I was so pleased when I realized there was a washing machine at our Guanajuato vacation rental. In many parts of the world, the only way to do your laundry is to send it away or wash it in the sink. Having a washing machine would make the task of laundry into a no-brainer. I’d just stick our clothes in the wash when we got there and Voila! They would be clean.
But washing machines in Mexico are different than washing machines in the United States.
Let me first say that although it was sometimes inconvenient to take our
laundry to the lavanderia in Progreso, Yucatan, they always came back to me very fluffy and very clean. The whites were white and the socks were all neatly paired. I would take my big bag of laundry over to “Laura” and she would weigh it and then wave goodbye to me. Six hours later, I would return to my clothing, folded neatly and tucked into a big transparent plastic bag with my name on it along with the cost of her services for that load. I would take my clothes home, put them away, and be done with the laundry for another week.
But here in Guanajuato, I have a washing machine.
It has no spin cycle and washing clothes is an arduous process.
On our first full day here, I spent two whole hours standing over the machine trying to make sure our clothes were okay in there. It’s basically just a white metal box with an oscillator inside that churns the clothes. There is a handy-dandy timer knob on the outside of the machine where I would normally set my wash cycle and walk away. But I didn’t walk away.
I kept the door to the kitchen propped open because the washing machine was
located outside on a patio and my laundry supplies were inside. First, I plugged the machine in and turned the timer knob. The oscillator started twisting back and forth, but otherwise, nothing else happened. I could hear the tick-tick sound of the timer counting down, but there was no water going into the machine. I unplugged it and stood for a moment and looked at the contraption.
Then I realized that I had to fill it with buckets of water.
So I did this. One by one, I filled buckets of water and dumped them into the
washing machine until it looked like I’d put enough water in for the amount of clothes that I was hoping to wash. Then, I realized the hose on the back of the machine wasn’t hooked up to anything. It hung by a wire, facing upward.
There was a container with a hole in the top located nearby that looked like it was shaped to fit the hose. It looked a little like a honey tank used by RVer’s when their poop tank gets full. I took the hose down by unhooking the wire and stuck it in the tank. Instantly, I knew I had done the wrong thing. The water (that I had carefully filled with buckets of water) started draining out of the hose, spurting out from around the hose in the hole on top of the container.
As quickly as I could, I put the hose back in place, hanging it from the wire. Again, I stood back and looked at the machine, trying to reason out how it worked. I called to John. He stood with me and looked at it.
“I suppose, just wash the clothes and then take the hose and drain it into the bucket.” He told me. I figured this was good advice. I plugged in the cord, set the timer, and then stood over the machine watching the clothes.
I set the timer arbitrarily for 9 minutes because I didn’t want to sit around worrying about our clothes for longer than that. I walked in and out of the house, checking, waiting, checking, waiting. When the timer went off, the machine just stopped. There was no spin cycle, no rinse cycle. It just stopped.
So I dumped the water from the washing machine into a bucket and then threw the water in what I thought was a sink. In reality, the “sink” was just a cement platform with a hole where water could drain onto the floor. I threw two buckets of water into the cement “sink” until I realized that it was splashing all over the place and then I just started throwing the water into the area under the sink where the water was actually “draining”. I drained and drained and then I filled bucket after bucket of water to rinse the clothes that were in the washer.
Good Lord. I thought, This is a form of oppression.
After I rinsed the clothes for three minutes (using the same technique that I used to wash the clothes initially), I once again drained the washer water into a bucket. Then, I had to hang the clothes on a line to dry.
By the time I was done, I was wishing that there was a friendly laundry-lady that I could take my clothes to a couple of blocks away like in Progreso. Instead of super-white socks and soft, fluffy towels, at the end of the day, I had sandpapery towels and stiff sweatshirts that I pulled off the line.
There are so many things that are done better by people than by machines.
(UPDATE 2017: There are lavanderías EVERYWHERE in Guanajuato.)
The Tunisian Washing Machine (video)
Soaked in Sewage, Rinsed in Dirty Water: Doin’ the Laundry in Nepal — By Jennifer Shipp
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