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Expect a Tepid Shower -- I once asked the owner of a Tuamotu pension if the bathrooms in his bungalows had hot-water showers. "Non," he replied. Then they must be cold-water? "Non," he said again. I must have looked puzzled. "Regardez," he said, telling me to look at a huge black plastic tank behind the nearest bungalow. As I could see, gutters divert rainwater from the rooftops into tanks, where it bakes in the sun until someone turns on a shower. "Pas chaude, pas froide," he said. "Not hot, not cold." So it is in the atolls, where most fresh water comes not from wells in the ground, but from rainwater, itself a scarce commodity in these semiarid islands. Unless you're staying at a deluxe resort with a desalinization plant, forget lingering in a hot shower.

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