Saturday, January 26, 2013

A New Appreciation for Clean Laundry

If I am able to stop from itching bug bites for long enough, I would like to delve into my new found appreciation for laundry machines. Today, I finally decided to tackle the huge stankpile in my room, otherwise known as two weeks of dirty laundry. Two weeks. Including biking clothes, riap roy clothes, and lounge clothes. Keep in mind my life now involves changing sets of clothing upwards of four times a day. Now, before (or after at this point, I would bet) judgment passes, I hope to impart my rationale as best I can. For the first week of being in Thailand, we resided in a hotel. We didn't travel much, which means that we didn't have to change clothes often. Additionally, I could have done laundry, but I would have had to pay for it and wait a day, and who knows if any shirts or pantaloons would have been shrunk by them. So I passed on it, figuring I would do it at the host family's house during the week.

I had originally spoken to Host-mom about doing it this past Wednesday, but that morning I was afflicted with a it's-too-fucking-hot-here-all-the-time-and-my-body-doesn't-know-what-to-do-but-collapse-upon-itself-in-the-heat fever and a pounding headache that was stupid painful, so we postponed it. I barely survived until today and had to grin and bear the bad news- tons of filthy clothes to wash.

Host-mom asks me if I want to use the machine (ideal) or hand-wash (less than ideal) it all. Under the presumption that I need to learn at some point how to complete this dreaded task, I vote for the latter. Oy vey, I've made a huge mistake.

I decide start with my whites because a) they are the smallest pile and b) you always start with whites so your colors don't bleed into the whites when being washed second (duh). My whites consist of two running shirts, a polo, an undershirt, and like, fourteen pairs of socks. I'm clearly over my head and Host-mom brings in reinforcements- bpaa Lem. 

Bpaa Lem is, I believe, Host-mom's older sister. She lives with us and takes care of most, if not all, of the housework, including feeding my huge piehole. Without even a sigh, and in fact, with smiles and laughter, she sits down right in front of me and starts to show me how it's all done (and note the picture below- look how complicated it is! Bowl among bowl, some with water, some with soapy water, others again with just water. Others empty...?).

Even with 90% of the phalanges that I have, she still dominates me in most ways.
I'm essentially flopping around like a fish out of water, splashing a bunch, and ineffectively and inefficiently cleaning my rank lot. She shows me a few tricks, and bam! Now we're cooking with fire. Well, rather, she's scrubbing away cleaning, like she's done it for 70 years (because she likely has) and I resemble that of a newborn infant just discovering they have appendages to fling around. Like slabs of meat. Delicious slabs.

In Thailand, you wear socks on your hands and fish on your head (only one of those is true. And by one, I mean both. And by both, I mean none).
I try to double down on my efficiency by scrubbing one dirty sock with another. I think it's effective, but bpaa Lem is double-checking all of my work and, by and large, re-cleaning every single sock (I now tend to think my standards of sock cleanliness are far less than hers). Or... I'm just completely terrible at this whole process.

It takes me seventy-five minutes to clean the aforementioned clothing, with bpaa Lem's help. I'm dripping sweat. My back hurts. My hand slabs are raw from scrubbing the rough cloth over and over and over. Holy jeez. I look despairingly at the other two daunting piles of stank. There is absolutely no way I will complete all of my laundry this afternoon. I express this to Host-mom and she (hilariously, laughing) agrees immediately. She then asks one of the sweetest questions I've ever heard in my life- "Machine?" I can only smile and nod. She notes that we should complete it tomorrow, and, worn, I agree. I can't express how thankful I was at that moment. In reality, the entire situation was so fun, though. I enjoyed learning from them, being laughed at, and feeling completely humbled. Sitting and scrubbing with bpaa Lem, I definitely feel as if we connected more through the washing, laughter, and teaching than in the week that I've lived with them. Since she speaks no English, I haven't been able to say much to her, beyond thank yous, good morning/afternoon/night, and "delicious." It was a wonderful experience.

Host-mom: Like a boss.
Lessons to take away from this?

1. I will never wait two weeks to do laundry again in Thailand.
2. I'll be using the washing machine on Sunday for the other 80% of my clothing.
3. I need to purchase more black socks.
4. I have a better understanding of the typical gender roles that exist in many developing countries and have a great deal more respect for these women who perform literally back-breaking labor from dusk until dawn.

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