Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How We Live: Laundry

Again, for the curious:

We begin the laundering experience with three colorful basins, soap (of course), and water from the cistern beneath our front porch:

Every time we return to the States, I'm amazed at the inefficiency of the washing machine. Everyone knows that kids are notorious for staining their clothes, and the washing machine often fails to get the job done! Here, it is a rare stain that can make it past the powerful hands of ladies who have washed this way since they entered primary school. Getting a white shirt to actually be white is a serious thing to be proud of here.

The next step, after soaking, scrubbing, and rinsing, is to hang the clothes in the hot equatorial sun to bake. This gets a little tricky during rainy season, and sometimes you wonder if your skirts will ever again be dry... but right now (during dry season) that is not a problem!

After "baking" for a day, the clothes are ironed the following day. Everything must be ironed: Shirts, socks, underwear, diapers... everything. There is something here called the "mango fly," and it likes to lay its eggs in wet clothing. Ironing kills those eggs so they can't hatch and then bury themselves in your skin. For us, ironing is not just for looks. The irons are, like the esegiri, "powered" by charcoal. No accurate temperature control here!

These charcoal irons are pretty rough on clothes. This process, coupled with the effective but harsh process of hand washing and wringing, really cuts down on the lifespan of our clothes! By the time our turn for home assignment comes around, we virtually need a whole new wardrobe. (And for those of you wondering, our next home assignment will happen this August!)

This entire process, for our family of 5, takes anywhere from 3 to 5 hours, 4 days a week. And there's no time to accomplish other tasks while a machine works its magic--it's pure, uninterrupted work. Hence, my need for assistance. When it was just Shawn and me, we did the laundry ourselves. Every Saturday, we'd turn our hand-cranked radio to BBC, listen to the world news, and set to work scrubbing our clothes until our hands were raw. We could handle it then. Not anymore.

And that, friends, is how we do laundry!

P.S. A.J. insisted on posing for the camera while I was taking these photos, and he was too cute to leave out! So here's for the littlest laundry man:

In A.J.'s own words, "You funny!"


W-S Wanderings said...

Your photos are positively enchanting! And it's very tempting to think of your laundry process as romantic. But I can't get over that ironing EVERYTHING. Ugh! But if ever there was motivation to iron, keeping flies from burrowing into your skin is IT!!! Many thanks for sharing.

Blessings and light...

thezsfamily said...

This made me laugh! laundry...enchanting and romantic...who would have thought? :) The flies do keep it in perspective, though, don't they? :)

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