Last Sunday I ended up with a stitch in my hamstring from bending over in our shower hand washing all our underwear. How did I find myself like this on a Sunday? On our day of rest? Our houseworker was coming the next day and we needed to wash right then because she would need the buckets the next day; to wash the rest of our laundry. We think it gross to make another person wash our underwear. I don’t think you have known commitment in a relationship until you have hand washed all the other person’s unmentionables.
One of my professors in graduate school made the joke that you knew it was time to go on furlough from Africa when the elastic in your underwear was shot. Something that is a constant plague for those of us here is the ‘shape’ of our clothes. One might think that because they are being hand washed here, a treatment saved for our delicates in the states, that our clothes would last longer. Oh, no. Not so. The twisting and squeezing that they go through pulls them out of shape. The line drying, another treatment for delicates, also proves to be detrimental as well. At first my houseworker was hanging our shirts from the shoulders. One of my t-shirts was so pulled that I could have slipped the padding for an American football player underneath the shoulders. So now she hangs them from the bottom. So all our shirts have pulled stretch marks at the bottom. Like an angry ex-girlfriend has gone through all her boyfriend’s shirts and tried to rip them from the bottom but gave up when she realized she didn’t have the strength.
I look down at the shirt I wearing now, not only is the bottom pulled by an angry ex-lover it is two shades lighter than what it started as when we got here. It went from a bright sunny aqua to a subdued sea blue color. The front is stretched out, because it just is. I still wear it, because it’s what I have. Omo, the laundry soap of Kenyans, is strong so that it can deal with the invasive red dirt it also removes the dye from your clothes. But still manages to leave the crust that got the shirt thrown into the the laundry in the first place. And white clothes must find all that dye, because they soon cease to be white and turn into a dingy grey.
Every time I throw an item of clothing into the laundry bin here I wish it well, good luck little friend, I hope you come out on the other side okay. The same color, without being stretched beyond recognition. So long little one, you’ve served me well….