This is an extract from the book ‘Rusian Documents… Mongolian Dust’. All photo’s and text copyright and courtesy of Rensina van den Heuvel.
Oh that bloody Shower!
Russian Documents…..Mongolian Dust
Author- Rensina van den Heuvel-Copyright 2009
Outside in the marketplace, it’s very dry and dusty. I can feel the dust lodging in my nose, sinuses and throat again. I feel as though, I am still trying to recuperate from the last dust storm and it again, becomes hard to breathe. Back out at the Land Rover, a cream colored Russian jeep is parked in front of us. A man arrives on a motorbike with a woman perched on the side car. Inside the side car, there are three adult goats all bleating away. We watch with interest as each goat is lifted out of their comfy transport and pu into a big white bag, like one of those fertilizer bags. It’s tied in with just it’s head sticking out. Money is exchanged and one by one, the goats are hoisted up, on to the roof rack of the jeep. All tied down facing the front. It looks comical and the goats do not seem at all disturbed.
Mongolian goats and sheep are all hand reared, have lots of contact with their herder families, so they are very calm around humans. We both lounge back in our seats in the car. watching the goat operation, Allen gets out to take some photos. Laying my seat back a little more, I’m feeling dozy and relaxed in the warm sunny spot we’re parked. Casting my eyes around at the scene before me, there’s a dusty entrance to the market with lots of cars, mostly Lada’s and Russian jeeps parked all over the place with absolutely no uniformity at all. There are a few motorbikes with side cars parked in between. A young boy of about eight sits on a motorbike, looking about, searching for the familiar face of his Dad. Further on, a couple of elderly men lean on another old motorbike and side car talking. I look over at a small building, watching people go in and come out. Hey, they’re coming out with wet hair. On the big sign all written in Mongolian, above the shop there is a picture of water. Oh! Could it be?…. A bath house? It could be a hairdresser. Hurriedly, I’m out of the car, the goats, quickly forgotten. I walk over and go inside. There is a little room that I stick my head into and there is indeed, someone sitting, having their hair cut. A man comes out to talk to me in Mongolian. Mmmmm! With sign language and a bit of a roleplay, I find out that there are showers. He draws T1000 on his hand ($1). I ask him, “Monsha?” (Hot?) He nods and smiles. My prayers answered, I let out a soft “Yessss!” as I walk the ten metres back to the car to get my gear. “I’m off for a scrub”, I tell Allen, hardly able to contain my excitement. Back at the bath house, the man leads me down a narrow hallway to a small cubicle, puts a light on and leaves.
Closing the door, I see that there are even hooks on the back of the door and a small stool to put my gear on. Pure luxury. Struggling out of my filthy, dusty clothes, I then look for the tap. Mmmm! That’s interesting. There are two pipes sticking out of the wall, one has a small gate valve, the other has a piece of wire to turn. Turning the gate valve on, I wait. The water streaming out of the shower head is icy! I keep on waiting. Patiently, in case it takes time for the hot water to come through. No…. its not happening! Turning it off, I wiggle the wire to get the other tap to come on. Maybe it’s this one. Water comes out of the shower head above and also squirts out of the hole where the wire is stuck in. Straight at me. I almost have a bloody coronary it’s so cold. I wait for ages. It remains as icy as melted snow. I want to scream, “ “Nooooo!” I contemplate just bracing myself and getting under it, but washing my hair under this? I would be like a frozen chicken in under a minute and besides, I’m not that brave!
Putting enough clothes back on that I am half decent, I go out to the man. :”Nyet Monsha”, I tell him. He looks surprised and ushers me back to the cubicle chatting away in Mongolian but I do not understand a word of what he says. I really would love to know what he’s saying. With an avid look of concentration on his face, he turns the bit of wire and in a minute it’s hot. He turns it back off, smiles and scurries off down the corridor. I haven’t worked out how he did it but I figure that surely it can’t be too hard! Closing the door behind him, I get my clothes off excitedly, and turn the hot ‘wire’ on, then the gate valve. It’s bliss. Just perfect. As the cubicle steams up like a sauna, I shampoo my hair, lather myself all over with soap and begin to scrub off five weeks of Mongolian dust.. Suddenly the water temperature rises dramatically. Hotter and hotter till I cannot get near it. There’s no way of turning it colder as I cannot touch the boiling hot ‘wire’, because the bloody boiling water is spurting straight out from the fitting. OUCH!!! I try to put more cold on by turning the gate valve but as I turn, it gets looser and looser and threatens to fall off. The cubicle is so full of steam that I can hardly see the door. There’s a tiny fan mounted above the shower, like one of those pissy little things that people used to glue to the dashboard of the family car, in the eighties. Its making a weird noise and I’m hoping, (and now praying) that I don’t get horribly burnt and electrocuted at the same time. I imagine my skin peeling off as I try again and again to get near the boiling water spout to turn it down. Getting a piece of clothing to wrap around my hand, I attempt to turn it down before it soaks the fabric. To my absolute relief, it works. The water gradually begins to cool down just enough to get under it and finish my wash. Oh boy!
I come out of that shower disinfected, purified, fumigated, deodorised, immaculately laundered and polished a shiny bright RED. My Mongolian host asks me, “Monsha?”(hot water?) as I walk past him to leave. ”Dah! Dah! Spaseeba”…I reply..(Yes…yes…thank you.) It was the shower from Hell ….no doubt about that. I walk out into the crisp air, feeling great but somewhat harried by my ordeal. There’s a Mongolian man at the side of the building feeding the huge boiler that heats the water for the showers. He’s shovelling huge piles of dung into it. That’s some fire he’s got raging in there.
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