Getting some wash done.
Well, the smell of my little bottle of Tide detergent was my happy place in Liberia. Seriously, whenever I'd wash just a few of my own items or a towel in it, I'd make everyone smell it, and I'd exclaim, "Ohhhhh! Doesn't it smell SOOOO good?" Having said that though, I really enjoyed Liberian-style laundry.
Now, I didn't do it often. I intended to try to do it more, but with the constant-ness of need from my own four kids, school work, time we spent with the mission kids, and the trips to the Deaf Mission or into town, I just had extremely limited free time. I would have liked to do it more often because it was relaxing to me. Sue and Praise set up the three large plastic containers back behind the Sieh's house, right under the shade of a tree. I cannot for the life of me remember what kind of tree it was... some sort of nut. It was a cool place, with a breeze, and it was secluded from the majority of the activity, so it afforded a little break from the constant noise and chaos of our days. It was also just a lovely thing to have your hands in nice cool water for an hour; it was quite refreshing.
The first container is filled with water and a soap made from palm products, which has a very distinct smell... not bad at all... just different than laundry here. Sue washed each item on the washboard. OK, so it probably wasn't as relaxing to do her part... man, she worked hard, scrubbing each item again and again, as she stood and bent down over the tub, up and down, up and down, until they were clean. Then we'd wring them out and place them in the second container. This also had soapy water in it, and I would then hand scrub each item with a bar of soap, wring it out again, and place it in container number three. The third container had plain water in it, which got soapier and soapier as more laundry went through, but it was the rinse water, so each item was swished to rinse it, and wrung for a final time. Then the items were turned inside-out (to keep them from fading in the sun) and hung to dry on the line. (The staff had laundry lines, but the kids just laid things on the ground to dry.) If I happened to have the job of hanging the laundry, I had to keep reminding myself not to walk into the razor wire, which was underneath the clothesline, lining the security fence. That could have really been a problem. (Look closely in the picture below, and you'll spot it. It had extremely sharp razor edging.)
waiting to rinse and wring in tub number 3.The hens, with their little chicks following, and the lizards would stroll by as we worked. Sue might sing a song. We could smell Mommy Siehs cooking wafting from her little kitchen door. Anika would be scrubbing away with her sister sitting next to her. Hawa would be trying hard to wring things out, which I would then re-wring because her little hands could not grasp them enough to drain the water out. She loved to help, and occasionally she'd look up, and with a dramatic sigh, she'd say, "Whew... I tire, Mama!" (I'm tired).
It was just quiet and sweet and cool.
But, believe me... I'm thankful for my Kenmore. Sue was asking about how we do laundry in America. I told her we had machines; one for washing and one for drying. Mommy Sieh piped in and said that if we hung our laundry outside to dry in the winter, we'd end up with stiff clothes... frozen like ice! Too true. :)
The laundry would dry in the sun for a day or two (depending on when it got done), and then we'd get it delivered in the big colorful tub. It felt a bit stiff from the soap residue that never gets fully rinsed, and retained that palm soap smell, but it was clean... which REALLY amazes me when you consider how EXTREMELY dirty my four kids' clothes got EVERY day. Poor Sue. She did some serious scrubbing on our behalf for a whole month. Don't worry, we made sure to give her a generous "thank-you tip" before we left!
So, you see... I love Liberian-style laundry. (And I also loved my little bottle of Tide: the reminder that one day I would feel clean again, and I might even smell good. :)
One of the girls from the Deaf Mission, doing wash. She crocheted that hat herself. It's a super-intricate pattern with very thin yarn. (Well, I'm sure it's not called yarn b/c it was more like thick waxy string, but you get the idea)