Remember the quest in My Family and Other Animals for a house with a bathtub on Corfu? Greeks didn’t seem to value baths as much as the British. Indeed, it is difficult to match the Briton’s love for baths; he even draws one up for his dishes.
In Lithuania, we are not, admittedly, such dedicated bathers. We do, for the most part, have tubs and use them one way or another, but my theory is that we’re more of a running water nation. After all, our greatest treasure are our rivers. They flow majestically through the country, fed by countless playful brooks, filling thousands of beautiful interconnected lakes, and finally pouring into the sea. Most of our towns are built on them. Coming from a city which is based on rivers in more ways than one (physically, as there are two of them, and metaphysically, as our entire mythology is steeped in riverwater), I am used to an abundance of water and a water-based geography.
In Israel, such an aquaphile as myself comes to feel like a disillusioned new bride or a Michelin-level gourmet at a McDonald’s drive-thru: “Is that all?” The country, plain and simple, does not cater for water-based indulgences. There is not enough water for that. The bathrooms are built in a very utilitarian fashion, and showers become brief and to the point, no foreplay, no cool-off; the ecological habit of turning the tap off while brushing teeth or lathering up the dishes becomes newly relevant. My favorite morning ritual of running hot water over my hands for five solid minutes while I get focused has been canceled due to technical reasons.
All this is quite natural and comes across as the way of the land, just another difference to get used to. The disappointment is exacerbated, however, by the endless rain we married into by moving here. This year is exceptionally wet. We even had snow for two straight nights, which by now has been washed off by rain from all but two places in Jerusalem: the sofa on our porch and the painstakingly built tent on the neighbors’. Having spent most of the day being doused with miserable rain water, I tend to switch back to Lithuania-mode, which dictates that I head straight for that long luxurious hot shower. Alas, no such privilege.
On days like this, I just want to hire a Spiro to drive me around this drenched yet also arid island until I find that hygienically-endowed house I dream of.