We have no central heat (in KZ, the gas is turned on on October 15, technically, but most places take a few days after that, even if it’s snowing). Instead, in the winter kitchen, there’s something that looks like a whitewashed stove. Dilda Apai, my host mother, usually starts a fire underneath it at about 6pm, and it burns out at about 9pm. There’s a little trap door, where she feeds wood and garbage, and on top four burner-type things. On the burners are various tea kettles, buckets, and other containers in all shapes and sizes, all filled with water. This is how we get hot water. If you lift the burner lid, there are high orange flames. The enclosed fire gives off smoke that goes into a tube that first goes through the wall into the living room. The tube snakes around the house then doubles back on itself like a giant paperclip. The fold is in my room, so I get the heat last. But that’s okay; we just wear lots of sweaters until about 8pm, then we go to bed at 11, when it's cooling down again.
I did laundry last night, and it was quite a production because of limited facilities. The kettles and buckets sitting on the fireplace are all filled with water every night, and used for various purposes in conjunction with some plastic basins. On Sunday nights, the girls wash their hair. Shataghoul and Dimira both have waist-length hair, and they wash it in a single bucket as one washes laundry. They dip it in a few times, rub in some Head and Shoulders (shampoo of choice in KZ) and, bending over forward, knead their hair in the water. They do this a few times, then get their scalps. Then, they twist their hair mostly dry like a towel. This is roughly the way I do laundry. It doesn’t get very clean. We volunteers were joking that pioneers in America had better equipment than we do, since they had rivers and washboards. In this house, there is a sink with cold running water, so I’m finally able to rinse my clothes adequately, but it’s so hard do get something clean in a bucket that’s seen two week’s worth of underwear, tights, socks, and other mud-caked items. Instead of a washbord, you just rub your clothes against each other to get stains out. Not extremely effective. Usually, the first few seconds in the sink, brown water comes from each item. Although it would be easier to just put them outside, since it rains every day, rain-rinsed clothes smell funny.