Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Swampy Things

Today I was reading a travel newsletter feature about packing light. It was all about how to go on vacation with only a 16x14x12-inch bag. One of the suggestions was to do a load of laundry while traveling. Obviously this is not new to many of us, but what was funny was their comment on it:

"If you don't have access to water to wash your clothes, you're likely not the kind of traveler that's concerned with having a new outfit for every hour of the day."

I love it! One of the things we talked about a lot on our Tajikistan trip was that to some extent the group of people who would go to Tajikistan in the first place were a self-selected group, already clearly up for at least some degree of adventure. We really did not have to "rough it" that much at all. Our hotel in Garm, though small, did have running water. All of the rooms on the first floor had individual bathrooms; the higher floors have to share bathrooms. This was clearly not a Hilton, or a Holiday Inn, but I for one enjoyed my patio (slab), view of the mountains, and television which got three Tajik channels - two of which showed the same thing, but with different amounts of static.

We even had laundry service. They did a plastic Target bag's worth for ten somonis -- which was around $2.25. The only problem was this whole concept of drying.

When we gave them our dirty clothes we wondered, just curious, how long before we would get them back? "It depends," was the cheerful reply, "on the weather." A-ha! If it's sunny, they'll be back sooner. Well, it was sunny the next day, but when the clothes came back I would not exactly call them dry. More like, let's say, not wet.

It wasn't just the returned laundry though! Other clothes had a way of becoming slightly damp in our little mountain town hotel room, too. I never did figure out if it was better to leave the clothes zipped in my duffel bag or take them out to hang them. Everything in that room was just kind of damp after a while. No big deal.

The bathroom, though, was a slightly bigger deal. Around day three I started calling it "the swamp." The floor just would not dry! We had a kind of small square shower, built in the corner of the bathroom, and there was a rag on the floor that acted as the mat, but it was soaked when we arrived and never did dry during our stay. My roommate bought another towel at the open-air market next to the hotel, which meant that after that we had two soaking wet towel mats. Hang them up, lay them flat, no matter. Also, even though I wiped the tile floor after every shower, it just kept a constant layer of wetness. I suppose all three fixtures in there - shower faucet, sink, and toilet tank - may have leaked. I think it was just part of the swamp ambiance. It did start to get a little gross. By the fourth day I was rolling up my jeans before I went into the bathroom. My roommate was so jealous that I had stolen the free slipper slabs from our hotel in Istanbul! Without those (or flip-flops) one had to wade in a serious layer of wetness just to get in and out of there.

On our last night I started having a little countdown with myself. The last morning when I woke up, my first thought was, "I only have to use that bathroom two more times ever!" Or, you know, until my next trip to the Rasht Valley? After breakfast at our very favorite 'teahouse' down the street and loading the van, I entered and exited my swamp bathroom for the last time. The shower curtain and its rod fell on my head that day, totally unprovoked by me. On my way out of the hotel room the final time, the key got stuck in the lock. Despite the finest efforts of several Habitatters, we had to summon the hotel man who also couldn't jiggle it free. It was like one big-self-destructing hotel room we left in our wake. Luckily we made it out alive. But watch out for Swamp Bathroom II: Return to Garm's Way.

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