Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Italy v. America: Do you 'ration'?

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Italy v. America: The Differences Observed

Hot Water Heaters

What an odd discussion, I know. But I like to point out the smallest of differences between these two great countries. Here in the US, we, at least I don't, don't think much about using our hot water heaters. Are we taking it for granted? I'm not really sure. Here, I take boiling hot showers, many times lasting at max. twenty minutes long. It's a nice way to relax after a hard day at work, and relieve the muscle pains endured for standing for long hours. I work in a pharmacy, and we're required to stand the entire shift, except when we have our half an hour breaks.

In the summer of 2008, I once again had flown to Italy to visit my boyfriend. Even though it's summer, I still like to take my hot showers. Call me crazy, but for some reason, I just can't bare the cold water. Perhaps it's because the house manages to stay cool throughout the summer. Its concrete walls protecting us from the blistering heat at all times of day. It's not unusual for us to still use a comforter during the night. Although during my first stay in Urbino, I'd have to admit it was quite stifling in the collegi. Temperatures soared well into the 90s indoors, and we frequented the showers to cool off at least three to four times a day. The only slight comfort my friends and I had during our stay were the fans we had bought in town, which obviously only pushed around the hot air in the room. Later we resorted to camping out on the terrazza, and being scolded by the cleaning ladies. Apparently, it's prohibited to haul your mattresses and sheets outside. Where's the signage though, ladies?

My boyfriend's house is fortunate to have one of those 'endless hot water' tanks installed, but this luxury is not found throughout Italy. His parents' house and his brother's house do not possess such a commodity, and everyone who wishes to use the hot water has to 'ration' the water, if you will. My first visit to Apricena, the hometown of my boyfriend which is located in the province of Foggia in the region of Puglia, and also where we visit his family, was quite an embarrassment. It was during the Festa della Madonna, and the whole house wanted to shower before we went out for the evening. Little did I know, his parents possess the aforementioned little hot water heater. You know, those ones that you usually see on TV hanging from the wall in the kitchen. My shower was not long, and only lasted ten minutes, but within those few minutes, I had managed to use all the hot water in the house. My boyfriend came to me and said, "Catherine, you used up all the hot water!" Well, how was I supposed to know that the hot water tank holds two milliliters of water?! (That's an exaggeration of course.) I later learned that I would have to switch between hot and cold. Not only is there little water, but using it is expensive. At my boyfriend's house, when I come to visit, we manage to spend 50 euros a month. That may not seem much, but remember it's just the two of us, and that's equivalent to $67. It's about the same amount as my family of four spends for our water bill in one month here in the US.

Last year when we visited his brother and his brother's girlfriend in Bologna, we took our showers later in the evening. I 'rationed' my hot water, switching between hot and cold. After drying up and getting dressed, I came out into the sitting room to join everyone else. The girlfriend went into the kitchen to check the hot water and exclaimed, "you both could have used the hot water. You barely used any."

I give up!

Do you 'ration'?

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