Water in Russia is weird, a fact of which I am reminded every time I touch my hair. The first few times I showered, I thought I hadn’t rinsed out all the shampoo. After a few more attempts, when my newly-washed hair dried to appear even more oily and dirty than before, I came to the conclusion that the problem was in the water.
Now, I know that water in other countries is not always safe to drink from the tap. This does not necessarily have anything to do with the relative development of the respective countries: any modern country in Europe has old buildings with water pipes which may not allow for drinkable water. So when I first arrived in Russia, I was careful to watch how Russians handled their water. What I noticed first was that everyone brushed their teeth from tap water. That was a convenient relief. However, when I first asked Tatiana Petrovna for a glass of water to drink, she pointed me to a pitcher on the counter with a glass next to it. (Russians, I have noticed, do not have any qualms over communal drinking cups.) Curiously, the communal drinking glass also has a little lid on it, which I think is kind of cute.
One day, I noticed Katya pouring the extra water from the tea kettle into the drinking pitcher. This seemed very clever to me: instead of re-boiling the same water all day, pour the now-cold, previously-boiled water into the drinking pitcher, and start again from the beginning. Only, the water Katya then poured in to the tea kettle came from a pitcher of previously-filtered water. So getting drinking water seems to take three sages: water from the tap goes into the water-filterer; filtered water goes into the tea kettle; boiled water from the tea kettle goes into the drinking pitcher.
After all this, I am not sure why it is still alright for me to brush my teeth from tap water.
There seems to be a lot of spots around town for people to access drinkable water. I’ve noticed my Edinburgh classmates usually have bottles of water on them, which they often refill if they come across one of these water coolers. I try to carry around a water bottle too, only I usually keep it filled from the water pitcher in the kitchen.
All that said, I had no idea that the problems with my drinking water could extend to my hair. I got around to asking Tatiana Petrovna about this after the first few days. I tried at first to ask if there were a lot of minerals in the water, but she didn’t seem to understand me. Finally she flipped through my dictionary and told me the water was hard. Extremely hard, as it turns out. I tried taking a bath the other day, and the bathwater was yellow. I went online to see If there were any recommendations for what to do for your hair if your water is hard, and I have resorted to such extreme measures as using baking soda for shampoo, and rinsing my hair out with diluted vinegar. It only sort of works. My hair feels less dirty, but still oily, and never truly clean.
That said, the situation isn’t so bleak as to have no up-sides. While the bathtub has no curtain (I have to shower sitting down), it is large enough to take a truly comfortable bath. I have also been assured that I don’t need to worry about water shortages, and I am welcome to take as many showers (or baths) as I’d like. I am sure I will appreciate this more as the days get colder. Already we have had two significant snowfalls, and the weather is about what I would expect from Michigan in the middle of January. Still, it seems that in Russia, no one ever turns the heaters off, so I’m in no danger of freezing. So long as I stay indoors.