“After enlightenment, the laundry.”

It’s another beautiful day. The sun is bright, and it’s not yet too warm. The weatherman says low 80’s for today.  I have a bunch of errands to do later including sending for my Ghanaian visa. I’ve already bought a few things to take with me: wipe on insect repellant as last year my feet got eaten, wash cloths which start out in a small pill shape and a personal fan, hand size which runs on batteries. I don’t think I need anything else as I still have a few things I bought and never used for last summer’s trip, a first aid kit being among them.

When I was in Peace Corps training, we had two choices for washing clothes: a bucket for hand-washing or finding someone to wash them. I, of course, chose the latter as did most of the other trainees. I remember Winneba, our first training site, and following a dirt path among trees to the house of the woman who washed our clothes in buckets for a small amount of money. I have no idea how she was found, but I was thrilled not to have to bucket wash my clothes. I don’t remember the rest of training or my laundry, but I also don’t remember washing my own clothes. I’m thinking we found someone everywhere we went.

When I got to Bolga to live, I didn’t wash clothes there either, except for what one might call my personals. Thomas, who worked for me, washed the rest of my laundry in metal buckets then he’d iron my dresses using a charcoal iron. I noticed the seamstress who made my dress last summer uses that the same type charcoal iron.

At the hotel where I stayed last summer, I asked about someone doing my laundry. They recommended a woman who washed my clothes for not much money. She barely spoke English, but she filled in the gaps by smiling a lot. Always on her back was her small daughter. My clothes came back in one day. When I left Ghana to come home, my clothes, except for the personals, were all clean. That has never happened on any trip before, but I expect it to happen again this summer.

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20 Comments on ““After enlightenment, the laundry.””

  1. olof1 Says:

    The day started out really nice and then the rain and thunder came. But I can’t complain really, it’s nice and cool outside and the flies has finally calmed down, either that or they have all drowned 🙂 🙂 🙂 Sune now feels at home here and is now a little monster 🙂 🙂 🙂 It is amazing how much a small dog like that can do in such short time 🙂 🙂 🙂

    I’m sitting here and feel that I really would like to follow You down to Ghana, even if rains this season 🙂 I realized I haven’t traveled abroad in over twenty years now (I don’t count Norway or Denmark because it’s much the same as here even if Norway is so much more beautiful and insanely expensive 🙂 ). But that’s the price one has to pay when getting four dogs 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • Kat Says:

      Christer,
      I wish we had some rain-it’s been a long time since we got any real rain. It’s gotten hot and I’m hot from doing my errands so I just turned on my AC.

      Puppies have so much energy, and everything is new. I loved watching Gracie find something new, smell it, whack it and then walk away.

      The rainy season is the best time to visit my town. It is still hot, but it is the coolest time of the year. It’s true that animals slow down the traveling. I had to find someone to take care of them when I was gone, and it wasn’t easy.

  2. Hedley Says:

    Kat, we are on the clock, Mrs Hedley and I head to the Olympics two weeks from tomorrow. I finally got some track and field tickets to go with Diving, Beach Volleyball and the biking.
    We are hoping to sit with the Vanderkaays to see Peter swiim and win the 400M freestyle. We will be cheering on another famous son (or in Madonna’s case daughter) of Rochester Michigan.
    Now I wonder who was just on TV wearing a Number 90 Detroit Lions Ndamukong Suh jersey ??? 🙂

    • Kat Says:

      My Dear Hedley,
      Yup, two weeks is a good countdown number. I knew you were hoping for more events-glad you got them. I love watching the diving and the beach volleyball.

      I think Suh is a fun name for the back of a jersey!

  3. Birgit Says:

    Short and funny:
    “I Don’t Want To Do My Laundry” (Reprise)
    Brad and Julie Prather TRY to sing Weird Al Yankovic
    http://www.unibrows.com/plips/ -> Track 16

  4. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    Clothes sometimes are more trouble than they are worth. We laundryphobes could be like Jack Reacher. When his clothes get dirty he throws them away and buys new ones. He has other issues, though.
    Several years ago I learned to spin wool on a drop spindle (one of those top-shaped things on a stick, not a spinning wheel). My first thought was that this was way harder than it looked. My second thought was thank god for Monsanto. If I had to do this to make the thread to weave the cloth to make the clothes to cover myself and family, I would move to the rain forest and wear leaves. Then I could throw them away if they got dirty because leaves are easy to find there and generally free. 🙂
    I was in the massage treatment room all day so I missed the lovely weather. I saw it through the window as I worked.
    Enjoy the day.

    • Kat Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      I wish I could be the Mad Hatter of clothes, but that would get far too expensive. I do my laundry and leave it in the dryer until I’m running out of stuff then I bring up the clean laundry while the new load also ends up sitting ij the dryer.

      I saw Peruvians in the mountains spinning wool on those. They all seemed to have one and just seemed to spin all the time almost unconsciously.

      With my luck, my leaves would be poison ivy!

  5. Max Says:

    Nice post Kat.

    I volunteered for a year in Mozambique, and was also presented with the weekly choice of washing clothes by hand myself or paying someone to do them. For the first couple of months I felt uncomfortable with the second option, as all interactions between whites and blacks where I lived involved whites paying blacks to do menial tasks, and I knew many people resented the situation. I sort of wanted to prove to the people I was living with that I was “one of them” and that there were different ways to interact.

    The other side of the coin was that by paying people to wash them, I was injecting something into the local economy and creating work where there was almost nothing. Plus time spent on laundry was taking away from time teaching english and computing. Eventually I relented and started paying someone to do it – I couldn’t afford much, and felt terrible about how small an amount it was for the work involved. Yet, it was above average payment for such services in Mozambique.

    I felt the issue of race in everything in Mozambique, even laundry.

    • Kat Says:

      Thanks, Max

      In Bolga where I lived when I was a volunteer, the rainy season is shorter than in the rest of the country and there is no industry as there is in the southern part of the country so the region is much poorer. I always felt as if Northerners were discriminated against. My language instructor told us if we greeted anyone in the south doing menial labor they would answer as most were from the north. He was right.

      Last summer I was amazed at the constant traffic jams in Accra and Kumasi, the two largest cities. When I got to Bolga, there were motos (as the Ghanaians call motorcycles) and bicycles, few cars in comparison. It was the same 40 years ago when I lived there and it will always be that way.

      Because many Ghanaians also hired small girls to do chores, I never thought about it as a white thing. I just figured I was giving someone work. It felt the same last summer.

      • Max Says:

        Interesting observation about the cars, it was very much the same in Mozambique, except the rich lived in the south and the poor in the north. Some areas you’d barely see a bicycle, let alone a car!

        I hope to go to Ghana one day, it seems like a fascinating place.

      • Kat Says:

        Max,
        It is the same in Ghana-the rich are in the south and the poor in the north. I didn’t explain that Bolga is in the extreme north, close to the border. Bolga is a big place but is surrounded by small villages where there is still no electricity and only a bore hole for water. Much of the north is like that.

  6. peterrocker Says:

    I bet you are teething at the bit Miss Kat. All those wonderful people you are going to catch up with and the “exotic” food you’ll once again be tasting. I know it will be such a fabulous time for you. Betcha start saving for the next trip as soon as you’re back.

    • Kat Says:

      Pete,
      I sent my passport to the Ghanaian embassy yesterday to get my visa so that’s got me teething at the bit!

      I’m going to have jollof rice, Guinea fowl and kelewele, three of my all time favorite Ghanaian foods! Kelewele is sold on the street so I’m going to haunt that woman!

      • peterrocker Says:

        I’d be terrified of eating off the street, However your past experience has obviously given you special digestive powers beyond the normal traveller. I’ve never been sure exactly what is in kelewele. Is it pronounced ‘keel – e – weel-e?

  7. Kat Says:

    Pete,
    Kel e Wel e is how you pronounce it. The dish is made with ginger and plantain, a dash of hot pepper and sometimes peanuts.

    I never got sick last summer even though my last street food was 40 years earlier. One big difference was being able to buy water in bottles. We used to buy water sold in beer bottles and hold each bottle up to the light so we could buy the one with the least amount of floaties. I figure your body gets used to almost anything.

    The street food is cooked over a fire, and usually it is cooked right in front of you. I never worried before, and I wasn’t going to start.

  8. Zoey & Me Says:

    I’m guessing you’re still used to roughing it.

  9. Bill S. Says:

    All this talk about Ghana has brought back a flood of memories. During our first year there we hired “Anthony”, a young red-haired kid (??) to do our laundry, especially Kevin’s cloth diapers. One enduring memory of Anthony is when he tried to walk through a doorway with his guitar and banged into the doorjamb. He eventually figured out that he had to turn sideways to get through. I still don’t know why I never hired anyone to haul water to our second-floor flat. During the last two years we really enjoyed having James do laundry, and harmattan dust relocation.

    Since we were gone for a month during the summers, our memories of Bolga were not so much of the rainy season as the dry. I still prefer visiting when it is not so humid, which is why we may wait until late Sept./Oct to plan a visit. Peg is officially retiring from 5 days a week this Friday, but has decided to work in another division two days a week. This complicates any travel plans.

    • Kat Says:

      Bill,
      I am still amazed that you hauled your own water, but it brings to mind a story. The first year in Bolga, the Minister of Education visited the school. That night there was a reception, but I didn’t choose to go. Mrs. Intsiful came to my house in her car. I said I wasn’t going. She said she’d wait. I went. The Minister, a bit in his cups, spoke to me and said he greatly admired Peace Corps volunteers because they hauled their own water. So, see you made an impression!

      In the rainy season, Bolga is tolerable, but Sept/Oct are also good months. The only problem might be people are back to work. I am only there 1 week in August and 3 weeks in September so I’ll let you know about the weather.

      Working 2 days a week is probably semi-retirement.

      You’re right about complicating travel plans. Two weeks last summer was hardly enough time given the first week was in Accra. After I had found the students, I wished I had more time which is why I’m going back this summer.


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