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Here in the Philippines handwashing is still widely used, and among the 26.6 million Filipinos who live in poverty, probably exclusively. Contrast this to the running water and washing machine I’ve enjoyed my whole life and never truly appreciated, until living here with Jerry.
All our clothes were handwashed back in Estancia, because lack of running water made laundromats impossible. And even living here in Iloilo City now, our lovely helper Julie still does our laundry by hand. I really only use the laundromat when I can’t get our handwashed clothes dry (though lately that’s been rather a lot).
Jerry (doing his homework assignment above) was just 7 years old when I met him, and already capable of handwashing clothes and cooking rice over a fire. Children here are expected to help their parents and it’s usually girls 8-14 who get to spend weekends (as well as more than a fwe absent school days) hand washing clothes for the whole family.
If you’ve been reading my blogs and newsletter neXtDRAFT these past weeks, you’ll know it’s been hammering down in monsoonal deluges for more than a month. I confess my patience these past few weeks has been tried more than a few times, and I have cursed the handwashed, dripping clothes that just won’t dry. As well as the daily floods in the kitchen, bedrooms and bathroom.
Like just imagine for a moment having 4 extra people staying in your house for 5 rain-pouring days. You arrive home from the shops to a flooded kitchen; cat wee and poo in one room (because someone left the door open) and then in your own room (which you’d left open to air and get dry after it had flooded) someone has constructed a makeshift clothes line and hung-up handwashed, dripping clothes. Yes in your bedroom/office.
Can you just imagine it?
The fact I was not just surprised but completely stunned that someone would do this, really demonstrates how disconnected we westerners become from others who live in poverty. People who have never lived in a solid house, or had the chance to go to school. It’s so easy to be critical (and yeh, I did start to lose it over the cat faeces) but being here in the Philippines and seeing stuff like this, has given me such an appreciation and sense of gratitude for the relative ease of my Australian western life (when I still had one).
So we are making the best of things. The cats have been found homes (poor things were getting terribly stressed in the all the rain) — so no more cat wee and poo. And I kindly told my house guests (after removing their dripping clothes from my bedroom) that I was taking their wet clothes to the laundromat — and for the rest of their stay would happily pay for all of their laundry if they would just promise not to wash (or hang out) anything else. They did reluctantly agree, but thought I was completely crazy for paying for laundry when they were prepared to do it for free.
Now you have a wider picture of last few months maybe you can imagine how delighted I was when Jerry arrived home from school last week (yes it was pouring with rain) to tell me he needed to video himself hand washing clothes. And then why I engineered Jerry’s school assignment to the washing of only one small singlet top.
And you probably get also why there have been a few interruptions to my neXtDRAFT newsletters.
oh dear… memories of laundry that just wouldn’t dry and eventually become really stinky! >_<