If it rains enough, I can bathe.

I am staying in the house of Adela Garcia Martinez, a 73-year-old matriarch in the rural Mexican village of Charahuen. A little town of 60 families, Charahuen has no running water and no sewage system. Drinking water is purchased by the barrel bathing happens only after enough rainwater has been collected.

This morning I walked to the small, flower-covered shack of wood and corrugated metal that is the home of Adela’ s granddaughter Karina. Ducking around back to the kitchen, I stood under the lean-to that covers Karina’ s stove. Despite the relatively new presence of electricity, everyone in Charahuen still cooks on chimineas, or wood-fueled hearths.

“Good morning, Karina!” I said. “Can I shower?”

Karina wiped her hands on the athletic pants she often wears under her more traditional rebozo shawl, her shiny black hair pulled back in a ponytail. She has the deep coloring and facial features of a Purhepechan woman. “Sure.” She smiled. “I’ ll start the water. Sit down.”

I sat in a plastic lawn chair inside. A half-full instant coffee container and a dented kettle sat on the table the floor, like most, was dirt. A single bare light bulb hung from the ceiling, shedding light on the collection of dishes that were not stacked, but out on full display on the wall, their shiny ceramic surfaces struggling to belie the otherwise humble surroundings.

Karina is just four years older than I. She has three children, all as beautiful as she is. When Karina was 16, she was trained as a teacher as part of a movement for rural education. She walked a full hour on foot to get to an even more remote ranchito, where she taught literacy and health-related basics. There she met the man who is now her husband.

Karina poked her head inside. “The water’ s hot now.”

Karina’ s shower is a roofless, four-sided structure made of curtains, just between the house and the cornfield a donkey wanders a few yards away. Karina lifted up one of the curtains to show me where she had put a 5-gallon bucket full of warm water and a Tupperware container to administer it. She gave me shower shoes, a nod, and left.

A bucket shower, with the open air above me, never felt so good. I was shocked at how much water 5 gallons feels like. The heated rainwater wasn’ t clean enough to drink, but it was clean enough to make me feel like a new woman. Five days of soot and dirt rinsed off me and into the grass at my feet.

After my “shower,” I watched Karina make tortillas on her hearth. Normally, she soaks corn overnight with salt and a little lime, then grinds it in the morning for tortillas. Today, she was using flour instead.

“Can I help?” I asked her.

“You can watch and I will show you how to make them,” she said. Karina rolled the flour with water and a little bit of salt, kneading the dough with her hands as she spoke. Then she expertly stretched the dough and laid it on the top of the hearth with tidy efficiency.

“I bet you’ ve been doing this since you were a little girl,” I said to her. “You never burn your fingers, never rip them.”

Karina grinned. “No, actually, I started when I was 17, when I got married. Before that, my mother did it.

“At first I burned things and broke things, but I learned.” As she said this, Karina tossed the dough into an astonishingly thin pancake and placed it lightly on the stove.

She handed me a hot tortilla, which I passed from hand to hand for a minute before eating it gratefully. Karina makes the best tortillas I have eaten in Mexico, flour or corn.

“I like it here,” I told Karina suddenly. “You can cook all day and yet, because you’ re essentially outside, you don’ t feel closed in. I like your open-air shower, and I like how close you live to Adela and your family.”

Karina ducked her head and grinned. “It must be very different here from what you are used to,” she had told us when we first arrived. Now she pointed to a house just on the other side of their cornfield. “That’ s my mom’ s house,” she said. She nodded at the other houses: her brothers, uncles and cousins are all her neighbors.

I walked up to the schoolhouse to teach this afternoon clean and refreshed. My next shower? Whenever it rains.

Meg Adams, who grew up in Holden and graduated from John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor and Vassar College, shares her experiences with readers each Friday. For more about her adventures and to e-mail questions to her, go to www.bangordailynews.com.