By Aaron Glosser
Hot water in Estero de Plátano is almost nonexistent. In such a tropical location, few decide to invest in a hot water heater.
The most common device for hot water in Ecuador is a showerhead that uses electricity to heat water before it leaves the spigot.
While it’s dangerous, it is an effective way to have a hot shower. One of the host families in Estero has one, and it is quite coveted.
Jorge, a son in the family, doesn’t use the shower. He prefers to hike up to the river to bathe.
It is a bit peculiar that Jorge would choose to walk 15 minutes to the river when his family has one of the nicest showers in Estero.
Upon being questioned about this, he replied, “The shower in my house is hot and not refreshing.”
This makes sense. Why would anyone want to take a hot shower when it is 90 degrees outside with 70 percent humidity? I did, when I arrived; living without hot water was part of a difficult transition to life here.
At the beginning of my fellowship, I thought that people could not afford hot water heaters, and thus used cold water.
I assumed that if they had the resources, they would buy one. In reality, it’s a cultural and economic choice. This family decided to spend a bit extra for the luxury of a hot water heater, which is an exception to the cultural norm.
Minerva Fellows work to help communities develop, but we try not to install hot water heaters. What I think the town needs and what the people actually need differ based on perspective.
Listening to and learning from the people are our most important jobs. The developing world has seen too many hot water heater-type projects. We are looking for solutions to poverty that work.