Kyiv First 100 Days: Water

We've lived in Kyiv for a little over a month now. Most of my impressions revolve around the basics of living. We haven't been out and about experiencing culture this first month as much as we've been trying to figure out how stuff works, what certain things are, and what it takes to run a household without familiar things.

I've made lots of notes in these first few weeks, thinking that some of the day-to-day might be slightly interesting or a bit amusing for a few of you. If you are like me before I lived in Ukraine the first time ten years ago, you may think that moving to a different country is mostly just a change of scenery. Let me just say that it even when you live in a relatively modernized apartment and speak English in your home and with most of your associates, you cannot escape the other-country-ness of it all. Sometimes the other-century-ness of it all.

A lot of the adjustments that have surprised me most, though, are the ones that don't really have to do with a different country, per se. They are just the little things that are different, that take longer, that are a little inconvenient or odd compared to what I usually do in a day. I thought I'd use the next few posts recapping our initial experiences with some of the basics in life. Stuff we usually take for granted or are accustomed to being somewhat different.

Today, let me tell you about good ol' H2O.

For one, we have two sources of water in our apartment that we didn't have in the U.S. - a bidet, and a freestanding water filtration system. With spigots.

We were in the apartment less than ten minutes before Calvin flooded one bathroom with the sprayer of one bidet, Henry flooded another bathroom with the second bidet, and Charlie flooded the kitchen with the water spigots on the filter.

The bidets have since lost their appeal, mostly because the power of the water spray frightened both of the knob-turning boys in question. Except that it is Charlie's throne of choice. In true American fashion, I just don't "get" the point of a bidet. Especially the ones we have, with a high-pressure rotating sprayer. And a little strainer over the drain. There's just so many unanswered logistical questions there. Not to mention the little hooks behind for hanging your, er, wiping towels? Ew. I'd rather change a million diapers...

Someone I know who served a mission in Italy once said that the American girls thought the Italians were gross because they only showered once a week and the Italians thought the American girls were gross because they didn't use a bidet. I smile about that every time I see one of our unused bidets. What's your gross vote?

You'll never hear me complain about having a washer and dryer, but one liquid bane of my existence was (is) the water catcher on the clothes dryer. It took a few loads of laundry and the dryer refusing to function before I realized that this long tank has to be emptied regularly (between each load, sometimes twice per load if it's jeans or towels). It holds more than a gallon of water and because it pulls straight out of the very top of the dryer, when it is full of water it is awkward and inevitably splooshes on the floor or down the front of me. But it is mildly interesting to see how much water is still in the clothes even after they've spun in the washer.

Charlie continues to be enamored with the spigots on the front of the water filter. It brings back memories of the Brita pitcher we once owned. But unlike the Brita thing, there is no child-proofing our water system. Except that the boiling hot spigot has been disconnected to avoid the scalding of small children. (Ironically, a good scald would probably keep a child from ever touching it again, I'd think. But while probably the most effective kind of childproofing, probably not the preferred method, right?)

After an especially mop-heavy day, I entertained a brief thought of not having a freestanding filter system and just installing a water filter to the kitchen sink until David showed me a sample of what is removed from our water with the filter system. Looks like apple juice, smells faintly like mildew and rust. A filter attached to the faucet doesn't remove the heavy metals, either. So the filter system stays and Charlie will continue his finger bath parties indefinitely, I guess.

I wonder at the people here who don't have filter systems. Actually, I don't wonder. They just aren't water drinkers, really. Unless you count the gallons of water used to make the constant supply of tea. But that's boiled, so I guess it's not so bad.

When I was here ten years ago, vodka was the thirst quencher of choice on the street. Among the younger set now, it appears that beer is. They've gotten all multi-cultured. It surprises me how many people - and it's not just surly unemployed and disillusioned men anymore, but young people, girls included - carry beer bottles around like water bottles - onto public transportation, while walking around the square. Before noon.

We have seen some people pumping water from these artesian wells at different intersections in the city. Apparently the wells were dug at some point during a temperance movement with the purpose of encouraging people to drink water instead of vodka. It's clean and fresh and comes from deep below the earth, untouched by the city's water supply. Yeah, right it is. A lovely idea anyway.

The great improvement I've seen related to water issues since I lived here before is that in the month we have been here, our kitchen faucet only leaked for two or three days and there has only been one day that the water was turned off for pipecleaning. (It used to happen arbitrarily and unexpectedly for several days at a time.) So it would appear that functioning plumbing is not too much to expect anymore.

And I have to say that the water pressure and the shower head in our shower is fabulous. Like a bidet for your whole body. And the hot water never runs out. Like living in a hotel. Only you have to wash your own towels.

A truly wonderful thing about water in Kyiv, however, is that Calvin's school has an indoor swimming pool. And they will be starting swimming classes in addition to their regular P.E. classes next week, continuing through the spring. At no extra charge, because learning to swim well is part of being a healthy and well-rounded child. Awesome, eh? He is sooooo excited.

The only thing is that he is required to have a swimming cap. I'm not sure where to buy one. And I'm even less sure that he'll wear one. And we're going to have to have a conversation about teeny tiny speedos, too, I'm afraid. Ah well. We'll deal.


Real said...

When we were in France, we did our first load of laundry. The washing machine was right there in the kitchen. We started a load and sat down to wach some TV program. About 20 minutes later, my husband said, "Do you hear running water?"

As it turns out, there's no drain for the laundry water. When the laundry starts spinning, you had better move that hose over to the kitchen sink! We ended up doing another whole load of the towels we used to mop up the whole mess!

I'm loving reading about your adventures.

Janelle said...

I've never been overseas so I'm loving your stories.

I will say in the American/Italian debate, I can see the appeal of a bidet I guess, but I like my whole body to be clean-it feels so good. So I'll stick to showering regularly!

HOA Mgr Lady said...

The 1st time I was in france we had a bidet in our hotel and it was January Brrrrr and I filled it with HOT water and sat on the edge of the tub and soaked my freezing feet. Everyone else (The gf's) said Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww But we also brought a can of Comet (i know anal retentive) and I washed it thoroughly 1st!

Sir Nottaguy-Imadad said...

Here's hoping that the water in the pool that Calvin will be learning to swim in doesn't look like the water in the glass.

Gabriela said...

So much of your water issues are so familiar! I have pictures of Julio in bidets in Venezuela. and the awful spigots!!! I don't know how many of those huge (what's the word for them?) water bottles have been slowly spilled all over the floor by all three of my boys (Margarita was already past that stage when we left the States).

And the swimming cap and the speedos. Love it!