Family Magazine

What Money Can Buy You

By Sherwoods
Yesterday was Saturday, so we did what we do every Saturday in the summer: we stayed home and swam.  It's hit high summer here in Tashkent, so by mid-afternoon the temperature was 107 degrees.  I checked the weather forecast and the temperatures will be above 100 for the foreseeable future.  When it's that hot outside, the only reasonable thing to do is swim.  Everything else is just too hot. 
Yesterday, however, was a Saturday with the first: it was the first Saturday with a heated pool.
Back in May, when we skipped spring and went straight from late winter to early summer, I started talking to Brandon about getting a pool heater installed.  It sounds ridiculous to heat a pool when all July and August is in the hundreds, but I'm used to swimming in the southeast where pool temperatures usually hover around ninety by mid-summer.  I like water that is so warm you can swim long enough to get entirely pruney and then spend an hour or two more in the pool.  I don't like being anything close to cold. 
And although Tashkent is hot in the day, it cools down enough at night that the pool water never gets above the low eighties.  That certainly isn't swimming in the Pacific ocean, but it's cool enough that I can only take it for twenty minutes or so before having to heat up in the sun.  The children can last longer, but eventually they all end up flat on the tiles around the pool soaking up the heat like lizards.  And after August has passed, the water starts dipping into the mid-seventies which is too cold for anyone to actually want to swim even if the daytime temperatures stay in the nineties until October. 
So I decided just to ask our new pool guy how much a heater might possibly cost.  He got back to me with a pretty reasonable number: $500.  I'd rather spend nothing for a pool heater, but $500 was right at the edge of my acceptable range for having a swimmable pool for eight months of the year, so Brandon gave him the go-ahead to get to work.  Suren, our pool guy, said it wouldn't take long, maybe three or four days. 
And if Suren was the only party involved, that would have been a reasonable estimate.  But unfortunately we live in a house that we don't own and we don't pay rent for, so there were several layers of permissions to ask.  My first email - to the housing office at the embassy - went unanswered for a week.  Brandon tried another person and got a swift reply - 'that's great! Let's get this done!'
The next step was the landlord, who readily agreed to have someone else pay to have his pool heated.  People are always happy to agree to have someone else fund home improvements.  After the landlord gave his okay, Suren met with the local housing coordinator to discuss his plans for how this whole thing was going to go off. 
Our house is heated by two on-demand gas water heaters, which is pretty standard for this region.  Suren figured that we wouldn't be heating the house during the summer, so it would be pretty easy to install a valve that would allow one heater to heat the pool in the summer and heat the house in the winter.  I thought it was a pretty elegant solution.
The housing coordinator, however, did not.  What would happen, he wanted to know, when it was winter and we were trying to heat the house with one water heater?  I figured that we wouldn't be swimming in the winter, but that wasn't a good enough answer.  Instead, the answer was to throw more money at the problem and buy another water heater.  The estimated cost doubled.
I decided that a warm pool wasn't worth that much money.  Brandon, however, thought it was.  My mom and aunt agreed (not that it was their money), and so I was persuaded.  The next week I died inside as I handed Suren ten hundred-dollar bills and told him to get to work.
Then we waited.  Every few days Suren would show up and do something.  He started by dropping off the parts he had bought.  Those were all collected after a week or two and then the work began.  As the weeks passed and the heater got hung, pipes were installed, and a hole was drilled through foot-thick basement wall, but the pool still stayed cold, the dream of a heated pool faded into the far distance.  I tried to convince myself that the pool was really more of something to just dip in than swim anyway.  The children got used to swimming in the cool water and decided it was warm enough.  I knew that Suren would eventually get tired of spending every weekend in our pump room and just get the heater done, but I wasn't sure when that would happen.
Last weekend was the final flurry of work when Suren cut the gas and water for several hours in order to do the final hookups.  Then we had to wait for the embassy to come and give everything final approval.  And at long last, on Friday, more than two months after we started the whole process, the heater was turned on.
Saturday we swam.  And the water was warm.  Everyone stayed in until their hands and feet were pruney and then swam for an hour or two longer.  I wasn't cold.  William wasn't cold.  Nobody ended up sunning themselves on pool tiles.  Even Joseph - the least cold-tolerant child - declared the water warm enough.  William and I spent the time lounging in a pool float, watching Brandon toss children into the pool, play games, and try to get the five parasites off his back.  It was great.
That evening Brandon and I went for a full-moon swim after the children went to bed and the water was nicely warm and no goosebumps were in sight.
I still don't like to think about how much money we spent on something we'll be leaving in two years, but at this point the money is long gone (or converted into pipes and heaters and filters that have been bolted to the pump room wall) so there's not point in stressing about it - much. 
But it sure is nice to jump in the pool and not gasp in shock as the water hits my sternum.  And I'm looking forward to swimming right up to the day I leave for the US in September.  Brandon is already making plans to open the pool next spring up as soon as the temperatures rise above seventy in March.  It's good to have a heated pool.  Even if it cost a lot of money (sob).

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