One of the lowest points in our travels, for me, was when we were in Goa, India (awaiting the start of a freelance writing job at the nearby Alila 5 star hotel) and staying in a deserted dumpy location. After an afternoon on the beach, followed by getting soaked in the rain we trekked back the long distance we had walked, under a sky now dark, damp and cold and significantly sandy. (Not a great combination.)
The only thing I could think about and focus on, was how wonderful it would be to have a hot shower once we got back to the room.
I said my repeated prayer “please, please let there be hot water”… all the way back to our room. Even in tropical climates, I am a big fan of hot water. I love hot water! It is definitely one of my priorities in life and a factor which makes a home feel like a home.
Well, the sad reality was that not only was there NO hot water… but there was, NO water! Period. Nada. Not a drop came out of that shower, no matter how many ways I tried turning the knobs in different directions. Not a drop!
Only a bucket on the floor of the bathroom half filled with COLD water. Which is of course what I had to use in order to get the sand off. I felt like crying, but instead, I sang my hindi ragas through the icy disappointment.
We get spoilt in the so called “developed world.” We take certain things for granted. Water, hot water, flushing toilets, the like… And yet of course, having spent many years working to provide bamboo housing for victims of disasters in Nicaragua and Haiti, we know well that there are many more people around the world with no running water than there are people with water.
Talk about an extreme contrast ~ we went from one night in Goa, India without a working shower, to the following 2 nights in absolute uber luxury at the 5 star Alila Hotel, just 15 minutes away. A bathroom which was bigger than the bedroom we had been in the night before, a pool at our doorstep and all the “trappings.” Okay, we had stories to write for their blog, but that was a job we were happy to take on!
Fast forward almost exactly one year later and we are in Wicker Park, Chicago.
Now about that running water……
We find ourselves living in Chicago in May, in an iconic artists building (we had eyed for many years before, with the view to one day having a loft space here). The beautiful high ceiling loft however, has no bathroom, no running water, except the communal restroom way down the hall. But here we are. In an awesome building, with crazy low rent (for the neighborhood), a buzzing active scene at our doorstep, and I am pissing in a plastic bucket at night! In America!
And so, with the theme of what makes a home a home, for me, I know it HAS to include hot water. Of course to most of you in the developed “first” world, this seems obvious. But, ha, here we are in America, with no running water in our space (no bathroom, no kitchen sink, no shower) and no internet either.
Okay so we have very interesting and somewhat eccentric neighbors, a loft which doubles as a space to show my art work, and a deal on rent with no cost for utilities such as heat. Soon after we moved in, we were given a practical solution for my quest for hot water, by one of our artist neighbors… to join the gym down the road, as the membership opens up access to showers with unlimited hot water (and even saunas to heat up in.) We did that for a month, (first month free!) and that was a pretty good temporary solution.
My unsatisfied need for hot water, made me walk into the nearby Chicago Apartment Finders office.
I like to know my options, ie, what else could we get in the neighborhood for what we are willing to pay?
“So what are your priorities for an apartment?” Asks the realtor.
Me: “Running water, for sure!” Hey I know my priorities!!
Look of disbelief crosses the realtor’s face….”Umm. Well, actually, yes ma’am well.. all the apartments have running water”, he says.
Me: “Oh good. Because right now I do not have running water in my apartment.”
Stunned silence……. and finally he composes himself and asks, “What else is a priority?”
Me: “A working flushing private toilet, that would be very nice.”
“OH! Well, yes …. all our apartments actually have those as well.”
I did not hear back from this realtor, and how this story goes, is that we negotiated with our building manager to install a bathroom in our loft. Not an easy negotiation, not an easy process… but eventually one day there were workers installing tubing in the hallway and drilling holes in our large “closet” space.
Lo and behold, we got ourselves a shower, yes with HOT water, a toilet and a basin.
NOW it feels like HOME!