I had a conversation with my sister about how I do laundry and she said that it was illuminating to hear how that little part of my life works! So… in that fashion here are some little descriptors of random pieces of my life.
Starting with laundry!
I’m very lucky to live in a house with a washing machine but my weekly washing always seems to be more complicated than it should be. I usually do laundry once per week and it takes me 2-3 hours. I start by dragging the machine outside (it’s not too heavy but awkwardly big) and place it under the water pipe in the yard. I rinse out the machine then let it start to fill up with water. While it’s filling, I go on a hunt for the extension cord (four of us live in the house and seem to put it in a different location every time we use it, so it’s a bit of an adventure to locate it). Once located, I plug the cord into our inverter in the kitchen (the house is wired 240 but the machine runs on 110) and run it outside to the machine. I put some soap powder in the machine (after locating that too) and throw in my clothes. I usually end up doing two loads and finally learned to separate my darks and whites after my host family learned I don’t in the US and was horrified! Once the machine is full of water, I turn it on and wait the 15 minutes for it to spin around. During this time I usually end up washing out my clothes hamper or hand washing delicates. After the washing has finished, I drain out the machine and then fill it up again with clean water to rinse. I let it run for another 5ish minutes. Once the cloths have been washed they get transferred to the other side of the machine which spin dries them for 5 minutes (I’m obsessed with this step because it makes your clothes dry so much faster and it gets out some remaining soap so they’re not so stiff when they dry). Somewhere during this process, I go on a mission to collect as many clothes pins as I can find scattered around the house. No matter how many clothes pins we buy it seems like I can never find enough to hang all my clothes! Anyway, clothes pins in hand, I hang all my clothes on the line to dry in the hot sun (hopefully killing all the bacteria and fungus that like to live in them). I always seem to get soaked during the process but once this is all completed I give myself a big high five and move on with my day! I honestly hate doing laundry but it’s the greatest feeling to have it all done for the week. I give major props to the volunteers hand washing and to all the Guyanese women washing for all their kids!
How to take a bucket bath:
When I first got to Guyana the idea of a bucket bath seemed really weird and kinda scary. Turns out it’s pretty great and super easy! My family gets water piped into the house but usually the pressure in the pipes isn’t enough in the morning to make the shower work upstairs (it works in the afternoon when not so many people in the village are using water though). We also get our water shut off when the power goes out, so I bucket bath fairly often. We always have a 5-gallon bucket of water in the shower just in case it’s not coming upstairs (because hauling water up from downstairs is not super fun). To bathe, you just use a little bowl to scoop water and throw on yourself. Once you’re all wet, soap up then repeat to rise.
I enjoy it because the water is usually pretty cold and I’m always hot. We don’t have hot water (it’s really uncommon to have that in your home here) but I rarely miss it with the hot climate. It also makes me feel good about conserving water (I had no guilt about the 20-minute shower I took when I was home for Christmas!). It’s not uncommon for little water frogs to hang out with me in the shower—or scare me when I find them chillin on the back of my shampoo bottle! They’re harmless but I try to avoid them.
I don’t do a lot of the cleaning in our house (thanks Tanza!) but it’s a big task in Guyana. Most houses aren’t sealed (meaning there’s a hole between the top of the wall and the roof to allow better airflow) so dust and dirt and bugs and birds and lizards etc. all get in. Coming from the US where we clean twice a month, I was amazed that some women sweep their houses every day and mop every other day. At the health center, our cleaner sweeps twice a day and I’m always amazed by how much dirt she collects. In addition to these little daily cleaning tasks, people deep clean their homes pretty often. It’s tradition to deep clean for New Years, and my family washed all our curtains and rugs, painted walls, swept, mopped, dusted, and sanitized the whole house. We have little lizards that like to climb on the inside of the roof and their poop gets on everything, so in addition to the dirt you have to clean up after those guys. I suppose it’s because we live in such a tropical environment, but things accumulate spider webs and dirt and stains faster than I could have ever imagined. The moral of the story is that you really have to stay on top of house cleaning, and again I have to state my amazement at all the housework that women in my community do.You can see a gap between the wall and roof in my health center. It keeps things cool but let’s in lots of birds!
Nearly everyone in my community sleeps with a bed net to keep out the mosquitos. My net is especially awesome because it’s really big (I don’t feel so claustrophobic inside) and it’s treated with insecticide to kill bugs if they do get inside. I hang out in my bed way more here than I did in the US because it’s so nice to get some relief from the bugs. I finally got Kora (my cat) to sleep with me at night so I get some extra cuddles these days. I always sleep with a fan running but it’s been cool enough to use a sheet most nights recently. I remember being pretty hot at night when I first came, but I’ve adjusted to the climate better now and really enjoy the cool evenings. What I struggled to get used to was the noise when it rains at night. We have tin roofs, so when it rains hard the noise can be deafening! Luckily I’m a heavy sleeper, and these days I rarely wake up if it starts raining.
Walkin to work:
My health center is only a 10 minute walk away, so I get to enjoy a nice walk every day. At first, it seemed really strange to me to use an umbrella to shade me from the sun while walking, but it really does help to stay cool and avoid sunburn. I recently bought a new umbrella with puppies and kittens emblazoned on it, and it just makes me laugh how acceptable it is for an adult to carry it! It’s customary to say ‘Good Morning’ to everyone I pass on the way to work, and I enjoy the little exchanges I have on my way. Walking through the village is a highlight of my days, and always a great way to start the day.