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Bathing nostalgia

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Over the May holiday, blogger Guerlangwa posted a number of short anecdotes about everyday life. Here's one about bathing.

Bathing

by Guerlangwa

I never bathed before I turned fourteen. We washed our hair back then, and our necks and feet, but we never bathed. Southerners mock northerners, saying that they bathe just three times in their lives: once when they're born (called 洗三, the third-day bath, in my hometown), once for their wedding, and once when they die (when they're bathed by their survivors before burial). This was true in my hometown, for water was too precious, second only to oil and salt. Bathe in water? Only if you'd squashed your head in a door.

The summer when I was fourteen I had the good fortune to take part in a national summer literature camp for high schoolers held at Beidaihe. It was a marvelous trip: my first time on a train, my first time on a boat, my first time to drink cola, my first time to have ice cream....and most importantly, my first time to take a bath.

Although Beidaihe has been called a "scenic refuge from the heat," it was hot in comparison to my hometown. Coming back from the day's activities was like being fished out of the water. So once I returned to camp, my first mission was to go bathe. People who don't bathe are never accustomed to it when they go to a bathing spot. I don't know why, but I took right to it and was enthralled by bathing. Every day I would be the one who took the longest in the showers. One day, perhaps because I showered for too long, my roommates thought I had gotten heat-stroke and fainted in the showers. A gang of clamoring people charged into the showers. I was bathing happily, and suddenly a gang of people charged in. I thought they were coming to mug me, and I just about slipped out onto the street naked.

The morning of the day I left camp, everyone made their teary goodbyes. I cried too. After I finished, I suddenly remembered my shower. I saw that it was still early, and I thought that when I left I didn't know how many years it'd be until I got another chance to bathe. So I ran back to the dorm for one last shower. When I finished showering, I went downstairs and was stunned: the bus to take us to the Qinghuangdao train station had left. The poet Bian Guozheng, who was in charge of the summer camp, was furious and started cursing. When he finished, he sent someone to hail a taxi to take me to the Qinghuangdao train station to catch the train. Fortunately I was able to catch it.

By now I've been living in the south for ten years. Naturally, bathing is no longer something all that special. Given time, there are no longer any fresh, new stories. But it's really a bother when my bride showers. She's got a little of what I was like back then: she'll bathe whenever she thinks of it. The worst is that she always chooses the critical moment when I have to use the bathroom, disrupting my biological needs. One day I was writing something on the computer and I suddenly had the need, so I hurried to the bathroom. The door was closed; I couldn't tell how long I would have to wait (if she was showering, then I'd have to wait until the flowers wilted). Suddenly, I had an idea: I turned off the hot-water faucet and opened the cold water full-blast. Immediately I heard a sharp cry. I knew then that I had to go downstairs to take care of business.

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There are currently 3 Comments for Bathing nostalgia.

Comments on Bathing nostalgia

"Southerners mock northerners, saying that they bathe just three times in their lives: once when they're born (called 洗三, the third-day bath, in my hometown), once for their wedding, and once when they die (when they're bathed by their survivors before burial)."

Funny, Chinese people say that about Tibetans, too.

Very funny!

Reminds me of friends whose visits would always include a very, very, VERY long shower. They seemed to be on a mission to drain the Yellow River. In the end I decided to set strict time limits - maximum ten minutes. No one actually obeyed these orders, but at least the average shower time was cut to about half an hour.

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