Timba and Tabo!

I used to laugh at the Asians who would come to Europe and look for the ubiquitous bucket and dipper for taking a bath. The western concept of a shower just doesn´t compare to the gush of water that comes from pouring that first load of water from the dipper over your head, nor does a long soak in the tub. Different Asian countries have their own name for it, but rest assured that it is a permanent fixture in every home, in spite of modern facilities.

You have to have grown up in an Asian family to appreciate the sense and value of the bucket method. In the Philippines it is called the timba (bucket) and tabo (cup or dipper). Every child learns to take a shower with this method, regardless of where you are showering – field, street, well, bathroom, backyard, you name it, the timba and tabo lies at the core of every Filipino. It is an acquired skill, and each household has their preferred method, depending on what the previous generation passed down. The enduring presence of this method throughout Asia is primarily to the water scarcity and often lack of infrastructure in many parts, urban and rural alike. Water is rationed per household, and within the household, per person, keeping in mind that the kitchen, laundry and other water-related activities still have to be provided for.

Bucket shower in the middle of the equine fair ©FrogDiva Photography

There was a time in the 1980s in Manila when water and electricity supplies were so unstable that my parents insisted on the one-bucket-one shower rule. After all, even if there was no electricity to run the water pump, you could still take a bath in the dark (or by candlelight) with the trusty timba and tabo. Oh I remember those days with amusement now, but back then it was a royal pain. Little did I know that I would need these exact same skills in Bangladesh and India later on! My most exciting bucket shower was in the community well in Bangladesh with the other women (fully clothed at that too!). It was either the well or taking a tip in the local pond with the buffalo…

As Champagne already tattled yesterday in her blog , a new central heater is being installed in our building, which has left everyone without heating and hot water for the past three days. Since going without a shower is out of the question, as is taking a shower with ice-cold water, since I already have a bad cold, I resorted to my Asian roots and dug out the biggest bucket I could find, which in this case was a big plastic storage box, and boiled water on the stove. What to do about a tabo? In my mind I could hear my mother admonishing me “What kind of Pinay in her right mind has no proper tabo in her house?” Never fear, Tupperware is here! My favourite Tupperware water pitcher (which goes back to my India days) became my tabo and what fun I had last night! For the briefest of moments my misery was forgotten and I felt like a child again.

The golden rule of development work back in the 90s was approtech… both my German and Filipino bosses insisted on inculcating this mantra into all of us before going out on field work. Appropriate Technology essentially translates into making do with the local tools / amenities /facilities / technology while in pursuit of sustainability. I guess you can take the girl out of development work but never development work out of the girl.

Survival and sustainability… the tabo rules!

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