One of the many differences in life in Kyrgyzstan, compared to life in the US, is the water system. In the US, you have one water main to your home and then it splits into a hot line and a cold line, with heat provided by your own water heater. In Kyrgyzstan however, you have three water lines into your home. One is a hot water line to provide heat, via radiators, the second is your normal cold water line for your faucets and toilet, and the third is your hot water line for your faucets. A great thing about this system is that you have unlimited hot water for showers, dishes, etc. (This is true in Bishkek, but unfortunately there is no third line with hot water in Karakol.)
There is a downside to this system. For one month each year, the hot water pipes are turned off for system maintenance. In Bishkek, this occurs in May. That means you have no heat or hot water for bathing, washing, or any other purpose unless you have your own water heater, which we did. I know heat may seem unnecessary, but in May in Kyrgyzstan, sometimes you still want a little heat. For our month of May this year, we experienced cold water like never before. Our water heater was less than ideal in its ability to heat water. This, we think, was more about water pressure than about heating ability, but the result was the same. We used glacier melt water for showering for the month of May.
When the hot water was turned back on, I attempted to turn off the water to the heater and return to city water, only to have the valve disintegrate in my hand. Thankfully, no leak occurred. We went for two weeks trying to get it fixed to no avail. I tried every combination of the many valves in the bathroom to switch it to normal, or so I thought. Derrick came by and offered me a hand. Our first try, we found the magic combination to fix it without being able to turn the correct valve! Lesson learned. Next time, keep track of what you try so you don’t repeat the same steps.