When I think about the phrase “taking a douche,” my mind automatically turns to the term “douche bag,” and, well, we all know what that means. In my new place of dwelling here in Estonia however, the phrase takes on a whole new meaning.
Just to give a little background about myself, I moved to Estonia about two months ago with my fiancé. He was working on his master’s degree in the States when we met, and now that his degree is complete, so is his American visa. And so, back to Estonia he went, this time along with me.
Before I met Ivan, my fiancé, I am ashamed to say that I didn’t even know Estonia was a country. For those of you who, like me, don’t know a lot or anything at all about this tiny country, let me explain just a bit of geography and history.
Estonia is bordered by the Baltic Sea on its western side, and by Russia on the eastern. Pretty much throughout the history of Estonia, it’s been trampled by its neighboring countries at war with Russia, simply because it is so close to the Russian border. The farthest point to the east lies in Estonia’s third largest city, Narva. Narva is mostly populated with Russians; in fact, it’s just plain odd to hear someone speaking Estonian in Narva. The only thing that separates Narva from Russia is the Narva River. What’s interesting about this city is that on the Estonian side of the river lies the gigantic Hermann Castle, built in the beginning of the 14th century by the Danes. Almost a century later, right across the river on the Russian border was erected the even bigger Ivangorod Castle. It is a common phrase to hear around Narva that Russia is so close an arrow could be shot and reach it.
So far, I’ve focused mainly on the city of Narva, instead of talking about Estonia’s capital, which is Tallinn. This is because my fiancé is actually Russian, not Estonian. About two months after his birth, his family relocated to Narva and has lived there ever since. Upon my arrival to Estonia, I spent the first month and a half in Narva, and just in the past couple weeks have moved to Tallinn.
My fiancé and I were very lucky when it came to apartment hunting; we were able to find a five-bedroom apartment in one of the best neighborhoods in Tallinn, Kadriorg. Kadriorg is named after the Russian queen, Catherine I, Ivan told me, also known as Catherine the
The glorious woodstove that makes my life oh-so-easy.
Great, who allegedly died from a horse kick in the face while she was trying to have sex with it. A Russian Caligula I suppose. But actually that was Catherine II who was into animals, not Catherine I. Apparently Catherine I died from an abscess on her lungs. Anyways, the village is full of gorgeous old wooden homes built in the traditional Russian style. Our particular house consists of four large apartments, two on the ground floor, and two on the second. Our landlord agreed to let us live there for a mere 150 Euros per month, which translates to $199. To good to be true, right? Well there is a slight catch. Many of the homes in Kadriorg are renovated, ours is not. The house was built in 1906, and it functions to this day as such.
Previously, I didn’t know anything about how a house functioned in the early 1900’s, yet I am now receiving a daily education. Which brings me back to the main topic at hand: taking a douche. In Russian, as well as French, “douche” means to shower. In our shower, in order to heat the water, we first have to build a fire. Underneath the tank of water that stands in the bathroom next to the tub, there is a tiny woodstove-like furnace. In order to have at least a somewhat warm shower, there are a number of steps to follow.
Yes. This is real.
First, I have to take a few logs from our stack of firewood and saw them in half. The furnace is only about 6-8 inches in width and height, so the wood has to be made small enough to fit in the space. For me, this step is by far the longest. Sawing firewood is quite a new experience for me, so it takes me about thirty minutes to get through the three or four logs needed.
Next, I have to gather enough kindling and paper to get the fire actually started. I’ll admit I kind of cheat a little on this step. With all the instant fire starters available now, it’s just too easy not to use them.
After the fire’s started, I throw on the logs. Because the furnace is so small, only one full log cut in half fits inside. Generally it takes about fifteen to twenty minutes for the log to burn through, and after the allotted time, I throw in the next round. The main point of concern for me is to not give in to impatience. The first time I went through this procedure, I got frustrated pretty fast, and only used two logs to heat the water. The result was about three minutes of hot water and then freezing cold water for the rest of my shower. Cold water wouldn’t be a big deal if I were somewhere like the Philippines, but this is Estonia. It’s cold.
If I want a hot shower, or at least a somewhat warm shower, it takes three or four logs, totaling the entire preparatory time to about an hour and a half. Every other day, (there’s no way I go through all that work everyday) I chuckle a little inside as I’m sawing those logs or stoking the fire, I never knew “taking a douche” could be so complex.