I would like to start out by saying that Rwandans are obsessive about keeping things clean.  For example, people always take their shoes off when going on any rug in a person’s home.  Every weekend we spend cleaning the concrete floors by pouring buckets of soapy water onto them.  

Rwandans care very much about the cleanliness of their shoes
Westerners have the stereotype of not caring very much about their appearance and I definitely contribute to that.  I’m pretty sure they wonder what my mother did wrong to let me become so unconcerned with my appearance.  I tend to think something is clean if there is no visible dirt and it smells nice.  Although, you can often see the dust on my shoes; a Rwandan would never let that happen.   For the first time in my life, I’ve tried to care but it is difficult when my day is filled with chalkboards and dirt roads.

So my Rwandan roommate took pretty seriously the job of teaching me laundry.  And I’m pretty sure she found me a disappointing, unmotivated student.  There are no washing machines here so all of the laundry takes place in this little area next to the house.

1   Fill a little bucket up with water (I’m fortunate enough to have running water, not all are so lucky and must fetch it from the nearest source).

2 Then I pour the little bucket of water into a bigger one with soap until the big bucket is full. There are two types of soap.  Powder soap is mixed with the water to create all the visible sudsing.    

 3 In the bucket you can see the bar soap that is scrubbed into clothes for an extra onslaught against the dirt. This soap is extremely effective at removing all dirt and oil, including that in the outer layer of my skin.  It is so effective that the water tends to turn the color of my clothes, especially with jeans, so I know it’s effective enough to fade them.  I tend to wash one time only and then move to the rinsing step, but once while laundering in the presence of Rwandans, they took over and proceeded to repeat the cycle another two times.  Not kidding

4 Once everything has been cleaned to the washer’s satisfaction, the smaller bucket is again filled and used to rinse the clothes before they are put into the line. 

5 I am a big fan of using clotheslines, but there are a few drawbacks.  The line is made of wire, rather than rope.  Metal +water=rust.  So only parts of the first few lines are usable.  I still haven’t been able to figure out why we use wire.  Another drawback of no dryers is that clothes can get pretty stretched out.  And in a wet climate, it often rains before clothes are completely dry.

As inconvenient as this may seem, I can’t find a reason to complain and I never dread doing laundry.  It gives me time to completely focus on something so simple, yet satisfying.