Doing Laundry Around the World and Back

Submitted into Contest #31 in response to: Write a short story about someone doing laundry.... view prompt

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Doing laundry is something we all have to do, but many of us don't realize there are different ways of doing it all over the globe. When I was a little girl living in Morocco when my dad worked at the embassy, my mother had one of those old washing machines with a roller. I loved helping her do the laundry and putting the clothes through the roller. However, the Araba women didn't have those washing machines. They were doing something different. They were stomping on their clothes. In our village, there was a stream that ran through the village with a concrete bottom an sides, and the Arab women went down there to do their laundry. In the big town, Rabat, they were up on the roof tops stomping on their clothes. My mother had a clothes line then, and so did the Arab women to dry their clothes.

When I went to Japan as an exchange student in college, the laundry was done differently there too. I lived like a Japanese, so I had to do my laundry the same way they did. Our washing machine had two sections. It was much smaller than an American washing machine. Perhaps you could only wash one pair of jeans at a time. You put them in the bigger barrel and turned it on. It washed your jeans, then when it stopped, you took it out and put it in the other section, another smaller metal barrel in the same machine, to rinse it and ring it. When it came time to dry the clothes, we took them to a big room at one end of the boarding house where I was staying, and instead of using clothes pins like in America, we put our clothes on hangers and hung them inside on the line. I lived in Japan several years later too, and then I used the same kind of washing machine, but hung them on my balcony to dry. I had a little round plastic thing with clothes pins attached to it to dry my clothes.

When I was younger, in my twenties, I also lived in Nigeria. In Nigeria, I had to do my laundry in the bathtub because there were no washing machines. I ended up hiring a maid to do my laundry in my bathtub for me. We hung the clothes outside on the clothesline, and I learned something very interesting from my maid. She always washed the clothes line before she hung the clothes. I had never seen anyone do that before, but I thought it was a good idea. We lived on a school compound as teachers. The students had to go down to the ponds behind my house to wash their clothes. They spread their clothes on bushes to dry. They also took baths in those ponds. If it was the rainy season in Nigeria, we had to hang our clothes in the house to dry.

I was in Romania in my forties. I had four kids, and I really needed an automatic washing machine. However, there were none in any of the stores. They existed in Romania, but they were really hard to get. We had to go over into Hungary to finally find a washing machine because washing them in the bathtub was just not an option to me. We were already heating the hot water for baths and dishes with a hot water heater that took wood. I really wanted a descent washing machine if they were available. We found one in Hungary like they were using in Japan. They way it was made, we had to use it in the yard. Eventually, I was able to ship my American washer and dryer to Romania, but we never got the dryer to work and had to continue hanging the clothes on the clothesline outside. When it was freezing outside, if we put our clothes on the line outside, the clothes froze and might tear even though they would dry, so we ended up stringing clothes lines up in the house for when it got really cold outside.

By the time I made it to South Korea, I only had two kids left at home. At first, I was given an automatic washing machine by the school where I was teaching. Figuring all the buttons on the washing machine out when I didn't speak Korean was a mess! I had to hang my clothes on the balcony. They had special bars on the balcony for hanging the clothes on. After that, I moved to a school where I had to get my own washing machine. At first, I got a second hand washing machine like the one that my other school had provided me with, but I didn't have a balcony or really enough space inside to hang those clothes. The apartments in S. Korea are very small! I ended up buying myself a new automatic washing machine that also dried the clothes all in the same machine. In Korea, I was really into high tech!

By the time I made it back to the United States, using those nice big washing machines and dryers I had always enjoyed after coming back from overseas actually seemed like stepped down a notch after using those machines in S. Korea. I still enjoy my nice big American washing machine and dryer, but I wonder why it has to be so big and be two machines after seeing what I saw in S. Korea. We all have to get our laundry done, and everyone on the planet it working at it.

February 28, 2020 18:14

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