim crusades came to Spain, part of their language was left. Zanahoria is an Arab word.

As with English, which was shaped through the Roman, Germanic and French conquests of the British Isles, Spanish also has the elements of war and conquest. Just the very presence of Spanish in South America is a result of the invasion of Spain more than 500 years ago. The Spanish in Ecuador is a little different from the Castilian Spanish spoken in Europe because some "loan" words come from the indigent Quechua language. In fact, there are 8 to 10 million Quechua speakers in South America. It even has the status of being an official language in both Bolivia and Peru along with Spanish.

History is a passion of mine. The study of the history of languages is called Etymology. Hatians speak a version of French. Vietnamese have some French mixed in their native tongue. Brazilians speak primarily Portuguese. English and a version of Dutch called Afrikaans is spoken in South Africa. There are scatterings of French, English, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch throughout Africa even though there are studies showing anywhere between 1500 and 2000 native tongues in use on that same continent today. The official language of the Congo us French and of Angola, Portuguese. In Asia, Malaysians speak more English in their own country than they do of their traditional Malay.

Yes, learning about languages is fun with a dash of the dark side of war and conquest. I read a book recently that my daughter recommended by Jared Diamond called Guns, Germs, and Steel. It is an amazing history of why some societies succeeded over others and consequently changed the verbal landscape of the conquered lands forever. I recommend it highly.

There are no pictures to compliment this post because pictures of people talking just wouldn't transfer well. I decided to include some fun photographs taken around Paute and Cuenca.

In the meantime, Venga! Venga! Venga! And that is directed to a certain sailing enthusiast in Canada.

There is a Panama Hat store in Paute.  Panama hats were originally created in Ecuador.
Awesome graffiti art in Paute.
Kids need to have fun!!  This was the work of an American in Paute.
This is so strange.   Young girls wanted to have their pictures taken with me in China, too. 
Someone to watch over me!
Gorgeous art college in Cuenca.   I thought it was a church!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Using the public hospital in Cuenca......made my friend smile.

My friend, Diana, who lives in Cuenca, had an interesting experience last week with her teenager involving the public health services of Ecuador.   I found her entire experience intriguing as Cuenca is a large city with the usual red tape when it comes to services.   I am sure I would never have done as well as she!!

 Last Week my teenager announced that his finger was swollen and green, so I looked at it.  Okay, so that's gross.   How long has it been like this?  Oh, I don't know, a few days.   Yikes!!

Here in Cuenca, Ecuador, we had been going to a private clinic near our home for our health care needs, but the cost was $18.42 per visit with no insurance.  The doctors there are great, friendly, professional, and went to medical school in those fancy rich countries like Canada, the U.S., and various parts of Europe.  Okay, so you're thinking, what's the problem with $18?  Well, it might not sound like a lot, but when your monthly budget is only a few hundred dollars, it does start to add up.   It adds up especially when you end up having to return several times.

Good directions!

So, it was time to check out the public clinics which are free to everyone.   The first problem was that nobody could tell us where our public clinic was.   Apparently everyone in the city is assigned a public clinic based on their address.  We went to a different public cliinic and they told us we should just go to the public hospital.

The   next problem was finding the public hospital.   We were told it was the hospital of Vergel as well as its general vicinity.  We took the bus to the right area and started looking for the "Hospital de Vergel" with no luck.  At that point, we started asking people.  Eventually we were directed to the correct building which had a long name, none of which included the word Vergel.  It turns out that Vergel is the name of the part of the city where the hospital is located.

Emergency room

Once inside the building, we were overwhelmed by the sheer size and chaos of the place.   Seriously, a person could do their running practice in this building on those really rainy days.   If you ran down every hallway it would surely add up to a few miles.   There were crowds of people everywhere waiting, waiting, for what we didn't know.  We found an information desk and showed her the green finger.  Ewww!!  She explained the directions to get to Curacion.  We took the necessary turns and found the right room.  Unfortunately, the person there told us we would have to take the finger to the Emergency Room.  We followed the directions she gave us (we thought) to a big open room with a crowd waiting and asked about getting the help we needed.  The people there told us the finger issue was not serious enough to warrant a trip to the E.R.  They told us we would need to go to our local public health clinic at Feria Libre, a huge open food market near our home.

At this point we were unsure how to proceed.  I was discussing it with my son as we walked back toward the hospital entrance, noting that the people at the E.R. had told us to go to the local clinic.  My son interrupted, "Um, mom, that was the Audiology Department."  I turned around to look at the sign and, sure enough, it said "Audiologia".

A REALLY long name.

We returned to the Information Desk to ask how to find the clinic. ¿Que pasa?  We explained.  She said there IS no public clinic at Feria Libre.  Then she took pity on us.  She abandoned her post to walk us all the way back to Curacion, where she exchanged a few words with the same woman who had sent us away the first time.  Ninety seconds later the woman from Curacion was directing my son to come with her and for me to wait outside on the bench.  I did not hear any screams, but when my son returned the finger was bandaged, presumably no longer green as all the green seemed to be in his face.  When we discussed it later, he said he was sure that at the PRIVATE clinic they would have used an anesthetic.

He sat on the bench with me for a while until the nausea went away.  During that time the woman from Curacion reappeared and told us we would have to go to the E.R. to get some medicine to prevent a re-infection.  She walked us through various hallways to point us in the right direction to find the E.R. explaining that she could not write a prescription.  Everywhere we went people seemed surprised to see the extranjeros (Foreigners) in the public hospital.

There was a small crowd at the E.R. and two little reception areas connected to the waiting room.  We asked the person working at the first one what to do and she said we needed to talk to the person in the other room.  That person was not there and it occured to us that maybe a lot of the people there were also waiting for this person to return.  Apparently the locals were paying attention because when someone came out of the E.R. area, one of them told him the extranjeros needed help.  That man then approached us and took us to an office inside where we spoke to a doctor who wanted to see the prescription which we did not have.  She wanted to know the story of the finger after which she took us into a big E.R. room where people sat smiling with bloody bandages, amazed to see the extranjeros there.  A doctor who was clearly busy was very pleasant in writing a prescriiption for us and directed us to fill it at a pharmacy.  I really didn't know if we would have gotten the medication for free if we had looked poorer, but we were very happy to have the finger on the mend and left to find a pharmacy.

I think he´ll live.

We were never once asked for any information on our finances or immigration status.  Apparently their services are free for anyone who walks in.  This is SO different from the health care system in the U. S.!  We also have Canadian friends here whose doctor explained to them that medical professionals are required to work some number of hours each week at the public clinics or hospitals, indicating that the care is really just as good, albeit more chaotic, to get.

Upon reflection, we felt very well cared for at the public hospital, having had so many people go out of their way to help us.  And it was yet another of many cultural experiences, something we are not likely to stop having anytime soon!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Settling into Paute.........makes me smile

I've been in Paute not quite a month. EVERYTHING makes me smile. I admit to a bit of nervousness when my friend Jani left with the knowledge that I may be one of the few English non espanol speakers in this town of around 25,000. I thought I would be on a bus to Cuenca 4 or 5 times a week seeking out people I knew for conversation. That hasn't happened. I have been to Cuenca twice. I am amazed at how this town has embraced me. Two tiny adorable dogs have not been a liability either.

I am including a lot of pictures with this post. How can I not? There has been so much to discover. People say hi to me, calling me by name, and I don't even remember meeting them. I'm not THAT old!! Unless, of course, you ask one of my kids or my brother or sister-in- law. My sister might be a little kinder.

The word seems to have spread about Bear's love of ball retrieval. Perro futbol!! We played in the park central one time and people come up behind me and I recognize "perro" (dog) and "pelota" (ball) There are plenty of street dogs but none that are really trained. My new friend Gabriel has a street dog he feeds and gives fresh water and none of them seem to be particularly thin or mistreated. I was a little nervous about a pit bull the other day until 8 pound Amber barked at him and he ran away!

I've found the courthouse. I've seen a fist fight in the town center. I saw a paintball building in the riverside park with some very new looking jungle gym constructions for the kids an American built. I've found the public hospital with the graveyard directly across the street which is the most efficient thing I have seen in the land of maƱana. And it seems the grave sites here are more "rented" than owned. I was told if the family does not pay after five years you will be evicted and someone else gets the space. Yes, that's right. Dug up and thrown away! More unexpected efficiency!

I have found an apartment in which I will be moving close to Jani's return. I think this is home!!
Kitchen in the new apartment.
You could be evicted from here.
My friend Gabriel and his youngest daughter, Chi Chi.
Owners of the laundry.
Yes, we have no bananas!
I met Joseph, my new landlord, in the park last week.

Found at the market.   One set does not belong.  Chickens, Guinea Pigs (cuy) and puppies.   I HOPE they dont eat puppies here.
Some of the bounty at the local market.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

My name iz Bear and I always smile

Dis is my story about moving to Ecuador
I been bugging Mom since we got to dis place to tell dog stories and dis is da day. Yippee!

Me and Amber hadda ride in da cages on da flying bird on da way. I never seen a bird dat big and it wuz dark and scary an seemed to last days and days in my life. When it stopped moving, Mom and Aunt Robbin wuz der and we knew we wuz going to be ok. We stayed in a strange place Mom called a Hostal for two nites and hadda ride anudder big bird but it wuz a lot smaller dan de udder one and da dark place wuz not so scary. Still big tho. A car wid a flat back where Mom's tings went took us on a long ride to a place called Vilcabamba. Mom hadda help spell dat.

Der wuz SO many new smells and sounds. And der wuz a lot of udder dogs dat didn't have rings on der necks or strings to pull dem around. Dey tink dey were free but sum of dem wuz skeered of der own shado. Der wuz da biggest dogs I ever seen dat had peeple on der backs. I'm glad Mom never did dat to me. I wuld be squisht.

Me and Amber learned to eat new food. Sumtimes we eat sumthing called chickens and I tink they are bigger than me. My mom gives me da feet and dat's my favorite part.

Amber trying to figur out dose chicken feet.

Fer a long time, seems like yeers in my life, we wuz bery happy wid a yard to play in. Mom brot my little fuzzy green tennis balls to play and I got bery good at catching dem. After we thot dis wuz home, Mom went away an left us wid a nice lady called Mia. Just when we thot Mia wuz our nu Mom cuz it seemed like yeers in my life, our old Mom came back. Hope she not mad at me fer calling her old. Haha!

I love my little green balls.

We hadda move our tings agin and hadda clim some kinda big steps bigger than me many times a day. Down fer de potty, up fer sleepin and eatin, down fer da playin. A nice lady wuz in da store in front who always had lots of hugs and kisses fer me. She liked me da best cuz I liked her. Amber iz just a purty face. Shhh. She bites me when she gets mad.

It wuz not long 'for Mom sez we hadda move agin. Dis time it wuz far far away. We wuz moving to a pretty house in sumpin called Paute ( Mom spelled agin). A nice lady called Jani wants us to gard her house. Dat is sumpin I am good at. Gardin. Mom knows nobody gets close widout me and Amber letting her know.

I am a STAH in Paute! Speshuly when Amber is not arond.. Little peeple like to hug me but sumtimes too tite. Dey like to trow da ball an I like to play wid dem. Mom taut me tricks wid hand signals so now she teech me strange words wid same hand signals. I jus want her to be happy so when she says "vamos", I go. When she says "pare", I stop. When she says "sentaste", I sit. It is ezy when she uses the same hand signal. I tink Aunt Robbin (I tink she mite be a sister) taut her dat.

One day, Mom took me wid her on a BIG car wid a lot of peeple on it to a place called Cuenca. After sum scary walkin in da city cuz I'm very little, we got in a car wid a strange man who took us to a place where we met peeple from dat little box Mom calls a computer. I tink da name of da place wuz Cafe Moca wid nice Courtney, Steve and Susan bringin Mom a sandwitch and coffee. Dey took my picshur for a contest dey haz called dog of da munth. I shure am glad Amber stayed home. If Mom wins, she gits free coffee. Then she will talk even more dan she duz now. Noooooo.

Peeple in da park stop and talk to me and say "kay leendo". I tink dat means I'm cute. When dat nice lady Jani comes back, we will move agin but not too far. We haz frens named Jorge, Celeste, Angel, Julio, Carli an a lot more. Mom talks to everyone. Me and Amber just smell. I tink dis is home.

I looked shameful when Mom come back from her trip.

Look at da size of dem dogs?
My new friend is Esteben.
Mom and her frens in Cuenca.
Haz you ever seen such steps?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Moving to Paute...............makes me smile

I knew eventually it would happen. I've seen a lot of Ecuador to stay in one place and I wanted to experience more of the country than a playground for retro hippie gringos. Vilcabamba is a beautiful place and I met a lot of very nice people but there so much more to see and do so I took my friend, Jani, up on her offer to house sit while she was in the US for three months.

The morning of March 13th started much the same as any move across country. It took an hour to load up and another 20 minutes to kennel Bear and Amber, say our goodbyes and leave.

As we were entering Loja, 45 minutes away, the driver told me he had to stop at a mechanic for repairs. I guess he must have found out just that morning he had a brake issue. "Media hora mas o menus (1/2 hour more or less) he said. Uh-huh. Sure. I've learned a thing or two in my year plus of living in Ecuador. "Mas o menus" is a key term used in this country that ALWAYS means mas...more in English. I have no idea why menus is added. I thought "One half hour? Who is he kidding? It will be two hours at least." We rolled into the mechanics at 9 a.m. and it was fully 11:30 a.m. by the time we left.

Two and a half hours at least gave me the time to clean Bear's kennel. Why did I ever think it was a good idea to feed dogs before an over hill, over dale ride?

The drive to beautiful Cuenca was uneventful. We had a roadblock to wait for a road slide repair, a herd of cows to avoid, my constant quizzing of Javier (the driver) for Spanish words and lots of windy, twisty roads around the Andes. Hasn't everyone moved like that before?

At one point, I made each of us small sandwiches of my chicken salad I had made up of chicken, walnuts, pineapple and eggs. He refused another but stopped 30 minutes later for lunch. Oops!! I thought chicken and pineapple made perfectly good sense. It certainly made more for me!

As we were coming through Cuenca my phone was ringing. I was out of minutes and needed to apply the phone card to make a call. I desperately searched the black abyss of my purse. It was Jani calling presumably to get an eta of our arrival but I was too late. Applying a tarjeta (phone card) requires codes, tiny print and a bajillion numbers and it is difficult bouncing around in a moving truck, bad roads and a small dog kennel in your lap to even see the numbers. On the fifth try, I was in business.

After telling Jani we would be there in an hour, we found the construction work the expats in Cuenca had talked about for months. It would be two hours before arriving in Paute. I might have known.

Jani told us to stay on the main road until we saw yellow painted guard rails and a school. Javier stopped at the first yellow guard rails. "No esquela" I said. Then he stopped at a school. "No amarillo", I said. I was actually thinking of the George Strait song Amarillo by Morning by that time.

Finally we found a school AND a yellow guard rail WITH my friend all in the same place. Bear, Amber and I were home for at least three months.

Smiling. Did I mention the biggest perk? Bathtub......HUGE smile!!! Rare commodity in these parts. Ahhhhhhhhh....

At the mechanics.  Have to admire the creative way of dealing with old tires.
30 minute job in Ecuador??  Right.
Bathtub.   Magnificient.
Rock slide
Last look at Vilcabamba.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Memories of Vilcabamba...............make me smile

I have been living in Vilcabamba for 13 months.   If someone asked me to describe it in one word, I would have to choose the word eclectic because there really isn't just one word.

I have been up and down the Sierras in my time in Ecuador as well as along the coast between Salinas and Bahia and Vilcabamba is still one of the most stunningly beautiful spots in the country.

Even my dogs seemed to be in awe.

Vilcabamba has a past reputation for long lived citizens.   I am loathe to disillusion but as Vilcabamba's international fame grew scientists began to investigate in earnest the claims of the locals and some became skeptical.   In 1971, Dr. Alexander Leaf, a Harvard medical School researcher met a man who reported to be 122 years of age.   When he returned three years later, the same man claimed to be 134 years.   The older the citizens became, the bigger the exaggeration.  After their study had been made, it was found the oldest person in the village was 96 and the average age of those claiming to be over 100 was actually only 86 years of age.   Can you imagine an American woman exaggerating her age?  Oh, yes.   They already do in the opposite direction.

I have no clue how old he is. You'll find him most days in
the town center on his daily walks.  A lot of times, he 
can be found posing for pictures with tourists.

Every time I come into El Centro, there are new people.   Vilcabamba is a magnet for expats and the expats come from all over the world.   The main thing they have in common is their idea about how to dress in this town.   They come here looking like any tourist.

This is Alexandria dressing normally.

After they have been here a while, the expats start transitioning.   There is a stage in between the arrival stage and full on Vilcabamba style.

This is a transitional phase of dress.
After they have been here a while, there is full on Vilcabamba dress.

The transition is complete.

So you may wonder how an average Ecuadorian dresses.  I actually played a little trick.   Alexandria in the blue t-shirt is actually an Ecuadorian.   In reality, unless they are indigenous, Ecuadorians in Vilcabamba dress a little like westerners with jeans and t-shirts.   Minus the fanny packs.

Among reputations, Vilcabamba also is known as a haven for paranoia and conspiracy theories.   I have heard everything from chemtrails to tenth planets with wayward moons that will strike earth and spin its axis into polar shifts.  I also have heard that "they" are conspiring to keep "them" from giving us something/anything to deprive/hurt/kill.   "They" are groups to whom power may be given (including aliens) and "them" is any group being championed by whomever is promoting the theory.  Those items that are being deprived may be free clean energy, miracle cures or whatever other utopian benefits the theorists believe in but don't actually know much about.  "Look it up on the internet.  It's all there!" is a common refrain.   Fortunately, not everyone takes this too seriously.

Tin foil hat thinking.

I am leaving Vilcabamba in a few days to house sit for a good friend.  It has been a great run in a very unique part of the world.  Will I return?   I'm not sure at this point.   It certainly will be easier to learn spanish with a bit more immersion as there are westerners living in Vilcabamba for more than three years who still don't have much of a grasp of the spanish language.   However, the international flavor of the town, along with the stark beauty of the mountainsides,  is irresistible.   I can think of at least 20 nationalities that I have met in Vilcabamba since coming here last year.  Where else can I get really good Swedish food in Ecuador than Decapo's?  Or be invited to a burning man party?   Or hear the latest entertaining conspiracy theory?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Step by step instructions for surviving a shower with an electric shower head.....makes me smile

If you ever heard your mother yell "Get back in that shower!!!   You can't possibly be clean yet!!", I'm about to tell you to forget about it.   Erase it from your mind.   Vanish.   Gone.   Your mother probably never took a shower with an electric shower head to be known from this point on as a suicide shower head.  There is a right way and a wrong way.   I've been doing this for a couple of months and I feel I am now an expert.

The wrong way

It is essential to get the pressure right.   Too little pressure and it's cold.   Too much pressure and you can see in the illustration it's just wrong.   The water goes out from time to time in Vilcabamba.  A lot of the time, ironically, it is because there has been too much rain and the pipes break.   Water, water everywhere but not a drop to bathe.   I know that's not the original lyrics but it is apropos here.   I'm lucky enough where I'm living now that I have a big, blue reserve tank but when the water through the pipes is off, water pressure in the tank is so low, it will not heat in the suicide shower head.   When you really REALLY need a shower, it's akin to giving a snickers bar to a chocoholic in a locked clear glass case that is unbreakable.  Watching that water dribble from the shower head, checking every 3 minutes hoping something gets warm is a tantalizing tease.

Big blue tank.   High hopes.   Low expectations.

A friend of mine once told me a story about THEIR suicide shower head incident.   Two family members tried to take a shower at the same time in different showers.  Unfortunately, suicide shower heads are not wired to accommodate the use of more than more than one shower since they use lamp cord for wiring.  Maybe that's why smoke started pouring from the outside meter boxes.

Suicide shower head

I may or may not be the only one who needed a shower.  Now I have to catch him.

He smelled as bad as he looked.