Splish Splash

Splish, splash, I was takin’ a [bucket] bath
Long about a Saturday night, yeah
A rub dub, just relaxin’ in the tub
Thinkin’ everythin’ was alright

Well, I stepped out the tub
I put my feet on the floor
I wrapped the towel around me and I
Opened the door……………………………

Bobby Darrin

Taking a long, hot shower [or even a short, hot shower] or a relaxing bath along are two of life’s greatest luxuries. As neither are available to me at the present time, I can only dream… dream that one day my back will get clean, the hot water will pulsate and rumble all around me, and I will work out any muscular kinks.

There are no such luxuries in my life. In Rwanda, my life revolves around a bucket. Or more accurately, buckets. A bucket for a bath. A bucket to wash clothes in. Another bucket to do dishes in. You see how it goes.

To say that I am not a morning person would be a gross understatement of fact. SO. More times than not, I do not bathe in the morning, I use those extra few minutes for another cat nap, and everyone’s is a little happier.

My morning routine

I roll out of bed around 6:45am. By that time, the roosters have been cockle-doodle-doing since about 4:30a. And the cows are moo-ing about who knows what and despite the fact that I sleep with my windows open, and do in fact hear the world coming to life starting about 5a, I roll over, pull the blanket over my eyes, turn the music up just a little bit louder, and drift in and out of consciousness for the next two or so hours. 

6:45 is the absolute latest I can arouse myself, find clean[ish] clothes, make my hair look like I, in fact, did not stick my finger in an electric socket, drink 500ml of water and eat a piece of fruit and call it breakfast, brush my teeth, take my vitamins, and get to the health center by 7:00a. Most of the time, I am the only one present at 7a, but they say work starts at 7 and like the punctual American I am, I’m there at 7 [or at least by 7:15]. 

Also, notice there’s no time to be messing around with buckets at this time of day, but what I do, is pour water from my jerry-can into my bathing bucket until it is about 1/3-1/2 of the way full, probably using  about 7-10 L of water. I then set this bucket outside in the sun, and let that amazing star perform it’s magic.

Step-by-step for bucket bathing

It’s rarely what I call hot these days, [and though sometimes I do sweat while going on long walks, it’s usually confined to the back of my head… dry shampoo is a wonderful thing] so cold, straight from the tap water is a no-go; if it’s a choice between cold water on a cool day or being dirty, being dirty may just win out.

My day usually ends around 2p so I walk the 50 or so steps from the health center to my house, make lunch/dinner, and if it’s been a sunny day, whooooo-weee…. my bucket now contains lukewarm water, which is more than adequate for me to do the deed. [It’s amazing what we can become accustomed to/ becomes normal]

I have tried to make my shower room ‘rural Rwanda luxurious‘. Bucket bathing still sucks but at least with all my tools in the designated spot, and not having to schlep them around from here to there, makes it not suck as much.

My ‘luxurious’ shower room at the house on the corner

12 Steps for the perfect bath

Step 1:  Prepare the water. Either use the sun (easiest) or use the stove to get a little warmth in the bath water

Step 2: Gather all needed supplies. Nothing worse than needing something and not being able to get it

Step 3: Get nekkid… except for flip-flops.  No amount of cleaning will make that floor clean.  Wear the flip-flops.

Step 4:  Hang clothes on the nails loving pounded into the concrete

Step 5:  Fill my cup with water.

Step 6:  Take washcloth, wet, take soap and wash face. Use the water in the cup to rinse soapy face. 20% done. [Every.Single.Time I am amazed by the amount of dirt I see in the cup.]

Step 7:  Fill cup again and pour over head. This part is so much nicer with lukewarm water.

Step 8: Shampoo. Lather. Rinse. Rinse again. 40% done.

Step 9: Using a washcloth [or loofah scrubby thing], soap it up and begin scrubbing.  I usually start at the top and work my way down… over the hills and valleys and peaks and crevices, if you know what I mean. 60% done.

Step 10: Rinse. It’s actually not too bad with warm water. While I still miss a faucet and actual hot water, this will suffice. 80% done.

Step 11:  Wash feet. Without really realizing it, it’s amazing how much dirt they can attract… even while wearing socks and shoes.

Step 12:  Rinse feet and marvel at the amount of dirt/dry skin you’ve removed. 100% done


Dry self and put on clothes… Bonus points for remembering to bring clean ones.

This process usually takes approximately seven to ten minutes. When it’s a nice sunny day, there is nothing more enjoyable [in Rwanda anyway] than sitting outside, freshly bathed in the sun reading a book while letting the sun dry your hair. It’s one of the few times I can enjoy bathing, because in rural Rwanda, bathing is no longer fun; it’s just another chore to be done.

Postscript:  I have one of those Amope foot things…It is essentially a battery operated sander for feet. I use it once a week on clean feet, then slather clean, scrubbed feet in Vaseline. Finally, I put on socks and go to bed. It’s amazing how much nicer my feet are since I started doing this.

Bucket bath tools needed:

  • 1 Bucket
  • 1 cup [anywhere from 8-16oz will do], or empty plastic bottle
  • Soap of choice
  • Shampoo of choice
  • Flip-Flops
  • Non-electrical lighting [not necessarily needed if you are bathing in the middle of the day]
  • Towel and washcloth

Shout out to Bobby Darrin’s Splish Splash for this post’s inspirational title

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