My mom thinks I’m a masochist. I don’t call home often, but when I do she invariably asks how I’m handling the cold shower situation. “I think about you every time I use hot water,” she promises. Bathing without steaming-hot water — a non-existent luxury in most of Indonesia — is unfathomable for her.
But showering without hot water isn’t so bad when you live in a tropical country that surrounds the equator. Don’t get me wrong – my first days in Indonesia were rough almost exclusively because of my cold morning showers. I would wake up around 4 a.m. (my school’s mosque is right outside my front door and starts the morning call to prayer at that time) and try to hop in the shower. After a night of slumber supported by ample air conditioning (a Fulbright-mandated perk), a cold shower was anything but appealing.
I quickly realized I was going about the situation all wrong. Indonesia, after all, is absurdly hot all year, especially during the dry season. (I spent my last four years in Phoenix before coming here, so I know what hot is. Even for a desert dweller like me, Indonesia’s unrelenting heat has been a tough adjustment.)
Morning showers meant I wasn’t using the heat to my strategic advantage. I was showering before my daily sweating marathons even began, because that was my ritual back home: wake up, take a shower, eat breakfast and start my day. And when I would shower in the evening here, I’d wait and cool down first, because that’s what I did in America. Sweat up, cool down, warm shower.
Now I know better. Cold showers are the best soldiers I have in the war against the oppressive heat, and I have learned to use their firepower well. I sweat through my clothes until a thick, congealed coating of bodily fluid suffocates every inch of my body, run home (working up more sweat along the way) and then hop in the shower as soon as I peel my drenched clothes off my body.
When looked at the right way, cold showers can be seen as less of a daily routine and more of a destination. If you’re sweating enough to the point where a cold shower will be refreshing, you’ve really earned that shower. Sometimes, I idly stand around outside my house for awhile just to boost my body temperature a little more. I dream of the cold shower waiting for me inside; I wouldn’t want the water one degree warmer.
About the author: Dustin Volz is a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant based in Palembang, South Sumatra. He is editor in chief of Indonesiaful and a publisher of Downtown Devil, a hyper-local news publication covering the downtown Phoenix community. Volz graduated from Arizona State University in 2012 with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and history and a master’s degree in mass communication. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.