Joe is gone to the U.S. on business, so I thought maybe it was time to write some blogs on some of the little things that make life in India different, before I got so used to them that I didn't remember any other way.
When I was in the U.S. I read about the European water heaters, that heated the water as it was being used, rather than keeping it warm 24 hours a day like in the U.S.. I wondered "How could you possibly heat it fast enough to keep up with how fast it comes out of the tap?" The answer is, of course, that you don't. This week I am reminded of it every day, because Joe isn't here to turn it on to preheat for 15 minutes before we start to take showers.
If you have an "old geezer" in your bathroom, you may need a plumber, or an electrician, but you won't need a policeman. It is just how they pronounce "geyser", the water heater. We have an old geezer in our kitchen, but unfortunately we seem to stand a better chance of getting a policeman, than a repairman or new geyser installer. However, this is about our only complaint about our landlord, so we're heating our water to wash dishes with and being patient.
Water is probably the most major difference in moving to India. Since it is contaminated with e-coli and heavy metals, it must be filtered, and boiled if you don't have the newest kind of filtration system. Minor but absolutely essential changes have to be made. The first thing I did upon coming here was to put a sock on the faucet handles to remind me never to drink or rinse a toothbrush with water from the tap. Instead we keep a soda bottle full of filtered water on the counter for rinsing toothbrushes, and another in the shower for rinsing hair. Upon my arrival I started losing a lot of hair with every shower. I had read a book telling of the person moving to India and losing almost all of her hair temporarily, so I wasn't totally unprepared. Still I didn't really want Joe's hairstyle, so I asked for advice. I was told to rinse my hair with mineral or filtered water. This seems to do the trick.
Though we usually heat tap water to do dishes to make it easier to dissolve grease, it is not necessary to filter or boil it, as long as you make sure you don't ever pick up a glass or utensil from the drainer and use it while it is at all wet. The germs seem to die very quickly when exposed to the air, on a dry surface. But you must be careful not to rinse your hands and then pick up something you're going to eat without cooking. I think the last time I got sick was from rinsing the stickiness from eating prunes off my hands, and then promptly picking up another one and popping it into my mouth.
This presents a quandary when eating out. If you're going to eat either traditional Indian food or Western fast food with your hands, are your hands cleaner before or after you wash them? My solution is to usually go to wash them while the food is being prepared, to give them time to dry thoroughly before eating.
You are told NEVER to accept a bottle of water that you have not either seen (heard) someone open, or done it yourself. I heard of a waiter who told someone that they don't understand why Americans like to drink out of bottles, but they do, so they obligingly pour their tap water into bottles...Not everyone who sells you water in unsealed bottles is so naive. After getting sick from ice cubes made with tap water on our first visit, that pop as the seal broke on the cap of the water bottle was a very reassuring sound.
On our first visit we tried another surprisingly safe source of water. We drank the water in green coconuts that are sold on the side of the road. Someone usually has a cart or bicycle loaded with coconuts, a machete, and a pack of straws. He selects a coconut hacks off one end with the machete, and inserts a straw.
We were told that coconut milk is very healthy for you, and absolutely pure. (As long as the knife or straws aren't exposed to water or germs.) "Coconut milk is the only water no frog has never peed in." Apparently during WW2 in the South Pacific, there was a bad shortage of safe water, so hospitals used coconut milk in I.V.s.
After you drink the "milk" or water in the coconut, you give the coconut back. The man then opens up the coconut some more with successive chops as he rotates the coconut. This process first makes you look to see if he still has all his fingers, and then makes you very glad it's him and not you doing it. One of the pieces that is chopped off is given to you to use as a spoon to dig the soft, white, unripe coconut meat out with. We did not care much for the taste, but it also had a sliminess, probably similar to oysters. So we've passed on that part since then. Coconut milk is supposedly extremely good for "stomach problems". I'm not sure how much of that is due to medicinal qualities, and how much just a matter of it being pure, in contrast to whatever gave you the stomach problems in the first place.
With a little care a foreigner can live happily and safely in Bangalore. Leastwise, we're very glad we came.
Donna and Joe have finished their assignment in India. Occasionally they still travel somewhere.